Thursday, February 7, 2013

Author: N.S. Wikarski Interview

I'm pleased to welcome N.S. Wikarsi to Books à la Mode today. Hello, Nancy! Will you please share a brief bio with us?

Nancy Wikarski is a fugitive from academia. After earning her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, she became a computer consultant and then turned to mystery and historical fiction writing. Her short stories have appeared in Futures Magazine and the DIME Anthology, while her book reviews have been featured in Murder: Past Tense and Deadly Pleasures.

She wrote the Evangeline LeClair series set in 1890s Chicago, including The Fall Of White City (2002) and Shrouded In Thought (2005). The series has received People's Choice Award nominations for best first novel and best historical.

She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and has served as vice president of Sisters In Crime (Twin Cities) and on the programming board of the Chicago chapter.

She is currently working on the seven-book Arkana series.

What is The Dragon's Wing Enigma about?

Runaway Bride
Cassie Forsythe's checkered resume never included the job of babysitter. Former college freshman, yes. Amateur relic hunter, certainly. Seer for a secret organization, absolutely. But babysitter? Not likely! Cassie is packing for the next leg of a treasure hunt to recover a mythological artifact known as the Sage Stone when trouble comes knocking at her door. Trouble takes the form of fourteen year old runaway Hannah Curtis. Hannah isn't your average teenager. She happens to be the youngest wife of aged polygamist Abraham Metcalf. Metcalf leads the religious cult known as the Blessed Nephilim and he covets the Sage Stone for himself.

Unwelcome Guest
Hannah's untimely arrival creates a predicament for Cassie. The Nephilim isn't supposed to know that anyone else is hunting the Sage Stone. More than that, the cult must never discover the existence of the Arkana - the secret society for which Cassie works. The Arkana has spent centuries recovering artifacts of ancient civilizations which predate patriarchy--advanced goddess-worshipping cultures on every continent. Their archaeological troves document the lost history of the world and need to be protected at all costs. Unfortunately, Hannah could lead the cult straight to the Arkana's underground cache of relics. Cassie contacts Faye, the Arkana's elderly leader, for help. The old woman spirits the girl away to her farmhouse in the country. Faye promises to keep Hannah out of sight so that Cassie and her teammates can resume their quest.

Tricky Trinkets
Cassie, librarian Griffin, and bodyguard Erik face a daunting task. Five sequential artifacts reveal the hiding place of the Sage Stone. The treasure hunters must not only retrieve the relics before the Nephilim, they must also substitute forgeries in place of the real artifacts to keep the cult from discovering that it has competition. Luck has been on their side so far. They've recovered the first artifact with their foes none the wiser. The Arkana team flies to Malta, hoping to unearth the second artifact among the ruined temples of a long-dead civilization. After a fruitless search of the archipelago, their quest leads them northward into the Basque region of Europe. Meanwhile, Abraham's son Daniel is combing the same terrain and narrowing the gap between them.

Dragon's Wing Dilemma
In an isolated mountaintop cave, the treasure hunters learn that the next relic can only be discovered if they "keep true to the dragon's wing." The clue baffles them. What does it mean? Cassie and her friends are running out of time. With Nephilim operatives closing in, will they all survive this mission? Will the cult capture Hannah and breach the defenses of the Arkana itself? Follow the dragon's wing to learn the answers.
When did you first know you could be a writer?

I think it was all the positive feedback from my teachers during my school years. I learned early on that I might be pretty good at this sort of thing.

That gives me hope as an author ;) I was always the one whose writing was picked to be read aloud during class! Who or what influenced your writing once you began?

I consciously avoided outside influences because I didn’t want to end up sounding like somebody else. I will say that I was quite impressed with Caleb Carr’s The Alienist when it first came out. That was around the time I wrote my first historical mystery. Similarly, I loved the divine feminine aspect of the The Da Vinci Code which may have influenced my archaeology thriller series.

What is your greatest strength as a writer?

I think I’m fairly good at structuring a plot. Mysteries are tricky to write because the author has to keep the last page in mind from the very start. It takes mental discipline and focus to get the reader to the intended destination.

Always a great skill to master. What is the most difficult aspect to writing a novel?

The biggest challenge has to do with the specific type of books I write. I use a fictional plot and characters to disclose loads of suppressed historical facts which aren’t generally known. Trying to assimilate the data and then convert it into something that’s entertaining and fits my fictional world can be quite a task.

What are your goals as a writer?

To challenge people’s assumptions about the way things are. To make the reader think about subjects from a different perspective than they’ve considered before.

What dreams have been realized as a result of your writing?

Since I value my independence, writing is a fantastic career for someone who dislikes a conventional office routine. As long as I have an internet connection and a computer, I can work from anywhere. For the past several years, I’ve spent my winters as a snowbird while still working on my novels. That’s something I could never do if I were in another line of work.

I agree with you completely! That's the sort of liberty any full-time writer has. What is the message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

That women were the driving force behind the creation of what we call human civilization. It can have a devastating effect on the female psyche to receive the cultural message that you’re nothing more than an afterthought—that all the great discoveries and inventions since the beginning of time were made by the opposite sex. Hopefully, the history lesson in my books will do something to reverse that assumption.

Give us your best advice—something you wish you'd known when you were younger and would offer to your own kids.

Believe in yourself, even when nobody else does. If you can see the best that’s in you, eventually everybody else will see it too.

What’s a question you’ve always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer it?

The question would be, “Do you enjoy writing?” Shockingly enough, my answer would be “No.” I think there are writers who are in love with the process of writing itself. They keep journals, maintain blogs, write poetry. I don’t like doing any of those things. I take a much more utilitarian approach. For me, writing is a means to an end. I’m in love with the idea, the concept, that I want to convey to a reader. Writing is just the vehicle that gets me there 

That's an interesting approach! Where can you be found on the web?

It was wonderful hosting you for Orangeberry, Nancy! Thank you so much for joining us, and good luck with the rest of the tour.