Tell us about yourself and how many books you have written.
My name is Nicki J Markus, and I was born in Kent, South-East England in 1982. In 2007 I went on a backpacking holiday, met my husband on a bus journey while visiting a pen pal in Adelaide, South Australia, and never went home! I married in 2011 and was granted Australian Citizenship in 2013, so here I am, a British-Australian. I currently work from home as a freelance editor and proofreader.
My background is languages, and I still try to pursue that as much as I can; although, now I live in Australia I no longer get my long weekends in Prague or Paris to practise like I used to. I am interested in all forms of the arts: theatre, cinema, music (I sing and play several instruments), sketching, photography etc. And I have a great love of history and folklore and mythology. Many of these hobbies find a way to seep through into my writing either through the storyline or characters.
I loved books from a very young age. When we were children, my mother would ask me and my sister what we wanted to do with her for the afternoon. Invariably, my sister would want to play with dolls and I would ask to read a book. So, you can see books and reading have been a lifelong habit—one I have no intention of trying to break (unlike my tendency to bite my nails, which I really should try to crack).
I said for many years I wanted to be a writer, but never did anything about it. It was only after my move to Australia that I decided enough was enough: if I wanted it, I should do it. My first publications were several short stories that were released through Wicked Nights Publishing. From there, I released two novellas with Silver Publishing in 2011 and 2012. When both those publishers closed their doors, I rather found myself back at square one.
I had done a lot of editing work in the M/M genre, and when Wayward Ink Publishing opened and I started to edit for them, I decided to try my hand at something new and submitted to one of their anthologies. That story, The Raider, was accepted and was published under my M/M alternate pen name, Asta Idonea. Since then I’ve had several more short stories accepted by them, and I just sent in a novella for their consideration, which I hope to hear back on later this month.
Meanwhile, I did not neglect my mainstream writing and commenced my first novel, as well as deciding to re-edit/rework my two older novellas for self-publication. One of those, Time-Keepers, came out in January, and the other, Day-Walker, will release in May. My novel, The Ragnarök Chronicles, has just come out this month. You can read a little more about my novel later in this interview.
What is the name of your latest book and what inspired it?
The Ragnarök Chronicles is really my baby. It’s the book I love most of everything I’ve written so far. I started work on this tale in late June/early July 2014, inspired by my rereading of the Norse myths. At first I planned the book as a trilogy, but when I decided to self-publish, I changed my mind and combined the three books into a single volume. The novel is around 220,000 words in length and took me six months to write and edit, and then a further two and a half months to prepare for publication. So it’s been a long journey. The story is very dear to me and I hope readers will enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I couldn’t ask for anything more than that!
The Ragnarök Chronicles takes the figures from Norse mythology and places them in a modern setting. It will appeal to paranormal/fantasy readers, mythology buffs, and fans of re-imagined myths such as the Marvel Thor comics and films. It is a blend of fantasy action and paranormal romance, so it has a little something for everyone. Here is the blurb to give you a little hint:
For Ragnarök will be completed….
Nothing marks Cassandra out—except her visions. She’d only ever seen small, insignificant things. That is until the strange frost arrives.
With her normal life turned upside down, Cassandra is plunged into an extraordinary and terrifying world of Norse gods and rampaging giants, ancient feuds and broken prophecies.
A handsome stranger offers aid. But can Cassandra really trust him? More importantly, can she trust her own judgement when his slightest touch sets her heart and her body aflame?
You can also hear me read some excerpts from the book, and find out more via my blog:
Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I don’t believe I have anything particularly per se, but I do have my little preferences. Although I normally love music, I prefer complete silence when I write, to the point where I prefer to work on my stories when I have the house to myself. I type in the study, but I always edit with a printed off copy in my library/music room. I also like to drink lots of tea—my British heritage coming through, I guess!
What authors, or books have influenced you?
Wow, so many it’s always hard to decide who to list for these questions. I read widely (pretty much anything apart from true crime and chick lit) but my favourite genres are literary fiction and paranormal/fantasy. Some of my favourite authors include: Dante, Shakespeare, Pushkin, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Victor Hugo, Milan Kundera, Haruki Murakami, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Charlaine Harris, Anne Rice, Clay & Susan Griffith, Deborah Harkness… the list could go on and on!
My writing is inspired by anything and everything I read, but if I had to pick one author whom I hope I will write as well as one day it would be Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Her vampire hero, Saint Germain, is an amazing character, and she manages to blend paranormal with meticulously-researched history and a wonderful prose style.
What are you working on now?
Well, I am just writing a couple more M/M short stories under my Asta Idonea pen name to submit for anthologies coming out later this year. I expect to finish those by the end of the month. After that, I will be concentrating on my next work writing as Nicki J Markus: a gothic tale set during the English Regency, featuring a haunted house, vampires and restless spirits. I am currently undertaking some period research and drafting character profiles etc. and I plan to start writing very soon. Look out for more news during the year as I progress with the first draft.
What is your best method or website when it comes to promoting your books?
To be honest, this is something I struggle with. I’m not good at putting myself out there. I have a blog and social media, but it’s been a matter of trial and error when it comes to how and when to promote. For The Ragnarök Chronicles I engaged the services of Eyes on Books to organise my cover reveal, release day blitz and blog tour, so I am hoping that will help me spread the word about this release… along with interviews and other features such as this one! With luck, I can gradually build up a fan base and tailor my promotion from there.
Do you have any advice for new authors?
Just to keep writing, and don’t be afraid to follow your dreams. I put it off for years, and I’m glad I finally plucked up the courage to submit my work. I adore writing, and it’s worth the rejection and disappointments to be able to get your work out there and share your stories and characters with readers.
Also, read… lots… all of the time. The more widely you read, the more you can improve you own writing by learning from the best.
What is the best advice you have ever heard?
Probably the ‘show don’t tell’ mantra. It seems a little clichéd, but it’s really great advice and adds vibrancy to your writing.
What are you reading now?
At present, I am reading a book of Icelandic Sagas, continuing my studies of Norse mythology and Viking culture. I’m really enjoying the tales, and it’s been a pleasant break from both heavy literary fiction and paranormal stories I’d been reading a far bit recently. I also like to practise my languages whenever I can, and my aim in 2015 was to always have a foreign-language book on the go at the same time as my English-language reading, so right now I am reading Krabat by Otfried Preußler in the original German.
What’s next for you as a writer?
Aside from continuing to write on my new projects, I would like to take time in 2015–2016 to try to connect more with readers, getting my books known and helping to establish my author ‘brand’. Also I’d like to connect more with other authors to help each other out, and, naturally, I’ll keep reading, reading, reading, always looking for ways I can continue to grow as a writer and share my stories with others.
What is your favorite book of all time?
Oh, don’t do this to me, don’t make me pick just one! It’s all too hard. I hate to do it, but if you force my hand, I guess I would say Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, because no matter how many times I read it, I take something new away from it every time.