Monday, January 29, 2018

Nick Korolev, Author and Part-Time Commodore

Author, illustrator and naturalist Nick Korolev is a New Jersey native now living in West Virginia. He’s also a very interesting guy! Nick and I both have short stories in the upcoming SPRING INTO SCI-FI anthology.

1)  Welcome, Nick. You’ve been a writer for quite a long time. Am I correct, that your first short story was published when you were just 14 years old? How did that come about?

I started writing for my own pleasure when I was 12 and discovered the power of words and joy of story telling.  I was always an avid reader.  By that age was reading adult novels and short story collections in a variety of genres, mostly scifi by Asimov, Bradbury, Heinlein, plus the classics from Melville and Jack London to Conrad and Hemingway. 

I was put ahead in an honors creative writing class a month after that short story was published in the fiction section of the now defunct national publication Popular Dogs.  The creative writing teacher, Mrs. Engle, advised I should become a writer.

2)  Your bio says you were born in New Jersey, but you now reside in West Virginia. I live outside Philadelphia, so I’ve spent a lot of time living and working in New Jersey. What do you miss most about the Garden State? (Personally, I’d miss diners and Taylor Pork Roll -- much better than Pennsylvania's Scrapple!) And what do you have in West Virginia that you’d miss if you moved elsewhere?

That is kind of a long and crazy story.  I moved from NJ to Sedona, AZ to help care for my mother who had a developed nasty crippling disease called polymyositis that affects the muscles.  I spent nine years there.  It was great in that I am both an artist (mostly wildlife, portraits, cartoons and illustrations) as well as a writer and found Sedona to be a great arts colony.  I learned both play and screenwriting for which I have won awards.  I ended up in West Virginia because my mother wanted to spend her last years closer to my sister, who lives in Jefferson County.

The thing I miss most about the Garden State is the shore, canoeing the Pine Barrens and really fresh seafood. As to what I would miss in West Virginia, it would be the mountain wilderness, my friends and the people I work with at schools and the state park.

3)  Well, anyone who misses the Pine Barrens might enjoy this excellent collection of crime stories by Jen Conley.  I also interviewed her, here.

Nick, you’re also a student of the U.S. Civil War. Is West Virginia a good state for Civil War aficionados? And what is the Federal Generals Corps about?

West Virginia is a great place for Civil War history.  The state was born during the war, from counties that wanted no part of the Virginia lowlands, which sided with the Confederacy.  The mountain counties were also tired of their tax money supporting the rich planters and their road systems, with nothing for the western counties. So they seceded from VA, becoming an official state June 20, 1863. There were quite a few battles here, like the Union victory of Droop Mountain that ended major Confederate attempts of control of the new state.

The Federal Generals Corps is a group of living historians that portray famous military officers, politicians and civilians from the Union side of the Civil War.  It involves picking a historic person you resemble, studying their biography and their place in the war, gathering up the proper clothing, etc.  You essentially become that persona for the public, which involves a little acting.  It is a way of teaching history that is far better than what you read in school history books.  We camp out at and present programs at historic sites in PA, VA, and WV. 

I now only portray Commodore John Winslow who commanded the USS Kearsarge that sank the Confederate raider CSS Alabama off Cherbourg, France.  What most people are not taught in school is that, for the US Navy, the Civil War was essentially a world war. The Union could never have won without the US Navy gaining control of the coasts and the Mississippi River, plus sinking the Confederate raiders that attacked Union merchant ships at sea.  Studying maritime history and the politics of the time will also prove that slavery was the cause of the war.  I can make my talks very real having grown up in a boating family and having been out on a tall ship.  I portray the only naval officer in our group.

4)  Let’s get to your books. What is your latest book about?

My latest book, Ghost of a Chance, is a bit of a departure from my usual maritime historical fiction, fantasy and scifi. It is a political satire and ghost story all rolled into one. It’s about a young West Virginia progressive freshman senator, Frank Barnes, who is running on a third party ticket for President against a corrupt Republican incumbent and a not-much-better Democrat contender.  He is running last in the polls when his friend gives him an antique book for his birthday. The book was once was the library of Theodore Roosevelt, his favorite president (and mine).  The book comes with Teddy’s ghost, who is bound and determined to help Frank in his run for POTUS. This, of course, results in a wild ride.  The book is either hilariously funny or scary depending on the politics of the reader.  Every chapter starts with a famous quote from TR.  I do not belong to any political party but always vote.  If there is a message in this novel it is to get out and vote. 

This novel was originally a screenplay that I wrote back in 2011 for competition in the 2012 Appalachian Film Festival competition (I won with entries in 2005 and 2010).  With the results of the last election, I decided to turn the screenplay into a novel and remarket it.  Mockingbird Lane Press, a small independent traditional publisher, contracted for it last spring and it was just released in Dec. 2017.  So far it has gotten 5 star reviews on Amazon for both paperback and e-books.  I am doing everything I can to get it marketed but can not afford a publicist to get it out there. I am hoping it gets 20 reviews so Amazon helps in marketing.

5)  Well, perhaps this interview will result in some more reviews for Ghost of a Chance – just click on the link!

Nick, your work spans a number to historical periods: the Civil War, the life and presidency of Teddy Roosevelt, the sinking of the U.S.S. Lusitania in 1915, and modern day. How do you keep the historical aspects straight? I’m currently working on a detective novel during the Great Depression, and I’m always having to check as to the price of goods and services, what people wore, and even how they spoke.

I learned a long time ago that when you write anything historical you must research everything on the era to make it believable and bring the era alive from politics to living expenses to clothing and more.  This should be done first along with developing your basic plot.  It is the same attention to detail you need to do in world and technology building in scifi.  If you work on a historical fiction that takes place in the not too distant past, talking to people who lived through the time also helps.

6)  West Virginia is not known for having a lot of writers. One of my nieces attended the University of West Virginia, and I decided to send her a gift of books by West Virginia authors. At the time, all I could find was the sole collection by the late, great Breece D’J Pancake. Do you have a community of writers out there to bounce ideas off and critique your work?

I am sort of the resident alien in that I was not born here.  There is a West Virginia Writers Association, but that is way down near Charleston, WV, too far for me to go for meetings so I have not joined yet.  I sometimes use beta readers but I am my own critic most of the time and am very fussy what I think will work. I always ask myself, has this been done before? Is it best as a novel, short story or stage or screenplay? Would enough people be interested in the story? Sometimes I bounce ideas off friends.  I have a file of aborted projects in different genres.

There are a few local writers, but they work alone with relatives as critics and most self-publish. To me (and agents) self-publishing is not much above using a vanity press and cannot be used as a credit when looking for an agent or publisher if one is serious about a writing career. 

New writers are lured in by keeping more of the price, but that is quickly eaten up by costs of more printing and marketing.  Besides, they have not “paid their dues,” proving the quality of their work through competition, being printed in literary journals and anthologies, etc.  Most “newbies” want to get around rejections and the (often) years of honing their skills to start breaking into print. 

Everyone today is in too much of a rush.  I have always believed you don’t serve a good wine before its time and you must be prepared for a batch to go bad now and then and realize sometimes work is not worth publishing -- especially a first try.  People will not like this opinion, but I have observed enough to know it is true and have a sister who is a professional editor who used to work for an independent traditional book publisher (now defunct) and told me many stories on what crossed her desk.  The fiction she dealt with included knock-offs of existing books with different characters, and poor writing that was not edited for grammar and consistency.  One was down right plagiarism of the Harry Potter characters!

7)  Looking at your books on Amazon, I don’t see any science fiction. Is your story in SPRING INTO SCI-FI a departure for you?

I have two existing full scifi novels.  The Cat Who Fell To Earth, rewritten a couple of times over the years, is presently being marketed on Inkitt and has been there for a year.  It has gleaned 5 star reviews but their data analog has not collected enough data on it yet from their readers for them to come to a decision to publish it.  I sent it off to Angry Robot’s open call for submissions in Dec. and am waiting to hear if it has done anything.  The novel deals with the same race of leonine aliens that appear in the story in the 2018 SPRING INTO SCI-FI.  It is set in the contemporary United States in Sedona, AZ, and is a quirky first contact story involving a covert alien plot to make it happen while anti-contact and pro-contact factions argue it out in their Confederation of Planets council.

I also have a YA book I have not finished illustrating titled Bob’s Planet: A Journal. It is a heavily illustrated journal by protagonist Robert Carusoe, 17, on the first expedition to colonize the habitable planet Echo 48 discovered by the Kepler telescope long before he was born.  With him are his engineer father and teacher mother.  He is to be an exobiology intern while he finishes his schooling. 

His journal begins after the massive sleep ship Pilgrim 1 he is on meets disaster only two weeks after all were brought out of hibersleep as they enter the planetary system.  Caught in a dangerous meteor storm all are forced to evacuate the ship in escape pods.  Alone in a pod designed for four people, Robert survives his journey knowing not all made it.  He quickly finds himself forced to meet the challenges of life on a new world much like Earth’s Carboniferous age. The life forms are more hostile than expected, but he searches for his parents and other survivors while awaiting the arrival of Pilgrim 2, which is still a month away. 

A student of biology with a gift of drawing, Bob records his experiences and observations in his written journal in the tradition of Audubon and Darwin long before him. The journal itself covers twenty-one days with each section illustrated with plants, animals, maps and sketches of spacecraft in ink and pencil drawings as if done by Bob.  This is presently with an agent who handles books only by writer-illustrators and asked to see it.  Waiting to hear on this project, too, at this writing.

8)  Let’s finish up with a process question. Most successful writers get into a regular pattern. Some write in the morning before they go to work, others at night. What’s your writing schedule?

My writing schedule is crazy and I write any chance I get. Being single with no present commitments helps as my time is my own interrupted only by work around the house.  I write on weekends when not going out with friends or working in the yard etc.  I write when I do not get a substitute teaching assignment for the day.  It must share time with any illustration work I am doing be it for my work or on assignment from another author. In the summer I get more writing done. 

I am the naturalist for Lost River State Park and part of my job besides nature programs is to keep the historic Lee House open on certain days during the week.  While waiting for visitors I get a lot of writing done sitting on the front porch and back at my cabin at night where I stay on site for part of the week since I do not have a TV at the cabin. As much as I like my “Day Jobs,” I would like to do the writing and illustration full time.

Nick, thank you for your time. Best of luck with your new novels!

Nick Korolev can be contacted via his website.  He can also be found on Facebook or Linkedin.

His books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble  or Books-a-Million

Both Nick Korolev and Tony Conaway have stories in the soon-to-be-released SPRING INTO SCI-FI anthology.


  1. Great interview guys. I always love hearing information about writers, praticularly writing habits and how they got started.

    1. Glad you liked it! If you enjoy author interviews, there are more than a dozen more on this blog.

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