John Nicholl is our featured artist for this month’s 4Q Interview. John lives in West Wales, UK, and is the author of two successful psychological suspense thrillers. He has worked as a police officer and child protection social worker. His novels draw on his professional experience. His debut novel – White is the Coldest Colour – reached Amazon’s top 100 list in just fifteen days. The Scribbler is very pleased to have him as a guest. His link is listed below.
4Q: Please tell us about yourself and when did you start writing?
JN: I wrote a multi-agency child protection guide, and pertinent articles for newspapers and magazines during my career, but ‘White is the Coldest Colour' was my first novel. I retired early from my post heading up child protection services in west Wales due to health problems, and had a good deal of spare time. I began writing the book one day to see if I could. I found myself enjoying the process, and it progressed from there. It’s proved to be a steep learning curve, but well worth the effort. If anyone out there is thinking of writing a book, I’d encourage them to give it a go.
4Q: Please tell us a bit about your novels and why you chose to write suspense stories?
JN: Both books are written from experience. I dealt with a great many traumatic cases during my twenty or so years as a social worker, and the writing has been somewhat cathartic. The first book focuses on child abuse, and the professionals who spend their working lives striving to protect the vulnerable, often against the odds; whilst the second focuses on physical and psychological domestic violence towards women. The novels are primarily intended as entertaining dark suspense thrillers, but if they raise awareness of, and the understanding of these important social issues, I will be grateful for that.
4Q: Please share a childhood anecdote or memory with us.
JN: I wasn't expecting that one, but here goes! Memories don’t come in straight lines, and my mind if full of stories from the past, most happy, but some less so. One incident that resonates from the past happened in my tenth year, when I was enjoying a sun drenched family holiday in Grand Canaria with my mum and dad. I was in and out of the hotel pool on a regular basis, enjoying splashing around and interacting with friends of similar age. I thought nothing of it when a woman in her thirties reached out towards me with an angst expression on her face, as I swam to and fro. What she hadn't realized was that the pool got significantly deeper at a certain unmarked point. What I hadn't realized was that she couldn't swim. The woman came towards me with flailing arms and kept coming. She then proceeded to try and save herself by placing her hands on top of my head, and pushing down hard, raising herself above the water, but forcing me under. I fought to break the surface and breathe repeatedly, before being pushed back under again and again and again. After what seemed like an age, I managed to break free of her grip, and pulled her to safety by one of her arms. Even now, I’m surprised that she didn't bother thanking me. Oh well, c’est la vie!
4Q: What’s next for John Nicholl and what are you reading right now?
JN: I’m about a third of the way into writing a third novel, which tells the story of a young woman who is abducted and imprisoned by a depraved serial killer. I can’t put a firm date on it at the moment, but I hope to have it available by the end of September 2016. I’ve received a recent offer from an American publisher, but I’m likely to remain independent as I enjoy total creative control. With that said, never say never. It’s also worth mentioning that ‘White is the Coldest Colour’ is currently being produced as an audio book. I’ve listened to the first chapter, and a brilliant young actor named Jake Urry is doing a tremendous job of the narration. It should be available to purchase sometime in May 2016.
I’m currently reading Kiss Kiss, a series of short stories written by Roald Dhal. If you’re a fan of dark psychological fiction with a twist, this is as good as it gets.
An Excerpt from When Evil Calls your Name.
Copyright is owned by the author. Used by permission.
Sunday 5, February 1995
I’ve been sitting here for almost an hour, trying to figure out where to begin: my name, perhaps, my location at the time of writing possibly, how I ended up in this miserable human dumping ground in the first place. Maybe, the awful entirety? Yes, that makes sense. If I’m going to tell you my story, why hold anything back. I’ve got absolutely nothing to hide. It’s all a matter of public record anyway. What would be the point in trying?
This isn’t going to be easy, but I think it’s probably best if I introduce myself right now and get it over with. Please try to keep an open mind if you saw the numerous news reports relating to my case. Not everything they said was true. Not by a long shot.
Well, enough prevarication, here goes, time to bite the bullet, as the old saying goes… my name’s Cynthia. Do you think that’s sufficient, or do you require a surname? People often do for some reason. I suppose I may as well tell you now, and be done with it: Cynthia Galbraith. That’s been my allocated label since my marriage to that man. So now do you understand my initial reticence? It was Jones, Cynthia Jones, before that. It’s who I used to be. Someone I once was. A stranger from a distant far-off land I can never visit again. But then, I guess we all live in the shadow of the past to varying degrees.
I’m twenty-nine years old, by the way. I was twenty-six when I arrived here. That’s three long years. Time tends to pass rather slowly here. No, that’s understating the case, agonisingly slowly is more like it! Yes, agonising describes it very nicely.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. I can hear you saying it. Shouting it conceivably? Or is that just my notoriously overactive imagination playing tricks on me again? That wouldn’t surprise me. I get a lot of things wrong and make a great many mistakes. He told me that time and time again. It seems, such things define me.
Give me a second. Deep breaths Cynthia, deep breaths… I’m writing this in
My sincere apologies for the profanity, I hope you’re not offended. I found my fellow prisoners regular use of ‘colourful’ language hard to accept when I first arrived, but it’s amazing what you can get used to. And anyway, surely it’s just a word, a collection of letters, like all the other words in this good, bad and indifferent world of ours. What do you think? Tell me, please, I’ll try not to take any criticism personally. Obsession, control, bitch, murder, life. It seems words can be emotive after all. What on earth was I thinking? I should understand that more than most. Words can hurt. They can have a substantial impact on our psyche. They certainly did on mine.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself again. Now, where was I? I need to press rewind and focus if I’m going to do my story justice. Oh, yeah, I was telling you about my cell. I’ve already told you the size. Small, that sums it up. Claustrophobic? Most certainly, but I shouldn’t complain. Some say I deserve to be here. The judge clearly thought so, given the length of my sentence. And then there were the newspapers. I recall reading the Daily Mail at the time of my trial. An evil woman, that’s how they put it. An evil woman! It sticks in my mind and eats away at me like a rabid dog. Not an easy thing to read about myself, to be honest. I hadn’t thought of myself in that way until then. Stupid, yes, inadequate, yes, but evil? It was strange really: some journalists seemed to see me as villain, and others as an unfortunate victim of circumstance who rose from the ashes like a phoenix from the flames to smite my oppressor. How can different people, seemingly intelligent people, writers and the like, interpret the exact same events so very differently? I’ve given it a great deal of thought over the years without reaching an adequate resolution. You should make your own mind up. I think that’s probably best. Perhaps one fine day you can provide me with an answer. I’d really appreciate it, if you could.
And back to the cell. I’ll try my best not to go off at a tangent this time, promise. White peeling paint on walls pockmarked with multiple spots of black and blue mould, like a Jackson Pollock painting I like to think. A vivid imagination is a definite advantage in this place. It’s my only means of escape when the walls close in on me. And then there’s the bunk beds, of course. Not very comfortable, there’s no denying that, but a lot of innocent people put up with a lot worse. There’s a great many homeless people in this increasingly socially diverse country of ours. What have they done to deserve their fate?
Mine’s the top bunk, by the way. That’s truly significant here, it’s the prison world equivalent of residing in Chelsea or Mayfair. Does that make any sense at all in your very different world? Well, yes or no, I’ve earned it after almost three years. Only thirteen more to go. Unlucky for some, eh? Unlucky for me, that’s for sure!
I share my cell with Gloria, a skinny nineteen-year-old girl with fashionable short cropped dark-brown hair and a much older name. We’ve got nothing and everything in common, and very little to say to each other most of the time. We share occasional pleasantries, that’s true. She asks me for tampons, toothpaste, toilet paper and other necessities on a fairly regular basis, and she moans about the guards from time to time. But then, who doesn’t? It’s the national pastime in these parts. Most of them are okay, to be honest. The majority are just here to do a job, to pay the bills, and do the best they can within the confines of their role. But then there’s the others: a seemingly different species, the right bastards who seem to take infinite pleasure in making my life as miserable as feasibly possible at every conceivable opportunity. They’re the sort of people who like to pull the wings off butterflies. It seems there are good and bad people in all walks of life. I knew one of the worst, a monster, a man devoid of empathy or virtue, but it’s far too soon for that. I’m not ready to address that particular topic just yet.
Thank you John for sharing on the Scribbler. We wish you continued success with your writing journey. Lear more about this talented author and his novels here:
Please leave a comment below, would love to
hear from you. Do you know any authors that
should be featured on the Scribbler?
To say thank you for all you faithful readers,
we are giving away two copies of Dark Side
of a Promise on June 17th. Leave your email
address in the comment box below and two of
them will be drawn for a copy, anywhere in
the world - Free!
Your email address will not be used or shared.
See right side bar and/or Novels above for more details of this story.