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Virtual Book Club: Nik Perring

Today, I’m delighted to welcome Nik Perring to Virtual Book Club, an interview series in which I put questions to authors about their latest releases. If you’d like to pose a question, you’ll have the opportunity to do so at the end.

Nik Perring is a short story writer and the author of five books. His stories have been published in many fine places both in the UK and abroad, in print and online. They’ve won competitions, been used on High School distance learning courses in the US, printed on fliers, and broadcast on radio.

Nik’s short stories have been collected in two books: Not So Perfect (Roastbooks, 2010) and, with Caroline Smailes, Freaks! (The Friday Project/HarperCollins, 2012).

He’s also the author of Beautiful Words: Some Meanings and Some Fictions Too, and the second in the series, Beautiful Trees, is out now.

As readers will know, I am a huge fan of design. Nik’s books are not only beautifully written, they are also exquisite objects; a delight to pick up and hold.

Q: Nik, perhaps you can start by telling us how you came to be a writer.

I’d love to. And thanks for having me here – it’s a lovely place.

I started writing seriously back in 2002 (I think) after I’d been made redundant from my job working for VW. Writing and books were things I’d always loved and, once I had a little time, I took the opportunity to just write and see if I was any good at it. And I was lucky. I had things published if not that year then the following one – features for magazines to begin with and then, a little later, fiction and in 2006 my first book came out. I’m on my fifth now so I’m glad I took that gamble!

Q: Have you had any rejections that have inspired or motivated you along the way?

You know, having been on the other side of things as an editor and working as a judge, I think I’d answer this differently now to how I would a few years ago. Here’s the thing: all writers get rejected. And it’ll hurt them all. The thing to remember is that, an awful lot of the time, stories and books aren’t rejected because they’re rubbish – it’s because an editor will simply prefer something else. And that’s fine. It’s not personal. It just someone’s opinion. If there are any writers out there dealing with rejection, ask yourself this: How many times has someone recommended a book or a film or anything that they think’s all kinds of wonderful, that you’ve watched and not loved it quite so much? (And the best way to deal with rejection: send it somewhere else. Or make it better – that’s what I’ve learned to do. That, and allowing myself to be a bit upset for a bit.)

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Q: If you were trying to describe your writing to someone who hasn’t read anything by you before, what would you say?

Excellent question. Erm: fairy tales for grown ups. Or, in the case of my last two: picture books for grown ups following the lives of three people through their love of trees and words.

Q: Where does Beautiful Trees fit in with the rest of your work?

I guess it kind of fits the tag of being a Nik Perring book. Other people are probably better judging that than I am – but I guess it’s a little odd and quirky, that it has heart, and that there are sad bits in it. And because this in another published by RoastBooks, it’s a beautiful object as well. Miranda Sofroniou’s illustrations are incredible.

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“When we finally grow up, my little sister and I are going to run our own shop, and in this shop we are going to sell coffee, cake, stationary and books like this – books that are a pleasure to hold, a joy to read and a wonder to look at. Nik Perring’s latest book is called ‘Beautiful Words’ but it’s not just the words that are beautiful; the story that flows across its pages is beautiful too as are the illustrations by Miranda Sofroniou.” (extract from Amazon review of Beautiful Words)

Q: Did you incorporate any real life characters into your books? If so how?

I think there are certainly elements of that. But I always like to make stuff up (and that includes my characters) more than I like to base things on real people – that can limit us to only being able to write about what a specific person would do. Far more fun to run with it (although there have been plenty of characters in my books who could have been certain people. I suppose a lot of the time they’re based, in some way, on me or how I see the world).

Q: Regardless of genre, what are the elements that you think make a great novel? Did you consciously ensure all of these are in place?

I think a good novel simply needs to be a good story, well told, with characters we feel something for. And that can mean in a good way where we want them to succeed or when we want to see them get their just desserts. I think a great novel, or story, is one that has all of those things, but that also moves us in some way, makes us feel or see something different, leaves us changed or inspired, or in stitches, laughing. And it needs to come from an honest place. And yes, I try to get those things. I’m not sure I always do!

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Q: Hilary Mantel says that a Catholic upbringing is the only qualification a writer requires. Do you have any writing qualifications?

Well, I wouldn’t argue with her! I don’t have any qualifications as far as writing goes (which is weird as I spend an awful lot of time teaching it). I don’t think everyone needs formal training. I believe people need a good story and the confidence to tell it their way without being embarrassed by themselves or their own voice. Practise helps a lot too, of course.

Q: ‘I’ve always said there are two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. Architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up.’ (George R R Martin) Which are you?

I love that! I’d not heard that before. Oh I’m definitely a gardener. Which makes sense as my latest is called Beautiful Trees! I love the idea of writing to find out what happens, or to answer a question. You know, like: What if we told the story of a relationship through the trees that were significant to the characters…

Q: What advice would you give aspiring writers?

Write for YOU (but keep an eye on your audience). And don’t ever try to sound like a writer. Trust your voice – it’s better than you think.

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Want to find out more?

Nik’s online home is and he’s on Twitter as @nikperring

If you’re quick you can catch his publisher’s Beautiful Bundle Christmas Offer – Three of Nik’s RoastBooks titles for £20.

Remember, if you enjoyed this post please share it. If there’s anything else you’d like to ask Nik, leave a comment.

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And if you’re an author and would like to appear on Virtual Book Club, please fill in a contact form.