In the internet era, writing has become a lot less isolated, even if many of the interactions we have are mostly virtual. It’s a lot easier to encounter people facing the same struggles so we can commiserate or share tips. Nolan White is one such virtual soul I’ve met on the journey and I got him to talk a bit about his work and his path toward publication.
Are you published or trying to be?
Yes, trying to be. This month I’m putting the finishing touches on the first Pedigree Nation trilogy. Ten years ago I started out with Great Days Outdoors magazine as their proofreader, then moved up to assistant editor. Occasionally, I wrote articles for it as well. I’ve written two dozen short stories and finished the manuscript on two novels.
When did you start writing, when did you start calling yourself a writer and when did you decide that being published was a goal?
While working for my hometown newspaper in ad sales, I was tasked with producing a tabloid. Since I had to also write its contents, I became a writer. One of my articles featured a local contestant in a scholarship pageant, which led to my launching a national pageant magazine within months. It seemed only natural that I should write articles about that industry and its winners.
But it never occurred to me that I could write fiction until I read an article in USA Today about the donor organ business. It unnerved me. The result was a novel I wrote in the thriller genre. Its plot had the hero’s runaway daughter picked up by a televangelist’s outreach network and sent to a so-called rehab center that fronted for a donor organ cartel. It was a novel whose time had come. Yes, ripped from the news headlines and easily embellished for drama.
I sent query letters to 45 publishing houses but quickly learned how difficult it was to accept rejection. So, to develop my craft and become a “real” writer, I joined a local literary club in Fairhope, Alabama. It helped me to be more optimistic, too.
Do you read in the same genre(s) you write in? Are there particular authors who inspire you?
I’m a voracious reader because I’m curious about everything from genetics to sociology. I’ve long admired James Lee Burke’s prose and gritty characters. I also enjoy the talents of Joyce Carol Oates, Walter Mosley, and T.K. Thorne.
Talk to me about your writing process. What is your preferred writing environment? How long does it take you to complete a book?
For me it took years. After all, I had a day job. Running a marketing company with 45 employees consumed my time, so writing novels was a hobby. But ideas consumed me. While on the road I wrote longhand, spending time in restaurants, coffee shops, and hotel rooms. I’m now retired so I revise my debut novel. I also write short stories, at least enough to keep my critique group busy.
At what stage of writing do you find outside feedback helpful? How do you sift through differing advice?
Anytime, actually. The best feedback comes from a friend who’s also my landlady. She writes children’s books, and I’m amazed by her insight into my various character’s motivations. I’ve come to rely on many male and female readers. A different POV is always welcome, including that of an award-winning author. She’s candid and the world’s best at spotting redundancies.
I’ve learned that critique clubs are not all created equal. Many people have a built-in bias for social conservatism, so when my novel presented a televangelist in a bad light, one critique member assumed I was attacking her Christian values. “Hey, back off,” I wanted to say. “It’s fiction.” I left the group before she reached the part about polygamy.
When do you think about the audience your book appeals to?
Well, that’s a bit tricky. When will readers agree that matching people who have compatible genes will produce better babies? It’s fiction, true, but it’s based on real science—its use and misuse, eugenics versus dysgenics.
Pedigree Promise began as a thriller but it’s much more than that. Its hero, a standup comedian, has the “youth gene,” but he’s conflicted about using his genetic asset for the eugenics cause (it’s supposed to prevent heritable diseases). Or, because he needs the money, will he allow a cabal of billionaires to patent it for their materialistic (and nefarious) purposes?
A stigma still surrounds eugenics because some people can’t separate it from the science of 1930s politics. Hitler, they insist, invented it. No, he perverted and coerced it. Meanwhile, his VW gets a free ride. Readers must decide if genetic matching is “playing God” or if pedigree is a cause worth mating for.
So the plot evolved into a hybrid story, meaning I’m using elements of mystery, psychological intrigue, humor, and social commentary to make readers think about humanity’s future. By the way, I’m optimistic about that, too.
You can find out more about Nolan White on his Facebook page.