Meet the Members: Nick Sturgeon
Nick Sturgeon wrote his first non-fiction books back in 2003 to 2006 on various themes around property investment and being a landlord. These were traditionally published with Pearson FT and How To Books.
More recently he has formed his own publishing business and is creating how-to books around personal finance, frugal living, generating a side hustle, and how to create lifestyle choices.
Nick is a Board Member and patron of NWS.
Who are or have been the important writers for you?
Georges Simenon wrote a series featuring his Belgian detective Maigret. Having close family friends in a small Belgium market town, and growing up there every summer, I felt a natural connection with this character. I devoured his books as a teenager. Nicholas Monsarrat wrote some phenomenal books in the 1950s and early 1960s that I read as a teenager. This was not only because I enjoyed the stories but because his sister Felicity lived in the village and gave me some of his books. H. E. Bates came to me through charity shops and jumble sales. After reading several of his books I discovered his love story Fair Stood the Wind for France.
Tell us about the book that made you want to write?
Gabriel Garcia Marquez was a part of my Latin American university years and so the magical nature of his story telling has always captured me. I read One Hundred Years of Solitude and felt that it had been written for me, capturing as it does life in a small community rich with crazy, eccentric, evil, amiable, and mysterious people. It spoke to me about my village youth and then when I lived in rural southern Mexico, down on the border near Guatemala, it completely reflected the weirdness of village life in an ancient culture with such established ways.
If you will let me have another, it was A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor and tells the story of his walk from the Hook of Holland and across central Europe in 1933, heading for Constantinople. Sleeping most often in a hedgerow or a barn and occasionally in an elegant chateau overlooking the Rhine, this is a beautiful story of a teenager travelling on his own. It reminds me of my own carefree travels hitching around Europe as a fifteen-year-old, and then walking across Mexico, always with the belief in the kindness of strangers. These two books, plus theH. E. Bates bookmentioned earlier, are the only books I have ever read more than once.
Tell us about your own writing process and what makes it special to you.
I don’t write every day, but certainly for five days or more. Never for a whole day. When I am crafting a new book, I usually like to get 500 words or more done at each sitting. Often, I will write for a couple of blocks of time each day. Normally, in my lunch break at work and then again after supper, before I pick up a book to read for my own entertainment.
I create the structure of a new book by thinking what I might want to know about a subject, if I were approaching this for the first time and from outside of the knowledge. How does this happen? What if that situation happens? How could I bring A and C together? It can take a few hours to structure the overall format, with perhaps ten to twelve chapters and three or four connected themes grouped in each of those chapters.
The laying out process always happens with a fountain pen and a sheet of unlined paper. I decide what the one sentence summary of the book will be, what the main concerns or questions might be for a newcomer to the topic and from here I can usually decide on the chapter themes (though not necessarily the actual chapter titles). For putting words down digitally I use a MacBook Air and I also have an AlphaSmart Neo as a very old-fashioned tool for capturing words.
What has happened to make you feel proud of your written output?
One of my small business books was translated quickly into several languages and sold widely. My parents did a lot of voluntary work in Romania, with a charity called Children in Distress. One day my Dad rang me and told me how proud he had been to walk into the main bookshop in Bucharest and find a translated copy of my book on display by the counter. Apparently, he said to the girl on duty, “My son wrote this. Look, my son wrote this!” and showed them his name in his passport for confirmation. He told me how proud he was of me for this surprise find, and that in that moment he understood my commitment to the writing I loved.
What are you reading at the moment?
Currently I am reading two books. The first is a paperback by Neil Gaiman called The Ocean at the end of the Lane. I have never read anything by him, but it is enjoyable and a great discovery for me. Of the many authors on YouTube, I have found a good number of his interviews to be really helpful, both in terms of the craft of committing to your work with regular writing habits, and in the way he talks about the personal aspects of placing ideas onto paper and where stories come from. The other is a biography of Paddy Leigh Fermor and his amazing life. It is aptly titled An Adventure.
What is your best benefit from being a part of NWS?
I joined in 2019 and used the Studio at least one night a week after work. Often, I was alone, occasionally I had the positive and silent company of other writers in the same room. Always there was access to coffee from the kitchen within the Carousel space. This was comforting in a special way because we were each privately connecting with our need to write. The network of like-minded people is invaluable. But sitting in the window of a brightly lit room and writing while drivers in traffic outside see the sign, writ large proclaiming Nottingham Writers’ Studio, this is what made me understand that by taking my seat at the window I was proclaiming myself to be a writer. This was a massive mind shift for me.