Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Interview with Nikki Hopeman.

Full Name:
Nikki Hopeman
(This is what I use for my pen name and I’m sticking to it.)
Fine by me.

Do you have a nickname or what do your friends call you?
Nikki is a nickname, but some of my friends also call me Nik.  The rest are either embarrassing or super secret.
That’s two questions you’re playing kind of close to the chest.  I hope you open up a little as the interview proceeds or I’ll have to do another interview to find out more about you so I can get to know you after I’ve interviewed you.

I was born in an itty bitty Pennsylvania town called Camp Hill.  As far as I know, there is no special hill to camp on.

Current hometown:
Steel City proud!  Pittsburgh.

Favorite city and why?
Mountain View, Hawaii.  I’d never before or since seen anything so beautiful.  Perfection.

Birthday / Age:
October 3. Old enough to not want to tell my age.
Why do you think that women have a problem with admitting their age?  I’ve had a few male interviewees that have been coy about their age, but the females that have been intentionally vague about their age outnumber them about ten-to-one.  Why is that?

Do you want my flippant answer or the serious one?  The serious one?  Okay.  Because of the tendency for society to dismiss women past a certain age.  If a woman isn’t a perky, slim, bouncy, young female, often she’s dismissed.  While I would like to think that this tide is changing, the predominant image of “woman” in popular culture is young and beautiful.  Think of the super models.  There are a few exceptions, but even the ones in their 40s don’t look it.  There’s a lot of pressure to stay eternally young and that’s tough to do if you admit your age once your past maybe 30.  And I am.
So… what was your flippant answer?


How would you describe yourself physically?
I’m tall for a woman.  I have crazy curly hair that often enters a room before I do.

How would someone else describe you physically?
I guess that depends on who’s doing the describing. The word I often get is “tall.”  “Wow, you’re tall.”  “Wow, you’re observant.”
And then “Wow, you’re sarcastic?”

Only if I’m lucky.  I love people with a quick response.

The first thing people notice about you is…
My height, I think.  Maybe the hair.

Sexual orientation?
Straight.  Married for 15 years.

Religion, if any?

Are you superstitious at all? Any phobias?
Superstitious?  Not so much.  Phobias?  A few.  I have a rabid loathing and fear of anything with more than eight legs.  I can carry a spider outside to set it free, but a centipede?  I turn into a blubbering idiot.  I’m also claustrophobic and don’t like those seed pod things and other asymmetrical hole patterns.  I recently found out that has a name, trypophobia.  I had to google the spelling of that and I now I’m thoroughly creeped out.

Do you smoke/drink? If so, what? Any bad habits?
No smoking, can’t stand the smell.  I drink socially, a glass of wine here and there or a beer with friends.  Bad habits… I do have a weakness for chocolate.
Bad habits… not having any bad habits.  How do you write?  I was always under the impression that all authors have to have a chorus line of skeletons in their closet as a prerequisite for joining the “Writer’s Club”.

I guess that depends very much on what you consider “bad” and “habit.”  Is my love of all things morbid a bad habit?  Maybe authors don’t so much have to have bad habits as lots of personality quirks or demons instead of skeletons.  Demons aplenty.  I think I don’t consider the stranger aspects of myself to be habits.

Current occupation / Dream job:
Writer / writer.  I seriously never thought I would be able to do this full time, but I’m incredibly lucky.  Before I turned writer, I worked for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Immunologic Monitoring and Cellular Products Lab, which was a pretty kickass job, too.

What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I love to read and watch movies.  I also have two kids who are pretty cool to hang out with and my husband and I like to ride motorcycles.  I have a Harley-Davidson Iron 883.

What is your zombie outbreak survival plan?
I live in an 80-some year old house that is built like a bunker.  We’re covering the windows on the first floor and sitting it out as long as possible.  We’re one of those freaky families that actually discusses this at dinner.
What’s so freaky about that?

See, this is why I like you.

Weapon of choice:
My Glock  9mm.

Do you have any special skills?
I’m actually pretty good with that Glock I mentioned.  I can pick locks, too.

Did you go to college and, if so, what for?

I did.  I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor’s in microbiology, and then went on to Seton Hill University for my Master of Fine Arts in writing popular fiction.
I bet you’re glad you didn’t study writing unpopular fiction.  That stuff never sells.

I had to transfer in credits to cover that course.  They took “Summoning Demons: How to Talk to an Editor” in place in place of the “Unpopular Fiction.”  Fair trade.

If you went to college, did you manage to pay off your student loans?

I did indeed.

Any pets?   If so, what are they and what are their names?

I currently have two Welsh Cardigan Corgis, Kirby and Betty.  We’ve had a rough year, though, and lost a 16-year old cat and several rodents.  There will be furry additions to the family soon.

What is your favorite animal?

To have as a pet?  My corgis are awesome.  To have as a pet if such a thing were possible?  A thylacine.
I had to look that one up.  It’s pretty rad.  But I’m still sticking with displacer beast as my favorite animal.

Displacer beast would be a good one.  There’s something about that double-jointed jaw on the thylacine that just tickles me.  Imagine how many tennis balls it could carry.
All of them.  It could carry all of the tennis balls.

Win / win!

Speaking of pets, any pet peeves?

Watching someone perform personal hygiene in public.  Really, is it necessary to floss on the bus?

Favorite / Least favorite Food:

My favorite is chocolate, especially chocolate with peanut butter.
Least favorite is definitely lima beans.  They shouldn’t even exist.
Lima beans are the bean that other beans picked on in bean school.

I picked on them.  They’re easy targets, all pale and wrinkly.  They just cringe in the bowl.

What is your favorite quotation / motto / saying?

“E quindi uscommo a rivider le stelle.” It’s the last line of Dante’s Inferno and translates to “And thence we came forth to once again behold the stars.”
WOO!  I love myself some Dante!  The front quote for the novel I’m going to finish tomorrow is going to be the Abandon All Hope quote… like a thousand other books.

I have the “E quindi” line tattooed across my wrists.  That’s love.  And where will I be able to find your book with the Dante quote?  Because that’s awesome no matter how many other books use it.
I should be working on it right now, but instead I’m selflessly finishing my interview homework first… because I’m a giver.  I’m going to self-publish it because I’m sick of getting the blow-off from publishers.  I know my writing is good.  I don’t need a publisher to bless me with their blessings to put out books anymore.  I’m going ghetto gold!  I should have it finished tonight or tomorrow.  Then I have to wait for the 24 hour “You sure you want to publish this crap?” review period on CreateSpace.  I’m actually going to call the book Abandoned, so the title and the first line of the Dante quote match.  I wanted to call it Abandon All Hope but there’s 915 books that come up if you search for “Abandon All Hope” on Amazon.  I’m sure my book is better than the other books, but I want to make it easy for people to find it on Amazon and “Abandon” has 1,249 results on Amazon.   Wait… what?  Oh, when I searched for Abandon All Hope, not in quotes, I got 6,803 results so that’s what threw me.  Maybe I will call it Abandon All Hope after all.  I’ve got a day or so to make my mind up.  This will be the third book I self-publish this week.  My goal is to go twelve books in the next twelve months so I’m off to a decent start.  When I get Abandon / Abandon All Hope finished tonight or tomorrow I’ll send you a PDF version.  Friends don’t make friends pay for their books.
As for your tattoo, I have a fragment from Sappho tattooed on my wrist in Greek that translates as “Day in.  Day out.  I hunger and struggle.”.  Literary wrist tattoo twin powers activate!

I turned down a large house and went with a small publisher for Habeas Corpse. The face and form of publishing is changing.  If you stop to consider the new opportunities for writers that have emerged in just the last five years, it’s amazing.  Self-publishing is one branch in the process of sharing creative material.  You’ve got to be seriously dedicated to self-publish, what with the editing, designing and promotion.  Kudos to you for taking it on.  I loved working with the small press.  I had the expertise of someone who’d been down the publishing road, but a lot of input in the process as well.  It worked great for me.  I say do what you’re comfortable with.
Literary wrist tattoo twin powers activate! Form of… a three headed thrylacine!
I like the way you think!

What is the best thing that ever happened to you?
Meeting my husband.  I can’t even imagine where I would be if I didn’t have him.

He didn’t even mind the duct tape and chloroform.  What a trooper.

What is the worst thing that ever happened to you?

I don’t really think of any life experiences as being terrible.  Everything “bad” that has ever happened to me has taught me something and made me a better person.  I guess I’m guilty of always finding the silver lining.

Ever had your heart broken?  Is there a story worth telling behind your answer?

Really and truly broken?  No.  Again with the silver lining thing.

Ever broken someone’s heart?  Is there a story worth telling behind your answer?

No one has ever accused me of breaking their heart.  If I have, I’m sorry!

What is the best thing you’ve ever done?

This is easy and, unfortunately, cliché.  My kids.
No apology necessary if it’s the honest answer.

Yeah.  It’s honest.  They’re cool.  The little one got a bow recently and he’s been assigned sniper duty for the zombie apocalypse.
A not-quite-so-cliché answer I could give is getting my motorcycle license.  I was scared shitless to get on a motorcycle the first time and I was wicked proud when the examiner stamped my license.
I’ve been meaning to get my motorcycle license for as long as I was able, but these days I’d better get my regular license re-instated before I go thinking about getting my motorcycle license.

I’m thinking you’re right.

What is the worst thing you’ve ever done?

That I’m willing to admit to in writing?  Let’s just say my first three years in college were a little crazy.
How crazy is a little crazy?   Delve damn it!  Or don’t.  But delving is usually more interesting than not delving.

I didn’t get caught, and I figure I used up my life’s supply of good luck.  However, I did end up transferring schools after those first three years because I knew I couldn’t continue with what I was doing.  After I transferred, which was to a school where I knew one person from high school, that one person accused me of being a dork because I didn’t party.  I had my fill of that, thanks, but wow, that stung.

If you could kill one person, consequence free, who would it be and why?

I cannot admit this here.  This person might read it and avoid me.  Why?  Because if another human being might ever drive me to violence, it would be this one.

What do you do?

I write and read.  A lot.

How did you get started doing what you do?

I’ve always written.  I remember reading my short stories to my mother in elementary school and listening to her laugh.  I went to college initially for something that would pay the bills, but after having my sons and staying home with them for a few years, I realized I could make the writing work.  I went back to school for my masters to get back into writing and gain some valuable contacts.

What is your advice to other people that want to get started doing what you do?

Write.  Just write.  Keep on writing and reading and honing your craft.  Then submit. Even if you get a rejection, hopefully you get some feedback that will make you a better writer.  Always look for feedback and learn to use it.

What are some of the projects you’ve worked on/finished in the past?
Give us a little history if you will.

My MFA thesis was a mystery novel.  I finished it, but am currently working on rewrites to send to an agent who has expressed interest.  I have two short stories in publication right now, “One Man’s Garbage,” in the charity anthology Hazard Yet Forward, and “Black Bird,” in Mistresses of the Macabre.  Habeas Corpse, my debut novel, was released on November 2, and I’m working on the sequel to it.

What projects are you working on now?
The rewrites to my thesis, plus ideas for five more books in the projected series, are taking up a lot of time.  The sequel to Habeas Corpse is in progress, plus several short stories that are seeking homes.  I’m challenging myself to write one short story per week in 2014.
That’s not bad.  I’m shooting for a novel a month.  I want to go twelve for twelve.

A novel in a month?  I bow before you.  Seriously. I would love to be able to produce that fast.  When I hit my stride, I can type like the wind, but I average about 5000 words a day at my top speed.  I might be able to do a first draft in a month if I don’t do anything else… damn it.  Now you’ve got me wondering.
I do 10,000 a day.  So I can do a novel a week when life doesn’t get in the way.  That’s why I figure a novel a month is a fair goal.  Each interview ends up weighing in at around 4,000 words, but I can only take credit for half of those.  But I do around ten a day, so that’s still 20,000 words and it’s good typing practice and sometimes some decent networking opportunities arise.  But it is still 20,000 words I could be throwing into my own stuff.  I don’t mind.  It gives the interviewees a little ego boost and hopefully a boost in their sales and, like I said, I’m a giver.  *laughs*

Ten thousand a day.  You’re a cyborg, aren’t you?
Geez, I wish!  If I didn’t have to excrete and maintain this stupid human body I’d be even more efficient.

What are you watching?

The Walking Dead is done for a few months.  Sons of Anarchy won’t be back for awhile.  Game of Thrones isn’t ready until spring.  I miss Dexter terribly.  I have no idea what to move on to next.  I’m not a sitcom fan, so there’s very little on right now for me.  One of my kids loves How It’s Made, and I harbor a secret love of that show, too.

What are you listening to?

I listen primarily to movie soundtracks while I write.  I have a horror soundtrack playlist that’s usually on repeat, and it includes gems like Hello Zep, music from World War Z, Aliens, Poltergeist, The Shining, etc.  It’s fantastic.  I also love soundtracks written by Cliff Martinez.  If I’m not writing, I’m listening to Dave Matthews.
I love myself some horror movie soundtracks.  On regular rotation recently has been the soundtrack for Sinister.  Christopher Young is a gifted composer and his cross-over to dark ambient just kills it.  You might like Lustmord too.
Plus I wrote my first novel listening exclusively to Through Silver In Blood by Neurosis.

There was a Norwegian workout video before the music started.  And you’ve just introduced me to a new band.  And I love it. …off to find them on iTunes. I hope I can get their albums.
Oh, be careful.  Neurosis can be really addicting.  If you’re looking for music recommendations I could go all day, but the short list of stuff I think you might like is: Christopher Young, Howard Shore, Angelo Badalamenti, Chelsea Wolfe, P.J. Harvey, Kavinsky, Lustmord, Bohren & Der Club of Gore, Isis, The Sword, Earth.  If any of that rings your bells, let me know and I can suggest some similar artists.

Let me work on the list.  You’ll be hearing from me.

What are you reading?

I’ve got another challenge for myself for 2014 — to read one short story per week and one or two novels per month.  I started early.  Right now I’m reading Lisa Morton’s Malediction and I’m working through Horror Library volume 5.

Favorite author / book?

Just one?  Ouch, this is difficult.  My favorite author is Stephen King.  I’ve not had the privilege of meeting him, but he seems like a genuinely good person.  He’s done a lot of good for the horror genre and he’s a writing machine.  I admire him and his work.
My favorite book… I’m not sure I can narrow this to one book.  There are a lot of books that influenced me as a young reader/writer, and although I don’t reread them now,  I know I owe them a lot.  I can’t name a favorite, but I will say it was Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter series that inspired me to combine mystery with horror.  Dexter is one of my favorite characters.

Favorite band / song?

I like a ton of artists… I think my favorite band is the Dave Matthews Band.  My favorite song, however, is “Top of the World” by the Dixie Chicks.

Least favorite band / song?

Yeah, there would a long list here, too.  I’m not fond of any bubble gum type music.  I’m sure I’ll get some criticism for this, but I’ll turn off the radio if the Beatles come on and I might stab myself in the ears if they’re singing “Ob-la-di, ob-la-da.”

If you could do anything other than what you do now, what would you do?

I would love to be a photographer.  Photography is a hobby now that I would like to get more serious about.

Who would you want to meet that you haven’t met?
You get three choices: Alive. Dead. Fictional.

Alive: I’m going to have to go with Stephen King.  I’d love to have a beer with him and pick his brain.
Dead: Stieg Larsson
Fictional: Agent Pendergast from Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s series

What’s the best and worst job you’ve ever had?

The best job is what I’m doing now.  My own hours, a short commute (from the bed to the coffeemaker to the computer).  The worst job was the summer I worked at a concession stand at a state park.  People are horrible.

Anyone you recommend I interview that you can put me in touch with?

Scott Johnson.  Tell him I sent you.
Will do!

Good. You’ll like him.

Got any questions for me?

I thought of a couple…

What’s the best writing tip you’ve gotten from doing these interviews?
One of the people I interviewed I followed up with and asked if I should go with CreateSpace or Lulu for self-publishing.  He advised that CreateSpace was an Amazon platform so anything I published would be available through Amazon and I could use their Kindle platform to put it out through Kindle.  That was all of the advice I ever got about self-publishing and I’ve published six books in the past five months.  As for actual “writing” advice.  None.  I try to ask people that are supporting themselves with their writing exclusively how they pulled the trick, but they never have any good answers for me.  I think that the key is to have a lot of titles available so that if someone likes your work, they can go and buy more of it.  That’s why I’m shooting for twelve for twelve in 2014.  Try and keep up!

One of my goals in 2014 is to publish more.  I’m aiming for the 52 short stories and I plan to submit at least half.  So I won’t keep up with you, but I do publish using a different route.  A friend of mine is familiar with CreateSpace and likes it a lot.  I take it you recommend it?
One short story a week is still an admirable goal.
I do recommend CreateSpace, but mostly for the reasons I mentioned.  If you figure out how to do your own interior formatting and cover design, you can self-publish whatever you want to.  There is an excruciating “Review” process that’s, well, excruciating.  Once you submit your book for review it takes a day for them to review it and make sure that it’s actually a book and can be physically printed.  Then you have to approve the proof, and wait another day for them to review your approval.  Then it appears on your CreateSpace bookshelf, but I don’t know anyone that shops for books on CreateSpace, so you can easily publish it as a Kindle / e-book… and then wait a day for it to show up on Amazon as a Kindle version.  And then three-to-five days later it will show up as available for purchase as a print-on-demand version through Amazon/CreateSpace.   So, yeah, it’s more of a cross-country run that a hundred meter dash.  The only real advice I can give you is to wait until your proof clears all of the review processes before submitting it to be available on Kindle, because then the titles will appear linked on Amazon.  If you publish it on Kindle after the first review process is finished, it will be listed separately which is a little frustrating.   I’ve heard people speak well of SmashWords and Lulu, and my plan is to set up accounts on both of those sites and reissue everything I’ve put out over the past four months, out on those sites too.  Some people say they’ve had some success with GoodReads but I still haven’t figured that site out.  It took me the better part of a month of griping before I figured out how to synchronize the account I accidentally created through Twitter with my pre-existing account which was pretty frustrating, especially since I’m pretty internet savvy.  It’s not easy, but if you want it badly enough, you’ll put in the time and figure it out or pay someone to help you navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of the sea of self-publishing.

Who gave your most interesting interview (and why or link to it)?
“Interesting” is definitely a loaded descriptor.  I prefer my interviews to end up interesting and thankfully most of them do.  But you’d be surprised at how many people don’t know how to be interviewed.  This is your big shot at promoting your stuff so promote damn it!  Every question doesn’t have to get aikidoed into mentioning what you’re working on, but at least try to get people excited about checking out your stuff!  My favorite so far would probably be the one I did with Mike Resnick.  When I was a kid, I bought a copy of his book The Wild Alien Tamer out of a quarter bin at a hardware store and read it so many times it fell apart.  Another interviewee that never followed through on their interview joked about being born into a galactic carnival which reminded me of his book.  I looked him up and to my surprise he was alive, and even had a Facebook!  I sent him a friend request and he accepted and I chatted him up.  We still chit-chat every now and then but he writes like a motherfucker so I hate to take up his time.  He definitely didn’t have to indulge me by letting me interview him.  That guy has more award-winning books than I have grey hairs although I’m starting to catch up on him.  He was really cool for an old guy and his middle name is “Diamond” how fucking cool is that?

Awesome! I can’t wait to read it.

Favorite sandwich?
I used to be able to say with certainty that it was The Reuben, but BLT Club is definitely giving it a run for its money these days.

Thanks for letting me subject you to being interviewed!

Thank you for the opportunity!

Pitch parade:
Give me all of your links for things you want to promote.   All of them.
Twitter: @nikkihopeman

About the Interviewee:
Nikki Hopeman loves the kind of horror that leaves her quaking in the back of the closet, the kind that won't let her close her eyes. Life before writing includes a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, a few years as a veterinary technician, floral arranger, blueberry picker, babysitter, and VW Beetle mechanic. She holds an MFA in writing popular fiction from Seton Hill University. When she’s not writing, she can be found in the tattoo chair or on her Harley Davidson. Nikki shares her home in Pittsburgh with her husband, two sons, and two crazy corgis.

About the Interviewer:
Scott Lefebvre can write about whatever you want him to write about.
Mostly because when he was grounded for his outlandish behavior as a hyperactive school child, the only place he was allowed to go was the public library.
His literary tastes were forged by the works of Helen Hoke, Alvin Schwartz and Stephen Gammell, Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Edgar Allan Poe, and H. P. Lovecraft.
He is the author of Spooky Creepy Long Island, and a contributing author to Forrest J. Ackerman’s Anthology of the Living Dead, Fracas: A Collection of Short Friction, The Call of Lovecraft, and Cashiers du Cinemart.
He is currently working on ten novel-length book projects which will be released in 2014.
He also publishes themed collections of interviews from his interview blog You Are Entitled To My Opinion.
His reviews have been published by a variety of in print and online media including Scars Magazine, Icons of Fright, Fatally Yours and Screams of Terror, and he has appeared in Fangoria, Rue Morgue and HorrorHound Magazine.
He is the Assistant Program Director for The Arkham Film Society and produces electronic music under the names Master Control and LOVECRAFTWORK.
He is currently working on a novel-length expansion of a short-story titled, "The End Of The World Is Nigh", a crowd-funded, crowd-sourced, post-apocalyptic, zombie epidemic project.
Check out the blog for the book here:
Check out the Facebook Fan Page for the project here:
Check his author profile at:
Follow him at GoodReads here:
Check out his publishing imprint Burnt Offerings Books here:
And here:
Check out his electronic music here:
And here:
Check out his videos at:
Check out his IMDB profile here:
Follow his Twitter here: or @TheLefebvre
Follow his Tumblr here:
Check out his Etsy here:
Join the group for The Arkham Film Society here:
Stalk his Facebook at:
E-mail him at:

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