Nico started her writing career as a Christian fiction writer under a different name. She was a semi-finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writer Genesis Contest, a finalist in the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Music City Melody of Love Contest, a finalist in the Splickety and My Book Therapy Flash Fiction contest, and a finalist in the RWA Great Beginnings Contest. Her flash fiction has been featured in Splickety, and Spark.
Her love of psychological thrillers and twisted plots led Nico into the world of weird fiction where she unleashed her unsuspecting characters. Her stories have been published in several collections including The Second Corona Book of Horror Stories and Drabbledark Anthology.
Her debut novel Food Fright was released in March 2020 and is available at Amazon. She will also be publishing and editing a horror anthology entitled Shiver due early 2021.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with Ladies of Horror Fiction today. You started out writing Christian romance. How in the world did you get from that to writing horror?
Nico: I loved my time in Christian romance, but I killed off my main characters in most of my stories. I knew I wanted to explore a darker side of fiction but I’d dedicated years to romance and was afraid to make the shift. Then a friend asked me what type of books I like to read. All of the titles on my To-Be-Read list were horror. It seemed obvious where my true interests fell and that I needed to take the leap.
You are also a reviewer in your spare time. Do you think also being a writer helps or hinders your reviewing? Do you ever detach from the story because you’re thinking about the mistakes, what you would do differently, etc?
Nico: You certainly don’t need to be a writer in order to review books. I’m not sure being a writer has helped since I know plenty of incredible and objective reviewers without backgrounds in writing. But I do often get distracted while reading and imagine myself with a red pen crossing out large chunks of exposition.
I know that you offer private critique with writing partners or as a mentor as well. What is the most valuable piece of advice you can give writer-to-writer?
Nico: So many tips come to mind! Newbie writers, including myself when I started, often make the same types of mistakes. Too much background information. Too much purple prose. Too much “telling” rather than “showing”. The best way to improve writing is to join a critique group and write as often as possible, while being open to the help from others.
What type of horror do you like to write?
Nico: I like exploring the demons within us all. What would push the suburban mom to murder? How far would a bullied teenager go to get revenge on her tormentor? What would happen if all the women in the world got fed up with men and decided to reclaim their power? My stories push ordinary people to the limits and then a bit further. Oh, and they are largely female in cast. I’ve read plenty of male centered horrors. It’s time for a change.
Do you feel like stuff that you have read close to the time you are working on a piece influences your own work? That your style alters a bit?
Nico: Flip that statement. When I sit down to write, I often seek out stories similar to what I’m working on. So right now, I’m doing something completely different to recharge my brain. I’m writing a comedy horror novella that centers around revenge, redemption and killer food. This means I’ve been watching incredible “food that bites back” movies like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and The Gingerbread Man. It’s been amazing.
What would you like to see more of in horror in the next five years?
Nico: Women!! Women have a unique point-of-view to offer the male dominated genre and I can’t wait for more of us to take our turns in the spotlight. I’m also looking forward to more diversity. It’s time for us to lift up the LGBTQIA+, POC and all marginalized voices within the writing community. There’s room for everyone to tell their stories.
What are some of the most problematic tropes in horror right now in your opinion?
Nico: I’m not sure if this is technically a trope, but I am firmly against using sexual assault as a source of pain in a character’s past unless it is absolutely necessary. Spoiler: It usually isn’t necessary. It’s rare that I’ve read a horror book, or any work of fiction, and thought “Yeah, that woman needed to be assaulted in order for the arc to be complete.” Usually, it feels like a “go-to” plot point, something authors rely too heavily on in order to build darkness into their character (typically female) past.
Since this *is* an interview for Ladies of Horror Fiction, we’d be remiss if we didn’t ask who your favorite female horror writers were.
Nico: Mary Shelley and Shirley Jackson were my intro into female horror writers, but now my list of favorites is huge. I love the creepy plots of Ania Ahlborn, the meticulously crafted characters of Tananarive Due and the way Octavia E. Butler combines horror and science fiction. So many great female writers to pick from!
As someone recently pointed out to me, the relationship between reviewers and writers is symbiotic. As you’re someone who both writes and reviews, I have a feeling you see this more clearly than a lot of us do. Do you have any advice for writers who are new to the game and may be receiving their first negative reviews?
Nico: I’ve gotten my share of soul crushing reviews and I have no doubt I’ll continue to receive them. It’s part of the job. Not everyone is going to like what you have to say or how you are saying it. If you receive a vindictive review, throw it out. Don’t give it another thought, but if it’s obvious the reviewer put time and energy into a constructive critique, citing reasons for the low rating, it may be worth investigating their claims. Afterall, book reviewers read hundreds of books in the course of a year and their main intention is to help build a relationship between a reader and a writer. I like to think reviewers connect readers with writers they might never have heard of otherwise. We’re like the Tinder of the writing world.
But whether you decide to ingest the review or toss it, please don’t whine publically. And for the love of guacamole, don’t take to social media and start a war. Take the bits of the review that are helpful and push aside the rest. Eat some chocolate. Go for a walk. Call a friend. Give yourself a day off of writing to decompress and then get right back to it. Remember, even the most popular writers get negative reviews. It’s bound to happen.
And to end on a fun note, what would your browser history tell the FBI about you right now?
Nico: That I must have a fetish for murderous fruit, I’m in the market for a hazmat suit with a butt hole cutout, I have an unusual curiosity into the Ebola outbreak of the late 1980s and I’m looking for the perfect strawberry cake recipe.
Pretty typical stuff.
“…..butthole cutout?” Well, now we’ll all be googling that, I think.
Thank you for joining us, Nico!
High school junior Cassie Adler just wanted the bullying to stop. She thought gaining a spot on the varsity soccer team would whip up instant friends, but it isn’t until the popular girls need Cassie’s help that they acknowledge her presence. Cassie reluctantly agrees to participate in a prank that turns sour fast. Now with blood on their hands, she and the popular girls race to cover their tracks. But something savage knows what they’ve done, and it’s hungry for revenge. Can Cassie redeem herself before it’s too late, or will her deadly sins ketchup to her?
Book 7 in the Rewind-or-Die series: imagine your local movie rental store back in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, remember all those fantastic covers. Remember taking those movies home and watching in awe as the stories unfolded in nasty rainbows of gore, remember the atmosphere and textures. Remember the blood.
“Food Fright is such a fun read! I buddy read this with my friend Becca, and we both really enjoyed it. This story is amusing and creative, and it was exactly what I needed from a horror novella with silly & bizarre deaths.” Emily, Ladies of Horror Fiction
“In Food Fright we get this brilliant blend of Heathers-esque teen girls thrown into a world akin to Suspiria and The Grudge with a dash of Carrie. It sounds amazing, right? I love all of those and so to have campy gore-filled novella that mixes so many elements of some of my favorite movies and horror stories is just a total bonus right now.” Alex, Ladies of Horror Fiction