Interview with Andy Nowicki

Andy Nowicki is author of the book The Doctor and the Heretic, released in 2011 by Black Oak Media. The Doctor and the Heretic is a collection of three short stories that are sure to excite and challenge its readers!

How is The Doctor and the Heretic different from your previous books, and what would you say is the common theme trying together its three stories?

THE DOCTOR AND THE HERETIC AND OTHER STORIES is different from my prior two published books, CONSIDERING SUICIDE (Nine-Banded Books, 2009) and THE COLUMBINE PILGRIM (Counter-Currents, 2011), in one crucial way, I think. My prior two novels are very dark—at times darkly humorous, but still dark as hell. The stories in this collection have dark moments, to be sure, but I think there is a somewhat greater assertion of hope, particularly in the title story, where love is presented as a possible balm in Gilead, as it were… If there is a common theme in these stories, I would say it is obsession. The characters in all of these stories are swept up by forces that they barely understand, forces which seize their hearts in some irresistible manner. They all have to face things about themselves, and eventually they all feel compelled to act, and afterwards they must deal with the consequences of their actions.

What inspired each story in The Doctor and the Heretic? Are any of them based upon your own life experiences?

I haven’t been in the fiction-writing racket for all that long, considering my age and all the time of my life I’ve devoted to the written word, but I do find that all writing is unavoidably autobiographical on some level…. Of the three stories in this collection, the one called “Autobiography of a Violent Soul” is the most unabashedly autobiographical… Nearly every event recounted in this story is based on an actual occurrence in my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. I think this story will shock some people. It’s a very raw, at times quite graphic, tale about one man’s loss of innocence and his desperate desire to reclaim it….

“Tears of the Damned” is a story I wrote a few years ago which was inspired both by my interest in the terror and tragedy of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, and also my fascination with the genre of science fiction known as Alternative History. I wondered: what would things be like if the event we know as “Columbine” had never happened? Specifically, what would become of the killers if they hadn’t maimed and murdered so many of their classmates before taking their own lives on April 20, 1999?…

“The Doctor and the Heretic,” the title track, is a story I’m very excited to have written. It’s a romantic story about a forbidden attraction that develops between a very lovely, kind, but secretly suffering psychotherapist—a widowed woman in her forties– and her much younger patient, a sad young man on the brink of suicide. It’s the first story I attempted to write from a woman’s point of view. I hope I got it right. I think I did. It’s always fun as a writer to take on a challenge.

The story “Tears of the Damned” is a counter-factual tale staring Dylan Klebold, one of the perpetrators of the Columbine massacre. Your previous book, The Columbine Pilgrim, also focused on the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. Why are you so fascinated by that event?

As sick and as offensive as it probably sounds, Columbine has been a “Muse” of sorts for me. I honestly think it’s a symptom of my fixation with the terrors of puberty. I had a very happy childhood, but it suddenly transitioned into a thoroughly miserable adolescence. In high school, I was a loser, a loner, a reject, whatever negative label you can think of: that was me. I know well the visceral fear and hatred that builds up in the broken, embittered heart of the outcast. I never conceived of the notion of shooting up my school, of course, but I do very much have a sense, when I think of the events at Columbine, of “there but for the grace of God go I.”

Which of the three stories in The Doctor and the Heretic is your favorite and why?

That’s a difficult question—like asking a parent to name his favorite child! I’m fond of all three of these stories, each for different reasons. “Tears of the Damned” is my first stab at a “thriller” of sorts. “Autobiography of a Violent Soul” is my effort at writing very directly about personal experiences, albeit filtered through the consciousness of a character who’s more radically alienated than I’ve ever been. But I’d have to say my favorite is the title track, “The Doctor and the Heretic.” It was fun exploring a whole different métier, and I think it turned out very well. I really didn’t think I had it in me to write a love story. It’s always gratifying to be able to pleasantly surprise yourself.

What has been the reaction to The Doctor and the Heretic among your friends and family, and why do you feel they have reacted so strongly to the work?

People I know who have read these stories *have* reacted strongly, it is true. I try to write provocatively, and I think I’m drawn to “extreme” sorts of characters, and some people really like that. For others, it can be a little much at times… I wish I could be a more “genteel” sort of writer, actually. I greatly respect gentility. But the Muses don’t lead me in that direction, or haven’t yet, anyway. I’m someone with profoundly conservative sensibilities, but I’m aware of living in an “anything goes” kind of world right now, and you have to be able to engage the world as you find it.

Are you working on any new projects? How can our readers get in touch with you if they want to know more about your writing?

I have a new novella coming out in the fall with Counter-Currents, a sort of science fiction dystopian psychological thriller called UNDER THE NIHIL. Next year, I’m set to release a collection of short stories called LOST, VIOLENT SOULS with Nine-Banded Books. I’ve also got other things I’ve written that I’m trying to place, so far without success. There’s one particular longer project I’m in the midst of working on now… In addition, I contribute regular columns to the websites The Last Ditch and Alternative Right, and I’ve contributed to some other print and online periodicals as well…. All in all, these last couple of years have been a very blessedly productive time. I’m trying to strike while the creative iron is hot, and I hope it remains hot for a while yet! I’m always interested in hearing thoughts from anyone with a question, a comment, a suggestion, a complaint or a threat… I can be reached at nephipelagius@gmail.com

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