Nicola Matthews was born and raised in southern MS where she resides with her husband of twenty years, their three children, and their pet Yorkie. Nicola loves music and her favourite thing to do to de-stress is crank up her tunes and hit the treadmill. She also enjoys reading a good book or watching a great movie. Her favourite genres include mystery thrillers and supernatural/fantasy movies and books.
1.What got you into writing / what made you sit down and actually start something? I always loved to read. I first fell in love with the written word when I was about six, when I started a yearlong reading love affair with Dr. Seuss. When I discovered that I could make up and write down my own stories to amuse myself, I quickly realized that I would rather create my own worlds and characters than I had to read what others had written. It just progressed from there. I originally wrote just to amuse myself. As time went on and more people read my stories and I received positive feedback, I discovered that I wanted to share my creations with everyone.
2.What is a usual writing day like for you, how is it structured? Like most writers, I work a full time job. Add in three kids, a house, and a husband, and my time becomes very limited. I’m out of the house for nearly twelve hours during the week, so I’m lucky to have an hour or so each weeknight to get anything done. I break my time up between social media, writing, working on edits, and creating book covers.
My entire weekend is usually devoted to doing all of these things, trying to get caught up on everything that I wasn’t able to get accomplished during the week.
3.Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it? I don’t really get writer’s block per se. I have tons of ideas, enough of them that I could easily spend the next fifteen years of my life doing nothing but writing books and short stories, even if I never came up with another idea. My problem is that I suffer from Burn-Out Syndrome on a regular basis. I already work a full time job, and then I come home and I rush through household chores because I need to get something done in regards to my writing career. I am ALWAYS working, either at the Evil Day Job or on my writing. It doesn’t take long for the sixteen hour days to catch up with me.
Being a writer is by nature a very solitary act. It’s not like when you are in a band and you are surrounded by your band mates and you are all bouncing ideas off of each other. When you are writing novels, you don’t dare bounce an idea off someone for fear they will write the book before you get a chance to. Even when you are not actively sitting at your desk working on something writing related, you are always THINKING about something writing related: what you have to do when you can get back to your desk, trying to come up with ideas for promoting your next book, thinking up ideas for your next book. It gets very tiresome.
There are some days that I would rather cut off one of my fingers than have to sit at my desk and try to write. Unfortunately, I’m the type of person who always has to be doing something creative. Even if I can’t write because I’m just not in the mood, I’m still going to create book covers or book trailers or do research into ways to market and promote my next book. If all else fails and I’m just too stir-crazy to concentrate, I’m going to pop my earphones in and hit the road for a brisk walk.
4.Are you a plotter or panster when it comes to writing a story? I am a total write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl. I’ll have a basic idea of what I want to happen in the story, but when it comes to the details and how the characters get from one action point to the other, I just let the characters lead me. I sit down, I start to write, and I hope that the characters will at least attempt to follow my rough guidelines. Sometimes, when I’m getting close to the end of the book, I’ll finally make a rough outline just so I can be sure to include everything that I intend to happen, or I’ll make rough notes, but I’m not really a plotter. My characters are too strong-willed for me to have much say in what they do.
5.Are you traditionally or self-published, and what was the publishing process like for you? Any advice to aspiring authors? I am what is referred to as a hybrid author, which is an author who is both independently published and trade published.
The publishing process these days is always changing. I started my journey into trade publishing back when I was still in high school, when I was about fifteen. This was the early nineties, back when even the large houses were taking unsolicited manuscripts and the internet was not something that was widely available. I can remember spending every Saturday in my local library pouring over that book, The Literary Market Place, or something like that, writing down publisher guidelines and addresses. I spent about six years sending out query letters and sample chapters. I’ve been rejected by some of the largest and smallest publishers in the business.
Ten years ago, prior to Amazon jumping onto the self-publishing bandwagon, I had already formed my own publishing house and published through a POD company. As time progressed and I slowly learned the business, my time constraints became so tight that I started looking for trade publishers again. I signed my first publishing contract with a nice-sized hybrid press earlier this year and am looking forward to seeing The Red Fang, the first book in the BEFORE THE SUN RISES SERIES, relaunched in July.
My advice to aspiring authors? Like everything else, practice makes perfect. Learn your craft, practice your craft, and if you do decide to independently publish on your own, please remember that it is still a business and must be treated as one. Like all businesses, it requires time, dedication, and the hiring of professionals to do the work that you are not qualified to do, i.e. editors, proofreaders, graphic designers, etc. You have to want this bad enough that you are willing to invest the time, energy, and money that it takes to produce the best quality work. Above all, don’t be afraid to crash and burn. Anything in this life worth having is worth working hard for.
6.What has been your highlight since becoming a published author? Besides finally landing a publishing contract? I’d have to say all the wonderfully talented people I’ve met over the years. One thing I love about all the technology available in this day and age is that really talented people are no longer being forced to sit on the sidelines begging someone for a chance to get their creations out to the masses. We have alternative models, some really phenomenal bands, and some kick-ass authors out there who got tired of being told by the industry that they weren’t “good enough” or they didn’t have “the right look” or “the right sound.” They said, “You know what? FUCK YOU! You’re wrong, and now I’m going to prove it to you.” And that is just what we all did. We set out to make our mark on the world, and I am humbled to be part of such a wonderful community of creative minds who were willing to accept me as one of their own.
7.Can you share a little of your most recent book with us? And any other books of yours, if you wish. This is an excerpt from The Red Fang, the first book in the BEFORE THE SUN RISES SERIES –
Ashton Jones was a serial killer. Until he was recruited by the S.H.i.E.L.D. organization, he had only had the pleasure of torturing humans. Now he’d been given the very unique opportunity to not only torture, but possibly even kill a vampire. He was finding the entire experience very much to his liking.
The young female vampire strapped to the table only looked young. At least, she used to look young. The vampire known as Jasmine had been starved of blood for nearly a month now. Had she not been feeding on a regular basis, Ashton’s systematic starvation of the vampire would not have worked. However, although she might have been nearing eighty years a vampire, she was still feeding off the blood of the living nearly every day.
The starvation had made the vampire weaker both physically and mentally, but it also made her very dangerous. Since her body was used to receiving fresh blood on a regular basis, the bloodlust had taken hold of her mind about two weeks into Ashton’s session with her.
Starvation was a great tool to use when interrogating a vampire, but one had to be careful. Ashton had been forced to crank up his torture a few notches in order to drag her mind back from the frenzy it was staying in, due to the starvation tactic. The female’s bones had been broken so many times they were no longer healing properly, thanks in part to the lack of fresh blood, and also simply because they had been broken so many times. The consistent breaking in the same place so many dozens of times had now produced unsightly lumps and bulges all over the vampire’s arms and legs.
This information in itself was useful to the agency, especially since Ashton had been hired specifically to extract as much information out of the vampire as possible. The agency had already conducted numerous experiments on the vampire and werewolf anatomy. What they wanted now was the information their experimentation could not tell them.
Jasmine’s sunken brown eyes followed Ashton as he moved toward the table that held the small bag of human blood. She tried to lick her cracked lips, but her mouth had stopped producing saliva a few days ago. The only thing that gave her any relief now were the few teaspoons of blood Ashton gave her from time to time, either as a reward for giving him the
information he wanted or as a way to keep the bloodlust from taking over her mind so completely.
“Please, Ashton, I’m begging you. End it! I’ve told you everything I know. Please … Please … kill me already. I simply cannot bear it any longer!”
Ashton smiled, although with his back turned to the undead creature, she couldn’t see the cruelty stamped on his handsome face.
“I have no intentions of killing you, Jasmine,” he said quietly.
The vampire let out a high pitched wail. “What more do you want from me?” she screamed, thrashing around on the table in another attempt to get loose of the restraints. “I don’t know anything more than what I have already said to you hundreds of times now!”
She began crying again, the sobs almost painful to Ashton’s ears. The agency thought the sound was some type of warning system the vampires could use to alert each other of danger. It was also a weapon of sorts, as the high-pitched frequency could really hurt the human ear if it was used right.
Now the vampire was crying uncontrollably, babbling almost incoherently in between the racking sobs. “The werewolves don’t carry viruses. The scientists have already told the world this. They don’t become werewolves or any other type of wereanimal by being bitten. That’s a bunch of nonsense invented for the movies.” She continued to pull at the metal restraints, her frightened, tear-filled eyes darting around the room as she talked.
“It’s like the scientists say, it’s a gene some of them carry that gets switched on at some point in their lives. I don’t know how it works. I just know once the gene is activated the person is no longer susceptible to any type of disease.”
Ashton turned away from the small table where he had been busy, loving how Jasmine’s eyes grew wide in terror as she saw the bone saw he carried in his hand.
“The human scientists already know everything I know about werewolves, and you people know more than the scientists do!”
Ashton pushed the button on the bone saw a few times, the high-pitched buzz filling the room. Jasmine cringed at the sound and began whimpering, her body thrashing on the table in spasms driven by fear.
“What about the vampires?” he asked.
She shook her head violently. “I already told you!” she screamed.
Ashton turned on the saw again. Jasmine began rattling off the same information she had already told him a dozen times before in the past few months. “You don’t become a vampire by being bitten, either! We don’t know it works.”
The small female vampire pulled her arms against the restraints, the metal digging so deep into her flesh the bones were close to breaking. She was so desperate to escape she was causing almost as much damage to her body as Ashton had. Almost.
“If it’s not a virus, then how do you go about making new vampires?” he asked, playing with the button on the saw.
The vampire hissed at the sound, but she kept talking. “Whoever is being embraced must be drained of blood. They have to be nearly dead for the transformation to work. Once the human is almost dead, you have to feed them the sire’s blood.” She kept pulling at the restraints, the bones beginning to fracture under the strain. The vampire did not seem to notice. “But they have to be almost dead! If they are not nearing death then it won’t work.”
“Tell me more about the blood, Jasmine,” he whispered softly, reaching down to grasp her right arm in his hand. He yanked the arm upward suddenly, forcibly, snapping the bone at the wrist.
“Be still, or you’ll break the other one,” he said quietly.
The vampire’s sunken eyes were huge in her pale face, the pupils dilated so much there was barely any white visible in them at all. She only groaned when the bone of her arm broke, her fear so great she could concentrate on little else.
Her breathing was heavy and erratic as she continued to tell Ashton the same things that had now been repeated a hundred times. “I don’t know why our blood makes a regular human stronger when they drink it!” She began shaking her head back and forth as Ashton came closer with the saw, flicking the button on and off as the vampire began to shake uncontrollably on the table.
“I don’t know who discovered the properties of our blood. I don’t know who began selling it as a designer drug. I don’t know, Ashton, I swear I don’t! If I knew I would tell you. My sire abandoned me right after I was embraced. He left me to fend for myself! If I knew of an older vampire who knew these things I would tell you! I swear it, Ashton! Please don’t!”
Jasmine’s screams echoed off the white tiled walls as Ashton turned on the saw and placed it against her naked abdomen.
“Last chance to tell me something useful,” he said happily.
“I don’t know anything else!” she shrieked.
Ashton only smiled, the sound of the vampire’s screams eventually being drowned out by the droning of the saw blade as the bits of flesh and blood spattered his face and hands. God, how he loved his job!
This is an excerpt from IMMORTAL SINS, book 2 in the BEFORE THE SUN RISES SERIES, out now:
After her escape, he had beaten her twin sister until she lost consciousness. He hadn’t meant to kill the girl, but he was so enraged after her sister’s escape he had done just that, however accidental it may have been on his part. Finally realizing the escaped woman would be back with reinforcements, he had quickly packed up and left. The twins were, after all, cops. He had gotten as far away as he could as fast as possible, leaving the broken body of the twin still shackled to the basement floor.
That had been five years ago. He had wanted Altania Lewis like no other woman before her. He had dreamed about her every night since, his evenings spent systematically plotting out her capture and eventual conquering. But no matter how much he daydreamed and planned, he never could entertain the notion of killing the woman. And that was what pissed him off more than anything.
Ashton Jones was a serial killer. He had started his craft when he was only ten years old. At the age of twenty-six, his craft had been honed down to a fine art. He had tortured and killed dozens of people, even becoming a hired hit man for the underground S.H.i.E.L.D. organization at one point. He had gotten so good at torture and interrogation, in fact, he had been recruited by The High Council about two years ago.
He had spent the first year following their rules, jumping through hoops, proving to all of the Elders he would not go rogue if he was embraced. Twelve months after his initial recruitment, one of the little fledgling vampires had been allowed to embrace him.
The High Council made sure he would not be too powerful once turned, by allowing a novice to do the embracing, but he was still strong enough to continue to be an assassin for the Elders.
Now he had an endless supply of victims, not only that he got to kill, but so these victims would stay alive for as long as he wanted, allowing him to spend days, or even weeks, trying out new inventions and increasingly grotesque methods of torture.
Now here he was, in one of the many, many buildings owned by The High Council, waiting on his new partner. Except what was standing in the middle of the room was not a partner, but the object of his obsession.
“I don’t give a shit if he is under the protection of The Council, Stealth. I am going to kill that son-of-a-bitch!”
Altania Lewis was being held by both arms by the vampire Stealth. She was thrashing against him so hard his sharp nails were gouging out deep gashes in her skin. The five-foot-six, dark brunette paid little attention to the piercing pain. Her sapphire blue eyes were glowing with rage. Incoherent curses were thrown out toward Ashton in between death threats and tales of castration with a rusty razor blade.
Ash had not moved from his position inside the doorway. He had been asked to come down to meet his new partner. The last person he had ever expected to see when he entered the room was the woman he had vowed to conquer … mind, body, and soul.
“She is under the protection of The Council, Ash. If you harm her in any way, you will be put to death.” Requiem spoke quietly to the vampire who stood stone still inside the door. “She is now your partner, an appointed Vampire Assassin as you are. As such, she is entitled to the same privileges and protections as all our assassins. You will protect her with your life.”
Stealth was telling the wriggling woman in his arms the same speech Requiem had given him. He wasn’t so sure she was listening, though. The woman was still screaming obscenities at him in addition to her vivid recounts of what she had planned for his testicles and penis.
Ash merely nodded his understanding to the vampire that stood between him and the screaming woman, still too shocked to think about much of anything. His mind kept going over and over the fact he had dreamed of nothing but this woman and what he intended to do to her once he found her. Now The Council was practically handing her over on a silver platter. Except now he was being ordered to protect her at all costs.
Stealth had finally let Altania go, her initial anger having burnt out. Her rage gave way to tears, her emotions so overlapping each other that she now stood in a far corner, crying quietly and rambling on about how she had discovered her twin sister, Altolya, beaten to a bloody pulp and chained like an animal to the cold stone floor of Ash’s basement.
Stealth was attempting to console her as best he could, but she was so deep into her anguish she didn’t appear to hear him. Instead, the vampire kept trying to turn her around to face him, thinking to use his vampire glamour to quiet her down. Altania, however, kept her back to him, her hands over her face and her entire body crammed into a corner of the office.
Ash still wasn’t sure what to make of the whole thing. He finally had this woman who had haunted his dreams for years, yet now she was protected by vampire law. To do anything other than protect her would mean his immediate death. His immediate, slow, and very painful, death.
The situation was not any easier for the woman who was still crying in the corner. For five years she had criss-crossed the entire country, going from one crime scene to another, in search of clues that would ultimately lead her to the monster who had so brutally killed her twin sister.
Her obsession with finding and bringing Ashton to justice had caused her to lose her job with the Shadow Cove PD. She had been so preoccupied with Ashton’s little escapades, she had nearly gotten herself, and her fellow officers, killed during her last assignment.
Concerned with her declining mentality, her former captain had had her reassigned to The Vampire Council’s assassin division. He had hoped the change of scenery would help her to heal after the death of her sister. Instead, she discovered herself in the same room as her sister’s killer, which begged the question of whether or not her captain had known The Council was going to partner her with Ash, or if this was solely the perverted plans of The High Council Elders?
“How could they do this to me, Stealth?” she asked with a calmness that worried the nearly 300 year old vampire. She still had her back turned to him, so he wasn’t sure if she really was calm, or if she were slipping into some sort of manic state.
“To help you heal, Altania,” he said as quietly. “Ash is a valued member of the Assassins Guild now. He went through the same training as you. He has been taught the value of life. His only victims are assassinations sanctioned by The Vampire Council. He is forbidden to harm any other being or face the same tortures and demise as his former victims. He knows the rules, Altania, and he follows them to the letter. He has changed.”
The woman turned around swiftly and glared up at him. “He has not changed, Stealth. You of all people should know it takes more than a few years of study with The Council Elders to change a heart blackened by decades of immorality. That person there will never fully understand the value of a life, not even his own. He would as easily give up his own if it meant getting what he wanted. And what he wants, is me! Now thanks to your Council, you just delivered me to my sworn enemy.”
She was angry, but the anger was giving way to a deadly calm as she pushed past Stealth. She walked up to the eldest vampire on The Council, a man whose name no one knew except for the other members of The Council.
“What happens when this bastard tries to kill me in my sleep? Do I at least have permission to defend myself? Or would you all rather I roll over and let him kill me?”
She glared up at the vampire, looking at his eyebrows instead of directly into his eyes.
The vampire looked back and forth between the frail looking woman directly in front of him, and the much taller, much stronger fledgling vampire who had finally moved into the room to stand a few feet away, watching quietly.
“The two of you listen, and listen well. You are partners now, and as such you will defend each other with your very lives. If either one of you should come up dead, be it by your partner’s hand or another’s, the remaining member of your team will be tortured to death, along with any and all remaining members of his or her family.”
The old vampire’s gaze shifted from Ash and back to Altania as he spoke. “A better question, Miss Lewis, would be exactly how much of your family are you willing to sacrifice to avenge the death of one?”
Altania glared up at the Elder. “You think threatening him with death will keep him from killing me the first chance he gets? He would happily put the gun in his mouth and pull the trigger himself if it meant he got to point the gun at me first. Have the centuries of immortality replaced your brain with cobwebs?”
The High Council Elder stared at the young woman for a few minutes before moving to where Ash stood, walking around the still form as he spoke. “Do you notice anything different about your, ‘sworn enemy,’ as you call him?”
She watched the vampire circle around Ashton, looking at him closely for the first time. It was only then she noticed the man’s normal dark brown eyes were now flecked through with gold, the iris ringed with a yellow-gold hue. Her mouth dropped open.
“You embraced him,” she mumbled in quiet surprise.
She stood in stunned silence for a moment before the vampire’s threat and all it implied finally settled into her brain.
The Council was not going to force them to work together without killing each other. They were going to make certain they protected each other with their final breath. While her family was being used against her to make sure she didn’t chop Ashton’s head off in his sleep, The High Council was using his new-found immortality to keep him in line as well.
He would be given access to an endless supply of victims he could keep alive and torture for as long as he wanted. If he were to harm her, The Council would hand him over to an assassin who had been applying his own tricks of the trade to vampires for centuries untold.
Seeing neither of them was going to argue with him, the Elder moved back to his desk. “You two have your orders. You will go now. I expect updates every two weeks.” He sat down in his leather chair, going back to his mountain of paperwork, effectively dismissing them all without so much as looking up.
Requiem and Stealth ushered Ash and Altania out of the room. Neither vampire spoke as they turned and moved down the hall, away from the front entrance of the building.
And just like that, two sworn enemies discovered themselves shoved together in an impossible situation, forced to protect each other with their very lives.
8.What audience is your book targeted for, and what genre does it come under? My books are all for mature audiences, 18 years or above. As for genres, I’m kind of all over the place. I write supernatural action/adventure romance, fantasy, erotica, and what I call “para-sci” which is a crossover of paranormal science fiction. There is a lot of action, some romance, and a lot of adult content and graphic violence. I actually get bored with plain romance now.
9.Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time? I don’t really have any spare time, but I love watching movies, or reading. I try to hit at least one concert a year, although I’m very limited on those because of the area that I live in.
10.What tip would you give to new authors when trying to build a fan-base / get followers and market their books? (What to do and what not to do.) If I knew that I would be a lot more popular than I am, lol. Honestly, I just don’t know the answer. Why do some authors or bands or YouTubers get more attention than others? It’s not always about talent or creativity. I can only be myself, and so I try to be as honest as I can. I love connecting with my readers, so I’ll sit and chat on social media with anyone who is willing to talk shop with me. I’m a bit quirky, so a lot of people don’t really get me or don’t quite know how to take me. What you see is what you get with me. I really do love meeting new people and so I try to make myself as available as possible for my readers and anyone else who would like to strike up a conversation. I don’t have any ulterior motives. I’m not out to snag a husband or boyfriend or anything like that, and I believe in working hard and earning my place in this world. If I count you as a friend, it’s not because of what you can do for me or because I’m trying to get in your pants or whatever, it’s because I find you interesting and like you for being you. And I would like to think that anyone befriending me want to get to know me for the same reasons.
11.How much of your books are realistic / based on true experiences/ people? The action that is going on in my books is totally fabricated. With that said, the vast majority of the characters in my books are based on real people, either those who I know in real life, or someone famous who has inspired me in some way or who I greatly admire.
The BEFORE THE SUN RISES SERIES is based off of characters that a friend and I created when we were both heavily into RPGs. Ethereal Oscurita is based off of one of my characters. SFC Steven Hall holds a very special place in my heart because that character is coined after the same friend who got me into the RPGs. The vampire Stealth is coined after the real-life television personality Don Henrie. Various other characters in the entire series are based on real people who I role-played with in several online games.
The characters from my current WIP, Hell’s Ballad, are all coined after the members of Black Veil Brides. The members of the band in the book have the same birthdays as BVB, a lot of the tour dates and cities in the book coincide with BVB’s 2015 tour dates. A lot of the injuries that the boys have suffered over the years have even been incorporated into the book. I’ve tried to capture some of their habits and mannerisms into the characters as well.
As a writer, the biggest compliment I can pay someone is to incorporate them into my work somehow. So these characters not only feel more real to me, they start to feel more real to my audience. These characters are special to me because they are all coined after someone who means something to me, so I sincerely hope that I never offend anyone by coining a character after them. I do it because that person meant so much to me, influenced me in some way, or inspired me in such a way that I wanted to thank them by immortalizing them as a character. For me, there is no greater compliment or thank you that I could possibly give someone. And I think that by doing this, it really helps my readers to connect not only with my characters, but also the people that the characters were coined after.
http://www.facebook.com/nicolacheymatthews – personal account
http://www.facebook.com/nicolacmatthews – author page