Nick Valentino, incredible horror writer and author of "The Adversary" and "Fallon."Chase von:
Hello Nick, and truly appreciate you agreeing to do this interview with myself and on behalf of the Student Operated Press. I know you have various projects on your hands, so we really thank you for finding the time. I came across you on My Space, and I remember thinking to myself, when I started reading some of the chapters you had posted, Stephen King has some "serious" competition here!
You had posted, I believe at that time, two chapters of "Fallon," and I have to tell you, you certainly know your craft! Later, you posted an additional two chapters and, true to form, it was exceptional. You also had another short story that I thought was excellent as well and could also have been the building blocks for another novel. How did you initially get into writing to begin with? I believe I read somewhere that you started out by telling stories to your kids, if I remember correctly. And have you always written horrors?Nick:
Actually, I think you may have me confused with Richard Adams, the author of Watership Down. He told his children bedtime stories about a group of rabbits trying to survive in a land suffering from over-development, subsequently these tales were woven into one of the most wonderful stories I have ever read.
My story telling began with what is now the second book of the trilogy entitled, The Adversary. The tragedies of Columbine had an effect on me, and I couldn`t understand what reasons the perpetrators had, besides ignorance and weakness, to cause such immoral acts. I began to write a story about kids that actually believed what they were doing was right by means of moral justification. In doing so, I brought in my two favorite things, God and the Devil. Not God and The Devil incarnate per say, but agents of both in order to guide and distract them accordingly. From there, I stumbled upon a character that captivated me, and instantly took center stage. This was Fallon. A young girl kidnapped by a trapped fallen angel that understood her natural divine abilities and stole her for his own devious purposes. When I began to write about her, I found that she was my girl. She was the one that made everything perfect. She was the dichotomy of good and evil and had to act on both of those things that ran through her supernatural body.
Chase von: Like I said before, you are an excellent writer. What really got me was the attention to detail. Some people tell stories and you feel as if they are skimming the surface. Others have vast knowledge on the subject and you can tell that they did extensive research prior to even picking up a pen. Chrissy K. McVay has a book called "Souls of The North Wind" and she told me she had spent a few years studying the Inuit culture in order to write her story. I know you have a true love for all things Japanese, as do I because I was born there. (smile) But how much research time did you put into learning about the Japanese culture, traditions and history so that everything in your story rings of such authenticity?Nick:
As for Geisha, (or Geiko), I spent a lot of time doing research on them. I have only been to Japan once and I yearn to go back. I have very little first hand knowledge of Japanese culture, it is all garnered from things I have read and researched. The Book, Geisha A Life " By Mineko Iwasaki gives a lot of insight of the business life and strict upbringing of Geisha and I applied a lot of that to half of Fallon`s formative years. She needed that to become her full self. Chase von:
In regards to "Fallon," you have some truly well-defined characters. I don`t want to give too much of the story away, but can you share with our readers the basic premise of the story?Nick:
As for the first book, Fallon, " I think the short synopsis I have on my web page is the best example without giving too much away. Kidnapped as a baby, Keiko Tanaka is taken to Japan where she is given the unusual name Fallon by her kidnapper, a tall mysterious man named Aleser. She learns the arts of the geisha and begins to unravel her power that is far beyond the natural abilities of man. She grows up in the strictest of environments while uncovering her supernatural abilities throughout her youngest years. With much tragedy constantly surrounding the geisha house, Fallon is moved at the age of seven, to the hidden mountains of Japan, where she is taught the darkest arts of mankind and learns her true identity. "Chase von:
You have actual depictions on your page of the characters in "Fallon," very nicely done, I might add. Having learned that you are also an artist, are you the one that created the depictions of the characters? And also, like I told you before, I really think you have a movie on your hands with this one. Are you also considering that? Doing a screen play? Because I think it would make a fantastic picture.Nick:
All of the characters in "Fallon," The Adversary and The Triumvirate, were designed by myself. The art was almost completely done by an artist from Los Angeles named Will Routon. I described the characters to him, and he put them on paper as if he were reading my mind. It is one of the strangest experiences I have had in quite some time. I told him certain things and he made them come to life visually. I am shaking my head now thinking about it. The one other image of Fallon was made by Alex Eckman Lawn, who does a lot of art for the zombie thriller comic books, Awakening.
As for a movie? I don`t know, I imagine if the right things happened, I would be interested. I would want it to be done right. I would so hate for it to turn out under budget or cheaply made. Let`s say I would want it to look more like Donnie Darko than say... Transformers. Does that make sense? To get back to the question, I am not really focusing on making it a movie, but I do see it as a movie as I write it.Chase von:
What are some of the other things you like to do, hobbies, interest? I take it you`re a hockey fan from seeing some of the snap shots on your page. And also, your statement about the Red Wings. (smile) And since you live in Nashville, a big country music fan as well. I`ve written a couple of lyrics for some country songs, by the way. Happen to know anyone there you could like, show them to? (smile)Nick:
Well, believe it or not, I grew up quite a metal/punk kid here in Nashville. I was in a metal/hardcore band for a long time, and eventually, my passion for writing books took over from my passion for writing music. I hate to say it, but I never enjoyed country music, as it was kind of the corporate giant that infected Nashville to me. As for the songs you have written, send them to me, there are thousands of publishing companies frothing for the next country hit here.
As for other things, yes, I am a Nashville Predators Hockey fanatic. I fell in love in 1998 when the Predators came here, so you can catch me at almost all of their games. I only mildly enjoy other sports, but there is something about the intensity, skill and violence of hockey that sucks me in. On a recent trip to England I saw a lot of really unbelievable street art by Banksy, Faile, Space Invader and Hush. That inspired me to start doing stencil art. I really see it as a side project " for my life. It is an artistic escape where I can blank out and make something tangible. It seems to dominate my web page, but my main focus is always writing. Chase von:
Writer, artist, so you`re very multi-talented. I also know you have a true love for comic books. I, too, have a love for comic books. Although I am sure it doesn`t equal your interest, I still buy occasionally, of course, Ta Challa The Black Panther, Wolverine and I followed Conan The Barbarian for years. I also like Elektra, (smile), who doesn`t? And Dare Devil or Matt Murdock as well. As a kid, I really dug the Fantastic Four and The X-Men and still do. But one of the things I don`t think a lot of people know who don`t read comic books, is that some of the story lines are really not for kids. Although I also think that is how kids, or some of them, learn quite a bit about the adult life. What`s your take on that and are you also working on story lines for comic books as well, and do you do both the art as well as the stories for your comic books?Nick:
I have always had a bit of a fantasy that I would write a series of comic books or graphic novels that would accompany these three books. They would mainly focus on back stories of minor characters that also had some powers of their own and played some part in the larger novels. That is where the Novella, A Weapon Ripens, " came into play. I wanted to write about some of the smaller characters in the first two books. They were too odd not to have back stories. Although this might not give their entire back stories, it lets the reader (and myself) know that they are not just some magical being that appeared out of nowhere. They had or have a life, too, and a connection to the other main characters. I am a big fan of the show Lost, which is brilliantly written-- character and mystery wise-- and I do my best to incorporate some of those elements into what I write. While I read comic books like X-Men and G. I. Joe when I was younger, I really enjoyed the smaller characters with the shorter run comic series. Still, to this day, Firestar and The White Queen still take center stage for me. I think characters like that are the ones that have really influenced me. Now that I think about it, maybe in bigger ways than I ever imagined. Chase von:
When I read your first two chapters of "Fallon," I couldn`t wait to read more because you are truly an exceptional writer. But what I want to know, is that by sharing a few chapters and having me, and I am sure so many others, who couldn`t wait to see if you were going to post another chapter, (smile), has that, in your opinion, made it better for the popularity of your book? Because you sort of teased your audience with your talents. I know other writers that have done that as well and, to me, it`s a win, win situation. The readers get a taste and sometimes get hooked. But the bottom line, just to be blunt, is that if you sucked, it would also be a reason for them to say I am passing on this book when it comes out. How has the response from those that you shared some of your work with before it was completed been?Nick:
It has actually been received quite well. There is nothing like having someone tell you that something you have written gave them the chills. As a new writer, that was one of the biggest compliments I could have ever received. I don`t want to give it all away, but I am interested in, well, like you said, testing the waters and seeing what people think. So far, besides one woman saying that I was glorifying Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold (which, for the record, I am not in any way, shape or form endorsing them or their actions), everyone has been quite excited and happy about what they have read. I wanted it to be sort of a trailer for the books. Sure it works, but I wanted to see what people thought. I have no real formal education in writing, I just write what I feel and what I think real people (or deities) would say.Chase von:
I know you admire Clive Barker and J. K. Rowling, but who are some of the other authors that you admire?Nick:
Clive Barker was my first love. Literally, I love everything that man has ever written. J. K. Rowling is hard for me to fathom. She is so perfect in every way-- writing wise, no I don`t know her. I simply can`t understand how a person could write such a truly amazing set of seven books. I admire Richard Adams greatly, as well. Watership Down has affected my life in very strange ways. When I was a child, they used to show the cartoon every Easter. Yeah, that is a bit twisted. The major networks basically showed it because it was around Easter and it was about talking rabbits, but the message of survival, and the character development was overlooked by the masses that watched it just because it had rabbits in it. Well, that and it was a good little story. I also have a great respect for Hayao Miyazaki who is more of a film maker than anything (Spirited Away, Howl`s Moving Castle, Nausica and The Valley of The Wind, etc.), but he is brilliant. I must share that he actually sent one of his animators to sit at a bus stop in Japan all day and sketch women`s skirts as they flowed in the wind to capture what they might look like while flying. While that might sound a bit like a stalker, that kind of dedication to detail and realism is a dream of mine to reach one day. Chase von:
Stephen King wrote a story that wasn`t really horror, but still a huge success, "The Green Mile." Are you ever going to venture out into other areas of writing or are you going to stay strictly with horror? Like him, it is obvious to me, and anyone that has ever read your works, you could write just about anything, and it would still be incredible.Nick
: I like to keep things dark. When I write, I often write to strange music, played way too loud. I really enjoy writing to music as it helps me get into a zone, it puts me in a place and helps paint a surrounding that normally is not there. I listen to everything from Black Metal which is overly fast, and orchestral music with a very dark message, such as Cradle of Filth and Chthonic, to older Tori Amos, to bands like Godspeed You Black Emperor and A Silver Mount Zion, all of these groups paint a dark picture and it helps me see what I am writing. They become sort of a soundtrack to what I write. Have you ever seen The Never Ending Story? It is the feeling of The Nothing " which is a black cloud that rolls across the Earth enveloping everything in its path and ending the world as we know it. In a way, the music is like that. I have strayed from the point. Yes, I have other stories in the works. My favorite at the moment involves a family of witches in the 1800`s that possess a Golem. No, not Golem of Lord of the Rings, but a true Golem of the Kabala. When the family is murdered by fearful locals, their young girl relies on this family friend which is a Golem to roam the world and attempt to make a real life for herself amongst people that are not like her at all. I like the idea of developing her in a world that is completely opposite from how she was brought up. I might throw some real word occurrences in there as well... maybe something involving the Civil War.Chase von:
How important is family to you, and what is your take on the state of our current world?Nick:
My family is the world to me. Sometimes I feel like a bit of a freak compared to most of them, but in the last five years or so, they have embraced my ambitions and I am proud to say that I bounce ideas off of my father. I like to hear his honest opinions, whether good or bad, we understand each other and I value his open minded opinions, even when I write about some pretty disturbing things, he never judges what I am writing.
As for the world, that is hard to say. Maybe a more specific question would help. Politically, I respect our soldiers more than anyone in this world, past and present. The fact that men lost limbs and died face-down in the bloody mud so I have the right to write the books I want, and say the things I want and vote for the people I like, is something that literally is the most amazing thing in the world.Chase von:
What would you say, if you were standing in front of a microphone that could be heard by every child on the planet and regardless of what language it was they spoke, they would understand you? What positive advice would you give the children, if that were possible?Nick:
Do what you want. Do you want to be a fireman? Do it. Do you want to be an astronaut or fighter pilot? Do it. There is nothing that can hold you back if you focus. I have wasted way too much time being distracted by what life throws at me and I would wish none of those distractions on anyone. Go out and do what you want and let nothing stand in your way. Have fun, follow your dreams! Not that there is anything wrong with being an accountant or having an office job, but if you want something, and you dream to achieve something, do it at all costs. Chase von:
How can our readers find out more about your books and your other works? Can you share your links and web pages? Also, how can people learn more about your art work? And are there future projects you are working on you care to share with our readers?Nick:
My new web site, done by designer David Gates, is:www.valentinoempire.com
. This is dedicated to both the books and the art.
My book My space is: www.myspace.com/theadversarybooks
My more personal My space is: www.myspace.com/hazeltherabbit
. This is where you can find out much more about me as a person, if someone so desired.
If I may be so bold, I would like to share a few other people`s sites that I encourage anyone to visit as well.
Alex Eckman Lawn (Artist) www.alexeckmanlawn.com
David Gates (Web & Graphic Designer) www.myspace.com/dunnydave
Inert Nashville (Art and Culture Blog) http://inertnblog.blogspot.com Chase von:
On behalf of The Student Operated Press and myself, Nick, I want to thank you again for taking the time for this interview. I know you have so many things going on so it is truly appreciated you found the time for this! So, thanks again, and best wishes with your career and also to your family, brother.Nick:
Chase, you are a great person and I am honored to know you. You have been there since I started this mess (smile) and I appreciate your friendship! It has been a pleasure and I have really had a good time talking with you.