Interview: Nathaniel Hicklin

Today we’re joined by Nathaniel Hicklin. Nathaniel is a wonderful writer who specializes in pulp adventure novels. He publishes with Sic Semper Serpent Books. His current project features a globe-trotting archeologist’s adventures and it sounds like there’s a few fantasy elements thrown in there as well. It’s clear that Nathaniel is a passionate writer with an amazing imagination, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

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WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I write novels, mostly in the pulp adventure genre. My current series is The Adventures of Dr. Israel St. James, a globe-trotting adventurer archaeologist who tracks down magical relics to contain them so they can’t wreak havoc and chaos on the world. The first book takes place in the mid- to late 19th century, and the upcoming second book covers the entire 20th century. The character doesn’t age, and a lot of the drama comes from him trying to deal with his condition and place in the world while he’s saving the world from tyrannical fairies, evil Nazis, and crazed Pinkerton agents.

What inspires you?

I drew my initial inspiration from shows like Doctor Who and Warehouse 13, things that intersect the mundane world with fantastic elements. These days, I get a little inspiration anytime I see something that mixes magical things in with the real world, making the real world seem that little bit more magical as a result. Superhero stories like The Avengers and stories about the little-known margins of history like Monuments Men always get me going, too.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I definitely didn’t always want to be an artist. I read almost exclusively non-fiction throughout my childhood. The only author I reliably read as a kid was Michael Crichton (I read all of Jurassic Park on a family road trip when I was about 9 or so). I got into Tom Clancy in high school, and I transitioned into Terry Pratchett in college.

For most of my college, I wanted to be an engineer. I mostly focused on math and science classwork, but I tried my hand at some story writing on the side, just to see what it might be like. (This was when the early comic book movies like Maguire Spider-Man and Blade were coming out, so I tried to see what kind of superhero story I could write.) I switched from engineering to theater because I discovered that I liked writing a lot more than calculus, but at first I doubted that I could actually make a living with writing. Then I looked over at my bookshelf full of novels, and I thought to myself, “Well, those people made it work. Why the hell can’t I give it a shot?” That was really what got me interested in the field of writing: the realization that it was actually possible to just write for a living, and have that be a real job.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I don’t have a particular signature element I like to use in my writing. I usually write about characters who are smart and try to solve problems without a lot of violence, but that’s mostly just the kind of character I like to read about. (That’s a good rule of thumb for aspiring writers: write the story you’d like to read.) I try to do something a little bit new with each story, just to keep stretching my boundaries and broadening my horizons.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

If you want to try doing art, just do some art. If doing the art was fun, do more art. If the art is bad, figure out which parts are bad and make them better next time. If the art is good, figure out which parts are best and make everything that good. Don’t worry about getting people to like your art. If Rule 34 has taught us anything, it’s that absolutely anything can find its audience.

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ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I am ace, cis-male, heteroromantic, and as far as I can tell, sex-repulsed. I might be willing to try sex for someone I really, really liked, but I have limited experimental data on the matter. I also have Asperger’s, so that puts some limits on dating.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

The only way that being ace has directly impacted my work is that I tend not to include sex in stories. I like to have a good romance in there, but there is never anything physical directly featured in the text. The focus is always on the emotional intimacy, which I’ve always felt is the more important part anyway.

It was a bit of an impediment at first, because I used to leave out romance altogether. I didn’t really have any experience to draw from, and the stories never felt to me like they were missing anything. The story flowed logically and the plot made sense, so as far as I was concerned, everything was fine. Other people would say that they thought there should be a sex scene, and that never made sense, because the story would have to stop for the sex and continue where it left off afterward. I had to make a deliberate effort to write stories that had romance in them, but with some practice, I learned how to write stories that the straight folks could wrap their heads around.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

The most common wrong idea I’ve heard about asexuality is that the first sexual experience will cure it. Like, the only reason I’m ace is that I’ve never had sex. I’ve actually dreamt about having sex before, and I don’t recall feeling particularly excited afterward. My favorite dreams were always the ones where I had conversations where everything I said was just the right thing to say at the time, and I came across as the slickest dude on the planet. If the conversation was with a woman, all the better. I always liked to dream about perfect chemistry, not perfect sex.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Probably the best way to feel comfortable with my orientation was to build up self-confidence, and the best way for me to do that was to become an artist and be constantly working to get better at my art. If anyone tries to slight me for my orientation or accuse me of being dishonest with myself or whatever, I always just say to myself, “Screw you. I write awesome adventure books. I don’t care what you say. Write a novel or two and then come back at me about being ace.” Frankly, that’s a good self-help line if people slack off my writing, too. Anyone who wants to tear me down for fun is welcome to try doing what I do. This crap is hard.

That probably sounded a little aggressive, but that’s kind of what self-promotion does to a person. Meekly polite writers don’t get a lot of publicity.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

Anyone interesting in learning more about my stories can visit SicSemperSerpent.com, the digital home of my publisher, Sic Semper Serpent. We can also be seen in person at fine literary conventions in and around the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area.

Thank you, Nathaniel, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

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