I’ve had the pleasure over the past few weeks of working with debut author Nicholas Nash, his new book The Girl at the Bar, a psychological thriller about the mysterious disappearance of a brilliant cancer researcher and the quest to find what happened to her, set to release on February 1st, 2017!
Nick resides in the concrete jungle of Manhattan in New York City with his wife and three children and enjoys every moment of it. An accomplished finance professional, he has a passion for reading fiction and non-fiction books which inspired him to write this intriguing thriller. Nicholas was very gracious about answering some questions for our readers and aspiring authors here on TRB Book Blog!
ALSO check out the pre-order giveaway at the bottom of this post and you can enter to win a hardcover copy of The Girl at the Bar along with a few other exciting treats/swag!
Q&A with debut author, Nicholas Nash
TRB Book Blog: Being a fan of both fiction and non-fiction books, was there something specific that inspired you to go the thriller route for your first novel? Perhaps a certain author or title that pushed you in this direction?
Nick: I have always enjoyed reading thrillers and whodunit mystery books a lot. There were a couple of recent books and authors that influenced me to write this book. Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train was an interesting read in this genre, though I would’ve enjoyed the book if it had more characters in there. At some point, I was pretty sure I knew who the killer was and I had guessed correctly. Another influence has been the movie The Usual Suspects. If you read my book, you will see what I mean.
I also immensely enjoyed Andy Weir’s The Martian. When I found out that Andy was a first time writer but wrote about what he knew best, I was really inspired to follow his footsteps and write about something that I have read a lot about, like cutting edge research for cancer.
TRB Book Blog: In your book, the character, Rebecca, is a beautiful, extremely smart, and forward thinking woman who is on the fast track to curing cancer. That is a combination not too often seen, was there anything in particular that drove the passion behind such a strong and modern well-rounded female character?
Nick: There is some truly groundbreaking research and developments taking place in the quest to cure cancer that the average person is not aware of. The biotech industry in general is making huge strides in finding unique cures for cancer. I wanted to highlight the work that I have been reading about.
The biotech industry, particularly on the research side, is heavily dominated by men. However, there are several strong well-rounded women who are instrumental in the industry either as researchers, CEOs or biotech investors. Rebecca is in some respects a composite of these real-life women who play a key role in the progress we’ve made in the war on cancer.
TRB Book Blog: The Girl at the Bar goes very in-depth with information about cancer, what sort of research did you do to write this book and provide such thorough detail?
Nick: Certainly. I read a lot about what cancer is, what it does and the latest developments in the field to cure cancer. I’ve met a few people, including researchers, who helped shape my understanding of the science behind cancer. At one point in my life, I also worked with some leading cancer researchers and learnt a great deal about the latest developments in the field from them.
The biggest challenge though with all the background research is being able to synthesize all of this into plain language that a regular reader could understand and appreciate. That was the toughest part of the research. I was constantly afraid that readers would lose me if I became too technical in my descriptions, so that kept me on guard whenever I wrote about cancer in the book.
Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies was a great book that I had read and helped my understanding of this disease. That said, to my point earlier, his book was long (592 pages) and relatively technical and I must confess, at some point, I stopped reading and did not finish it. Irrespective, it’s still a great book and a must read for anyone who wants to understand this disease some more.
TRB Book Blog: As a new author, what is your favorite part of the writing/publishing process? Least favorite? Were there any difficulties breaking into the world of publication?
Nick: My favorite part of being a new author has been writing the book itself. I wrote the book on weekends after toiling during the week on my day job working in the financial industry. I started looking forward to the weekends. I found writing to be a great way to unwind and relax.
My least favorite part was going back and reading and re-reading the book to make sure it was consistent, correct and flowed well. To that effect, my publisher at Fireflies Publishing was immensely helpful in reading the book and suggesting some changes to the plot or enhancements to the story. At first, I was reluctant to make the changes but then found those to be really good when I went back and read those parts again. Nothing can replace the part a good and passionate publisher plays in getting a book in order.
I started working with Fireflies Publishing, a small independent publisher, based in New York. The publisher read a few chapters of my book and instantly liked it and followed up with me regularly to complete the book. I was lucky to find and work with them. After my first meeting and seeing the enthusiasm and talent of the publisher, I was completely sold and did not think it made sense to approach any others. This definitely saved me a lot of heartburn and let me focus on what I do best, which is write.
TRB Book Blog: Will you be working on a sequel to The Girl at the Bar, or perhaps any other novels that we can look forward to?
Nick: I am currently working on my second novel set during the last days of World War II. The book title is still under wraps because I don’t want to give the story setting away just yet. There was an interesting time period during the Second World War that I chose as the backdrop.
Hitler died, having committed suicide, on April 30th, 1945 but the war in Europe did not end with his death. Germany continued fighting the Allies and surrendered only a week later on May 7th, 1945. During these days between his death and eventual German surrender, an unimaginable series of events took place that remains unexplained and shrouded in mystery to this very day. My second novel revolves around one of those events during that period of uncertainty, with my imagination filling in the blanks that history has left unanswered forever.
I first read about it a few years ago and I always wondered to myself, “What exactly happened there? Why did the retreating Germans do that? Who was really responsible? What were they thinking?”
I searched and searched and searched and never found any satisfactory answers. That was when I said to myself, “Hmm, that’s interesting. The magnitude of what happened then was immense and here we are over 70 years later and we still don’t know much about it.” That’s when I decided to write my second book around these bizarre events.
The first chapter of my second book will be available to all readers of The Girl at the Bar. The details on how to get it will be at the end of my first book.
TRB Book Blog: Some of our readers are dying to know, what are a few of your favorite books and what makes them so special to you?
Nick: I love reading books that have a large number of interesting characters and a large sprawling plot. There are a couple of books that stand out for me and meet these criteria.
The first one is Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I first read this book as a young teenager and was taken aback at the length of the book and the sheer number of characters in the book with its various interwoven plots and sub-plots. I read the book again when I was a bit older. Even though it has been over fifteen years since I last read this book, I still remember several characters distinctly and that says a lot about the book.
My second favorite book is the Pulitzer Prize winning The Prize by Daniel Yergin. The book traces the history of the oil and gas industry from the very first oil well ever drilled through the 1980s. The book describes several interesting historical figures in a great amount of detail. Each of these characters is treated as humans with a great amount of detail going into describing their actions and motives. An ambitious book, one that still fascinates me to this day.
There are a couple of multi-character movies that I really wish were books instead – Reservoir Dogs and The Usual Suspects.
TRB Book Blog: Are there any nuggets of wisdom you can offer to aspiring writers out there?
Nick: Being a first time author, I don’t think I’m still in the place where I should be doling out advice to aspiring writers. I could maybe share with you what I told myself when I was writing my book.
“Write what you love about, not necessarily thinking about what the reader wants or trying to please your imaginary idea of the ideal reader base. You have a unique story to tell, so tell that story in the best way possible and your readers will appreciate the originality and honesty of your imagination.”