Friday, July 12, 2013

Meet N.S. Wikarski, author of 'The Granite Key'

Please welcome author N. S. Wikarski to the blog today!

What is your favorite quality about yourself?
My tenacity. I don’t know the meaning of the word “quit.”
What is your least favorite quality about yourself?
My tenacity. This late in life, I ought to know the meaning of the word “quit.”
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your life?
I would have to say earning my doctorate from one of the toughest graduate schools in the world. There were so many obstacles thrown in my path by the people in my life that it was a miracle that I got into the program at all. Then, I was even more surprised to find out that I had the intellectual talent to graduate with honors. I guess you never know what you can do until you try.
What is your favorite color?
That depends on the day, the season, and my mood. I’m partial to fire engine red, electric blue, and fuschia (though not at the same time).
What is your favorite food?
Any ethnic cuisine. Indian and Middle Eastern in particular. I’m a vegan.
What’s your favorite place in the entire world?
Any place near a large body of moving water.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Honestly, I don’t know. I was always good at it. Maybe I fell into writing simply because I was too lazy to cultivate a talent that would have required hard work to master.
When and why did you begin writing?
Since I majored in English literature, I’ve been writing all through my school years and graduate school. My doctoral dissertation was my first book. As to why I continued to write, I suppose it was out of habit.
How long have you been writing?
In the back of my mind, I’d always intended to write a novel at some point in my life. When I reached the age of 40 without having gotten around to writing that novel, I finally decided to knuckle down and get it done. I’ve been writing, off and on, since then. Nineteen years.
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.
What inspires you to write and why?
I have to be in love with a particular subject or concept in order to write a book about it. Otherwise I’d just as soon not write at all. (There’s that laziness thing again.)
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
History because I love the romance of the past. Mystery because I can’t resist a good whodunit.
What inspired you to write your first book?
Guilt that I hadn’t gotten it done sooner in my life.
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 made you want to be a writer?
I didn’t want to be a writer per se. If there’s an idea which I feel an overwhelming need to communicate, I’ll write. For example, my current series is all about the lost women’s history of the world. Things that have been forgotten for millennia are emerging in the archaeological record right now. To me, that’s an intriguing subject which people might want to know about.
What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
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.
Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?
My current book is the third in a seven book series. I’ve learned plenty about lost history, especially as it relates to women’s role in the development of human civilization.
Have you developed a specific writing style?
I try not to be a literary stylist. I think a writer who’s trying to be clever will throw in bits of stylistic fluff so that a reader will admire the verbiage of the book. That can become distracting. In my case, I want the reader to focus on my characters and their stories, not on how well I can describe a sunset. If I have a style at all, it would be “cut and dried.”
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.
Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
Strangely enough, I never have had writer’s block. I may occasionally wrestle with a stubborn plot point but I find that a long walk out in nature usually clears away the problem.
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’m currently writing the fourth book in my Arkana Archaeology Thriller series. It’s called “The Riddle Of The Diamond Dove” and it should be in print in December of 2013.
How did you come up with the title?
Each of my titles has something to do with an artifact which is retrieved over the course of the book. It’s a global treasure hunt so the books correspond to different continents as well.
Can you tell us about your main character?
Cassie Forsythe is a twenty year old college dropout whose world implodes after she has a nightmare in which she sees her sister being murdered. The nightmare turns out to be real and Cassie finds herself stuck with a telepathic gift she never knew she possessed. This leads to all sorts of complications including being enlisted to take her sister’s place in a secret organization trying to recover a series of lost artifacts. Over the course of the novels, Cassie evolves from a self-absorbed teenager into a mature adult.
Why did you choose to write this particular book?
I felt there was a need to overturn some of our cultural assumptions about the role of women in society. Lo and behold, I discovered an ever-increasing body of archaeological evidence proving that human civilization was not originally male-dominated or violent. This was true of every race on every continent. The story of who we once were and how we got to be the way we are needed to be told.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
Weaving the history seamlessly into the story arcs of the fictional characters. A straight history lesson doesn’t often make for an entertaining read.
How do you promote this book?
I’ve avoided conventional book signings and radio interviews for this series. Most of my readers seem to prefer the ebook format so I’ve done most of my recent promotion through the internet. I’ve used Facebook, Kindle Nation, and Kindle Author primarily to get the word out.
Is there a 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.
How much of the book is realistic?
The history is real. The characters, the secret societies and the relics they’re hunting are all fictional.
Have you included a lot of your life experiences, even friends, in the plot?
I’ve steered clear of using my own experience or that of my friends in the plot. None of the characters resemble anyone I actually know. However, after living with my characters through three books they’re starting to feel like family.
How important do you think villains are in a story?
In a mystery, the villain is the single most important character. Her or his actions drive the entire story. Without the misdeeds of a villain, there would be nothing for the detective / hero to do.
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.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I do my research online these days but I would love to visit all the places I’ve written about. Since the series takes place on every continent, I’ve had to guess at many of the locations I’m using. Someday, I’d like to see if I got the physical descriptions right – if I captured the feel of the location accurately.
Who is your favorite author and why?
Jane Austen is a particular favorite of mine. It’s amazing to me that someone who saw so little of the wider world during her short lifetime could make such shrewd observations about human nature. I enjoy her sly humor. She manages to write perceptive social satire without being mean-spirited about it.
Can we expect any more books from you in the future?
If all goes as planned, I’ll be producing a book a year each December until the series is finished. That ought to take me to 2017.
Have you started another book yet?
I’ve written the first half of the fourth book in my Arkana series. I should have the first draft wrapped up by the end of the summer.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully, I’ll be on a world cruise visiting all the places I’ve written about but have never seen. Assuming, of course, that the Arkana series is finished.
Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?
My reading tastes have gone retro lately – primarily Victorian authors. For about a year, I was reading Wilkie Collins novels. I’ve now moved on to H. Rider Haggard. I love the unhurried way that a Victorian narrative develops. It’s a relief to step away from our contemporary sound byte culture. Victorians used language in a much more elegant way than we do now. It feels quaint and cozy and quite relaxing to read something from that era.
Do you have any specific last thoughts that you want to say to your readers?
I am so very grateful to the loyal fans who’ve written to me via my Facebook page to tell me how much they enjoy the Arkana series. Since writing is a solitary occupation, it’s wonderful to know that my words have reached somebody out there – that I was able to entertain, amuse, and even spark new thoughts about some old topics. I appreciate the encouragement to keep going.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
I enjoy hiking and gardening. Anything that gets me out of doors and away from the keyboard. There’s also a lot to be said for mindlessly staring at the TV at the end of the day.
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.
If you could leave your readers with one bit of wisdom, what would you want it to be?
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.
When you wish to end your career, stop writing, and look back on your life, what thoughts would you like to have?
No matter how unlikely it seemed at any given point in time, my dreams always came true. I got to do everything I wanted with my life.
What is the one question you never get asked and would like to get asked in an interview?
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.

"There's a 52% chance that the next Dan Brown will be a woman ... or should we just make that 100% now?"
--Kindle Nation

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. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, the Society Of Midland Authors, and has served as vice president of Sisters In Crime - Twin Cities and on the programming board of the Chicago chapter. Her short stories have appeared in Futures Magazine and DIME Anthology, while her book reviews have been featured in Murder: Past Tense and Deadly.

She has written the Gilded Age Chicago History Mysteries series set in 1890s Chicago. Titles include 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 as well as a Lovey Award for Best Traditional Amateur Sleuth.
She is currently writing the seven book Arkana Archaeology Thriller Mystery series. Titles include The Granite Key (2011), The Mountain Mother Cipher (2011), and The Dragon’s WingEnigma (2012). The fourth volume in the series, The Riddle Of The Diamond Dove, is scheduled for publication in December of 2013. Ms. Wikarski’s work on the Arkana books has prompted Kindle Nation to call her one of its favorite authors.

Archaeological Thriller
Date Published: 2/12/2011

"Think 'MEDIUM meets THE LOST SYMBOL' and it only begins to describe the pleasures of THE GRANITE KEY - 5 Stars." (Kindle Nation)

A Wake-Up Call 
In a nightmare, nineteen year old Cassie Forsythe sees her sister attacked by a man in a cowboy hat who demands something called "the key." Her nightmare mutates into reality before the night is over. Cassie is called to identify her sister's body--murdered exactly as her dream foretold. Cassie dismisses her vision as a fluke and fights to get on with her life. Disconnected and aimless now that her only family is gone, she drifts until the evening when she catches the man in the cowboy hat ransacking her sister's apartment. He bolts with an odd-looking stone cylinder--the granite key. From that moment, Cassie's normal world evaporates. 
A Secret Society 
She learns that her sister led a double life--retrieving artifacts for a secret organization called the Arkana. The Arkana's leader, an elder named Faye, explains that her group performs a controversial kind of archaeology. They scour the globe for evidence of ancient pre-patriarchal civilizations in hopes of salvaging the lost history of the world. Their network of troves safeguards artifacts from highly sophisticated goddess-worshipping cultures on every continent. Cassie's sister had the psychic ability to touch an artifact and relive its past. Cassie has now inherited this gift. Faye wants the girl to take over her sister's role in the organization. Cassie doubts her powers but agrees. Now an insider, she is transported to the Arkana's mysterious underground vault in the countryside outside Chicago where the group tackles the mystery of her sister's murder.

A Dangerous Cult 
The Arkana learns that the man in the cowboy hat is a hired mercenary named Leroy Hunt and that he is working for a fundamentalist religious cult known as the Blessed Nephilim. He takes his orders directly from the cult's domineering prophet--Abraham Metcalf. The granite key which Leroy stole is inscribed with hieroglyphics revealing the location of a mythological artifact reputed to have mystical powers--the Sage Stone. Although skeptical of its legendary capabilities, the Arkana is still afraid to allow the relic to fall into the cult's hands. Abraham's fanatical belief in the power of the Sage Stone could be the catalyst to start a war of religious genocide.

Unlocking The Key 
Before she died, Cassie's sister took photos of the strange markings on the granite key. The Arkana decodes the hieroglyphics which point to the ancient ruins of Minoan Crete as the hiding place of the Sage Stone. Faye hastily assembles a retrieval team including Cassie, her newly-appointed bodyguard Erik, and a British researcher named Griffin. The band of treasure hunters is mismatched and wildly dysfunctional from the start. Griffin has never gone on a field mission, Erik treats his inexperienced colleagues with contempt, and Cassie second-guesses her psychic hunches. She battles to prove herself to Erik at every turn. Their internal clashes rival the bigger crisis of what to do when they come face to face with their enemies.

A Matter Of Life Or Death 
Even as they rake through megalithic tombs and Minoan palaces for clues, Abraham dispatches his son Daniel and hired gun Leroy Hunt to recover the Sage Stone. The Nephilim operatives won't hesitate to kill anyone standing in their way. Will Cassie and her teammates avert global disaster or find themselves casualties of Abraham's mania to exterminate the world of unbelievers? The Granite Key holds the answer.

Buy it on Amazon

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