Short, Sharp Interview: Nick Wilgus

ccPDB: What’s going on now?

Right now I’m preparing for the release of the fourth Father Ananda mystery, THE CURIOUS CORPSE. The publisher, Crime Wave Press, is also preparing an omnibus edition of the first three books, which I’m looking forward to.

THE CURIOUS CORPSE finds Father Ananda matching wits with the Russian mafia after a Russian woman is murdered at his temple. One of the things that I enjoyed about writing this book was watching Ananda’s sidekick, Jak, begin to grow up. Jak is beginning to realize that life has dealt him a rather harsh hand, and he doesn’t always take it very gracefully. He is also knee deep in his rebellious teenage years, which causes problems of its own.

I’ve always felt that the Father Ananda books weren’t just about Ananda, but Ananda and Jak, and their relationship. They’re a team. They’re a good team. But they’re both a bit wounded in their own ways.

Another element in THE CURIOUS CORPSE is the sad fact that Buddhist monks sometimes get up to genuinely unholy business. We like to put our spiritual figures up on pedestals, whether they deserve it or not. It can be painful to realize they are actually just as human as we are.

PDB: How did you research this book?

I’ve always found the best way to research is to simply pay attention. Listen to the way people talk. Listen to what they talk about. Read the newspapers, see what the issues are, what people are concerned about. You have to be a people watcher. You can research the details—how crimes are committed, how death occurs, what certain injuries do the body, and so on. But much of crime fiction is about motivation and why people do what they do. If you get the motivation right, you can carry the reader along. And the only way to really get at that motivation is to pay attention to people and write about them as they are, and not simply as you imagine them to be.

PDB: Which of your publications are you most proud of?

There are two books that I’m very proud of. The first was MINDFULNESS AND MURDER. I had long been a fan of characters like Father Brown and wanted to do a murder mystery featuring a Buddhist monk. Somehow all of the elements came together in an amazing way with M&M.

I’m also very proud of a book I wrote called SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE, about a gay single father whose deaf son helps him find a boyfriend. It became a bestseller and really struck a chord with a lot of readers.

PDB: What’s your favourite film/ book/ song/ television programme?

Oddly enough, ‘Salem’s Lot has always been my favorite movie. It was a very 1970s sort of movie that was both loved and loathed. I liked the atmospherics, the way a small town was portrayed—all the connections, the relationships—and how quickly chaos ensues when things go wrong.

I think it’s impossible to have a favorite book. I would have to claim anything that Dickens wrote. I can’t get enough of Dickens.

Currently, my favorite television show is The Walking Dead. For some reason, Americans are obsessed with apocalyptic, end of the world scenarios. It’s an interesting exercise, trying to figure out how to survive when society collapses. Why we’re obsessed with the end of the world, I couldn’t tell you…

PDB: Is location important to your writing?
It’s very important. The location should be like a character all to itself since you are interacting with it constantly. I want to know how it feels to be in that location—what it smells like, what it looks like, what the people are like, what the food is like, what makes it different from other locations.

PDB: How often do you check your Amazon rankings?
Not very often, to be honest. As a writer, I don’t have much control over rankings and reviews and how folks respond.

I’m very old school: I write the best book I can and hope readers will realize that and help spread the word.

PDB: What’s next?

Right now, I’m working on a semi-autobiographical tale called RAISE it UP. It’s about what happens when you grow up in a crazy right wing religious environment with the people around you convinced they were living in the End Times. I’m putting a lot of my own experiences into it, things that went on during the 1970s – the Cold War, the constant threat of nuclear bombs falling out of the sky, the fear, the paranoia, the crazy talk about the Antichrist and the end of the world, conspiracy theories, plus all the violence in American society at that time–serial killers, the Hillside Strangler, Manson, Jonestown. All of this is seen through the eyes of a gay teen who loves Barry Manilow and disco and just wants to live a normal life, a kid who is basically the epitome of everything his family and society despises.

I also have a couple of books that will be released over the next year. The third book in the Sugar Tree series, GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAINS, will be out early next year. It tells the story of Wiley and his partner as they adopt two children. The other book is called DEADWORLD: THIS IS HOW IT ENDS, which is about a couple of young friends coping with an apocalypse that includes zombies, UFOs, freak storms and a whole lot more.

Bio: Nick Wilgus sold his first short story to The Horror Show Magazine at the age of seventeen, and has been writing ever since.

Wilgus is the author of the Father Ananda murder-mystery series: MINDFULNESS AND MURDER, SISTER SUICIDE, KILLER KARMA and THE CURIOUS CORPSE. He also wrote the script for the award-winning film SOP MAI NGEAP, based on MINDFULNESS AND MURDER, nominated for Best Screenplay (2012) by the Thai Film Association.

He is also the author of SHAKING THE SUGAR TREE, GET YOUR SHINE ON and several other novels.

After spending almost two decades in Bangkok, he now lives in Tupelo, Mississippi.