Welcome to another of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with non-fiction, short story writer and spotlightee Trish Nicholson. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Trish. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based.
Trish: I am from the Isle of Man so I’m part Celtic, part Viking, and like many islanders, seem destined to wander. After fifteen years of living and working in various corners of the world, I’ve settled in the ‘winterless’ Far North of New Zealand, on top of a hill overlooking a lake which is my daily inspiration.
Morgen: I’ve moved five times in my life, the grand sum of sixty miles. A lake would inspire me too – I love water and yet live in the middle of England, three hours away from the sea but I do plan to have a house with a sea view eventually. How did you come to be a writer?
Trish: I’m not sure at what point one calls oneself ‘a writer’. Writing came in somewhere in all the careers I’ve followed, research, interpretation, newsletters, press releases and so on, but in the 1980s I was asked to write a regular column for a UK management magazine and a number of features for national newspapers. So I suppose you could call that the start. But my background is anthropology and whenever I could, I was travelling, not only around Europe for my work, but trekking in the Himalayas and in South America, feeding my curiosity and indulging in photography. In the end, these interests won – I left the UK for my first overseas job in rural development in Papua New Guinea and worked there for five years. Writing then was mainly in a personal journal – lots of extraordinary happenings to scribble down.
I worked in the Philippines for a further five years after that, with more research in Vietnam and a year in Australia. After my return to the UK, all that experience led to a couple of commissions. I was invited to contribute a chapter to a book on anthropology; Earthscan asked me to co-edit and write new material for the 1999 edition of The Green Travel Guide, and I worked for a UK university as a gobbeter, writing synopses of research reports for their website. Poor pay but wonderful practise for a writer – reducing great wads of text to 500 words. That’s probably where my love of flash fiction came from.
And then I settled in New Zealand. At first, I was too busy planting my hillside in native trees to do much writing, but now I write full time and love it.
Morgen: Having an interest in photography must help when designing book covers. You write non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
Trish: I write short stories as well, but yes, most of my published work is non-fiction – management, anthropology, tourism, and latterly, travelogues. They’ve all arisen from my overseas working and travelling, some involved extensive research. Masks of the Moryons for example, an eBook about the Easter pageant on Marinduque Island in the Philippines, was based on three years in the field – it was the basis of my doctoral degree, but of course, had to be completely restyled for publication. I’ve even written a short popular-science book, but that combines short fiction with anthropology; it traces how humans evolved as storytellers – that was huge fun to write. And my latest book explores the relationship between readers and writers when they ‘meet’ in a story. No shortage of topics to write about.
Morgen: I purely write fiction (or non-fiction about writing) and have more ideas than I can cope with, even writing a story a day for my 5pm Fiction slot. Writing non-fiction and short stories, are there any differences or similarities between writing non-fiction and fiction?