Meghan: Hi, Nick. Thank you for stopping by today. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Nick Clausen: I’m 31, I live in Denmark with my wife, and I’ve been a published writer since 2009. I’ve done almost 30 books, all of them in Danish, and I began translating them into English and self-publishing them about a year ago. Eight titles are available in English so far, and I hope to put out 4 titles a year.
Meghan: What are five things most people don’t know about you?
Nick Clausen: I’m a yoga and fitness instructor. I have back-yard chickens. I meditate daily. I’m working on a big sci-fi epic, which I’ve been writing since 2013, and hopefully it’ll be out by 2020. I do the covers for my books myself.
Meghan: What is the first book you remember reading?
Nick Clausen: It was a middle grade book called The Snow Vampire, and it was awesome! Made me want to become a writer on the spot.
Meghan: What are you reading now?
Meghan: What’s a book you really enjoyed that others wouldn’t expect you to have liked?
Nick Clausen: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. It was so unbelievably intriguing; I didn’t want it to end. I think it might be one of the best books I’ve ever read. I usually only read horror, thriller and paranormal, so Rebecca was quite a different experience.
Meghan: What made you decide you want to write? When did you begin writing?
Nick Clausen: I loved comics and cartoons and I wanted to be a cartoonist or comic book artist when I grew up. Then, I learned to read and picked up my first book and it was a complete game-changer. It seemed to me so much easier to write a story than to draw one. That’s how I decided to become a writer instead.
I wrote a few stories at the age of 14 or 15, and I sent them to a publisher, who seemed impressed, but not quite enough to buy the stories. Then, when I was 18, I decided to make my dream come true. I made myself a promise to write 1,000 words a day until I got a book accepted by a publisher. It took 12 rejections and 2.5 years, then I wrote They Come at Night, and it got accepted and became my debut novella.
Meghan: Do you have a special place you like to write?
Nick Clausen: Not really. I have an office (it sounds fancy, but it’s really just a room in my house with a desk) and I usually write there. But I’ve written almost everywhere – on trains, on vacations. As long as I can be on my own, I’m fine.
Meghan: Do you have any quirks or processes that you go through when you write?
Nick Clausen: I don’t think I have any quirks, and my process is very non-structured. I literally just get an idea and start writing. I try not to plan anything out in advance. I did that with my first ten books, and it worked fine, but somehow it got boring to me. I began feeling like the writing itself was just hard work and no fun. But now, as I get to figure out the story as I go along, it feels much more vibrant and surprising to me. I feel like I’m experiencing the story while I write it. When I’ve done the first draft, I read it through and edit what needs editing and rewrite parts that need rewriting. Then, I send it to my publisher, and they help me with any further input they might have. They then buy the book from me, and the rest of the publishing process is out of my hands. But I keep the rights for translating the book and publishing it in English.
Meghan: Is there anything about writing you find most challenging?
Nick Clausen: The most challenging part is when a story just won’t work. Some ideas are just too difficult to get right, and sometimes I end up rewriting most of the story up to ten times before I’m satisfied. I recently published a paranormal thriller in Danish called The Girl Who Wasn’t There (it’ll be available in English around January 2020) and it took me six years to finish, because I just couldn’t decide how best to tell the story, so I kept changing point of views, kept jumping back and forth, writing and changing and changing back again. By the end, I couldn’t tell if the damn thing was even any good. So, I shipped it off to the publisher, hoping they could tell me what to do. And to my utter surprise, they loved it and only suggested very modest edits. That was a great relief. I guess I just couldn’t see the forest anymore.
Meghan: What’s the most satisfying thing you’ve written so far?
Nick Clausen: I’ve written quite a few stories with real emotion in them. Even though I write speculative genres like horror, I think it’s very important for a story to not just attempt to spook the reader, but also touch them. For instance, I find my short story Beast pretty emotional, because it focuses on a teenage boy and his beloved dog. My book Dreamland also has quite a strong message about losing your loved ones and dealing with letting them go. Those things are by far more satisfying for me to write than ghosts and werewolves and other things that go bump in the night. Although those are cool, too.
Meghan: What books have most inspired you? Who are some authors that have inspired your writing style?
Nick Clausen: I can’t mention any books in particular, but I find pieces of inspiration in many different works. Of course, I don’t copy the plot points, but I’ll get very inspired by a certain mood in a book. Sometimes, when I read, I get so inspired I have to put down the book and go to my computer to write.
Stephen King has definitely had the biggest impact on my writing. I also really like Neil Gaiman and the way he weaves his tales. I’m also very intrigued by authors who have a very straight-forward no-nonsense style, like Hemingway and Thomas Harris.
Meghan: What do you think makes a good story?
Nick Clausen: Whatever makes the reader feel something. It has to be true in some way. Elicit real emotions.
Meghan: What does it take for you to love a character? How do you utilize that when creating your characters?
Nick Clausen: The characters I love the most are the ones who seem like real people. This means they’re not perfect, they have flaws and they’re capable of bad things. My favorite type of character is usually someone who has had difficulties and overcome them. I think Victoria McQueen in Joe Hill’s NOS4A2 is a great example. Also the kids in Stephen King’s It.
When I write my own characters, I try not to have them always make the right decision, rather I prefer them to make the realistic decision, given who they are and what their motivations might be. I also don’t judge them for making the wrong choices.
Meghan: Which, of all your characters, do you think is the most like you?
Nick Clausen: The obvious answer would be that I put something of myself in all of my characters. But one particular character comes to mind. His name is Joshian, and he’s one of the main characters in my upcoming sci-fi epic. He’s around my age, and he faces a lot of the same difficulties and challenges as I have in my life (not literally, but emotionally) and he learns some lessons during the story which I’ve learned in my own life. He feels so real to me, completely like a real-life person. My wife, who have read the drafts of the story, agrees that he might be the most realistic and like-me character I’ve ever done. Needless to say, I’m very excited how the story will be received. Fingers crossed I’ll have it out by 2020.
Meghan: Are you turned off by a bad cover? To what degree were you involved in creating your book covers?
Nick Clausen: Very much so. There are SO many books out there, and even some books with great covers are disappointing, but if the cover is bad, I won’t even give the book a change. By bad, I mean unprofessionally done. A bad cover could also mean not very intriguing or perhaps a little misleading as to the genre.
Nowadays, I’m doing my own covers, so I pretty much decide exactly how they look like. Of course, I listen to readers’ feedback and try to follow some guidelines as to what works within the genre, so I don’t feel like I have completely free hands; it’s much more important to me that the covers works.
When I first started out as I writer, I didn’t do the covers myself. The Danish publisher had a professional designer do them, and they would always ask for my input and opinion, so they would never go with something I wouldn’t be satisfied with, which is really nice.
Meghan: What have you learned creating your books?
Nick Clausen: A lot! I think I’ve become a better writer over the years, and I still find new ways to explore my characters and come up with exciting plot twists I’ve never seen before. Also, I’ve learned a lot about the creative process and how to best make it flow. To me, it’s all about not standing in the way of the energy but standing aside and let it flow.
Meghan: What has been the hardest scene for you to write so far?
Nick Clausen: I’ll give a twofold answer. The hardest scene in terms of effort is a whole chapter of my upcoming sci-fi epic which runs at almost 12,000 words. It’s a meeting between different scientists who discuss different facts and theories and tries to come to a consensus regarding some climate problems. That chapter took me several weeks to research and write, making sure all the arguments were on point and made sense, while still driving the dialogue ahead and not boring the reader. That chapter felt more like writing a book.
In terms of emotions, I’ve already mentioned two scenes which made my throat constrict: the ending of Beast and the ending of Dreamland. Those both deal with loss and grief and the injustice of losing a loved one. There’s also a scene in another one of my stories, which came out on October 8th, called Dead Meat. I won’t spoil anything by saying it’s one of the main characters dying, and the character knows it’s going to happen before hand, so when I had to write the scene where the character tries to come to terms with it, I had to put myself in that situation, and it was pretty awful.
Meghan: What makes your books different from others out there in this genre?
Nick Clausen: I try to give them my own flavor. They’re pretty classic, but with quirks or twists you might not see coming. My books always have something to tell, something of importance to convey; if not, I won’t write them. I’m not talking about boring stuff like messages or morals, but true emotional impact. Also, being a native Dane, I probably don’t think like a Brit or an American, so I don’t suppose the universes I create in my books will look exactly like the ones you might be used to visiting.
Meghan: How important is the book title, how hard is it to choose the best one, and how did you choose yours (of course, with no spoilers)?
Nick Clausen: The title is pretty important, I think. Most of all, it needs to convey the genre. Secondly, it needs to be intriguing. Like, almost pose a question, something the reader will want to find out. Sometimes the title is easy. The title Human Flesh came to me even before I had the full idea for the story. They Come at Night was originally titled The Tide, but I just didn’t think that was creepy enough, so I changed it. The Girl Who Wasn’t There was originally called The Girl in The Book, but that sounded more like fantasy than thriller. Sometimes, the title isn’t that obvious and I need to think about it for a while.
Meghan: What makes you feel more fulfilled: Writing a novel or writing a short story?
Nick Clausen: A novel usually has a greater capacity for emotional impact or pay-off, because you get to know the characters and maybe even care for them. You invest in their goals and destiny. The strength of a short story is a little different, but there’s also something to be said about that brief, intense meeting you get with a character. I don’t need to get bogged down writing stuff like memories and background stories, I can just go straight to the action. Over all, I think novels are more satisfying, though.
Nick Clausen: Tell us a little bit about your books, your target audience, and what you would like readers to take away from your stories.
I write speculative fiction; horror, sci-fi, paranormal and fantasy. My audience seem to be mostly young adults, with some middle graders but also quite a few grown-ups. I like to think of myself as my core audience: an adult who still enjoy YA-books.
I already mentioned it, but the most important thing to me, the thing I hope the readers take away from my books, are some sort of emotional impact. I don’t really care if that emotion might be grief, horror, surprise, hopefulness or a mixture of several emotions; as long as the story touched them in some way, I feel like I’ve succeeded.
Meghan: Can you tell us about some of the deleted scenes/stuff that got left out of your work?
Nick Clausen: In Dreamland, we only follow the main character’s POV. It’s a boy called Louie who’s 13 years old. But originally, I’d also written a few chapters seen from the perspective of his mother. The publisher advised me to delete those, and I did. Honestly, I’m not complete sure it was the right choice, but I trusted their judgement.
They Come at Night also has a few deleted scenes—and this might be a bit of a spoiler, in case you haven’t read the book—where the monsters would speak to the characters. Again, the publisher advised me it would be more frightening if the monsters weren’t able to speak, so I changed it. I think they were absolutely right.
Human Flesh was originally planned out to be told exclusively through the diary of the main character Anne, but I realized about a third way in that the format was too constricting, so I opened it up and included all kinds of written sources, turning the story into what almost felt like a fictitious murder case. And the diary turning into a blog, which felt more like a present-day thing. I still have some of the deleted diary entries.
Meghan: What is in your “trunk”? (Everyone has a book or project, which doesn’t necessarily have to be book related, that they have put aside for a ‘rainy day’ or for when they have extra time. Do you have one?)
Nick Clausen: Oh, yes, I do. It’s my Moby Dick. In case I ever write it, it’ll be titled The Hole in the Sky, and it’ll be awesome. A grand sci-fi epic about aliens from another dimension coming to invade Earth, entering through a hole in the sky. Fingers crossed I’ll someday get to write it.
Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?
Nick Clausen: A lot of books! The first three books in my series Dead Meat came out on October 8, November 8, and the third will be out December 8. Next year, I’m hoping to put out at least two longer books, one of them called The Girl Who Wasn’t There, and the other one (my sci-fi epic) called The Water Planet. I’m pretty productive and will be putting out several books a year going forward.
Meghan: Where can we find you?
Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview?
Nick Clausen: If you’ve read any of my books or plan to do so in the future, please don’t feel shy about reaching out to tell me what you thought of it! I genuinely love to hear from readers. Thank you!
Live in Denmark. Been writing since the age of 18. Promised to type 1,000 words a day until I got a book published. Kept that promise 18 months and 13 manuscripts later. Have written and published +25 books. Lived as a full-time writer since 2017. Started translating my books into English in 2019. Prefer horror, suspense and sci-fi. Prefer dogs, but like cats too.
The end of the world one day at a time
In this new apocalyptic zombie series from the author of They Come at Night and Human Flesh, we follow events day for day as the world slowly but surely decends into mayhem as the zombies take over. Don’t miss the thrilling ride!
For fans of The Walking Dead, The Orphans Book and World War Z.
How it all began:
Three teenagers find themselves trapped in a stuffy, warm basement. The old lady who used to own the house is now dead. She’s also standing right on the other side of the basement door, scraping and moaning, trying to get in. Patiently. Tirelessly.
How did they end up here? Just a few hours ago, all three of of them were sitting in Thomas’ car, sweating and listening to music, not a care in the world. They were almost done with the paper route when they came to the old lady’s house. And that’s when everything turned to chaos.
Some nightmares never end
In his sleep, Louie starts visiting a magical world where he meets his father, who died when Louie was still a baby. But nothing turns out to be what it seems, and great horrors loom very close by…
Welcome to Dreamland
A mysterious teen ghost story about fear and loss and losing yourself in dreams, Dreamland was originally published in Danish to great reviews, and is now available in English.
They Never Caught It…
During the winter of 2017, a series of strange occurrences took place in a small town of northern Maine. A rational explanation for what happened has still not been presented. Now, for the first time, all available evidence is being released to the public from what is commonly known as the Freyston case.
Human Flesh is a dark YA horror story about the mythical creature wendigo known for possessing people and turning them into cannibals. It will also satisfy crime lovers, as the plot is told through written evidence in a fictitious murder case. For fans of Hannibal Lecter, and those who enjoyed the mood of Pet Sematary and the style of Carrie.
Four teenagers. A cottage by the sea. Something comes at night. Something comes with the tide…