November 10, 2016

Jake, Judd, and the Day Job: an interview with Nikki Nelson-Hicks, author of "Jake Istenhegyi: The Accidental Detective"

Nikki Nelson- Hicks' Jake Istenhegyi, the Accidental Detective, returns for a new adventure in the Pro Se Single Shot Signature Series- ROAD TRIPS, ACID BATHS, AND ONE-EYED BASTARDS!

Amateur detective and professional trouble magnet Jake Istenhegyi has once again traded the pan for the fire. He's on the run, on a cross-country trip with a beautiful, immortal alchemist, both of them chased by an ancient order of killers. At the end of the road? Maybe the conclusion to Jake's search for the salt of life, or maybe betrayal and sudden death at the end of a one-eyed man's gun.

ROAD TRIPS, ACID BATHS, AND ONE-EYED BASTARDS is the fifth standalone digital single short story in the JAKE ISTENHEGYI, THE ACCIDENTAL DETECTIVE ongoing series, part of Pro Se Productions' Pro Se Single Shot Signature line.

Gef: What was the spark that got your engine running for the fifth Jake Istenhegyi story: road trips, acid baths, or one-eyed bastards?

Nikki: All of the Jake stories run sequentially so, in Jake Time, only 6 months has really passed in his world. I picked up from where #4 (Fish Eyed Men, Fedoras and Steel Toed Pumps) ended where (SPOILERS) three mystery men attempted to kidnap Jake and Giovanna ‘resurrected’ so I had to run with that for the next installment. It helps plotting a story if I have questions to use as stepping stones: Why did she resurrect? Who were the mystery men that attacked Jake? Who were they working for? It’s the way of serial adventures. Always leave your audience hanging off a cliff so they’ll come back for the next story.

Gef: What has been the craziest or most surprising bit of research you've encountered while writing Jake's adventures?

Nikki: Even though my stories all have some kind spooky or supernatural element to them, I do try to keep them anchored in reality (As long as that reality doesn’t get in the way of a good story, that is; I am a liar by trade.) so they do require a bit of research.

I’ve built a library on myth, lore and superstitions of the South that I peruse quite a bit as I look for new story fodder.

One of the most interesting nuggets that I found is the Boo-Daddy. It’s a piece of South Carolina hoodoo. Basically, what you do is create a creature using swamp mud, oyster shells and magic. You send this creature out as a curse to someone who has wronged you. I decided to use it in Jake #3, Boodaddies, Bogs and a Dead Man’s Booty but instead of making it a boogey man, I used creative licensing and turned it into a guardian spirit that saves Jake’s butt over the course of the story. It’s still out there, in the Jake Universe, living in the swamps. Who knows? It might turn up again if Jake needs saving.

Gef: Are you the kind of writer who will slip in people from your life and inject them into your stories surreptitiously? Any IRL nemeses who've met untimely ends in this series?

Nikki: Many people have asked me to kill them in a story. I’ve killed people as birthday presents and one gentleman asked me to kill him as payment for a monitor. Finding people who will line up as victims is not a problem.

However, there have been those lucky, lucky few who I’ve killed as a personal catharsis for some wrong they have done me. The one who comes immediately to mind is Judd.

I wouldn’t be able to pick Judd out of a lineup if I were to meet him on the street. I’ve never seen him. But I remember his voice. There was a nasally whine to the baritone pitch. My stomach churns and my blood pressure goes up a notch just thinking about it.

I was at my day job, answering phones as the floating lunch relief for the receptionist on the 7th floor when Judd called. He was stuck in traffic on Monteagle Road and wanted to know what I was going to do about it, you motherfucking, cock sucking, whore bitch. As I tried to find out what the problem was on that stretch of highway, he would hang up, call back, curse me out, hang up, call back, curse me out, etc, etc. In the space of an hour, he called me a dozen times. It got so that I jumped whenever the phone rang. I don’t know why it bothered me so much. Maybe it was the phase of the moon. Maybe I was feeling extra sensitive that day. Maybe it was just the repeated abuse, over and over again, and the feeling of powerlessness. Whatever it was, it shook me up so badly that I went home early and the ordeal completely wrecked my entire weekend.

It was on a Sunday afternoon as I was taking a walk, trying to calm my nerves about having to go to work the next day and PERHAPS MAYBE have to face Judd on the phone again, that a little voice whispered in my ear, “Hey, why don’t you kill him? The body count in this latest Jake story is pretty high, so why not add Judd to the pile?”

So, I did. I had the magically reanimated corpse pop off Judd’s head like a Pez dispenser. Blood and gore rained down on poor Jake like something out of a Tarantino flick. And it was glorious.

Gef: What's been the biggest learning experience in writing an ongoing series?

Nikki: The Jake Istenhegyi stories started out as a challenge: write a straight pulp story involving chickens, 10k limit. Seriously. That’s how this mess got started.

It did not start with any plan to be anything more than a one shot deal. I had no story arch or developing plotlines.

It was after writing Jake #4 that it hit me, “Holy shit, this is real. I need to start making up a bible or someway to keep track of all the characters, places, plotlines, etc.”

So, the biggest learning experience for me has to been learning out to plot out storylines not just for the story at hand but for future ones. I’m a pantser, not a plotter. To write a story, all I need to know is the Beginning and the End. All that mushy, squishy part in the middle just sort of comes magically. However, if you are going to do something long term, you need to plot. And it’s hard especially when it’s not in your nature. It’s like trying to map out a tree that hasn’t even started sprouting limbs yet. It can be really frustrating but absolutely necessary.

Gef: Do you ever see yourself hunkering down for a full-length novel featuring Jake or is he best suited for the more serial approach?

Nikki: When I wrote Jake #3, Boodaddies, Bogs and a Dead Man’s Booty, I challenged myself to write something 30k or longer. I just wanted to see if I could. Jake #3 turned out to be over 37k.

So, yes, I could do a Jake novel but it would be a standalone adventure, something outside the stories I have going now. Perhaps something happening present day. That would be fun. It would just take time, planning and plotting. And a contract.

Gef: What's the biggest misconception about pulp fiction?

Nikki: That it ended in 1930.

I was at a writers convention last summer and went to a panel about Pulp Fiction. All they talked about was early stuff. From Savage to Spade, that was as far as their expertise went. When I asked about the New Pulp Movement, they looked dumbstruck. I had to go full Hermione on them and educate them about the new pulp that is out there.

Gef: Do you see an end game for Jake or do you hope to keep writing him in perpetuity?

Nikki: I’ll write his stories as long as Pro Se keeps me on contract or as long as people want to read them. The stories are good fun to write and I do enjoy torturing Jake.

Gef: I hear you got something in the works for early next year as well. Tell us about that and anything else you have in the making.

Nikki: I am currently working on a novella called RUMBLE that should come out early 2017. Okay, here’s the scenario: a shady corporation has a mining camp in the Gobi Desert. Shenanigans ensue when they find out they set up camp in the middle of a Mongolian Death Worm and Cannibalistic Mole Men SMACKDOWN. It’s gonna be a blast. Someone get SYFY on the phone. I have the next Sharknado right here, baby.

Also on my plate:

  • A new Sherlock Holmes story called Not Quite a Murder. It’s going to be a bit darker than my first Holmes story, Shrieking Pits, as I delve into body snatching, the rise of photography and anatomists.
  • Jake #6, yet untitled. It’ll be a longer story, around 30K. A private investigator from LA is on Jake’s trail and a lot of chickens come home to roost in this story. #zombiechickensrule
  • Writing a very script for Forcone Films, Interesting premise: a mockumentary about Superheroes in Therapy.
  • Every Wednesday (or so), I do a funny little thing on FB called Dinosaur Cubicle Fun Time. Imagine a Dilbert/Jurassic Park smashup. That’s an ongoing thing.
  • PLUS a bunch of projects I really want to tackle in 2017:
    • The Bogie Bar stories. It’s a place where legends, old gods, and monsters drop in for a quick drink. Humanity’s lack of belief in magic is causing trouble in their world and a civil war is at hand.
    • The Travis Dare Ghost Files. He’s the real deal. He comes from a long line of Ghost Layers (don’t laugh). He hooks up with a paranormal investigative team and shenanigans happen. I’ve got three stories under my belt that need to be edited.
    • Delilah Ditch: The Galvanized Girl. It’s a Steampunk/Superhero story. I wrote a 10k version for an anthology but they took 2 years to publish so when my contract ran out, I took my rights back. It’s a good story. I want to lengthen it into a novella.
    • Mother’s Home – it’s a Steampunk Horror story I wrote for an anthology that never went to print. I’d like to lengthen it to a novella. It’s a very cool, nasty little piece of work. Think Stepford Wives, Steampunk Edition.

Anyway, that’s what I plan on tackling in 2017. We’ll see what I come up with by 2018…if the world hasn’t exploded by then.

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