Joining me today and stepping into the Author Spotlight is American author Alfred Nicols. It’s publication day today for his novel Lost Love’s Return so congratulations to Alfred. I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating its release. Alfred is also a talented artist – do check out his website to see his paintings.
Thanks for joining me today Alfred. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?
I received undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Mississippi. Following a period of military service I had a career as a trial lawyer, a state trial judge and a federal judge. Now retired, I live with my wife on 750 acres of rural property in Mississippi where both my sons have second homes.
What inspired you to start writing?
I have written in some form since a teenager. A poem I wrote at 16 won a national contest for high school students. I won several other writing contests as a teenager. In undergraduate school, I excelled in the courses that required long analytical written answers. In law school I wrote for the law review. As a lawyer I wrote endless briefs. As a judge, I wrote a constant stream of opinions, published and unpublished, as well as treatise articles. But I always wanted to write creatively. I started my first novel when stationed in Korea with the military over half a century ago, and have started more novels than I own pairs of footwear. Something always managed to take priority. I was a lawyer working long tiring hours, both in the courtroom and in the office. A trial judge, spending days in the courtroom presiding over trials, squeezing in time to write opinions whenever and however I could. Then I became a father of two young sons and tried to stay involved with them in every phase of their upbringing, encouraging them in sports and extra-curricular activities, taking them camping, all the things that go with committed fatherhood. Along the way I took up painting, primarily large southern landscapes, and this began to dominate my life. Dozens of my paintings can be seen on my website www.southernlandscapeart.com. Finally, nearly ten years ago, I decided if I was ever going to do what I had always wanted to do (write) time was running out, and writing needed to have complete priority.
Tell me about your journey to publication.
At the only writing workshop I ever attended in 2014 I met Julie Schoerke, who was a publicist on the program. She was kind enough to take a draft of an early version of my novel and give me advice about it. After about six years of rewrites, edits and revisions, I finally decided enough was enough and publish it or forget it. I contacted Julie. She had always focused on the publicist role, and had attained considerable success over this period, now having about a dozen people on “her team” as she called them. Only recently she had established a new “branch” of her business and gotten into publishing. Julie told me what she could offer with her Books Fluent imprint. I chose to publish with Books Fluent, and couldn’t be happier with the quality and professionalism of the book they have published for me.
In a nutshell, what is your book about?
Lost Love’s Return is a love story, set half in England and half in the southern United States. It is the story of a young American soldier who sustains a severe leg wound on the Western Front in the summer of 1918. In danger of losing his leg, he is shipped to Edmondton Military hospital north of London. There he is treated by a young English nurse. They fall in love. Following his release, deeply in love, they engage in a torrid affair. Then, suddenly, with no opportunity to tell her what’s happening, he is shipped home to receive an award for valour in New York. By a tragic combination of circumstances they are never able to resume contact. Twenty-seven years later in 1945, by a fortuitous twist of fate, he learns she is now a nurse in Southampton. He goes to England, hoping to find a way to reunite with his one true love. Additionally, the novel and its 18-point reader guide is about trying to leave my grandchildren, maybe others, as much insight as I can (from a long legal career spent at the centre of social interaction) about the choices we make and their consequences.
How did you come up with the title for your book?
The novel has had several titles along the way. When I contracted with Books Fluent as my publisher and Books Forward as my publicist, I promoted a “novel naming contest”. Everyone involved (who wanted to) would nominate five potential titles. There were many good ones. By process of elimination, Lost Love’s Return won, as the title that most summarized the story.
Do you have a work in progress just now?
I plan a sequel, starting when Peter and Casey are both back home in 1945. I have written about 100 pages on another novel that I see ways to work into this sequel.
What one book would you recommend to a friend and why?
East of Eden by John Steinbeck. In this 700 page novel, Steinbeck attempts to take on much of life, our humanity: love and hate, good and evil, sin and salvation, faith and doubt, pain and pleasure, wealth and poverty (material and spiritual)–what human life is all about, at its best and worst. Steinbeck lays bare family relationships, with all the layers of ego, all the potential for jealousy, selfishness, resentment, and oppression, as well as all the potential for selflessness, concern, support and love. And he makes the point that nowhere in life is the difference in perception and reality more destructive than in family relationships. What Steinbeck did in a big way with a 700 page epic religious allegory, I tried to do in a small way in a 280 page love story with Lost Love’s Return and its 18-point reader guide.
What are you reading just now?
Christianity, The First Three Thousand Years by Diarmaid MacCulloch (2009)
If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?
If I already have the Bible and the Complete works of Shakespeare (which I understand I would), then I would have a hard choice. Which would be more important, nurturing my soul or my body? If the soul, probably the fattest book of renowned poetry I could find. If the body, the best, most comprehensive survival manual, something that guided me in starting a fire without matches and making a solar still to convert salt water into drinking water.
Is there a book you’d love to see made into a film?
Lost Love’s Return, of course. But, in reality, covering two cultures, two world wars, the Great Depression, almost three decades, compacting it into a movie could be difficult. It should make a great TV mini-series like The Thorn Birds or Roots.
How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?
My website: southernlandscapeart.com
And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?
Leonardo Da Vinci, as depicted in Walter Isaacson’s wonderful biography published in 2017. He was the most incredible person ever. His intellect, artistic talent, quest for knowledge and lust for challenges knew no limits.
If you like the sound of Lost Love’s Return, you can order a copy here