February 2003
interview by Alicia Wade

Chicago novelist Nikki M Pill has published new novel, Singing, and Then. Alicia Wade took the opportunity to scratch the surface of what the writer has in store for her readers.

What is Singing, and Then about?
It's about angels. All the souls vanish from Heaven, Earth, and Hell on the same day that a new angel mysteriously appears in Heaven, so a few angels and damaged souls try to piece the mystery together. It's about pitting faith against reason. It's about all the crazy ideas theologians, scholars, and writers have had about angels, and me trying to form a cohesive story out of all of those. It's about the side of angels you don't see in Hallmark cards. The dark, horrific, otherworldly side.

How long did it take to write?
Eight months of research, four months of writing, two years of editing and revising and finding an agent, and then another year getting a publisher and getting it into press.

What inspired you?
I wrote it shortly after I had an immense crisis of faith. Though I was never really a Christian, I was always a very devout mystic. I began to have some really uncomfortable questions when I was 19, and had to work through them. All my books are about God in one way or another, even though I no longer believe in God or any gods. I love fantasy and magic, so I'll never let go of them.

What music do you listen to?
I like dark, moody music. Right now I'm really enamored with Tom Waits and Nick Cave. I'm crazy about Bauhaus, David Bowie, the London Suede. I like charismatic vocalists, like Bono and Tori Amos.

Describe the process of writing - what steps do you take?
I'm a research writer. I find a theme that interests me, like angels or Egypt. I spend a few months researching with a goal in mind, a question like "What would have to happen to spur these characters into action?" or "How could I do a modern retelling of this particular legend?" Once I get an idea for a story, I write an outline. Usually I have a fermentation process, a few months where I'm not really writing much but still researching, maybe working on a short story, writing down snatches of scenes or dialogue for the new novel. Then I spend a few months writing. Once it's done, I read it, make some corrections, and let it grow mold for a few months. I really can't revise it until I've forgotten what it says. In a month or two, it's ready for some revisions, and it's ready to go out to some trusted friends who help me with honest and tactful criticism. At that point I suppose I'd send it to my agent and he'd send it to the publisher, who's got an option on my next two books.

How hard is it to get published?
Pretty damn hard if you don't like rejection slips. If you don't mind them, and if you have your heart set on being published, it's pretty easy. Either way, it's work. Whether it's hard or not depends on whether you enjoy what you're doing.

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