Nikki Vogel lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She has an MFA – Creative Writing from UBC. She has had poetry published in Room Magazine, filling Station, and The Istanbul Review. Her short stories have appeared in Luna Station Quarterly, Infective Ink, Empty Sink Publications and in One Throne Magazine. She has stories in two anthologies: You Can’t Kill Me, I’m Already Dead and Behind the Yellow Wallpaper New Tales of Madness, and was a runner up in the 2012 Little Bird Writing Contest. When she’s not at her computer writing away she can be found on the tennis court.
Geosi Gyasi: You live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Can you share with us anything about the place where you live?
Nikki Vogel: Edmonton’s greatest assets are its people who tend to be friendly, community-involved individuals, and its spectacular river valley.
Geosi Gyasi: How do you see the literary scene in Edmonton, Alberta?
Nikki Vogel: For its size Edmonton has a thriving arts scene. Philanthropy has played an enormous role in this and writing has not been left out of the mix. We have a non-fiction festival as well as a poetry festival. The city has a poet laureate and the library has a writer in residence. There are writers groups and regular open mike events. I had the opportunity to take a poetry class that was co-taught by Derek Walcott at the University of Alberta. Derek Walcott!
Geosi Gyasi: Did you know as a child that you would one day become a writer?
Nikki Vogel: I don’t know that I thought about it when I was young, but I began writing creatively at the age of nine.
Geosi Gyasi: How did you come to write, “The Past, Of Course”?
Nikki Vogel: I had just finished reading George Saunder’s book, Tenth of December, and I was inspired by the things he does with voice. I started to think about what story I might write as an exercise to explore voice and, as it often does, inspiration came like the proverbial lightening bolt. The first sentence came, and then ‘Whores and Waffles’ and I knew I was in for a romp.
Geosi Gyasi: How do you actually start a story?
Nikki Vogel: Usually one sentence – often the first – comes to me and it goes from there. Sometimes it’s more along the lines of what if…? It’s not necessarily the same each time.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you write in a notebook or on a computer?
Nikki Vogel: I write on a computer. If I need to jot down a thought when I’m away from the machine, I will use a notebook, but I find writing by hand too slow.
Geosi Gyasi: Where were you when you wrote, “The Past, Of Course”?
Nikki Vogel: In my office in our house in Edmonton.
Geosi Gyasi: How much attention do you pay to diction in a story?
Nikki Vogel: I hope I always pay attention to diction in a story because it’s part of character building. In “The Past, of Course” diction played a particularly large role so when I was revising I was pretty careful to make sure every sentence ‘stayed in character’ so to speak.
Geosi Gyasi: Whom did you write, “The Past, Of Course” for?
Nikki Vogel: I didn’t have an intended audience in mind when I wrote it. The story was there. It wanted to be told. Only once the story was complete did I stop and think about which journals would be suitable for submission.
Geosi Gyasi: Have you ever been rejected for your work?
Nikki Vogel: I have received many, many rejection letters for my poetry, short stories, and for my novel. I have never been rejected as a person for my work, though I have had luke-warm reception when I’ve announced what I do. People are, for the most part, interested when they learn that you write, and can’t wait to tell you about this great idea they’ve had for a novel (LOL).
Geosi Gyasi: How many times do you edit your work?
Nikki Vogel: Phew. That is a question without a ‘real’ answer. I edit as many times as it takes to do justice to the story. A lot. Until it’s right. This is rarely accomplished in a vacuum. I have trusted readers I turn to, particularly Michelle Barker, who I met in UBC’s MFA program. She’s a fantastic writer and my most trusted reader. I will say that the first draft is often a fleshing out of the idea and the final draft rarely looks anything like it.
Geosi Gyasi: Does your family approve of your writing?
Nikki Vogel: My family has always been very supportive of my writing. The first gift my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time, gave me was to have several of my stories professionally bound. We always joke that his first gift to me was the best one and he’ll never be able to top it.
Geosi Gyasi: I learned from online that besides writing, you play tennis. Is there any special skill one requires to play tennis?
Nikki Vogel: I suppose the easy answer is hand-eye coordination. There are a lot of moving parts in tennis – the player is in motion, the ball has spin and speed, and the racquet head is moving and if you’re playing outside, there are weather factors too. Tennis is like any sport, the more time you put into it, the better you’re going to get. Hey, wait! That sounds a lot like writing.
Geosi Gyasi: Are you a voracious reader?
Nikki Vogel: Most definitely. I always have a book on the go. I consider it part and parcel of being a writer. At the moment I’m reading The Peripheral by William Gibson, and I just finished Hunt for the Hydra by Jason Fry. I try to read quite a bit in the genre I’m writing in at the moment.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you fetch your stories from the place(s) you live?
Nikki Vogel: Almost never, though I have a half-written horror story on the back burner that is set in Edmonton.
Geosi Gyasi: You have an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC. Why did you decide to study Creative Writing?
Nikki Vogel: First and foremost I chose an MFA Creative Writing to improve my writing, to learn things about my craft at a higher level. Secondly, the degree is a necessary credential if I ever want to teach creative writing.
Geosi Gyasi: Which teachers/writers have had profound influence on your writing?
Nikki Vogel: I had the opportunity to work with some of the greats in Canadian literature. Charlotte Gill, Susan Musgrave, Annabel Lyons, Peter Levitt and Gail Anderson-Dargatz were my professors in the program. Of these five, Peter Levitt and Gail Anderson-Dargatz had the most profound effect on my craft. Peter is a fantastic spiritual guide who taught me how to see past self-doubt and, on the more concrete side of craft, to see the possibilities of language and word choice. Gail Anderson-Dargatz’s class on novel writing is outstanding.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you make enough time to write at all?
Nikki Vogel: I am fortunate to have the kind of lifestyle that allows me to write full time. I write between four and seven hours a day, six or seven days a week.
Geosi Gyasi: What are you currently working on?
Nikki Vogel: At the moment I’m writing a middle grade book. It’s a humorous re-imagining of Jack and the Beanstalk.
Geosi Gyasi: How long does it often take you to write a single story?
Nikki Vogel: This question has no easy answer. I tend to write the first draft of a short story in one sitting, but sometimes life gets in the way of that, or my inspiration comes at an inconvenient time of day. After that, who knows how many times I’ll have to revise it to get it right.
Geosi Gyasi: What is the most interesting part of writing?
Nikki Vogel: The act of creating something where nothing existed before. I tend to write genre fiction – fantasy and science fiction – and I love the process of world building.
Geosi Gyasi: Do you gain anything from writing?
Nikki Vogel: Satisfaction. Despair. Joy. Lunacy. Compulsion. Completion. I can’t not write. Writing is breathing for me. There are stories jostling to come out, pushing themselves to the front of the line. Holding things in is never good.