//beautiful books: nano 2016

It’s approaching that time of year. This will be my tenth ‘novel writing month,’ between Novembers, Junes, and the one Camp Nano stuck in there somewhere. I can call myself a NaNo veteran now. Sky and Cait put up another Beautiful Books questionnaire, as they do every year, and never before have I felt so completely unqualified to answer said questions. This year’s novel is surprisingly non-conducive to question-answering, because a) it’s in a paradoxically well-formed, yet vague, stage and b) the questions imply a single main character and not an entire group of them. Unfortunately, ‘entire groups’ are rather my schtick these days, which means…I bombed this questionnaire. That being said, most people have no clue what I’m writing for NaNo this year, and whether I bombed the questionnaire or not it needs to be posted.

So without further gilding the lily, I present Nihilum: NaNo 2016.


  1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea? My novels are melting pots of ideas I’ve been throwing into a cauldron for years. (I kid you not, most novels have been simmering for a minimum of three years.) The first idea for this novel actually began about four years ago, with the idea for a story called ‘Nihilum’ about a project attempting to un-create psychopaths. I had an idea a year later for a book about project Cerebrum, and the creating of telepaths. I’ve always been fascinated by psychology and have spent much of the last year researching psychopathy and various mental disorders, and so on some levels Nihilum feels like the culmination of four years of planning. I am very much looking forward to finally getting this thing written.
  2. Describe what your novel is about! The novel is about two South Korean/American programs called Nihilum and Cerebrum. Nihilum focuses on the creation and utilization of psychopaths or people with high-functioning mental disorders, and Cerebrum focuses on the creation and utilization of ‘scanners,’ or people with telepathic abilities. Both are intended for use in undercover work, but when news of a rogue Nihilum agent comes to the surface, one task force of expendable misfits from each team is assigned to work together and find the rogue operative before he does incalculable damage. I’ve always been very fascinated by the question ‘are monsters born or made,’ and the consequences either answer holds, so answering that question is a huge part of the novel.
  3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like! This question had me stumped. I’ve never written a novel with Nihilum’s aesthetic before. It’s old, familiar territory and at the same time it’s brand-new. I think Nihilum will have to discover its aesthetic in November. Although you could take a look at my self-imposed stack of required reading to get a general sense of the aesthetic, probably.
  4. Introduce us to each of your characters! Once again, I’m using a fairly large cast – the Nihilum and Cerebrum task forces are each comprised of four people, and then there are various other key and minor characters to deal with. I don’t have the time to introduce them all, but you’ll see more of them during NaNo.
  5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?) I don’t prepare so much as stew. I just stew and stew and stew. I jot down each new idea on a sticky note or in a notebook somewhere and I pray I don’t forget where said idea is. Some ideas fall by the wayside or end up in other novels, but in the end each novel is just the result of me stewing for ages until the time is right. And all I can do is hope the ingredients work and I don’t under/overcook the result.
  6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel? The answer is twofold: I’m looking forward to exploring what I know of mental disorders + behavioral psychology, and I’m looking forward to the group dynamics. I’m a sucker for group dynamics.
  7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting. I’m so, so unhelpful with this questionnaire. So unhelpful. It begins in Seoul, it travels to the U.S., and the setting involves parking garages and church buildings.
  8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way? As a team, their goal is to capture rogue agent Anubis – who also happens to be the figure standing in their way.
  9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel? All these questions involving a single character. Each character changes in different ways, which leads into the next question…
  10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over? The theme of the book is: can the bad guys become good guys? And I hope readers can feel satisfied and hopeful, which isn’t usually how I feel after a thriller but here’s hoping!


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