Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Road to the Skull Ring by Scott Nicholson

Scott Nicholson is the author of nine novels, including Speed Dating with the Dead, The Red Church, and Drummer Boy. He’s also written four comic series, six screenplays, and several children’s books, in addition to four fiction collections. Writing advice, articles, art, and more are available at

The Road to The Skull Ring
By Scott Nicholson

As a kid, I was very easy to please–just give me some crayons and scrap paper and I would stay quiet for hours. While the wax babysitter did wonders for family harmony, it also helped me build a rich internal world where anything was possible.

I still remember the impact of those odd Dr. Seuss books and how words could be silly and serious at the same time. And then I entered the world of monster comic books, learning a different type of storytelling, and so I started making my own comics on folded notebook paper. In the middle grades I was winning essay contests, and by high school I was the weird guy writing short stories and humor for the school newspaper.

My college years involved lots of writing classes and a strange mix of influences ranging from Hemingway, Vonnegut, Lennon, Brautigan, and the classics to mood-altering substances. I was writing serious fiction that had no plot and involved lots of suicidal guys smoking cigarettes. Highly original, I know.

Somehow my creative energy shifted to song writing and rock bands, but I still played with words, eventually getting back to fiction when I took my second turn at college. Again with the writing classes, but now my influences had broadened to include mystery, science fiction, horror, suspense–lots more commercial fiction. I remember a guy brought his novel to class, written on yellow legal pads and based on the Dungeons and Dragons game, and I was thinking, “Well, if he can do it, I can do it.”

A year and three novels later, I was finally ready to start learning, and my fourth novel actually sold, but it was my fifth novel, The Skull Ring, that got me my first agent. I remember his saying at the time, “I like it but I don’t see it being a big novel.” 

I wanted to say “Well, I can write it on 11" x17" paper with a font size of 48 if you want,” but in those days you pretty much had to just put up with whatever your “handlers” said was reality. Though we sold six books together, for some reason The Skull Ring never came up again. I think we pitched it to my editor and he came back with “Satan is too dated.”

I didn’t know Satan could go out of style.

Actually, Satan is not a character in the novel, though it does contain Satanists. My heroine Julia Stone is piecing together childhood memories when the past starts creeping back–first in mysterious messages, then little clues around her house, and soon in larger, more threatening ways. And the therapist who is privy to Julia’s innermost secrets has begun to violate and exploit that trust–and the rural handyman is taking a little too much interest in Julia’s affairs.

Inspired by actual case histories described in psychological diagnostic manuals, Julia undertakes a journey to hell and back–much of it in her mind, though certainly she has plenty of tour guides along the way.

I hope you’ll take that journey with her. Because Julia Stone will remember...even if it kills her.

1 comment:

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Scott - Thanks for being here! I don't know if I told you this or not - I'm a huge fan of THE RED CHURCH and bought several copies for friends when it came out. I loved it.