Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Interview with Silvina B. Niccum, author of Veiled
Silvina B. Niccum was born in Rosario, Argentina and raised in Buenos Aires. Her family immigrated to the US, when she was fourteen. She attended the University of Utah and studied Spanish Literature. Silvina now lives in Dallas, TX. with her husband and her three homeschooled children.
Tess is an unborn spirit, who is about to embark on a much awaited journey into mortality to a brand new planet called Earth. She is chosen by the Eternals for an important mission, and is put under a rigorous training by a half-human, half-lion Seraph. This training exposes Tess to some of her darkest fears and insecurities. These experiences force Tess to work on her gift as a discerner of thoughts and reader of auras—thus helping her become one of Heaven’s most powerful angels. But even angels falter, and deep inside her a gnawing fear is growing. Will she meet her soul mate in life? Will their love be strong enough to overcome the forgetting effects of the Veil? And, is she prepared to take on the responsibility of keeping the most dangerous renegade and leader of the Fallen Angels at bay during mortality?
I had an opportunity read Silvina's book and was amazed at the creativity and imagery of this story. The author paints a vivid picture of a pre-earth existence and the training and preparation required before coming to earth. Silvina's writing is fresh and fun and the story is interesting and captivating. I enjoyed reading about the main character, Tess, and her friends as they interact with other spirits and learn about their own gifts and strengths that will help them when they finally go to earth. A fascinating read that is both thoughtful and entertaining.
Silvina was kind enough to answer some questions about her journey to becoming an author.
M.B.: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?
AUTHOR: When I was in fourth grade, our teacher taught us how to make little books of our own with staples. We were supposed to do one for school, but I ended up making a whole bunch of them. In fact, I don’t think I ever stopped making them, but that is the earliest memory I have of wanting to be an author, luckily I never gave up on that dream!
M.B.: What is your writing and educational background?
AUTHOR: I studied Spanish Literature in College, but the best “background” that anyone can boast of (in my opinion) is writing a lot and reading a lot. English is my second language, so in High School I actually had to work very hard to learn English. I actually had to look up every word in the translation dictionary, just so I could get my homework done. Tenacity and a love for reading were my best tutors, and still are. I think a lot can be accomplished that way.
M.B.: What makes you passionate about writing?
AUTHOR: We were made to do something in life; I believe this with all my heart. We were all put on Earth to DO something. Once we find what that something is, we feel it in our bones, it becomes part of us, it runs through our veins and we just have to do it! And when we do…we feel happy and truly alive!
M.B.: What was the pathway like for you to get your first book published?
AUTHOR: I queried agents, much like everyone else. But one day a friend of mine put me in touch with another friend who had just gotten picked up by a publisher. I queried TreasureLine Books & Publishing and about a month later I was on board! It was, as anyone could imagine, a great feeling to know your book was going to be in print. But the other side of it was the fact that they found the topic interesting. Outside the LDS world, the pre-existence is unfathomable. I wrote Veiled with this in mind, I didn’t want it to be an LDS audience only book, I wanted people from any Christian religion to read it, enjoy it and speculate.
M.B.: Were you ever discouraged along the way? If so, how did you deal with it?
AUTHOR: I think we all feel discouraged at one point or another. Sending queries out was not my favorite thing in the world, but I felt empowered by the fact that I was working toward something. I felt very strongly that Veiled should be published; I knew it wasn’t perfect, but I was willing to fix it until it was.
Sometimes I still feel a little discouraged if I hear that someone didn’t like my book for whatever reason…but así es la vida…opinions and butts…we all have one!
M.B.: What is your writing schedule like?
AUTHOR: I wake up at 5 am every morning excluding Sundays. I workout, read scriptures, then write for two hours until my kids wake up and my husband comes to eat breakfast! Then my day as a home schooling mom starts! At 2:30 pm I take a mandatory 30 min. siesta and my kids get to read or watch TV. After that, my kids get free time and I sit at the computer to blog, promote and check emails. Then dinner, baths, scriptures, and bed!
M.B.: Where do your ideas come from? How do you know the idea is good enough to write a book about it?
AUTHOR: I have way too many ideas all the time about all kinds of different books and stories. For the Veiled series I have a pretty clear picture of what the whole series will be like. I know the characters and I know how they would each react to whatever I feel like subjecting them to. I usually run scenarios in my head while I clean the house. Then I put them on paper, then edit until the thought or scene is just right. Most of my ideas though, come from the scriptures themselves. I might read a few words that send my mind in a total whirlwind! I speculate what was meant by that particular word. Then I look up the same scripture in my Spanish scriptures and see how that specific word was translated and what meaning it carries. Then I let my mind loose and loose it gets…I wouldn’t put any stock on my speculations…but they sure make for a fun ride.
M.B.: When did the idea for this book first come to you?
AUTHOR: I was studying the Pearl of Great Price in Abraham. I was reading about the pre-existence, and then the thought of the veil popped into my head and the question arose— how did we feel standing there, ready to cross over, knowing that we would soon forget everything and everyone?
Then the two main characters came to me, their plight and their fears. I started writing right away the last chapter of my book. Every day after that more and more ideas kept coming and I felt so frustrated because I had no time to write them all. It was like a faucet was turned on full blast and I only had a tablespoon to catch it with.
M.B.: What do you hope readers will get from this book?
AUTHOR: Fun. I want everyone to just sit back and enjoy the ride. I’m not pretending to be very deep or very profound. I wrote this for fun and I want people to read it for the same reason. For those who don’t know the Plan of Salvation, I would like for them to open their minds to the possibility of pre-mortal life. So far I’ve had a great response from those of other faiths; the idea resonates with all of us.
M.B.: What is your process of brainstorming a story? Do you just sit down and write, waiting to see what happens next? Or do you outline first?
AUTHOR: I had no set plans when I started writing Veiled. The story came to me in chunks, as vivid as a movie in my head. It came complete with all the supernatural characters and a picture of Heaven (to me it looked like a Thomas Kinkade painting). I wrote just to see what would happen next; my subconscious seemed to know the story.
But I’m a huge fan of outlines and summaries. So to keep the time line coherent I eventually came up with a summary. I’ve been doing the same with the second book that I’m currently writing. So the answer I guess is Yes, both.
M.B.: Do you ever experience a snag in a story, a form of writer's block? If so, how do you deal with it?
AUTHOR: I think that blocks come when you’re spending too much time writing and not enough time living your own life. I experienced this when I binged one day on writing. I burned out and I got stuck. My mind was tired and I got sick of the story. After that I wrote for only two hours a day and that was it! I’ve had more success this way. While I’m not physically writing, I let the story simmer in my head. I run through several scenarios of how things could work out, and then I pick the best.
M.B.: Do you need absolute quiet to write? Do you listen to music when you are writing?
AUTHOR: I do need quiet. In fact I need quiet and semi darkness. The screen light is enough. I also need Yerba Mate that I drink the traditional Argentine way, out of a wooden cup and a metal straw. (I’ll give you a picture) Yerba Mate has no caffeine, but it derives from it, it’s non habit forming but does have mind alerting properties like the Brazilian Guarana.
M.B.: What kinds of inspiration do you use during your story creation periods?
AUTHOR: Music. That’s perhaps one of the most inspiring tools. Life in general too. I like to people watch, and I examine how they behave. In my mind I narrate in 3dr person what I see as if I were writing it all down. It’s a great exercise!
M.B.: Who has made the greatest difference for you as a writer?
AUTHOR: My mom. She’s been my teacher and mentor since I was little. She is a Literature Professor, and the first person I showed my finished draft. It was scary because she is not an overindulgent parent. In fact she is unable to give a fake compliment. She is painfully honest and she also happened to write a 500 page dissertation on verbs! So when I got her stamp of approval, I knew I could proceed.
M.B.: What’s your secret to making the character’s in your books come to life?
AUTHOR: Making great characters is hard. They need time to become whole. I think that as the story progresses so does your knowledge of the characters. Then you need to go back to the beginning and implement the changes based on what you know of them.
M.B.: Do you use a critique group during the writing process? Why or why not?
AUTHOR: I have trusted friends and family members who read my work and who speculate with me. I belong to writers’ guilds, but I don’t attend meetings because I have no time. But I can always find a willing friend who wants to proof read for me, and I tell them to be brutally honest. I have thick skin.
M.B.: What is something about yourself people don’t know?
AUTHOR: Hmm…I went to Culinary School and I love to cook from scratch. Bread, Tofu, Yogurt, raw chocolate bars, crackers, Rice Milk, Almond Milk, Hemp seed milk. I also sprout all the time…I’m not vegan or raw foodist, but…I’m a bit of a health nut-a-holic. I also do Yoga with incense and I home school my kids.
M.B.: What is your favorite snack to have while you are writing?
AUTHOR: Mate with crackers.
M.B.: What words of advice do you have for other writers who desire to have their manuscripts become books in print?
AUTHOR: Live your life as it now is, enjoy the journey! Read a lot, work on your book every day and never give up.
M.B.: What are you working on now?
AUTHOR: I’m writing the sequel to Veiled, it’s called Living Soul and it chronicles the main character’s life on Earth. The third book, Endless, is in my head. It covers the afterlife and will finish this particular project. I do have 5 other summaries that I’ll tackle once this series is done.
M.B.: Any final words you would like to share
AUTHOR I think I’ve said enough!
M.B.: Where can our readers go to find your books and order them?
AUTHOR: My web site http://www.sbniccum.com or www.amazon.com type in Veiled by S.B. Niccum, otherwise you’ll get to see a whole lot of cleavage! =)
Also you can click HERE to go to Silvina's awesome blog.
Silvina will be giving away a copy of her book, Veiled, to one lucky reader. All you need to do is comment on this post and you will be eligible to win.