Have we got a treat today! Nick Oliva has been a musician, composer, photographer, an audio engineer, an Entertainment Director and a Technical Director, and is a self-made money manager. And he recently opened up an upscale restaurant called Wyatt's in Henderson, Nevada. To add to this impressive list of credits, Nick is also a published author. His book, Only Moments was released by Publish America in June. Nick joins us to chat about this book, his writing process, and what he has in store for the future.
Welcome to The Book Connection, Nick. I'm glad you could stop by.
Thank you for having me here.
Let's start by getting to know you better. What can you tell us about yourself? How long have you been a writer? What do you do in your spare time?
I started in grade school writing for the school newspaper. I have always written poetry and songs, but this is my first novel. I have no formal training, but my homeroom nun who had a Master Degree in English, taught me by the stick and did a great job way back then. We had her from the sixth to the eighth grade so her influence on me on learning English and reading skills was great. We took a test in the eighth grade and I had first year and second year college level reading, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.
I own a restaurant in Las Vegas called Wyatt's (as in Wyatt Earp)and my brother is the Chef. Right now I am marketing the restaurant, trying to do an audio book, trying to make a buck in stock market, doing interviews and promoting "Only Moments" and writing the next book. I think that's enough to keep me busy.
Can you share with us the names of a few of your favorite authors? Do you strive to emulate any of these writers in your own work?
My influential authors are Kurt Vonnegut, Ken Kesey, Henry Miller, Joseph Campbell, the triple "H"s Herman Hesse, Martin Heidegger, Ernest Hemingway, and my personal favorite is Dalton Trumbo. I don't strive to emulate anyone, I think it is a process that develops like DNA through the generations. Their work is imprinted upon my consciousness and it seeps through my thought process as I write.
I enjoy hearing how other writers approach their craft. What is your writing process like? Do you write every day? Is there a time of day when you are more productive than others?
I am up at 6 am and keep an eye on the stock market as I trade options to help keep the wolf away from the door and continue to have the flexibility to allow myself the time to write. I need a sensory deprived environment to keep distractions from me as I write. I can go out to places like Big Sur and Yosemite and take notes but the excitement and rush of being in those places prevents me from allowing my imagination to create my own universe. I mean why bother creating another universe in such beauty that surrounds you? So I take notes and incorporate them at a later time when I'm cut off from the world. Writing is a very intense experience. There are so many ways to approach it that I don't think there is any "one" way to do it and that is what is great about it. You can be driving along and then BAM! There is the elusive tie-in you needed to make something work at a higher level or a new idea that transforms what you've done. It is all about living life and creating. All things influence your thought patterns.
Let's chat about Only Moments. This story begins in the year 2020 and travels back in time to 1970 and then moves forward again. How did you plot this story out? Did you use an outline or a storyboard to keep all the events straight in your head?
No, actually I did it the hard way; I kept it all in my head and that was very difficult and scary at times as I would get paranoid and think that I screwed something up in the timeline. The hardest chapter to write was the disaster of the World Trade Towers. I did a lot of research and in doing so got very emotional and it was difficult to write with so much sadness inside me. I made a couple of bonehead errors because I wasn't thinking properly and caught them just before I sent the manuscript out. That's why I like to be sequestered when I write. In the transfer of emotion many errors crop up because the mind is thinking one thing and the hands are typing another.
In "Only Moments" I started with the middle section as I wanted to record those experiences for posterity and it was an experience that changed my life and outlook on the world at a very young age of 16. Then without knowing where I was going, I realized that I had to create a climax in the future for my characters and began the futuristic conclusion and then went back and wrote the beginning that leads to middle. Once that was done, I rewrote the entire book. Originally I had the beginning in the third person, the 1970's and forward in the first person, and then the climax back to the third and conclusion of the book in the first person as a symbolic device to show that the main character was living in the past, then went back to his roots in the flashbacks, came back to 2020 and his same situation, and then evolves to becoming a new reborn soul, hence the migration back to the first person or a rediscovery. Unfortunately, no one got it, so I rewrote the whole thing in first person. Whew, I get dizzy just thinking about it.
What was the largest challenge in writing a story using this format of time shifting?
Other than keeping your years straight, it is difficult to remember that you are writing how the character speaks in the decade and when they are young you have to make them seem that way. As they get older the intellect grows and the voice has to reflect those years of experience. I made a conscious attempt to build the vocabulary of the characters as they progressed in years and experience. Whether it worked, only the readers feedback will tell if I was successful. The story centers around the unconditional devotion of a man and woman that works its way through the decades.
The first chapter opens with the main character, sixty-six-year-old Chris Vadia's romantic dream of skating in Rockefeller Center with his wife, who had died fifteen years earlier. He is lonely and angry at God for taking his wife away from him. How did you create Chris? Why will readers care about him? What can they relate to?
First and foremost this a love story that shows unlimited devotion even after one mate dies. When we open up the first chapter, we already know Chris' wife is long gone and he has suffered greatly. The depression he allows himself to stay in for so long, changes as he begins to recount the past-though involuntary. The setting of the future, it's technology and the human nature that rarely changes though the ages is exposed during the exposition. The real fun begins when we go back to his youth.
Chris' name was selected as Christopher Columbus was the discoverer of the New World. There are many references hidden, and some not so hidden, such as the letter he writes to the love of his life on Columbus Day about exploring the "new world," and many other references. That sense of discovery is really re-discovery as there is nothing new in the universe, just our awareness of it. Many of us have forgotten and/or forsaken the core essence of who we were in our youth and our values and dreams and it is that re-discovery that the book focuses on and that commonality of re-evaluation that occurs when one reaches the point of middle age and the passing of the torch. The lesson of the book is hope through tragedy, happiness through love of the self. Life has two sides, the ying and yang, the duality of nature. The loss of one so close changes and completely alters the outlook of life and that sadness can only be cured with the understanding and love of the self. Once he accepts his mortality and experiences the things he does (I can't give away the plot) he becomes aware of the miracles that surround us everyday and lives each day knowing it is truly a gift. His long dead wife comes to his aid and puts him back on the path to redemption of the last 15 years of his life.
The romantic relationship between Chris and his girlfriend, who becomes his wife, plays a significant role in Only Moments. Why was it so important to provide the reader with this aspect of Chris' life?
One of the messages of this book was to show that regardless of the age, future, past, or present-the needs and wants of the human heart can never be replaced by technology. The other aspect was to show that regardless that these two people were together twenty-four hours a day and experiencing everything together, they grew apart because of the flaws that each had and those flaws prove to be what made them great as well. Great art comes from imperfection and like the ying and yang, there is always danger in beauty be it the cliffs of Big Sur and rocks below, the infatuation of human beauty, or the spiritual dogma entrenched by centuries of emotional manipulation.
"They believed without doubt, without question."
That is quite a lot to write into a romance novel, but it is what life is all about if one wants to take the time to understand it's meaning and one's place in it.
You used real-life events in this novel and admit that it is semi-autobiographical. Did you ever have a fear of sharing so much of yourself with your readers?
At first yes, but then I realized that in order to take a stand one must make a stand and to not include my inner thoughts and personal experiences would be to short-change the reader and to play it safe just isn't my style. Some of the real life stuff never made it because it wasn't believable! The fiction is the essence of what occurred but the reality was even crazier. The meeting of Delphina (though a different name) on the beach was real, I still have the bell she gave me. The Hatchet Murders, the Zodiac Killer in the area, the young kids who knew of Charlie Manson, Jimmy's sleeping bag on fire, the Buick flying through the air-all that was true. Much more happened but the focus was on "Chris" and not just this escapade. Their separation was a conglomeration of reality and fiction somewhat based on my own first marriage breakup. The New York years mirror my time spent there.
Your website says that "the road, throughout the novel is representative of one's life path and sense of discovery." Can you expand upon this statement? Is there a message that readers will get from this novel?
The message is live life to it's fullest everyday! Don't expect life to treat you kindly and the "road" will be bumpy with potholes and dangerous curves, but it will take you places you have never been as long as you stay on it and that is the important part. Stay on it! Don't give up no matter what. Death is over-rated and the other side is an eternity. I know. I was there. Stay awhile and let time heal and be good to yourself and as the love of Chris' life tells him to remember that "Love is all there is. Never lose that gift."
Here's an important question. Where can we order Only Moments?
Barnes and Noble, Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, Your Books Cheap, Harvard Booksellers, Spotlight Books, Big Rock Media, The Book Depository or go to http://www.onlymomentsbook.com and hit the Links header.
What's up next for you? Are there any future projects you would like to tell us about?
I am trying to put the book in an audio format and then begin my next book on my death cross-over from flatlining when I was recovering from an abscess infection of the lower spine three years ago.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
The Backstory that I placed on my website for the novel is as intriguing as the novel itself. Much like the character Chris, I came back with a different understanding and as I fought to come back to the living, the transition left me with a totally changed perspective. It was my life imitating my own art. It showed me that the things I believed in, the core of my beliefs, were really right in line with what I went through. This reinforcement of my life's search renewed the vigor of discovery within me and regardless of the medical problems that I face daily, I live life knowing what is to come and unafraid of death.
Many people avoid wanting to talk with me about it. I think their religious beliefs or perhaps their own disbelief of anything metaphysical keeps them from wanting to hear the experience. It is almost as if it is a threat to their perceived "blanket of security" that their faith and/or lifestyle keeps them from being open minded to other possibilities of life after death. It is not just strangers and friends, it extends to my own family. No one wants their applecart upset.
To get back to the book, the wonderful experience of love in it's many forms is central to book's core. Self-love is just as important as the love we have for others and whomever that "special" person is.
To repeat Angela's phrase, "Love is all there is. Never lose that gift." May we all be blessed with a good life.
Thank you Nick for sharing so much about your life and your work. I wish you much success.