Featured Author Nicole Givens Kurtz, author of Browne Candidate
In a real time discussion moderated by editor Karen MacLeod, Nicole Givens Kurtz (author of The Soul Cages) shares thoughts and wisdom with chat attendees.

Excerpts from this public forum give us an intriguing insight into this diverse and talented author.

<Karen> Good to see you Ms. Kurtz.
<bookish21> Hello Ms. Kurtz. Thank you for offering this.
<ngkurtz> You're welcomed. Good evening to you.
<Karen> In our previous chat you mentioned that Stephen King, and a few others inspired you to write. What other factors prompted you to become an author?
<ngkurtz> I have a overactive imagination and I needed an outlet for the stories that run loose in my head.
<ngkurtz> When reading I would always marvel at the author's ability to create. I wanted to be able to create, too.
<ngkurtz> For me, writing is a necessary process. I'm an insomniac and what else are you going to do at 3 in the morning?
* Karen smiles.
<ngkurtz> My mother admired people who wrote for a living.
<ngkurtz> It was one of the areas she pushed me toward when I was younger. She would read the "true romance" novels and tell me how wonderful or smart or fantastic she believed the author to be.
<ngkurtz> I wanted to be smart, fantastic, and wonderful too. *to please my mom* So, I began writing at an early age. Scribbling notes to her, writing her Mother's Day poems, etc.
<ngkurtz> But it wasn't until high school, when my 10th grade English teacher asked me to write an essay for a local contest that I was really hooked.
<ngkurtz> I thought, "Hey, I might be able to do this." Not to mention, I wasn't very good a sports or cooking. I won the contest and went on to write for the literary magazine the high school ran.
<ngkurtz> My picture was in the paper. I received a savings bond. I was definitely hooked.
<ngkurtz> That same year, my poem won a local poetry contest. I was invited to read it before a large group of people. My mother was definitely proud. I wrote my first short story that summer.
<ngkurtz> I still have it stuck in my desk. It's a reminder of where I once was in my writing and the initial excitement of creating something.
* Karen smiles. "So, that started you on this road of writing."
<ngkurtz> Yes.
<Karen> Welcome back, bookish. We just found out what inspired Ms. Kurtz to write. Do you have a question for her? If so, please ask it.
<bookish21> Well.. That's always the first one to ask, isn't it? What was the answer?
<ngkurtz> My mother inspired me to write.
<bookish21> In what way? And my question is why do you still write? You have several books either out, or coming out, and I always wondered what keeps authors writing.
<ngkurtz> My mother would read these "true romance" novels. To her, people who wrote for a living were "intelligent," "fantastic," and wonderful. I wanted to be those things, too.
<ngkurtz> I continue to write because I feel like I must. The characters and stories that begin in my imagination do not let me rest until they are on paper.
<bookish21> I always thought that was left to the unpublished folks.. :) It's kinda nice to see real authors do the same thing..
<ngkurtz> There have been times when I have stopped at a gas station, purchased a notebook and sat in the car writing out a scene.
<bookish21> Neat! Do you suppose that's true of writers in general?
<ngkurtz> From the ones I speak to that seems to be the driving force behind why they write.
<ngkurtz> Regardless of whether they will ever be published or not, many still write new stories.
<ngkurtz> So, when I kick the bucket and go to that great library in the sky, there will be a bunch of stories sitting in my closet...
<bookish21> "Yes, but someone will find them and they will be hits, posthumously, right?
<Karen> Isn't it those "closet" stories that heirs later find and release as the "lost works of....?"
<ngkurtz> Of course. *Nicole laughing*
<bookish21> "Well.. I suppose my next question would be about genre. What is the criteria for defining any genre, like yours, for example?
<bookish21> "And, please forgive me, I know these must seem like silly questions, but where do you GO to find this stuff out?
<ngkurtz> There is no such thing as a silly question.
<ngkurtz> Genre, it depends on the work.
<ngkurtz> For example, Browne Candidate is science fiction. It's set in a near future setting.
<ngkurtz> The Soul Cages is definitely fantasy. Because it involves magic...
<bookish21> "Oh? I didn't realize that was your particular (preferred?) genre... Is that what defines fantasy?
<ngkurtz> Now, if I wrote a story where the soul extracting process was done in a lab in the near future, that would be science fiction.
<bookish21> "What happens when two genres clash?
<ngkurtz> My preferred genre is SF. It seems to flow better for me than the others.
<ngkurtz> When the two clash, it becomes speculative fiction...Correct me if I'm wrong Karen.
<ngkurtz> There's a mixing of genres such as paranormal romance.
<Karen> That sounds about right to me, speculative fiction. I've also heard it called "cross-genre" without a specific label.
<ngkurtz> When enough people write a certain mixture of genre, I would guess a new genre is born.
<bookish21> I understand that…about "flows better." I just never thought authors would normally write different things...
<ngkurtz> Stephen King is an example of diversity.
<ngkurtz> The Shawshank Redemption and Stand by Me are not horror stories.
<bookish21> Picture me blushing. I was gonna ask about that...
<ngkurtz> The Dark Tower books are pure fantasy.
<ngkurtz> And his traditional genre of horror. He writes what the story dictates.
<bookish21> "Yes. I have read them. Sort of odd, actually... Is that what you do with sci fi? Write what the story dictates?
<ngkurtz> Oh, yes. My characters are in control of what happens to them. I am just as surprised by the ending as my readers are.
<bookish21> "How do you control your characters?"
<ngkurtz> I don't. They kinda control me.
<bookish21> I see that.. :)
<Karen> I've heard that from a lot of authors.
<bookish21> I've read that control of that sort isn't the best idea, but if you do it, and successfully , what could be so bad about it?
<ngkurtz> If you control your characters and that works for you, then don't stop doing that.
<ngkurtz> It's a matter of style I think.
<ngkurtz> When writing characters, to me, they are real people. And because they are real people, there are certain things they will and won't do.
<bookish21> I was actually hoping for the other answer. Style. What's a good style to develop? Any suggestions, if I wanted to "do something" with the stuff I write?
<ngkurtz> Style, in my opinion, is an individual thing.
<ngkurtz> I don't think you can copy someone else's style, but rather develop your own. Whether your style be a combination of other authors you enjoy, then fine.
<bookish21> Sure.. But wouldn't some sort of guidelines to get started be useful?
<bookish21> Ok.. What would you call your style?
<ngkurtz> There's usually a set group of guidelines for a particular genre.
<ngkurtz> If you write SF, then visit the SFWA's website at http://www.sfwa.org
<ngkurtz> If I had to define my style, it would be King meets Sue Grafton.
<ngkurtz> With a little Octavia Butler for good measure.
<bookish21> I actually prefer fantasy, with all sorts of things mixed in. That's why I was asking about mixed genres...
<ngkurtz> Mixed genres are good for breaking the tired, same story lines.
<bookish21> I tend to agree, but how do you get it published?
<bookish21> I am not familiar with Sue Grafton. I've heard of Butler, but haven't read her work.
<ngkurtz> Oh, you so should! She's totally awesome.
<ngkurtz> Grafton is a mystery writer.
<ngkurtz> You have to send out your manuscripts to publication.
<bookish21> Ah. Ok. Do you have a particular favorite?
<ngkurtz> A favorite author?
<Karen> That was a question I could ask, but I believe bookish was referring to any specific Butler books you enjoy as well.
<bookish21> Who do you send to if you can't define the genre you wrote? Yes, which Butler book do you like best?
<ngkurtz> My favorite Butler book is Kindred.
<Karen> Welcome, ECJB. Questions for author Nicole Givens Kurtz, are welcomed.
<ngkurtz> As for publication, if you write primarily fantasy then submit to magazines that publish fantasy.
<bookish21> Neat. I will look for it... Ok. I will keep that in mind...
<ngkurtz> The Spicy Green Iguana's website (http://www.spicygreeniguana.com) lists a ton of markets for fantasy writers.
* bookish21 jots that down.
<ngkurtz> As for formatting your story for submission, check out Writing World at http://www.writing-world.com
<ngkurtz> They offer great samples and basic "how-to" get published stuff.
<ngkurtz> They even have a section devoted to sf and f.
<bookish21> Thank you. I will.
<ngkurtz> Let me know how it works out for you.
<ngkurtz> Please feel free to email ngkurtz@lycos.com or mocha_memoirs@lycos.com if you have other questions later.
<bookish21> Just out of curiosity, what do you do when you aren't writing?
* Nicole laughs. "I read."
<bookish21> The reason I ask is because I wonder if what you do for hobbies ever entered into your written work.
<ngkurtz> I just finished Harry Potter book 4 (for the third time)
<bookish21> I would suppose reading would, automatically..
<ngkurtz> Yes, but I also teach which sometimes sneaks into my writing.
<bookish21> How so?
<Northernb> Klahowyah from the Canadian Pacific Northwest
<Karen> Welcome. Do you have a question for our Author?
<ngkurtz> In the sequel to Browne Candidate, Aurora spends a lot of her time teaching the children of the island.
* bookish21 waves hello...
<ngkurtz> Hola from New Mexico!
<Northernb> just lurking
<ngkurtz> *Nicole waves*
<bookish21> Ah! Do you and Aurora teach the same things, then?
<ngkurtz> *Laughing*. No, I teach English. Aurora teaches them about life and how to grieve.
<ngkurtz> She has a lot of experience with grieving.
<bookish21> Yes. How to grieve... Do you believe that novels and such, only have merit if they have a lesson to be learned?
<ngkurtz> Absolutely not. I write to entertain.
<ngkurtz> I believe that stories should be a lot of fun, and a lot of action!
<bookish21> I don't think I asked that right, but what I mean is something like, can novels be good even if they don't teach anything? Good! I was rather hoping you'd say that..
<ngkurtz> Because I view my characters as real people, they do sometimes find themselves in situations that are like life lessons.
<ngkurtz> They either choose to do the right thing or they don't. Just like regular people.
<Northernb> Each time a blind person has to retire or loses a guide dog there is a lot of grieving going on.
<ngkurtz> I would say so.
<bookish21> How would you define "suspension of disbelief?"
<ngkurtz> "Suspension of disbelief," I would guess is when you suspend the reality of something "not being true" and going ahead with the story.
<bookish21> How would you decide or how would your characters decide is "workable" if they are responding to an event in their "lives" that's totally out of the ordinary?
<ngkurtz> Depends on the character. For example, in the Soul Cages, Zykeiah does not believe that Sarah has this great power.
<bookish21> I mean, like say a supernova is gonna happen in ten minutes, What do you use as a reference to know how your characters will react?
<ngkurtz> Depends on the character. If the character is a nervous person and who has done wrong things, he/she might want to repent at that time.
<ngkurtz> Or if the character is someone who has made peace with their life, they welcome it.
<bookish21> Do you suppose the reactions of your characters is more believable if its based in a real world situation? Or is that where suspension of disbelief comes in?
<ngkurtz> "Real World" is relative to the world I have created. To my characters, their world is real and they react (I hope) in a believable fashion to the situations they're in.
<ngkurtz> But, yes, it does help to have some knowledge of how people react to situations in life like war, rape, abuse, torture, etc.
<bookish21> Fair enough. I stand corrected. :) I just find it difficult to know how a character should react to something totally outlandish...
<ngkurtz> So that if Sarah is being tortured, then I know how *most* people react to torture.
<ngkurtz> Well, if it is totally outlandish, how would you react?
<bookish21> Exactly. I find it difficult to even imagine.. :)
<ngkurtz> One of the suggestions I received at a writer's conference is to get to know your characters.
<ngkurtz> Take an application from McDonald's (or some other fast food place) and interview your characters.
<bookish21> I guess I was hoping there was some sort of method for figuring that out. Yes, but your characters are already alive.. mine always aren't.
<ngkurtz> Once you've found out where they live, past job experiences, skills, you'll be able to see them as people and not just as characters.
* Karen smiles. "That's an interesting way to find out who they are."
<bookish21> Laugh. In the application: "How would you handle a supernova?"
<Northernb> A driving goal that focuses all the reactions and situations based or focused on achieving that goal.
<ngkurtz> Is your character a space captain or the nurse?
<bookish21> I should wonder what real people might say to that.. Laugh...
<ngkurtz> Ask them. Ask your friends. Ask strangers. Post it on a message board. You'll get some replies that may you can use...
* Karen laughs. "Cook up all the burgers in the freezer?"
<ngkurtz> There's one right there. *Nicole giggles*
* bookish21 laughs very hard...
<ngkurtz> It does take practice.
<bookish21> "Ok. Someone else's turn.. I am still laughing at that one. But I see your point, and I understand it...
<Northernb> The hard thing would be if someone were more that 10 minutes away from their loved one.
* Karen nods. "Especially if they wanted to be with that loved one, and could not get there."
<ngkurtz> And a supernova was about to explode.
<bookish21> That would be true for me, Northern.. How do you determine the titles of your books, Nicole?
<ngkurtz> I write down a bunch and read them off to my husband. Whichever one he hates, I pick that one.
* bookish21 laughs again.... Do you find that works best?
<ngkurtz> Sure.
<ngkurtz> I have only switched one title of a novel. Most of them I write first and use the title as a guide for the storyline.
<bookish21> Well.. I am fairly sure that won't work for me, but I will keep it in mind...
<ngkurtz> I try to put in three to four words what the entire novel is about.
<bookish21> In what way? How does "Browne Candidate" relate to its story?
<ngkurtz> The entire story centers around Aurora Browne, who is a Candidate for the Garden.
<ngkurtz> Even Ren's battle with the UWC, he's in that pickle because Bain went back for Browne.
<bookish21> Oh! Clever. I see what you mean...
<ngkurtz> The same with the Soul Cages.
<ngkurtz> Sarah's rescue, Marion's abduction, Valek's business...it's all because of the soul cages on Solis.
<bookish21> Yes. It becomes very clear. in that light.
<ngkurtz> So I write down a bunch of titles that I think sum up the novel. Then I read them off to my husband...
<ngkurtz> *nicole chuckles* But not all the time. Sometimes I just go with what I think is the best.
<bookish21> If you were to have the freedom to write anything you want, one great, grandiose story, novel, etc. what would it be about?
<ngkurtz> That's a good question!
<bookish21> Thanks.
<ngkurtz> It would be an epic adventure, where Aurora Browne goes back to the Garden, frees all of the Candidates, becomes queen of the world and lives happily ever after.
<ngkurtz> Sappy, I know.
<Karen> So that's one of the books you wish you would have written -- or will write.
* bookish21 smiles.. That sounds a lot like the beginnings of a sequel...
<ngkurtz> Maybe one day I'll write that story...
<bookish21> Especially since we all know no one lives happily ever after. Something always comes along...
<ngkurtz> Which may be why I'll never write that story...
<ngkurtz> But that would probably be it. I want to write a novel like King's THE STAND...
<bookish21> "What do you suppose is your greatest strength as a writer? Character development? Place? Something else?
<Northernb> Even being queen she would have to deal with all the clashes of the various cultures of the world.
<ngkurtz> If I had to choose a strength (I am still developing as a writer) I would think character development.
<ngkurtz> Yes, Northern, she would have to deal with the cultures of the world.
<bookish21> Have you ever considered co-authoring with anyone?
<ngkurtz> Yes, I have considered co-authoring a novel.
<ECJB> "How does who you are influence your writing?" i.e. your favorite things, et cetera?
<ngkurtz> Another good question.
<ngkurtz> I believe that a person's eyes are powerful and seductive.
<ngkurtz> So, in my writing, the characters' eyes speak to their personalities.
<ngkurtz> I like medieval stories and history.
<ngkurtz> The Soul Cages is draped in castles, and the dress is very medieval.
<Northernb> or voice, if you are blind.
<ngkurtz> Yes, Northern, a person's voice is quite powerful and seductive too.
<ECJB> Romance? Drama? historical? Mythical?
<ngkurtz> Swords, daggers and cloaks.
<ngkurtz> Mythical and history are big reads for me.
<ngkurtz> I love mythology and am currently reading up on Asian myths. I am a lover of King Arthur as well.
<ngkurtz> I don't read too many dramas. I like to be entertained when I'm reading and some dramas are too serious for me.
<ngkurtz> So, my personal interests influence my novels. I was raised in the church (my grandmother was a pastor), so Browne Candidate's religious angle came from there.
<Northernb> I have to go, there is a missionary going to give a talk about the different cultures of Africa and the culture of Poland. We all live in the same world, but man, do we have various outlooks.
<ngkurtz> In Browne Candidate, Angel lives in the city above old Chicago. I used to live in Chicago...I think there are major chunks of my personal interests in all of my novels.
<Karen> Write what you know?
<ngkurtz> I agree Northern. Thank you for coming.
<ECJB> Bye Northern.
<ngkurtz> Yes, I think so. But I also write what interests me.
<ngkurtz> I can't believe an hour has passed.
<ngkurtz> What fun!
<Karen> Its been enjoyable. Here's another question if you like. What or who are your favorite characters whose stories you have told, and why.
<bookish21> And maybe, what makes them your favorite characters, too?
<ngkurtz> My favorite character has to be Aurora and Zykeiah.
<ngkurtz> Aurora because she's tough and although she is ignorant of the world outside of the Garden, she's strong enough to try to leave it. She's smart enough to know that what is being preached isn't right.
<ngkurtz> Zykeiah because she'll kick your butt. She, too, is a tough, independent woman, and once more, she takes over the Minister Knights without batting an eye when Marion is abducted.
<ngkurtz> She's the only one who was suspicious of Amana and the only one who truly looks out for everyone.
<ngkurtz> Zykeiah's story hasn't been completely told, but it will be.
<bookish21> Do you favor strong women then, as characters, I mean?
<ngkurtz> I am a fan of Madonna. I think it's wonderful to see a woman taking charge and commanding.
<ngkurtz> I think I tend to favor them, although Sarah in the Soul Cages is the main character and she's not exactly strong.
<bookish21> That was my next question.. Have you ever written any male characters and did it work out?
<ngkurtz> I write male characters all the time. I think we get along and I think I can identify with them having spent a large section of my life as a tomboy.
<bookish21> Or put another way, do you believe its possible for authors to write characters opposite their gender, successfully?
<ngkurtz> Oh, yes, I think so. J.K. Rowling has done a fantastic job with Harry Potter.
<bookish21> You answered the second one too... :0
<ngkurtz> Our jobs as authors is to pretend. If we can't pretend to be another sex, color or age, then boy we're in the wrong business.
<bookish21> I'd have to agree, but I guess I was thinking more along the lines of serious characters...
<ngkurtz> I think it's very possible and doable. For example, Memoirs of a Geisha. That was written by a white male. Yet, he pulled it off wonderfully.
<bookish21> Who is your most successful, from your perspective, male character?
* bookish21 agrees. I had forgotten about that...
<ngkurtz> Who is my most successful male character?
<ngkurtz> Ren from Browne Candidate.
<ECJB> Where do you see yourself going in the future with your writing?
<ngkurtz> In the future, I see myself writing more novels, but experimenting with other non-genre stories.
<ECJB> "Non-genre"...?
<ngkurtz> I currently write science fiction and fantasy. In the future, I would like to experiment with storylines that are not exactly sf and f.
<ngkurtz> I also hope to expand my online writing group, Dark Village, to other writers of sf and f. ( http://www.geocities.com/nlkurtz/index.html)
* bookish21 also has to go... THANK YOU for taking the time, Ms. Kurtz. It's been wonderful. I was looking for Browne Candidate on Amazon but I don't see it. Where will I be able to find it?
<ngkurtz> You should be able to find Browne Candidate at http://www.crystaldreamspub.com/sales%20sheets/kurtz_n/browne_candidate.html
<Karen> Thank you, bookish, for participating.
<ECJB> Could you give an example of how you plan to diverge from sf & f, or is it just a theory at this point?
<ECJB> Bye Bookish.
<ngkurtz> Thank you, Bookish
<bookish21> Ok! Thank you! I will look for it... Oh believe me, it was MY pleasure. Bye!
<ngkurtz> I plan to write other stories that are not sf and f.
<Karen> I was wondering what elements you'd add to your work to bring them out of the "genre" stereotypes...
<ngkurtz> I want to write a story about church and ministers and how they often abuse their power over their congregations.
<Karen> Now THAT may cause some flack --
<ECJB> No Comment
<ngkurtz> Yes, but as you can see there isn't a magical element in that.
<ngkurtz> I want to write about a women who has AIDS, and how she struggles to live a normal life.
<ngkurtz> These types of ideas are not speculative in nature. But are more literary in tone.
<ECJB> Where do you get your inspirations for these "non-genre" items?
<ngkurtz> Reading the newspaper. Talking to friends and family.
<ngkurtz> Reading the world news. My own curiosity.
<ngkurtz> The ideas come from a variety of places.
<ngkurtz> They may never actually appear in print. They are just ideas I'm thinking about.
<ECJB> What kind of legacy do you want your stories to leave? Impact?
<ngkurtz> I would like for my stories to leave the reader with a little better understanding of what it means to be human and to have fun. For the time the reader is reading, I would like for them to escape from their own problems, to a world where people have their own problems.
<ngkurtz> Perhaps by reading of Sarah's strange powers, the reader can put their own problems in perspective.
<ngkurtz> As I said earlier, I don't set out to put a moral lesson in my writings.
<ngkurtz> But because my characters are people, they too find themselves in situations that are not always nice and calm.
<ngkurtz> The decisions that they make affect their lives and hopefully, when readers read my novels, they can see how those decisions can make either good or bad things occur.
<ngkurtz> And maybe, just maybe, the reader will be more careful with the decisions they make.
<Karen> Our scheduled time is about up. Is there anything else you would like to share Ms. Kurtz?
<ngkurtz> Wow, already?
<ngkurtz> No, I want to thank you, Karen, ECJB, and the others, for the chat. It's been a great time.
<Karen> We want to thank you for being here, and sharing your insights.
<ECJB> Thank you for coming and enlightening us.
* ECJB grins
<ngkurtz> You're welcomed. Email me with other comments or questions...
<ngkurtz> Thank you. I'd like to link to it from my website.
<ngkurtz> Thanks again.
<Karen> Thank you for your time. Goodnight.
<ngkurtz> Goodnight

For more from this interesting author, please contiue with our previous, one-on-one chat http://www.simegen.com/writers/nikurtz/index.html