1. When did you start writing?
"There were a few starting points for me! I started writing comics and short stories when I was really little, probably seven or eight I’d say. I started seriously pursuing writing when I was eighteen, and then I went to school for screenwriting. I got back in touch with my fiction roots right around graduation, and I haven’t looked back since."
2. Where do you draw inspiration?
"For me, it’s an interesting thing where each project is entirely different. I don’t know if 'method writing' is a thing, but if it is, then that’s what I do. I’m very research-oriented, so I’ll tend to dive into a subject and learn as much as I possibly can about it, immerse myself in it, before getting started. But once I’m in a project, I draw a lot from music. I make playlists for each of my projects that I cycle through while working. I take a lot of walks, too. No matter what I’m working on, being out in nature always helps. Getting outside of my regular environment and doing something that forces me out of my perspective, makes me remember how small I am in the grand scheme of things."
3. Could you share your process and thoughts on writing?
"My process tends to shift to suit the story. I wrote Here’s Waldo over the course of six years, and the first draft was written in little thirty minute bursts on my lunch break, mostly out of necessity at the time, but I’m actually glad it happened that way. I tended to write myself into narrative problems that I’d then have to either further complicate or solve the next day, and it helped for ramping up a lot of the tension and conflict that Waldo went through growing up. Then for The Brother We Share, I did this thing that I’ll probably never do again where I wrote the entire thing chronologically, in the same time period as the book. So the novel took place mostly from July 2020 to January 2021, and I wrote it from July 2020 to January 2021. I took a little break before going back and doing edits, but that first draft was nonstop, daily writing for six months. So yeah, it was a very different process from Here’s Waldo, which was a very different process from everything else I’d done up till then."
4. How did The Brother We Share come about? When did you realize you had material for a novel?
"This was something I knew I had to write eventually. I couldn’t walk away from it. This is fictional, but every character in the book is a real person. It takes a real event, a suicide attempt that I survived back in 2016, and it looks at what could’ve happened if I hadn’t survived. How that would’ve affected my brothers, my friends who became brothers. So the book explores their grief and their recovery from each of their perspectives, with each chapter being from the POV of one of them. This was something I wanted to talk about and explore for a while, but I needed some time and distance from the event. Then, when the pandemic first hit and we were all stuck inside anyway, with all that early fear and uncertainty, I knew that it was time for me to do this. It just felt right. If I’m being honest, I wrote it for me, and for my brothers. I wasn’t sure if it would be picked up, but I knew I had to write it. Then, when Anti-Heroin Chic published my flash version of The Brother We Share, and Cleaver Magazine picked up an excerpt from the book, I figured I might be onto something. That it could maybe resonate with others who had struggled with issues of mental health, of grief, of recovery. This project scared me more than anything I’d ever worked on before, but I knew I had to do it. I felt like if I could survive what I survived, I had to do something with that. I had to make all that pain mean something. So this book is my reclamation."
5. You’ve written and published a novel before The Brother We Share. Was it easier writing a second novel after writing Here’s Waldo?
"I think it was a little easier, process-wise. And it helped having that experience, knowing that I could do it, that something could happen with the story once I was done with it. It was emotionally more difficult than Here’s Waldo, and Waldo was pretty tough. But God was it cathartic. I don’t think I could ever express the feeling I had when it was done. It was a story I knew I had to write. For five years, I knew that. So as hard as it was to face it, the words just poured out of me once it was finally time."
6. Tell me the origin story of (mac)ro(mic). What is your vision for the future of your magazine?
"I had worked for some really incredible mags before I started (mac)ro(mic). I was Assistant Editor at The Citron Review and Associate Editor at Cease, Cows before that. I’ve said it before, but without those mags, (mac)ro(mic) wouldn’t exist. It was such a formative experience, and getting to work with Susannah and Chuck at C,C and Angela at Citron was just incredible. I had always had this dream of running my own mag, and so one day I just said screw it and did it. I made a site for it, solicited work from some writers I admired, opened up subs, and the rest was history. It’s been an absolute dream seeing what this magazine has become in three years. Just absolutely unreal. Then recently, I was so excited to get to make (mac)ro(mic) a paying market. That in itself was another dream come true, so the future of the mag will be all about pushing even further into what’s possible in the literary world, seeking out the absolute best work from folks (both established and brand new), and paying them to be able to feature it. I can’t wait."
7. What other project(s) do you hope to take on?
"I’m working on something now, actually! It’s a novel-in-flash, a perspective-swapping project that tackles love and memory, family and futures, and it’ll range from the distant past to the distant future, even post-anthropocene in places. It’s very different from Waldo and TBWS, and I think I did that on purpose. I had these two very personal, very hard works, and now I want to stretch my legs a bit and push myself again, but in a different way. I’m really excited to share, too, that one of the pieces in this novel-in-flash was just recently picked up by Sledgehammer Lit, so folks will get to read that in late October!"
8. What do you hope people take away from your work?
"I hope my writing makes people feel a little less alone. I hope it helps them examine their own lives and memories and find just a little bit of peace there, whatever that looks like for them."
9. What writing advice do you find totally useless?
"Anything that’s overly prescriptive. My eyes tend to glaze over whenever folks get into shoulds or musts. I guess it goes back to my own process of not really having a set process, but I feel like whatever works for that specific writer on that specific project is correct. There are pieces and projects that I followed all the rules and advice for that went nowhere, then there’s work I just let come out of me, rules be damned, that landed. No one knows you and your work better than you."
10. And finally, what do you enjoy doing that you don’t talk about enough. Tell me all about it!
"I don’t know if this counts since it tends to make its way into my writing, but I’m very passionate about exploring the digital landscapes and worlds that exist in video games. It’s been a part of my identity since I was a kid, and it’s been so exciting getting to watch this go from something that was looked on as a nerdy pastime or 'just for kids' to becoming an artform in its own right, with sprawling, immersive worlds and top-notch writing and acting. It’s also a great mental reset for me. I played quite a bit of Fallout 76 while writing The Brother We Share, and it really helped to dive into a world that was so different from what I was working on. To have these two very different but complementary types of exploration. And then of course getting to go from writing my brothers reminiscing on when they used to play video games with me when I was 'still here' to actually getting to play online with them in this world where I somehow made it was such a victory. Such a happiness."
Hear Nick read an excerpt from The Brother We Share titled "San Andreas Heaven."
Nick Olson (he/they) is the author of the novels Here's Waldo and The Brother We Share and is the Editor-in-Chief of (mac)ro(mic). Originally from Chicagoland, he now lives in North Carolina. He’s been published in SmokeLong Quarterly, Hobart, Fiction Southeast, and other fine places. Find him online at nickolsonbooks.com or on Twitter @nickolsonbooks.
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