Conversations

Nicole Spencer Skillen

Hi Nicole, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions! It’s a shame we can’t meet in person today, but I am confident we soon will.

Let’s come to us and break the ice straight away. I know from your social media that you are in the process of publishing your third book, If we meet again.

Can you give us a preview of it, even if it’s still a work in progress?

Thank you for having me! My third novel is complete and it will be released next month which I am super excited about! It’s a sapphic romance set in New York. It brought me great joy exploring Ashley and Megan’s relationship and I can’t wait to share more with everyone. I will pop the Blurb below so you can get a good feel for the book.

Twenty-five-year-old Ashley is an aspiring writer living in New York City. A recent lack of inspiration leads to doubt in her ability. She can’t envision a career outside of the bar she works in or any possible way to become unstuck from the cycle that consumes her.

But then, an overdue evening out with her two best friends leads to a surreal experience.

When she meets Megan, the energy in the room is enough to captivate Ashley—the infectious smiles that pass between them are electrifying. Smiles that, for a brief moment, make even Ashley—a true cynic—believe in fate.

The beautiful, sweet and mesmerising Megan is a Stanford graduate with one goal—to play basketball in the WNBA. She shares with Ashley a story about unfaltering love that’s compelled by the force of fate—a story about her grandmother, Nancy. It ultimately becomes the catalyst for their future relationship and the inspiration Ashley’s been looking for. 

To Ashley, the word destiny has never been anything more than a crossword clue found in the NY Times, but she can’t deny the transcendent depth of their connection as an unseen force keeps pulling them back together. The question is—will it be enough?

If We Meet Again is heartfelt, romantic and utterly relatable. It’s a celebration of friendship and love, but more than that, it makes you recognise that you don’t find love, it finds you. 

You already published two books, Choose me and Are you still mine?, both available on Amazon. They both are F/F romantic stories, but not canon. What I mean is, the traditional plot of boy, or in this case, girl meets girl, girl loses girl, girl wins girl, is subverted. Choose me has a non-canon ending, while Are you still mine? follows the girl meets girl pattern; even the struggle to actually win the girl is delicate and dealt with towards the end of the book rather than throughout. Why did you choose these formats, if you actually chose them deliberately?

That’s a fully loaded question [laugh] – with Choose Me, it was always going to end the way it did (not to give any spoilers away). It isn’t your typical ending, but that was the intention from the get go. I had the idea of portraying a different kind of love story, one that is real and emotionally charged. I wanted to go against the norm and I feel I achieved that. With Are You Still Mine, I think subconsciously I knew where the characters would end up, but how they would get there was often a little woolly. Sometimes, I can have a format and plot set out before me, other times I like to go with the flow and see where the writing takes me, sometimes it works, others not so much. Besides, I couldn’t have two controversial endings for my first two books – Are You Still Mine is probably a little more pleasing to a romance reader.

Tell us a bit about your books. There are writers who take a snapshot of their surroundings (historical, political, cultural), other writers who favor experimentation and others who take inspiration from events that happened to them. Where do you stand? And how much of your personal life interjects with your writing?

I take inspiration from many things, TV shows, music, real-life experiences. It is a mixture of everything. I can sometimes hear a song and almost imagine a scene unfold based off the lyrics of that particular song. I have always loved film and tv – growing up I didn’t see enough LGBT+ characters that I could relate to. Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed all the teen drama shows with heterosexual couples just as much as the next girl, but as I get older I crave to see more relatable content and that is my main motivation behind writing. I want the LGBT+ community to be able to read an epic love story like all the ones I loved growing up, but see themselves in the characters.

When and why did you start writing? Can you tell us something about your writing habits? For example, do you follow a schedule or do you wait for inspiration? Are you one of those authors who can put a thousand words on paper in one go or are you one that takes a whole morning to putting in a comma only to remove it again in the afternoon?

I started writing quotes when I was about 13 years old. From there I wrote a few short stories and then I kind of lost writing for a while. It wasn’t until two years ago that I really started to channel all my energy into my writing. In terms of habits, I don’t follow any schedule, but I do try to write every day, even if it’s only for 20 minutes. I am a little bit of both if I am completely honest – some days I can write 4000 words, others I can sit there all day and procrastinate. On those days I have learnt it’s best to walk away, the inspiration won’t always be there.

What’s your favourite time and place to write? Music on or off? A solitary exercise or a coffee shop mandatory stop?

I have no favorite time, place would be anywhere quiet. I need silence to write, music is too distracting. It is definitely a solitary exercise for me. I have tried to sit in front of the TV with my wife, but I write about three words because it’s way too distracting [laugh].

Did you get any formal training on writing or do you think that, like any other craft, you can learn the ropes but then it only comes down to a lot of practice?

I have no training. I did well in school with English, but I didn’t progress into higher education with it. I believe if you put in the work, you can do anything in any walk of life. It all depends on how badly you want something and you have to want it for the right reasons otherwise it’ll never work. You might not necessarily get it right the first time, but as long as you keep learning and improving and the dedication to the craft is there, then the sky is the limit.

What are the best and worst parts of your job?

Best – knowing that you’re making people happy with the words you write. Getting feedback about how much people enjoy your books is something that will never get old.

Worst – writers block. It comes from time to time and it can be hard to power through, but you just have to persevere.

Let’s talk about the public part of your job. As a writer, you are, somehow, a public figure – you create a product and you go out there in the open to present it and try and sell it. One of the widest windows we have nowadays is the internet, which despite its progress, is far from being a safe place. I am referring in particular to trolls and hate-driven comments. Did you ever have to face any of them? If so, how did you feel and what was your reaction?

You’re right, as soon as you put something out into the world you open yourself up to criticism. Unfortunately, you can never please everyone. I don’t particularly get trolled, but I have had some bad reviews. At first, they were hurtful, especially if they had no real context behind them. I spend countless hours of my time self-publishing a novel and all I ask in return is that people respect that and at least give constructive critique. At least if they can do this, even if they give a 1* review – I can take it on board and learn from it. I think it’s only fair.

You are openly married to a woman (which is fantastic BTW) and you write lesbian romance. I am quite sure that you went through some “classic” remarks (it’s a phase, it’s just because you didn’t find the right man, who is the man between you two?): how, if ever, did you react to these and what impact did they have, if any, on your life?

Funnily enough, I never did. I am your typical lesbian from birth [laugh] I have never had a boyfriend. People used to mistake me for a boy growing up because I was such a tomboy and only hung around with boys. I think everyone who knew me wasn’t surprised in the slightest when I announced I was in fact gay. My wife however has definitely experienced all of the above, she is your typical ‘straight looking lesbian’, she often gets wolf-whistled at by men in the street, she gets asked for her number on nights out, winked at by waiters in restaurants – she often has to tell men she’s married and has a wife and 9/10 they don’t believe her. It’s rather amusing to me, but I am quite a laid back person. I try not to stress over things I can’t control.

Thanks so much for your brilliant and honest answers! Now more than ever we are ready to read your next book!

They were some pretty damn good questions! It’s been fun answering them and very thought-provoking. Thank you!

[NOTE: at the time the interview took place, ‘If we meet again’ was still a work in progress. Nicole has now published Book One and Two in the series, available on Amazon. Make sure you grab your copy!]

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