Welcome to the six hundred and seventy-eighth my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with multi-genre author Nigel Hey. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Nigel. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Nigel: Somewhere I have a copy of a story I wrote in my home town of Morecambe when I was 9 but I was 11 before I was paid for anything, with the frisson of having the cheque come from the BBC. My mother had always encouraged me to be a writer, but the money convinced me.
Morgen: What a great way to start and I’m liking your mother. 🙂 And then…?
Nigel: We moved to the States. I doubled as a part-time printer’s devil, reporter, and proof-reader for a small weekly newspaper at 14, wrote children’s columns for three weeklies at 16, then got my degree in journalism at the University of Utah (!) and immediately escaped to fulltime newspaper jobs in Bermuda and England. Eventually I became based in New Mexico, working as a science writer for a very large and creative organisation (10,000 employees), Sandia National Laboratories. I retired from there and became a media consultant / writer. Wonderment is my sixth book. I live nine months a year in New Mexico and three months in England, and if taxes permit I wouldn’t mind switching that ratio.
Morgen: I don’t know about New Mexico’s taxes but I’m guessing the weather’s better too (although England’s not as wet as most movies make out to be). Starting with your non-fiction, how do you decide what to write about?
Nigel: Working at Sandia, I was primed to write about science and technology, so my first three books were young-adult (secondary school) books about science – astronomy and agronomy. The second three, all published in the past ten years, are about the solar system, Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defence Initiative (“Star Wars”), and my autobiography.
Morgen: A great variety. What have you had published to-date? And have you ever used a pen name?
Nigel: Wonderment (Matador 2012): A globetrotting writer’s adventurous life story, interleaving career, domestic life, and departures from the expected. Meantime his philosophy evolves from a child’s fears to a mature, optimistic picture for the future of humankind. (ISBN13: 9781780882864)
The Star Wars Enigma (Potomac Books, ̣̣̣2006): The “inside” political and scientific story of the 1980s Strategic Defense Initiative, derived largely from interviews with leading players in the United States, Russia (USSR), and Britain. (ISBN13: 9781574889819)
Solar System (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2002) The richly illustrated story of planetary exploration, with emphasis on the engineering marvels accomplished during unmanned space flights. Author has recovered publication rights. (ISBN13: 9780304359943)
Earlier YA science books: How We Will Explore the Outer Planets (Putnam, ISBN13: 9780399607639), The Mysterious Sun (Putnam, SBN13: 9780399604829), How Will We Feed the Hungry Billions? (Messner, ISBN13: 9780671324667)
I have used a pen-name, but not since I edited the Bermuda News Pictorial, when I wanted to make people think I had a staff.
Morgen: So you’ve gone the traditional and self-published route, what led to you going your own way?
Nigel: I am realistic that autobiographies of the un-famous are not overly popular (I’m not Brad Pitt) and it would be difficult to get noticed by the few big publishers that remain in an industry that is economically harassed. In my case self-publishing seemed realistic, though expensive. In the past publishers have paid me (ungenerously) for my writing. Marketing is certainly more arduous than writing, my traditional publishers weren’t much more help in that department than my self-publisher.
Morgen: “economically harassed” what a wonderful phrase. Are your books available as eBooks?