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Monday, 21 November 2016

Interview: E.H. Nolan

Today the lovely author E.H. Nolan is stopping by to answer a few questions about her writing, inspiration, and her new book Like a Closed Fist.

Welcome to TWG! Tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in California, and I graduated from Chapman University with a BA in Political Science and Film Studies. Reading has always been one of my greatest passions. There’s no greater day than curling up by the fire with my kitten next to me and a good book in my hands. I use the term “kitten” loosely; she just turned 18 this month!


How did you first become interested in writing?

In high school. I was introduced to The Great Gatsby and my entire world changed. To this day, my senior research paper on The Great Gatsby is one of the pieces I'm most proud of having written. I've always loved to read, but it never occurred to me to write any fiction until after college. One morning, an idea came to me, and in the afternoon, the characters came alive and asked me to write their story. So I did.

What draws you to writing women’s fiction?

Characters are like real people. A lot of people pick up a women's fiction novel and expect it to be light and fluffy. If a woman has a broken heart, she'll get over it in a paragraph and all is well. However, women's fiction is a broad genre, and while there are tons of books that are light and fluffy, there are also heavier dramas to round out the genre. Simply put, women's fiction is fiction that deals with women's issues, and a lot of those issues are serious. Real life is full of heartache, and it’s always really moving to read a book you can personally relate to.

Do you think it’s important to write about sensitive issues?

Absolutely. I believe there are lot of women who don't feel safe to express their anxieties and deeper feelings about heavy issues. When women read a book that not only discusses those issues but lets readers know it’s okay to feel the way they’re feeling, it’s enormously helpful. I find the most inspirational books to the most realistic books. It’s all well and good to read about a strong character who bounces back from every upset, but it’s more powerful, real, and moving to read about a character who has trouble moving forward and eventually finds peace.

Image: E.H. Nolan
Tell me about Like a Closed Fist.

If you look at the blurb on Amazon or Goodreads, it will tell you Like a Closed Fist is about a twenty-four-year-old girl involved in a love hexagon with six very different men. Although that is true, it’s much more than just a romance. It’s a cautionary tale of a wounded young woman who is anxious to grow up. Yes, she falls in love with a much older, very married man, and yes, she tries to perpetually rebound to distract herself from him, but at the heart of the story is a fragile, real girl who learns the hard way and gets into a little trouble.

How do you get inspiration?

My characters inspire me. They let me know when they’re ready, and they give me no choice but to write down what’s going on with them. Whenever I have writer’s block, I know it’s because a character isn’t fleshed out enough. If I don’t know everything about him or her, the story can’t go forward. So, I sit down and try to get to know my guy or girl a little better. Once I do, the writing can continue.

What’s your writing process?

I don’t really have a process, or a favourite chair or anything like that. Pretty much, whenever the mood strikes, I do whatever is necessary to record what’s in my brain. Once I was on a plane from Los Angeles to Nashville and came up with a song. There was no way for me to whip out my laptop and record it into my composer program, so I just sang it over and over for three hours until I got my luggage and was able to pencil it down.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Research. When I was writing my Mabel Crowley and Theodore Hartley novels, I did a ton of research into that time period, and into specific battles of WW1 and WW2. I wanted to be very careful to cross reference and make sure multiple sources gave me the same information so I wouldn't write a scene that seemed out of place.

What do you love most about writing?

The characters are the most important part of a story, because if you don't care about the characters, you'll care even less what happens to them. I love my characters. They're real and flawed and lovable. Also, what’s really fun is keeping the mystery from the readers. People only show us what they want us to see, so the majority of the time in real life, we’re not getting to know people as well as we think we are. Sometimes in my novels, I keep a character enshrouded in mystery. But as long as I know everything about them, I’m able to write them realistically, even if that realism means the reader doesn’t know them as well as I do.

Which authors inspire you?

F. Scott Fitzgerald, of course. John Irving blows my mind; I don’t know he comes up with half of what he writes, and I love his level of detail. And I love David Niven, both his fiction and his memoirs. He wrote with the perfect balance of sorrow and humour.

Image: E.H. Nolan
Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

When you’re reading your work after it’s finished, checking for typos or just making sure you like everything, listen to the alarm bells in your head. I really can’t rattle off a single brilliant sentence I’ve written, but I’ll remember forever the icky sentences I wish I’d changed. If you’re reading to yourself and a word, phrase, sentence, or section sticks in your head, chances are it needs to be changed or cut. Sorry, but it’s your brain’s way of trying to help you.

Where’s your favourite place to write?

I don’t really have a favourite place. Usually my laptop is in my room, so I’ll do a lot of writing there. But I can’t count how many times I’ve been in the car when a song comes to me and I have to scramble around for some paper in the backseat to write it down.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Not sure if I’ll be able to do it, but I’d like to produce a book a year. I know a lot of writers do more than that, but one a year seems to be my speed. So far, I’m three for three, so here’s hoping next year brings a fourth.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?

Oh gosh, I have that conversation with myself constantly. Writing is a hobby. I’m a secretary right now, and I’ve been lucky enough to have the same steady job for five years. But I’m always trying to come up with about another profession that would be fun. So far, I haven’t come up with a winner yet, which is probably why I’ve stayed put.

What are you currently working on?

Right now, I'm working on a sequel called Like an Open Fist. Just kidding. I'm actually returning to my Mabel Crowley world and writing the third instalment, following my Amazon best-selling debt Mabel Crowley and the prequel Theodore Hartley. It was quite a jump from 20th century England to modern day America in Like a Closed Fist, and I hear my historical characters calling me back.

Do you prefer e-books or traditional books?


Traditional books, absolutely. I love everything about a paper book, from the smell of the pages to proudly displaying it on my bookshelf.

Do you prefer self-publishing or traditional publishing?

I like self-publishing because you have more freedom. Yes, you sacrifice publicity and sales, but for me, my writing is a hobby not a career, and I prefer to have my books and covers exactly as I imagined them when they’re sitting on the shelf.

What are you reading at the moment?


One of my favourite movies is The Best Years of Our Lives, and I found the book it was based on last Christmas: Glory for Me by MacKinlay Kantor. I’ve been waiting all year to read it, hoping it’s as good as the movie, and now that it’s approaching the holidays again, I just can’t wait any longer!

To find out more about the author, visit her website, Goodreads page, or Amazon author page. Like a Closed Fist is available to buy now.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below! 

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