Recently, we had the opportunity to talk with L. R. Nicolello, a woman who exemplifies everything we strive for here at Model Behaviors—creativity, kindness, friendship, and amazing life accomplishments. Growing up, her parents instilled the belief that women can be strong without losing their femininity. She still abides by this belief today, and it guides the strong female characters she creates.
When Nicolello and her husband aren’t traveling, they hang their hats in Texas with their ninety-pound dog. “Dead Don’t Lie” is her first novel, and her second novel, “Dead No More,” was just released on Monday, January 5. She is currently working on number three. Model Behaviors is so thrilled and honored to introduce our friend L.R. Nicolello!
* Learn how you can win a signed copy of “Dead Don’t Lie” at the end of this interview.
MB: When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?
LRN: Since a fourth grade assignment where we had to write and bind our own stories. While the other students groaned and complained, I jumped right into things with probably a little too much enthusiasm, but it sparked something inside of me that I couldn’t ignore. I still have that book.
MB: How did you discover your style?
LRN: I would say my writing is heavy on suspense with an undercurrent of light romance. And truth be told, I wanted to write a strong female protagonist who kicked ass but was still soft enough to let people in because I believe woman are capable of both.
MB: We’re right there with you. We love us some strong, kick-ass women with a touch of softness and vulnerability. Is there anyone in your real life that inspired the main character, Evelyn?
LRN: I’m not a plotter by any means but more of an organic writer, so seeing Evelyn come to life on the page was a special journey in itself, and really took me by surprise. She’s a little bit broken, but courageous…fierce, but soft. She toes the line, but isn’t afraid to push that same line if need be. I completely fell in love with her as I wrote her story. And while none of my characters are taken directly from any one person, I can see the absolute best traits in my closest girlfriends embodied in her, which is why I dedicated “Dead Don’t Lie” to them.
MB: So even though the characters aren’t based on real-life people, your setting is a very real place—Seattle, WA. How did you choose Seattle for your setting? Was there a personal connection?
LRN: Oh yes, I have a connection with each city that my books are set in. If I don’t love a place, I can’t write about it, but Seattle has stolen my heart. I absolutely love everything about the city—the misty days, the cool evenings, the people watching, the fish throwing, and the lavender stand. We were there at Thanksgiving, and as I walked the markets, I could see Evelyn in my mind.
MB: It’s a beautiful, beautiful city, and I’m excited to see how it comes to life in your book. Could you share with us where the sequel “Dead No More” is set?
LRN: Believe it or not, “Dead No More” is set in Omaha, Nebraska. My folks were stationed at the Air Force base there, and I fell in love with the river walk and downtown area when I went to visit them.
MB: It’s fun to know how the personal is interwoven with the fictional. Now, from what I understand, Evelyn is up against a pretty disturbed serial killer. What drew you to the darker parts of the story, and how did you balance the romantic parts?
LRN: I’ve always been fascinated by what makes people tick—the good and the bad—and even looked into a career as a forensic psychologist while in college. I switched to English after my favorite professor counseled me against it, saying my heart was too soft for that type of darkness day in and day out. He was right, and even now I can’t watch super dark movies without walking away disturbed.
But that being said, darkness that disturbs people is what allows protagonists to shine, and in “Dead Don’t Lie” I just let it happen as the story took shape. I’ve heard it said that the villain is the hero of his own story, and despite my villain’s methods, he was being just that—a hero.
Balance is always something authors strive for, and I wish I could give you a formula that I use, but I can’t because writing suspense comes naturally to me. Writing romance does not, at all. Creating that balance really challenged and stretched me as an author.
MB: Definitely! It’s always a good idea to push ourselves and attempt things we aren’t sure we can actually do. How interesting that the romance was the hardest part for you. How come? Were there specific writing challenges? If so, what helped you overcome them?
LRN: One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received was, “Don’t write to a genre. Write the story of your heart.” I think that’s what made writing the “romance” part of this so difficult. I didn’t sit down to write a particular genre, but a female protagonist I was proud of. Since suspense is what I love to read, I naturally figured that would be what I wrote. So when the romance started to play out in the novel, I freaked out a bit. Sex is a very private thing to me. So after talking it over with my husband and researching how other authors I respect wrote their love scenes, I was able to settle on a—what the industry calls—“fade to black” type love scene. Staying true to my voice helped me overcome that initial challenge. Even still, when it was out on submission, several of my dream publishers passed on it because the romance was “too light.”
MB: “Staying true to ourselves” is a theme that we’ve been noticing with successful women who have conquered their dreams. In fact, in our last interview with Kathy Donovan, she experienced a similar moment in her life, when she realized that she needed to listen to her heart and try something scary, risky, and a little bit crazy. What advice would you give to our readers who may be facing their own inner struggles?
LRN: My advice is simple and I don’t think it’s easy, but it is definitely worth it—Be true to yourself! It may take longer to get there, but I’d rather take the road less traveled and stay true to myself than to give in to the “status quo” and not recognize myself when I “got there.”
MB: Great advice! Thank you so much for your time. We know what a busy woman you are with the sequel coming out and traveling with your company, Kharis Media. You truly demonstrate Model Behaviors!
For more information about “Dead Don’t Lie” and the sequel, “Dead No More,” visit L. R. Nicolello’s author website. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Don’t forget to enter our giveaway where you could win a signed copy of “Dead Don’t Lie.” It ends Tuesday, January 13, at 11:59 p.m. Central!