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Q & A with Scott Nicholson,

author of The Red Church

Scott Nicholson lives in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. The Red Church will be released as a mass market paperback in June 2002 by Pinnacle Books. His story collection "Thank You For The Flowers" was nominated for a Stoker Award.

Nicholson has sold fiction to 40 publications in seven different countries and won the grand prize in the 1999 Writers of the Future Contest. He has worked as a journalist, radio announcer, carpenter, dishwasher, and painter. He studied Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina and Appalachian State University. Nicholson’s virtual home is www.hauntedcomputer.com.

Q: Where did you get the idea for The Red Church?

Scott: When I was studying broadcast production at Appalachian State University, I did a video project on an old local church that was purported to be haunted. All kinds of legends made the rounds that didn’t match the historical record- that the founder had committed adultery and then hanged himself at the church, that his grave was set apart from the others in the cemetery due to the scandal, and that the church had been moved from the edge of the river to get away from his restless spirit. That was the seed of the story, though all the details in my novel are solely the products of my imagination.

Every town has a "haunted" church or house. Everybody knows a "true" ghost story. And I think the Southern Appalachian setting of the novel adds to its mystique. Who can walk past a wooded church graveyard on a dark night without picking up the pace a little and fighting the urge to take a backward glance?

Q: How scary is your novel? Should the reader leave the lights on?

Scott: Some of the elements are traditional to the horror genre, but frightening the reader is not my primary goal. To me, The Red Church is a novel about faith. Thirteen-year-old Ronnie is at that point where he’s beginning to question some of the contradictions in his Baptist upbringing. Ronnie’s mother is lured by the charisma of Archer McFall, who may be the devil or may be just another opportunist. Sheriff Frank Littlefield’s faith has been shaken because he blames God for the death of his younger brother years before. During the writing of the book, I was interested in developing how the different characters reacted to the same set of strange circumstances.

Some people have told me that just seeing the cover sends a chill up their spine, so if you like a good scare in the safety of your own home, then you’ll enjoy those aspects of the novel as well.

Q: Several writers such as Sharyn McCrumb and Bentley Little have compared your work to Stephen King’s. How do you feel about that?

Scott: Naturally, it’s very flattering, since King is the most popular writer in history. I strive to reach a large audience, and I hope my novels will have a similar commercial appeal. But I’m just getting started at this game, and he is a master. His writing proves that good characters are still the heart and soul of good storytelling, no matter the genre.

Q: What writers have influenced you?

Scott: My favorites are John Steinbeck, William Goldman, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Ira Levin, and H.G. Wells. I can’t say I’ve been influenced by any specific writer, although all those styles and more probably got mixed together into a mental stew without my noticing. I’m more influenced by the people I meet in daily life, and my characters tend to be blue-collar and rural, while most thriller writers stick with the tried-and-true favorites such as lawyers, forensics experts, and big-city detectives.

But I think farmers, carpenters, and small-town journalists are just as interesting as those stock characters. Often, their motivations are more revealing of human nature than the high-profile struggles of more glamorous types of characters. After all, there’s no such thing as an ordinary person, and the characters in The Red Church are individuals with their own hopes, fears, weaknesses, and strengths. I believe people who read the novel will see a little bit of themselves in there and will close the book feeling that the story was worth their time and money.

This interview is uncopyrighted and may be freely published or distributed. For more information, contact Scott Nicholson. To learn more about the book, visit its official webpage

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