AWARD WINNING WRITER NICHOLAS HOGG SPEAKS TO JESSICA CHALLONER-STERLAND ABOUT HIS WORK AND ABUNDANCE OF EXCITING EXPERIENCES THAT INSPIRE HIS STORIES.
A man with many talents, Nicholas Hogg is an award winning poet, short story writer and author, as well as being the vice-captain of The Authors Cricket Club. Born and raised in Syston in Leicester, Nicholas went to school at Round Hill and Wreake Valley, before leaving home to study Psychology at the University of East London, an experience that opened up his mind and inspired a zest for travel.
Alongside studying, Nicholas worked part-time as a courier in order to save some money and fulfil his dream of buying a motorbike and riding it across Australia; a dream that was fulfilled but not in the way he anticipated. Nicholas explains like it was only yesterday the events of that exhilarating trip: “I went to Australia between my second and third year of university and a big part of that trip was riding a motorbike from the north of Australia in Darwin, down across the desert but unfortunately the bike broke down in the middle of nowhere. I had to ditch the bike and hitchhike. Ten years later that break-down and ditching the bike played a part in my first novel, Show Me the Sky, also set in the Australian outback.”
Show Me the Sky was nominated for the 2010 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Nicholas shares how he added meat to the bones of the book by turning his experience into an enticing scene: “I exaggerated my story of that experience slightly, by adding a crash and In the novel the protagonist is left stranded with a broken leg, I wasn’t stranded with a broken leg but I did spend a day thinking, is anyone going to come by?”
As an award winner and nominee it was surprising to find out that Nicholas was a late literary bloomer and didn’t start reading novels until he was in his twenties. He had aspirations of becoming a professional cricket or rugby player and played cricket for the under 17’s and 19’s, and also for his county rugby team. But after injuries and not feeling he was getting better at the age of 21-22, Nicholas realised he needed to focus his energies elsewhere. He shares his first encounter with writing: “I had a friend who read me some poetry, which was something I had never been interested in, but it completely captured me and pretty much from that point I was compelled to write. I started off with poetry, some of it was bad but it enabled me to find my way with words and the power of a sentence. I then moved onto short stories and then finally novels.”
Creating a unique and powerful story is important in distinguishing worthy, award novelists and bestsellers, Nicholas shares thoughts on his own writing style: “There’s certainly a poetic aspect to the style of my writing, because imagery is really important to me, what you see on the page has to be there in glorious technicolour for the reader, whether it’s writing about central Australia or the neon capital of Japan. I’d say my genre is thriller with elements of crime fiction, this is apparent in all three books, where either somebody has gone missing, there’s some degree of violence or there’s been a murder.”
For a long time Nicholas has been fascinated with Japan and having read copious amounts of Japanese fiction, he knew he always wanted to write about the country and finally did in his third novel, Tokyo. Having visited Japan once before Nicholas had forgotten a lot about the country. He decided to dedicate 3-4 months back in 2005 and live the Japanese culture, in order to gather research to write the book: “I hitch-hiked through Japan which is a really odd place to do so but plays a big part of the story. It starts off when the protagonist Ben Monroe, who at this point is me dressed up as this psychologist, a foreigner abroad amongst this different culture. He is picked up on a highway in rural Japan by an old guy, who then drops him off at an entrance to a road tunnel cut through a mountain, which for me felt like I was in a fairy-tale. The tunnel took two hours to get through as it’s about 7km long. It was lit inside, but to be in the middle of that was a really strange experience and I knew then that it was going to be the perfect opening to the book. The father daughter relationship within the novel is another key element to the story, a relationship that is just imagined but was interesting to see that tension.”
Nicholas is passionate about sharing his experiences and many of the characters in his novels are inspired, and take some form of people he has met: “Almost all of them have got some basis in reality; the Japanese hostess artist was somebody I was with, who I guess was a composition of two women, which is an odd thing but you’re just making someone’s character more complex. The bar owner was a friend of mine, who is a mixed martial artist and was fighting in the lower division, he was quite a character.”
As well as writing fiction, Nicholas combines his love of writing and cricket and currently writes his own column for ESPN Crick Info. His favourite pastime doesn’t stop there, as Nicholas is also the co-organiser of, The Author’s Cricket Club, where a team of writers get together and play cricket, which includes the likes of Charlie Campbell and Tom Holland. Nicholas explains how the ingenious idea started: “I met a literary agent about five years ago when I was playing league cricket, in Thames Valley, and he was also a keen cricketer and came up with the idea, put the team together and we also got a book out of it.” From this Nicholas and his team have travelled to the likes of Sri Lanka and Rome, where he got to meet the Pope… Just when you thought his experiences couldn’t get any better!