Short story writer Thurston Nixon is with me today chatting about his book of shorts, American Masquerade Party.
Welcome, Thurston. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Started writing in my teens. Won a few school fiction writing contests before I was 14. Went to college where I studied to be an English teacher before I quit in my senior year to travel and “find” myself. During those travels where criss-crossed America, I wrote several short stories along the way that I eventually published with an indie publisher in 2000. Having some regional acclaim, the success was fleeting because the publisher went under shortly after my book was published.
Since then, I have written a few books under the name, Matthew McConkey, the name of my uncle who was the biggest influence in my life and who bought me a typewriter back in 1989. Those books under the Matthew McConkey name was: Boys of Summer: 1992, and Never Say Die: The 1914 Braves.
What do you enjoy most about writing short stories?
This is a tough one for me because I really like writing novels, and I love writing shorts and novellas. The biggest draw for me writing a short story is that I can develop the plot and the characters at a quicker pace and allow the reader’s imagination to help play a major part of my story. I can get to the point faster, I guess. A novel is taking the long way around, a short story is taking that back road shortcut.
Can you give us a little insight into a few of your short stories – perhaps some of your favorites?
There’s a story in the book called, Prom Night. I wrote this story, actually the very first story I ever wrote, when I was probably 12 or 13. It’s really short. It’s about this kid who we see is getting ready to go to his senior prom. No big deal, right? The only problem is that his date is at the cemetery! Another story in this collection is one called, Strawberry ChapStick. The story is kind of a window into my own life when I was a 13-year-old kid. I met this girl at this lake resort my family and I went to and we had the best time two kids could have. Anyways, to make a long story short, we had to leave after a few days and go back home because a family member had gotten into an accident. I hated leaving this girl I had just met and hung out with, you know? I had fallen in love with her. So we promised to stay in contact, but over time it never matured into anything. But this was the age before email and texts. So I wrote a story about innocence, falling in love and having to leave that love at the door.
What genre are you inspired to write in the most? Why?
It used to be horror, to be honest. When I was younger I liked to be scared. Now not so much. I don’t stick to one certain genre because I like to think that I’m multi dimensional than just one genre. I think writers get into trouble adhering to one particular kind of story. This newest book of mine is cool because I have just general fiction, a romance story, a horror story, a thriller, a young adult dotted throughout it. So, to me at least, there’s something in here for everyone. I guess if I had to be pinned down to say what genre really gets the fire stoked is Mystery. I love going on an adventure to solve the mystery with the characters in the story either writing or just reading. Who doesn’t love a good page turner, right?
What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m in the final edit of a novel about a man that is looking back at his life and how badly he screwed things up for himself. It’s a reflective piece about all the things that we as humans do that can come back home to us in positive/negative ways. The name of the book is called, American Dysfunction.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I guess when I wrote and had published my first collection under the Matthew McConkey name. That book was called, Toe Tags and Body Bags. It was a regionally well received book. I had people coming up to me wanting my autograph in stores and out on the streets. It was an awesome feeling. So I think that was the first time that I really considered myself a writer. Also getting royalty checks for a short time helped me feel that I hit some sort of success. But now I write for the fans that I have out there and for myself. Usually if what I write entertains me then I know that it will entertain the ones reading my work. I don’t write to get paid lots of money, or recognition or anything like that. I think writers that think that aren’t doing themselves or their readers a service at all. I write because I love it. I love going to other worlds and seeing people that I don’t know but over the course of the process come to love and view as friends.
How do you research markets for your work, perhaps as some advice for writers?
I started out small with a very small publisher. Now that publisher was an upstart and didn’t last a year where I live, but it got me going and thinking that I can do this kind of career if I want. Back then there was no social media other than word of mouth and newspapers and magazines and book store signings. As far as what I do now to promote a book? Social media is kind of something you about have to do to get it your work out there in people’s faces. Plus a website doesn’t hurt, either. Best advice is to still hit the traditional places like local newspapers, radio stations, ads in magazines and even broker a deal with a local bookstore to promote your book. That’s what I did with my first one in 2000. I gave them a cut of the money I made off the book if they let me do a book signing and I brought in about 200 people into the owner’s store. So it’s good to network as much as possible in trying to get your work out there. Leave no stone unturned. It does take a long time to get a book off the ground. Writing it is the easy part.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I listen to music a lot and when I’m writing a particular scene, I search through my HD in my computer trying to find a song that will match the emotional punch that I’m trying to achieve. It works when you’re watching a TV show or movie when the music in the background makes the scene or emotions going on more profound. This, I have discovered, is the same when writing. Pairing the right music while I’m writing makes the scene better for me. Another quirk is that I chew on pencils like a dog when writing. Never pens. They hurt my teeth.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Believe it or not a police officer. I always wanted to catch the bad guys. You know, keep people safe. I remember having a plastic badge and toy gun when I was a kid going around in my house making like I was protecting it. Sometimes I would ride my bike around in my neighborhood letting everyone know that I was on the prowl.
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Just keep watching for what I do next. Sometimes I will put stuff up on my website like free stories, etc. Also look out for upcoming tours. Just keep checking the website for anything cool I might be doing.
Thanks for being here today, Thurston. All the best with your writing!