Wednesday 6 July 2011

Scott Nicholson interview: Liquid Fear

Liquid Fear by Scott Nicholson

Scott Nicholson is author of more than 30 books, and after a run as a midlist paperback writer, he’s now fully entered the realm of self-publishing. He’s had two Top 100 Kindle bestsellers in the U.S. His website is

Can you sum up LIQUID FEAR in no more than 25 words?

Ten years after a tragic experiment testing a secret fear-response drug, the subjects realize the experiment never ended.

What was your motivation for writing it?

LIQUID FEAR was inspired by research I’d done on the President’s Council for Bioethics and exploring the morality of changing our minds through chemicals. Not just catching a buzz, but designing our emotional make-up. It’s bad enough when you scramble your brains by choice, but when the government has the capacity to alter your thinking, mood, or even ideology, that is pretty chilling.

How long did it take you to write?

That’s an interesting story. My agent at the time encouraged me to try a thriller. I guess it didn’t matter which thriller. The thinking was that thrillers were easier to sell than the supernatural novels I’d published. I had to write an outline, which was confusing because I didn’t know what the story was. I hadn’t written it yet, see? And the editor he took it to thought it was confusing, and that was that. It wasn’t until I could do what I wanted, actually write it and see what it was, that it came together. So the idea and sample chapters were about five years old but most of the writing was done in three months.

It’s one of those cases where you can see how the traditional publishing system is broken. A book judged “confusing” on the pitch hit #23 on the U.S. Kindle bestseller list. Maybe the book is still confusing, but the point is, it had to be written, and it deserved a chance at an audience. Art is more than a profit-and-loss statement. I still have that original paper outline, smeared with coffee rings and notes.

Who designed your cover?

I did. I’d worked with a couple of designers but I figured I knew the tone of my work better than anyone and therefore I should give it a crack. I don’t always get it right but I think this one works.

How important is a book's central character?

If I don’t care about the characters, I don’t care about the story. Just give me one good character, whether good or evil. I have the most fun writing the bad guys, because I believe a writer’s characters are all different aspects of the writer. I’m a bad guy at heart but I’m bound by morality and spirituality to be good. Writing crime fiction keeps me out of prison.

What aspects of marketing your book do you enjoy?

I enjoy all aspects of my job. I’ve always been a promoter, but instead of standing around crowing about myself, I find creative ways to reach new audiences. It’s much harder, and takes more creativity, to sell a book than to write one. And I love to share any success I have with readers, especially my newsletter subscribers who do so much to spread the word, so I am always holding contests and giving away gift cards and books.

As a reader, how would you describe your taste in crime fiction?

I’d say decidedly dark. My favorites are the old school Chandler, Cain, Jim Thompson, William Goldman. Even the newer fiction, I prefer a bit of broken bleakness in there, like James Lee Burke, John Straley, Joe Lansdale, Vicki Tyley, Simon Wood, or something like Stephen King’s MISERY or Scott Smith’s A SIMPLE PLAN. I’m not much for the kittens-and-cream mysteries.

What are you reading now?

I usually read a couple at a time. Right now I am reading RUN by Blake Crouch and THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy, which is funny because Crouch has been compared to McCarthy. Sentence fragments. Foreboding. We’re all going to die.

Who's your favourite living writer?

William Goldman, although I wish he’d write some more novels instead of sitting around typing up million-dollar screenplays. I think MAGIC is the finest psychological horror novel ever, and the Marathon Man books are great. And then he can do something like THE PRINCESS BRIDE. Very versatile, and it’s all great.

Ever tried your hand at screenwriting?

I’ve written six screenplays and I’m getting them read right now by an established producer. One of my novels has been optioned and is in development. All these are long shots but it’s a fun medium. I’ve also written comic scripts, poetry, songs, radio plays, and I was a journalist in radio and newspapers for 15 years, so I’ve done a lot of typing. And I’m not that good of a typist.

Do you have any other projects on the go?

It’s a long way off in the e-book era, but the sequel CHRONIC FEAR will be out at Christmas. I should have the U.S. rights back to one of my books for November release, but CREATIVE SPIRIT is already out in the UK. I have three or four ideas and I’m sure I will have another release or two this year, though one will be under a secret pen name. You’ll have to get my newsletter for more secrets at

Liquid Fear by Scott Nicholson