North East Author Lucy Nichol1

In Conversation with North East Author Lucy Nichol

Caroline Dask sits down with the North East author Lucy Nichol to discuss her books, mental health and upcoming events…

‘No worries if not’ is a phrase that flies around here quite often at Luxe HQ and to set the record straight, we’re not necessarily proud of it.

However the book, ‘No Worries If Not’ by the North East author Lucy Nichol is on the list of must-have periodicals, especially for those of us who have been accustomed to the phrase and use it in our daily office lingo.

It’s a feminist comedy novel taking place in Newcastle which follows Charlotte as she embarks on her mission to stop saying sorry, once and for all. It was published by HarperCollins in 2023 and has made it into our list of ‘Best Books of 2023‘ for looking into why women are so seemingly obsessed with apologising.

Lucy Nichol is now embarking on various book events across the North East talking about her books, being a published author, and finding the right agent.

We sit down to have a chat with Lucy about all of the above…

What was your life before you became a published author?

So, I have always worked in PR so I’ve been in the writing world for quite some time. Over the years, I’ve worked in-house at theatre companies for cultural services departments, universities and most of my work was around finding stories and sharing them. I did a lot of creative writing and then I started blogging. I was blogging about my journey with mental health and understanding stigma.

And from there, I was approached to write a book based on a lot of my blog entries. I stopped working in-house and became a freelancer, which gave me a lot more spare time to write. I can now work around evenings and weekends. So I just mix up my hours and write, write, write…

Your latest book ‘No Worries If Not’ explores the theme of women saying sorry too much. What prompted you to delve into this topic?

So it was a conversation with my publisher who had read some of my previous work and asked if I’d be interested in writing a rom-com. We talked about the idea that women apologise too much. And then I just came up with this story about it. The first thing that I wrote, which is about a third of the way through the book, was inspired by my trip to see the nurse and to have a smear test when I realised that I apologised for having a tilted cervix.

To me that just epitomised being overly apologetic as a woman. Then when I reflected, I realised that I signed off my emails with ‘no worries if not’, or I would apologise before presenting a good idea, which devalued it. I realised that being overly apologetic was something I had always done throughout my life.

Then I thought that it possibly has something to do with my imposter syndrome, and this idea that I didn’t really deserve to be where I was. Speaking with friends and colleagues, I realised that so many people felt like that, particularly women, which is why I wrote it as a feminist comedy, looking at some of the things that may have influenced us to feel like imposters or to feel like we’re not as deserving growing up.

Could you tell us about your writing process? Do you have any rituals or routines?

I do a lot of writing when I feel like it needs to come out of me rather than thinking: ‘Right, between 9 and 11 today, I am going to write’. This is going to sound ridiculous, but I do a lot of writing from my bed, just because for some reason at that time, I feel the most creative.

If I’ve got a writing deadline, I will take myself off somewhere and write from somewhere else just to get out of the house and feel a bit more energised creatively.

When I wrote my first novel, I just started writing and it just took a lot of different turns. But now, I like to have a synopsis plan. For ‘No Worries If Not’ I wrote up a full synopsis and a bit of a chapter breakdown that I shared with my publisher before I started writing. I’ve done that with the book that I’m currently writing as well, I plotted the whole thing out and then started writing it.

So whilst I write on a whim, in terms of the time of day that I’m writing, I do like to have a plan of where the book is going. I never stick to it 100%, but it helps me to have that steer.

How do you incorporate humour into your writing, especially when tackling serious subjects like mental health stigma? Why do you think it’s important to do that?

No Worries If Not by Lucy Nichol

I think if you do it right and you do it sensitively, it just adds a bit of light to a topic that can otherwise be quite heavy. If I’m writing a scene in a book where a character is having a panic attack, I will not write any humour into that because that would minimise the experience of it. Similarly for ‘No Worries If Not’, where I had a slightly darker scene to write, for example, the scenes about sexual harassment, I didn’t throw humour and the comedy into them.

But what I think is important is to have some light relief as well. So at the end of the day, if somebody is experiencing a mental health problem, it doesn’t mean that their personality is dark and miserable. Certain moments in their life might feel like that but that isn’t who they are. So, that’s why I think humour in stories that also tackle those issues helps to bring personalities out and gives the reader that contrast between light and dark.

Your novels take place in the North East, particularly in Newcastle. Does the region influence your storytelling?

Absolutely! I think it’s really important to have more stories set in the North. We’ve got some wonderful places and in ‘Parklife’ and ‘The Twenty Seven Club’ I very much explored my old stomping grounds in Hull. I just thought it was really good to show some of the local areas and the fringe music scene in my books.

With ‘No Worries If Not’, its got a little bit silly at times with the storyline, almost ‘Bridget Jonesy’ in the way that all these ridiculous things happen to the central character. We often see those kinds of stories set in London and I wanted to show Newcastle in that light.

Not portraying a dark, gritty Northern town but showing Newcastle for what it is and how beautiful it is. The Quayside, The Law Courts and the gorgeous Millennium Bridge…

You’ve worked with both traditional publishers like HarperCollins and self-published some of your work. What are the advantages and challenges of each approach?

When you’ve got a publisher like Harper Collins behind you, it’s just a big endorsement stamp. People are going to take you more seriously. So it’s really good for your profile and for people putting confidence in your work. It really helps having the support of their editorial team, their marketing team and their distribution team and getting your book out there.

The benefits of self-publishing are you can write exactly what you want and not have to worry as much about how commercial the book is. With the ‘Twenty Seven Club’ and ‘Parklife’, I was writing about using backdrops for a lot of the music that I loved growing up and while a book like that is probably never going to fly off supermarket shelves, it does have an audience.

Even when self-publishing, I’ve found a lovely readership, reader communities, different music fan pages and things like that. And there’s no gatekeeper saying whether or not my book is commercial enough. I’ve just made that decision to get it out there. And I’ve sold about 6,500 copies now of those books, so it’s doing well.

But I have also pulled together my own freelance team, because even when you’re self-publishing, you can’t do it on your own. I work with a typesetter, an editor, a cover designer, a Facebook marketer. So, it’s certainly not like you’re doing it on your own, but you do have a lot more freedom with what you’re putting out there.

How did you transition from being self-published to traditionally published?

Before I self-published the ‘Twenty Seven Club’ and ‘Parklife’ my agent had sent those manuscripts out. When she sent ‘Twenty Seven Club’ it wasn’t successful but a few publishers said they really loved the style and the voice, however they found the subject matter a bit too niche.

So, it wasn’t commercial enough. But what happened during that process was that Genevieve Pegg from Harper North approached my agent and said that what I was writing was a bit too niche, a bit too dark. But because she loved my writing, would I be up for writing more of a comedy with them? And I was!

What do you hope readers take away from your books, particularly in terms of challenging stereotypes and stigma?

What I want more than anything is for readers to be able to relate so they don’t feel alone in some of the topics that I explore. And I also want them to be entertained. I want them to be able to have fun reading, as well as maybe having their minds changed about something. I try to strike a balance between connecting and entertaining.

You have quite a few upcoming book events in the North East, what could your readers expect from them?

Yes, so I’ll be talking all about what inspires my writing and my approach to writing and, you know, some of the hiccups and stresses along the way. It’s not all plain sailing and I’ll also share how I overcome them.

I might give readings at some events and I might talk about my characters and why I love them. Luxe readers will have to come and find out!

North East Author Lucy Nichol: Upcoming Book Events

North East Author Lucy Nichol

Photo credit: Chris Owens