This week we are spotlighting Nicole Mayor who is the author of The Question of Lahash. Nicole grew up in Utah, and now after almost twenty years of living overseas and on both U.S. coasts, she is back in Utah. She spent twelve of the last twenty years living in northern Virginia, and she considers that her second home. She served seven years in the United States Air Force, and during that time she met and married her husband George, an Army veteran. They have two beautiful children, who are also aspiring writers.
4-U-Nique Publishing: The Question of Lahash is an amazing book. Do you mind telling our readers more about your book?
Nicole Mayor: The Question of Lahash is a fictional story that appeals to both young adults and adults alike. It is a snapshot into the life of Lahash, which is the stage name for a rock singer who dabbles on the dark side. The story is told from the perspective of Kate, a celebrity magazine columnist. Kate and Lahash come together for an interview which leads to some family revelations and profound changes in both of their lives.
4UNP: Excellent. Would you give us insight into your main character? What does he/she do that is so special or rare?
NM: Lahash is the focus of the story, although he is revealed through Kate. So the reader will get to know Kate as a writer who finds herself in a career lull until she meets Lahash. What’s special about her is her belief in the human spirit, and the guts to encourage and seek out change. She is principled, and those principles lead her to care about Lahash when the people closest to him didn’t.
4UNP: Who is your favorite character in your book and why?
NM: One of my favorite characters in the book is Markus, Kate’s friend, and neighbor. Juxtaposed to Lahash, he embodies everything good that Lahash lacks. He is secure in who he is and is a strength and support to Kate when she needs it.
4UNP: Who is your least favorite character and why?
NM: My least favorite character is Jill, and that is made very clear right in the beginning. She is a minor character, but she illustrates perfectly a selfish woman who will step on whomever she must get what she wants. She is the petty receptionist in Kate’s office.
4UNP: How long did it take you to complete this book?
NM: Just the writing, putting one paragraph after another, it took me about six months to write the book.
4UNP: What inspired you to write this book?
NM: Many years ago, I was driving in my car and I heard the last little bit of an interview with the rocker Marilyn Manson. He was talking about his girlfriend, a French circus performer, and the “gift” she had given him for his birthday. It was an aborted fetus, basically preserved in a pickling jar. Manson thought it was great; I was disgusted by it. Sort of like when you can’t look away from a train wreck, I kept listening, horrified by this man and his life. In the end, the interviewer commented that Manson had essentially pushed the envelope as far as he could, and the only thing left for him to do to shock people would be to “do the normal thing.” Manson laughed and agreed that the truly “alternative lifestyle” for him would be what everyone else would consider normal. That got me thinking. I wondered if a man like him (Lahash was based on him in part) could really change and go on to live a normal life. This book is what became of those musings.
4UNP: How did you become interested in writing and becoming an author?
NM: It’s funny, in high school I had to write a Ten-Year Plan for my life, and detail it as close to reality as possible. What I thought would happen in the ten years after high school. I wrote that I would marry an author. Well, of course, that didn’t happen, but I may have had the desire deep down to be an author myself. I got a poem published in a book once, and that was exciting. Also, my kids encouraged me to finally write this story I kept talking about. So I did.
4UNP: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively as an author?
NM: I’ve learned to be open to alternate outcomes. When I started writing The Question of Lahash, I had a specific ending in mind, but as I wrote, the story started to shift slightly, and I wound up going in a different direction – with a better conclusion. Additionally, I’ve become more open to outside input, particularly from my husband. I didn’t incorporate all of his suggestions, but he saw things I didn’t and being open to them improved the story, in my opinion.
4UNP: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?
NM: I prefer to take inspiration as it comes. Of course, you must have a framework to begin with, but I wouldn’t want to limit myself to a preplanned outline. New ideas came as I sat at the keyboard thinking of the details of what was happening, things I hadn’t thought of at the outset.
4UNP: Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
NM: No, I didn’t have a special time to write; I had to be in the mood to write. It usually happened in the evenings when my day’s duties were wrapping up, and I could focus better.
4UNP: Do you listen to music or watch TV while you write?
NM: No, I prefer it to be quiet when I write. I even close the door to my office to limit distractions.
4UNP: What is the hardest thing about writing?
NM: For me, the hardest thing about writing is just getting started. Once I get going on a thread of thought it gets easier. The other difficult part is breaking away from clichés and finding more unique descriptions. I kept the thesaurus handy.
4UNP: What challenges did you face in your process of writing, and publishing your book?
NM: In writing my book, the biggest challenge was linking everything together, so it made sense. I had to go back and fill in sections that had loose ends. The publishing process was not what I expected; however, as a first-time author, I was grateful that someone wanted to publish it. The frustrating part, on the first release, was getting the cover right. My choices were limited with the previous publisher (who subsequently went out of business). We went back and forth for months trying to nail down an appropriate cover design. Stock photos can only get you so far; working with an independent designer who can create your vision from scratch is a better way to go if you can make that happen.
4UNP: Who is publishing your book and why did you choose them to publish your book?
NM: 4-U-Nique Publishing is re-releasing my book. After my first publisher went out of business, I was lucky enough to be introduced via social media to Vid Lamonté Buggs Jr, who took on my book and put it out there again. Vid and his company offer various levels of publishing services, and they really work to get things done right.
4UNP: If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
NM: One of my favorite books of all time is called These Is My Words by Nancy Turner. The intentional bad grammar in the title initially turned me off, but as I read the story, I realized that it made perfect sense. It’s written as journal entries from an uneducated girl living in the wild western frontier of the late 1800’s and develops into the more mature writings of a woman who lives an incredible life of hardships and humor – whose love of reading leads her to become self-educated, and her grammar improves as the book develops. Her love story with Captain Jack Eliot is something I would have been proud to write because it is not so much a romance as it is a hard-won, deep love between two people who earn each other’s respect. She created a hero and heroine that are about as imperfectly perfect in their respective roles as could be done. I laughed and cried as I read this story. If only someone would make it into a movie!
4UNP: What book are you currently reading or just finished?
NM: I started a neighborhood book club. We just finished reading Same Kind of Different As Me and I am currently reading A Man Called Overfor the same book club. Outside of my book club, I am also intermittently reading The Genesis Six Conspiracy which is a monster of a book. It will take me a while to conquer that one. I literally have books stacked on my nightstand that I can’t wait to read, as well as multiple books on my Kindle that I haven’t started yet.
4UNP: Is there a book you love you’d like to recommend to others?
NM: Yes – everyone should read The 5000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen.
4UNP: If your book were made into a movie, whom would you cast and why?
NM: It would be amazing to watch my story come to life in a movie, and I’ve thought about it a lot. With all that thinking, I honestly can’t decide who I would cast for the main characters. I’d almost prefer lesser-known actors because then they wouldn’t be associated with previous roles or their real-life personas.
4UNP: Do you have another project in the works? If so, How about a teaser?
NM: Yes, I am in the very beginning stages of my next book. Many people have asked about a sequel to The Question of Lahash but, quite honestly, I couldn’t decide on a follow-up story that I really got excited about. So instead I’m writing another story I’ve been thinking about for a long time. New characters, different setting, but Lahash’s life will be interwoven, sort of as a side story. I like the idea of threading the lives of my characters together even remotely. This setting for this new book is a restaurant in Virginia, and it has a political twist. I’m somewhat of a news junkie, and I think writing a book about American politics, without alienating either side, would be a fun challenge.
4UNP: What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer?
NM: One lesson I have learned is that you, the writer, get to make up whatever you want. That ought to be self-evident, but it’s not. I found myself asking throughout the writing process, how is this supposed to be? What should the details be? Would someone else describe it this way? And several times I had to remind myself that there is no prescribed right or wrong content because it’s your story. You get to make it up! My brother got a degree in jazz guitar, and with the fluidity of jazz, he wasn’t sure he was improvising right, even in the correct note. One of his professors said, “If it sounds good, it’s good.” You could apply that to fictional writing as well.
4UNP: Any advice for aspiring authors?
NM: If you want to be a writer, you have to write. Constructing sentences in our head is fine for daydreaming, but eventually, you must put pen to paper. Or let’s be real, finger to keyboard. Even putting a little more effort into emails is good practice. In the Air Force, I oversaw the “delinquent document” list, among other things, and I had to reduce those delinquent records. My flight chief emailed me once and asked me what I thought could be done to improve on that list. I thought about it and wrote back a detailed response, giving him various options. For some reason, I decided against giving him the short and sweet. His reply to that thoughtful email was one I’ll always remember. He complimented my writing skills, and my ability to think through a problem, and then said he saw great things in my future. That was a confidence booster. So use even your mundane writing as a chance to practice and improve.
4UNP: Tell us something unique about you.
NM: Well not many people can say that their mother is homeless – not by necessity, but by choice. She has other options, but her (undiagnosed) mental illness has her believing that that’s the only way to be truly free. She used to be an assistant attorney general in her home state, and later was a staff attorney for the Utah Medical Association, so she’s very accomplished. How does that make me unique? I’d say that a lifetime of experience with my mom, both the good and bad, has taught me a lot about the human spirit, as well as the Holy Spirit. Learning from those tutors has influenced my life and changed how I see people in some ways. That will probably always seep into whatever I write.
4UNP: How can readers discover more about you and where can we find The Question of Lahash?
4UNP: Thank you for your time and for allowing us all to know more about your story as an author and a person.
Everyone, please get your copy of The Question of Lahash today.
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