HL: Welcome Nicole, make yourself at home. You'll find your favourite refreshments on the table by your elbow there. Help yourself while I tell the visitors a little about you.
Nicole Zoltack can’t remember a time when she wasn’t making up stories in her head so it was only a matter of time before she started writing them down. She loves to both read and write. She writes in a variety of genres including fantasy, romance, horror, YA. So far, she has one published work, Woman of Honor, a fantasy romance from Desert Breeze Publishing. She also has a short story published in One Touch, One Glance: A Sweet Romance Anthology from Freya’s Bower under the pen name Nicolette Zamora.
Hope I got all that right, Nicole. Now, can you tell us a little more about yourself:
NZ: Let’s see. I have a BS in chemistry with a concentration in forensic science and a minor in biology. I wanted to be a crime scene investigator (no I never watched the show, why does everyone ask me that?) or to work in a crime lab. After I graduated, I quickly learned that there were no job openings in the field and that my best bet was to become a police officer. That didn’t happen. Instead I worked as an organic analyst for two years in an environmental laboratory. I married my college sweetheart (who just happened to be my first kiss, is it any wonder that I write romances?). Shortly before I gave birth, I quit my job and now I stay at home, chasing after a crawling 9 ½ month old who is quickly learning how to stand unsupported. It’s only a matter of time before he starts walking. When he naps, I try to squeeze in writing time, otherwise I stay up late and pound away at the keyboard.
HL: Wow, you certainly seem to have crammed a lot into a short space, Nicole. What do you do for fun when not writing?
NZ: Play with my little one, watch movies with my hubby. Read. Listen to music. Call my mother. Pre-pregnancy, I took riding lessons but *sigh* they’re on hold until I stop reproducing. I would like three more little ones.
HL: That's the next few years sorted for you then, *grin*. You must try and carry on with your riding when you can, there's nothing quite like being on the back of a horse in the open coutnryside to give you inspiration. Well I'm a bit biased, as everyone knows I'm horse mad! Anyway, let's get back to you Nicole, tell me, when did you start writing?
HL: What comes first: the plot or the characters?
NZ: Usually the characters. I am big on characters, they have to be believable and consistent and they have to grow throughout the story. Without great characters, any plot will fall flat.
HL: I have to agree there Nicole, I know for some people the plot is everything, but as you say, the characters are all important, if the reader can't relate to them Tell us about your latest release and what you think readers will enjoy about it.
NZ: My latest release is Woman of Honor, Book 1 in the Kingdom of Arnhem series. The tale of Aislinn from a young girl as she journeys to become a lady knight and ends up falling in love along the way. This story is a coming-of-age story that will appeal to adults and the YA audience alike. Aislinn is a strong heroine, not perfect, and I think she is very relatable. Readers will cheer her on as they read about her struggle to fulfill her dream. Watching someone else succeed makes our own goals seem that much more obtainable too and I think my readers will enjoy that.
I'm sure that's the case, Nicole, and to whet the readers' appetite, here's the blurb and an excerpt:
Blurb of Woman of Honor:
Aislinn of Bairbhe dreams of becoming a lady knight to honor the death of her fallen brother. To her mother's horror, King Patrick grants Aislinn's wish and she begins her long years of training. Despite the mockery of the other pages, and the disdain of Prince Caelan who also trains to be a knight, Aislinn commits herself to her dreams and embarks on a journey of self-discovery and bravery. Through the years, Aislinn and Caelan grow from sparring classmates to good friends. They both know that someday Caelan will marry for the sake of the kingdom, but even that cannot keep them from falling in love.
The threat of war with the Speicans is a constant threat, and one that grows more frightening as she and Caelan train toward their eventual knighthood. Aislinn has committed herself to serving
Aislinn hurried outside the castle. The walls loomed oppressive and overbearing. She quickly strode around the courtyard, letting her long steps eat up the earth. The scent of flowers reached her nose but she couldn't process the sweet smells. She attempted to calm down but her thoughts ran around at such a lightening quick speed that she couldn't concentrate, couldn't think, couldn't breathe. Eventually, she forced herself back inside the castle and returned to her room. Regardless of what choice she decided, whether to redo the last two years of her life or not, she would have to return at some point. The whole situation is absurd! To think that at ten years old, when I am at the same level as the other two year pages, that I should be forced to be on the same level as the new pages! Seven year olds! And to think that I was humiliated when I told everyone I was eight.
She opened her door, and stopped short. Her room wasn't empty. Prince Caelan, heir to the throne, rose from the single chair in the room.
"Caelan," she managed to say through clenched teeth. She looked at him and saw his father, saw her king, and relived her humiliation all over again in one heartbeat.
"Aislinn, I'm sorry," he said, swiftly coming out of the seat. He took a step toward her, one hand held out. "I fought for you, I told my father you deserved a chance. You must know that."
His words mean nothing to me. He means nothing to me!
She said nothing and stomped over to the bureau, yanking the drawers open. She pulled her few possessions and clothing, holding them to her chest as she slammed the drawers shut. Caelan stepped closer, hovering near her shoulder, but he refrained from touching her and said nothing. Her hands shook with rage and the clothes wrinkled. She took them to her narrow bed and refolded them, her movements crisp and precise. When she finished, she returned to the bureau and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. The reflection startled her. She wore an emotionless face but her eyes contained so much hurt and pain that she barely recognized herself.
Caelan spoke again, his voice rougher and deeper.
"I know you would do anything for my father. If he asked you to leave this country and to spy on the Speicans, you would. You would lead a raid into their country if he merely hinted at it. You would lay your life down for him just because he is the leader of this country." Here, the prince paused. "One day, I shall take his place and I shall be king. Yet I don't know if you would follow me as willingly as you would my father."
"Why do you say that, your Highness?" she asked, the formal title more a stinging retort than a sign of respect.
"I don't know," he answered honestly. His hand rested in the bend of her arm, but she didn't turn to face him.
"I have done nothing but fight for you."
"Why?" Aislinn asked. She thought of the three W's, how the prince had wanted to help her but she had been too proud to ask for it, how he had helped anyhow. Even before that, warning her to learn how to swim. He urged Geoffrey to be her mentor, even though Geoffrey denied that Caelan had made him.
Caelan pulled on her arm enough to make her turn and she faced him, keeping her hands clenched at her side. The prince grinned slowly, a reckless and daring smile that spread to his eyes. Aislinn drew in a breath as sudden heat spread over her. His whole face had lit up with his grin and his eyes glowed, like two dark sapphires.
"Why doesn't matter," he eventually answered in a voice so low it barely carried across the space between them and Aislinn realized the truth of his words. It didn't matter.
But he was wrong to question her. Aislinn served the king because he was king. One day, Caelan would be king, and she would serve him just as fiercely and just as honorably.
"I would obey you like I would any king," she told him, finally finding enough control to keep the edge from her voice. She swallowed. "I would die to protect you."
"Good," Caelan said, his eyes still slightly wild as his grin widened a small degree. "Then you know what you must do, Aislinn."
Aislinn stared up at him, her heart breaking. She clenched her fists harder. "But I have to redo the last two years of my life all over again. Everything up to this point had been for naught! For nothing!"
"You have two choices." His voice was calm, a sharp contrast to the anger and frustration waging in Aislinn's chest. "Either do as my father says and begin again. Or leave and the last two years will truly be for naught."
"No, there has to be another way." She shook her head sharply.
Caelan's hand slid from her elbow to wrap around her fist. Without thinking, she unfurled her fingers and he held her hand in his. "Aislinn, I can't persuade my father. He shall not bend."
"But he isn't being fair!"
"Fair or not, he is king."
Aislinn frowned. Protests welled in her throat but she refused to voice them and slowly an idea formed.
"Perchance…" she started.
"Perchance?" Caelan prompted, taking a step closer to her.
Aislinn shook her head, refusing to say her thoughts. "I gave him my services. I gave him my life for two years. Two years! I can't forgive him for this."
He released her hand, taking a step back, his expression hardening. "You must," he said, his tone now cold and distant.
Aislinn tightened her jaw and stared at the floor. He stepped back from her and walked away. She didn't bother to look up when the door slammed as the prince left the room.
She slowly whistled her breath out before quickly packing her belongings and leaving the room without a backward glance.
HL: Sounds like a wonderful read, and one I'm sure everyone would enjoy. So what’s you’re writing process? Has it changed since writing your first book?
NZ: I write when the muse inspires. Even when the muse doesn’t. I write and write and write. I become zoned into a story when I write. I’m no longer sitting at a keyboard, staring at a monitor, I’m in
HL: Oh I can relate to 'living one's stories', I do it myself. What is your favourite source of inspiration?
NZ: Life. *laughs* That’s a cop-out, isn’t it? I actually wake up with a lot of story ideas. My dreams can be rather bizarre and sometimes incredibly detailed as well. Most of my story ideas lately are all fantasy ones, so that tells you that my dreams are out there.
HL: Our time's almost up, Nicole, and I mustn't hog your company because I'm sure all your fans are dying to come in and talk to you - but one last question, a fun one that I always like to ask my victims -er - I mean guests. If you were an animal, which one do you think you would be, and why?
NZ: You didn’t specify that it had to be a real animal so I want to be a Pegasus. I could run or fly. No one would be able to tame me!
HL: Oh great answer, Nicole. A winged horse - that just has to be the best of both worlds, doesn't it, to be able to gallop like the wind and fly like a bird. And grace and beauty too! Well, it's been wonderful having you here Nicole. I understand there's a queue of folks outside the door waiting for your autograph, so we'd better let them in. Thanks so much for joining us today.
You can also visit Nicol at:
Author site: http://www.NicoleZoltack.c
Fan page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pa
One Touch, One Glance: http://www.freyasbower.com