Any writer will tell you that the first rule of writing is “Write what you know.” Orlando writer Susan Koone ( S.K.) Nicholls has had enough unusual experiences to fill a book – in fact, enough to fill two books so far. And she’s just getting started.
A native of Pine Mountain, Georgia, Nicholls always loved writing. After her mother’s death, she spent time in foster care and a children’s group home. In high school, her teachers discovered and encouraged her writing talent, and she was awarded a scholarship. She planned to attend college and major in English, but an unplanned pregnancy put an end to that dream. After spending some time in New York, she returned to Georgia and went to work in a hospital. When the hospital offered to pay for her nursing degree, Nicholls decided to change career paths. She waited tables to support herself until her nursing license came through and then began her new profession. But her desire to become a writer never disappeared.
In 1992, the discovery of a mysterious ledger in the walls of her aunt’s house refueled her urge to write. It contained information about women who had undergone illegal abortions given by a town doctor in the 1950s and 60s. “I wanted to write a book based on it, but my father disagreed because so many of the people were still alive,” she says. So she put the idea on hold.
In 2007, Nicholls’ life took another unexpected turn. “I went through some life changes and ended up divorced and homeless,” she says. “My cousin had a cottage near a resort his family owned in Kissimmee, so I packed the car and hauled everything there.” The resort just happened to be Cypress Cove, one of the oldest and largest nudist resorts in the country. “People have a misconception about nudist resorts,” she says. “It’s not about sex. It’s about uninhibited relaxation, with freedom from the status associated with clothing.” Her experiences in Cypress Cove would come in handy later.
After retiring from nursing, Nicholls had the time to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. Encouraged by her cousin, an octogenarian in Georgia, she finally wrote a novel inspired by the ledger she’d discovered so many years ago. Red Clay and Roses, published in 2013, is a historical novel that chronicles the trials and tribulations of characters grappling with inequality and injustice in the Jim Crow south. Writing the novel left Nicholls depressed, so her “wonderfully supportive” husband, Greg, (a rocket scientist who also serves as her alpha reader and frequent contributor to her works) suggested she write something lighter. This provided the impetus for her next book, Naked Alliances.
Nicholls describes Naked Alliances as character-driven Florida Regional Crime in the tradition of Tim Dorsey or Elmore Leonard. It’s the story of Richard Noggin, a private investigator in Orlando who becomes an unwilling participant in a tangled web of sex trafficking, political intrigue and murder. “I wanted to expose the sex trafficking that’s so rampant in Florida,” Nicholls explains, “and I wanted to integrate a nudist resort as a safe haven to correct the misconceptions people have about that lifestyle.” Peopled with unforgettably quirky characters, Naked Alliances will keep readers amused and engaged until the final page.
Nicholls is already working on a sequel that will become the second book in the Naked Eye Series. This one will have Richard Noggin investigating the disappearance of seniors. “All my books involve social issues,” Nicholls says. “This one will look at Alzheimer’s and how it affects families.” Nicholls hopes her books will entertain readers but will also make them think seriously about societal problems they might not have given much attention.
When Nicholls is not writing, she enjoys fishing, boating, playing Pokemon Go, and spending time in city parks with the homeless. This should provide her with a wealth of experiences that will help her to continue writing what she knows.
For more information, visit the author’s website at www.sknicholls.com.