July 13, 2004 interview in Santa Monica
Q—You’re a thirty year resident of the Northern Sierra Nevada mountains in California. How does living in the mountains influence your writing?
A—My wife and I live in a small cabin deep in the woods. The silence of the forest helps me to concentrate.
Q—When did you begin novel writing?
A—The first inspiration came to me in my early twenties, when I read Ken Keasy’s book “Sometimes A Great Notion.” I loved his style and thought that maybe I could give writing a try. It took another ten years or so before I bought an old Royal typewriter at a garage sale for a dollar, and seriously typed my first words.
Q—When did you consider yourself a writer?
A— Ten years after that first inspiration to write, I started on a twelve-year odyssey doggedly plodding my way through my first novel. When that project was finished, though I’ve never shown it to anyone because it was so badly written, I felt like a writer. I think we all need a throw-away just to get us into the right frame of mind. Humble might be the word.
Q—For the people who haven’t read your work, give us a quick synopsis of this series.
A—It’s a tale about misplaced manhood, the rigors of relationship with motorcycles over easy, Harley’s to be specific.
A—Hey, Harleys, Hondas, even little Vespas, we all get in the wind, and isn’t that what it’s all about? I grew up riding Harley choppers in the San Francisco East Bay. In the seventies I owned a Harley repair and customizing shop and I’ve been riding ever since.
Q—What about the rigors of relationship?
A—Isn’t relationship the one thing on everyone’s mind? How do I find a good one? How do I keep the great one I have? How do I get out of this one? How do I keep away from those damn things? How do I maintain my own sense of self once inside of one? Though I have few answers, I wanted to pose the questions all of us live with.
Q—In your book you talked about different ways of speaking. What did you mean?
A—Men and women need to find a way to understand that they have opposite speaking styles, with different needs while in conversation. While a man’s approach to speaking is logical and straight to the point, he’s already thought the whole thing through before he says a word, the feminine approach is to speak as her thoughts emerge, allowing her to free associate as ideas unravel. The thing most of us men and women don’t get is both way of speaking are correct. Men and women have to learn to make room for the different ways the other speaks.
Q—Who has influenced your writing?
A—When I read my first novel, “Of Mice and Men.” I saw that Steinbeck crafted his words in a way that talked to me. Frank Herbert, Robert Heinlein, Hess, were some of my early influences. They opened my eyes to the possibilities of science fiction and drama. I love the combo. Although many of his works are in the horror genre, I believe Stephen King has been my biggest influence. Horror or not, he is a damn good writer. Carl Hassian has been fun to follow. Michael Chabon “Wonder Boys” is what I’m reading at the moment.
Q—How many novels have you written?
A—To date I have completed eleven manuscripts, though only three novels and a book of poetry are published so far. I have two new projects I am actively working on at the moment and one book is on the block ready to be kneaded into a readable novel by my publisher.
Q—How long does it take to write a novel?
A-If I can concentrate, it takes me about eight months to finish the first draft of a novel.
Q—What would you say to an aspiring writer?
A—Yes, you can go to seminars and writing workshops, you can study writing until the cows come home, but the only way to learn how to write, is to write, keep writing, even when no one pays attention. Keep writing! It’s not for them that we write, anyhow. The second thing is that I see writing as a daily meditation. If I can only complete one page a day, in less than a year I have a finished novel.
Q—What music inspires you to write?
A—I get up at four a.m. to write and the best music is living in the forest and listening to nothing at all. I love the summer sound of the first bird of dawn; one surprising chirp, and the entire forest comes alive with birds.
Q—What about television?
A—Take it to the dump. Let’s see, over a hundred channels and still nothing decent to watch. It sucks creative energy and time. Get rid of it and free your creative life.
Q—This is the second book in the Channeling Biker Bob series. How do the two books differ from one another?
A—Book #1, Heart of a Warrior, was goofy and playful. It dealt with the soft male. We all either know a Stewart Chance or suffer from the soft male syndrome ourselves, and twenty years ago, I would have included myself in as a Stewart Chance. The first book was meant to impishly bring the soft male to light so we all could watch him come into his awareness.
Book #2, Lover’s Embrace, dealt with Thomas Goreman, a big cop with an attitude, who finds out that he is not the mellow, easy-going guy that he thought he was. The story is more serious and takes us through the territory of the angry male, certainly a piece in all of us men. When Biker Bob comes on board, as with the last book, Goreman’s life is shaken to its core.
Q—How are the two books the same?
A—The soft male and angry male are two sides of the masculine experience. I was showing two of the four archetypes of the masculine experience that will be touched upon in this series.
Q—It was interesting that you gave Thomas Goreman and Melinda Chambers the same tendencies, then put them together. What was your intention in doing that?
A—I was attempting to even up the score. Although violence toward women is an overwhelming reality in this culture, there are many episodes where the man is the victim, but no one likes to talk about it. Although it’s not as well advertised, a woman can be just as aggressive as any man, if you consider that she also has guns and automobiles at her disposal. If we have violent tendencies, be you a man or woman, we must begin to heal that part of ourselves that keeps us apart from those we love. My books take a few baby steps toward that goal.
Q—Stewart is the main character in your first book, but he takes a back seat in book two. Why?
A—While I write, I follow my characters. Stew seemed to want to be less visible in the second book. He pops up here and there.
Q—We know that this is a series more about relationship than about motorcycles. What was your intent in mixing these two seemingly distant subjects together?
A—I would love to say that there was some huge symbolic reasoning, but the fact is that relationship and motorcycles are things I know.
Q—Are you working on the next two books in this series?
A—I’ve finished number three in the Biker Bob series, but it takes about eighteen months to go through the editing process and get into print. It should be ready in November of 2005. My upcoming novel “Maranther’s Deception” is finished and at the printer. It should be ready in March of 2005
Q—Does Biker Bob #3 have the same characters?
A—Some, but like Biker Bob 2 it takes a left turn in the first few pages. The surprises even astounded me at times.
Q—The One Percent of One Percent club was an interesting concept. Can you elaborate?
A—It’s pretty simple. One percent of America rides motorcycles and one percent of the riders choose to do the inner work. How they do that work is part of the adventure of my book and part of each man and woman’s journey.
Q—In your second book, you put a group of men together in a formal setting to work out issues. Is that realistic in real life?
A—It doesn’t happen very often, it’s true. Most men have been trained to be islands and never ask for help from anyone. We seem destine to live out solitary lives, but I know that men long for camaraderie and community. I think a formal men’s gathering is a perfect forum for a man to find that long sought after brotherhood. It gives us a setting with which to break those unseen bonds of silence and gives a place to voice the inner thoughts that plague all of us. In the second book I wanted to give my reader a basic format with which to set up a men’s circle. Since we have been isolated for hundreds of years, and very few know how to create such gatherings, I thought I’d relate the things I’ve found that worked over the last twenty year of doing men’s work.
Q—When the men and women got together in the same setting did you see difficulties?
A—There are always difficulties when men and women get together. It’s a given. If we consider that both genders have such entirely different ways to look at life, it’s a wonder that we can communicate at all. But, somehow we do.
Q—What about the talking stick concept?
A—It is really the only tool that seems to work between the masculine and feminine. When a man and woman go into conflict, they need a tool that will slow things down and allow both people to talk. Women’s main complaint is that a man will try to hurry her up to get to the point, and women are not wired to get to the point. Whereas a man’s main complaint is that a woman will never let him finish his sentence. Can’t you see that we both need to be heard, but in different ways. The talking stick can be anything. The other day my wife and I used an old kitchen sponge as a talking stick, because it was handy. It is a simple agreement. When one person holds the stick, the other person cannot say even one syllable. No questions for clarification or interruptions at all. When that person is completely finished, they set the stick down and it’s the other’s turn. These days my wife and I go into conflict with a lot less drama and come out the far end much quicker, with both of us feeling like we have been heard. It’s a good tool.
Q—Who is Biker Bob and what does he represent?
A—Bob represents that part of all of us that can clearly distinguish between the things that work for us and what will harm us. I believe that this culture has pretty much distilled most of our ability to differentiate. Most of us simply acquiesce and keep our fingers crossed hoping everything will work out.
Q—Is there any Biker Bob in Nik Colyer?
A—Yes, of course, like there is a Biker Bob inside of each of us. We all have the right answers inside of us, we just need to retrain that part of us who knows how to find those answers, then the guts enough to put them into action.
Q—What are you currently working on?
A—In the last six months I’ve started two new manuscripts, though neither have anything to do with Biker Bob. The first is the sequel to Maranther’s Deception and the second is Sci-Fi about a different kind of flu, which my wife and I and most of this town suffered from a lot of the winter. It certainly was a flu year.
Q—Any parting words?
A—Remember that an artist, any artist, who has dedicated his/her life to the process, has done so with great sacrifice, usually financial. As most artists know, without some big name like Picasso, or Hemmingway, this culture does not support the arts or its artist. Like the road construction crews sign on the highway that states, “Give ’em a break.” Your local artist could also use a break. Buy art, and whenever you can, buy it directly from the artist.