This week, Midnight Ink sat down with Nina Milton, author of Unraveled Visions, A Shaman Mystery #2.
Midnight Ink: How long have you been writing?
Nina Milton: When I was five, my infant school teacher Mrs. Marsden read a story to the class. It might have been the fable "The Mouse and the Lion", but I can't really remember. Then she asked the class to write a story. I was dumbfounded. For the first time I realized that the books I loved were written by real human beings. Before that, I believed they must have fallen from some sort of story heaven. It was a revelation—from then on I was scribbling down stories all the time.
MI: What influence have other authors had on your writing?
NM: My early influence was Iris Murdoch; I l devoured all her books in my twenties and thirties alongside Woolf, Dickens and Harvey. But having babies scrambled my brain for years and I discovered crime fiction—anything from PD James to Patricia Cornwell. I also loved John le Carré’s novels from my first read.
MI: If you have a job outside of writing, what is it?
NM: I trained to be a nurse, but I don’t have the brain for all that technical stuff. Drug rounds scared me stiff in case I fell into dreaming up the next story. I worked in palliative care for ten years, but I’ve now given up the day job to write full time. Not that nursing is precisely a ‘day job’!
MI: If you weren’t a writer, what would you be doing?
NM: A better question is, if you’re not writing, what are you doing, which is almost always . . . gardening!
MI: What is/are your favorite thing/s to do when you’re not writing or working?
NM: When I’m not gardening I love reading, cooking, watching movies, seeing friends. Note that a glass of red [wine] goes well with all the above activities.
MI: Who is your favorite mystery sleuth and why?
NM: I particularly like Kate Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie, and Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins. But for real class, you can’t beat Sherlock Holmes, who’s planet-sized brain holds every fact and can see round every twisted corner.
MI: Do you have a favorite murder case from a book (either yours or another author’s)?
NM: I love complex plots, slightly ironic and uber-cool sleuths and elegant writing. So that accolade has to go the The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. Apparently the plot was always secondary to Chandler . . . this is hard to believe, as the story is so more raveled than the wool in my knitting basket.
MI: What was your inspiration for this series?
NM: The idea for my Shaman Mysteries came to me when Sabbie walked right into my head and spoke directly to me—sort of —‘“Hi, Nina, I’m Sabbie. I’m 28 and I’m a shaman and a complimentary therapist. I love my job, but sometimes some very strange people come into my therapy room . . .”
At around that time, I went on a walk with my son on the Somerset Levels, a moorland in the west of England. As we hiked along, the day became gloomy and we were almost lost because each field on the levels is surrounded by water; rivers,dykes, rhynes, ditches and canals. We came upon the areas where they extract peat industrially; huge chunks like empty back swimming pools are cut from the earth and they slowly fill with water becoming reed beds and marshes. My first thought? “That would be a great place to bury a body!”
MI: Tell us about Sabbie Dare.
NM: Sabbie Dare is the force majeure of the Shaman Mystery series. She lives a self-sufficient life in the sleepy town of Bridgwater, England, but still struggles with the memories of her difficult start in life, gaining the strength to get through each day from her shamanism and her pagan beliefs She has an open heart, and is adept at inviting trouble into her life.
Sabbie walks between worlds. She is able to tap into the spirit world through her shamanic trances, and that dimension helps her clients solve their problems. Trouble is, her client’s problems sometimes lead to terror and peril.
When a detective called Reynard walks into her life, she’s suspicious of him at first. Rey is the archetypal humourless, maverick policeman, and their relationship begins like an upmarket cocktail—bitter and full of ice, with a sparkler fizzing at the edge. But in the second of the series their relationship takes a new direction . . .
MI: How do the Shaman Mysteries compare to your past works?
NM: Before Sabbie started her adventures, I wrote for children. My books for confident readers of 8 or 9 plus are not about crime, but they usually have some sort of mystery at their center.
MI: Do you have a pet? Tell us about him/her.
NM: We love cats and dogs in our family but we haven’t yet replaced Honey the cat, who died aged 18, and Jessie, our Border Collie who died of leukemia aged 14. We’re still thinking about it! However, we do have hens, which include growing babies and two combative cocks; they’re like part of the family and bring a chuckle every day.
MI: If you don’t have a pet, do you have a favorite animal?
NM: I love standard poodles—can someone please convince my husband that they’re perfectly butch when they’re not clipped in daft ways?
MI: What food could you live off of for the rest of your life?
NM: I was about to righteously say ‘any vegetable’ when I realized that would be a fib. It’s actually buttered toast. Sometimes, when everyone’s out and I’m writing all day long, I practically do live off it.
MI:Do you have a favorite recipe?
NM: Utterly rich and tomatoey pasta dishes.
MI: What is your favorite part about being an Inker?
NM: I think Midnight Ink supports its writers so well, and the other writers are friendly with each other—friendly and helpful. I’ve experienced massive, conglomerate publishing houses and really tiny indies, and Midnight Ink is my best experience yet.
Unraveled Visions, the second Shaman Mystery, is available online and in bookstores now!