After scheduling my earlier post regarding my upcoming testing, (posting this afternoon) I had to get away for a while, so I went to pick up the latest author for an interview. In the transporter I asked him where he wanted to go and he said, “Kampot, Cambodia”.
“Seriously? I mean, you could pick Hawaii, a beach in North Carolina, Florida or the Riviera. France. London.”
Well, I’m not going to argue with my authors, so off we go. Actually, as I came to find out, we’re out side of Kampot. Peaceful. Relaxing…wait, I need to go back for some bug spray…
1. Who are you and what makes you the most fascinating person in your city?
First, I would like to say my happy place is my home, which is in the countryside just three kilometers from the small town of Kampot in southern Cambodia, where myriad birdsongs serenade me all day. I don’t know if I am the most fascinating person around, but the fact that I’ve lived in many countries spanning three continents might make me stand out. I’ve been in remote areas an ordinary tourist would never see when I worked as a geological engineer. As a consequence of living and working in foreign countries, I have been fluent in five languages during the course of my lifetime.
2. Without revealing a deep dark secret (unless you want to), what one thing would people be surprised to learn about you?
I was born into a lower class family with uneducated parents (fourth grade education) and raised in relatively poor neighborhoods, yet I’ve travelled the world. I once lived with the Turkana people in northern Kenya, where the men wear a blanket draped over their shoulders and women wear goatskin aprons with nothing on the upper part of their bodies, living the life they have led for hundreds of years (herding livestock). There, the food consisted of goat milk fermented with animal urine. Not bad actually!
3. What interested you to become a writer rather than something else such as a rock star?
The irony is, I never thought to become a writer, that is until I suffered a broken heart in Kenya, and wrote my first novel, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, which served as a catharsis to help me get over my emotional pain. Never thought I would write again. Until fifteen years later while living and working in Laos, where I discovered a secret war had taken place during the fifties and sixties, which resulted in Laos being the most heavily bombed country in history. This revelation disturbed me so much, I just had to write about the consequences of that war, and I wrote my second novel (actually the first one published), The Plain of Jars. After that I was hooked. My latest novel, Justice Gone, came about after getting a daily dose of what was going on in America, via the news media. I am happy to say it has won The National Indie Excellency Award and is being considered for two more literary prizes, which sort of justifies my decision to write.
I did want to become a rock star (money for nothing and chicks for free), but never had a good enough opportunity to embark on that career, although I was a singer in a band as a teenager.
4. Writers are readers. With which author(s) would you enjoy sharing dinner? Why?
There are two I can think of offhand. One is John Le Carré, because of his cynical pragmatism resulting from his career as a government bureaucrat involved in the spy business, and his keen and poetic sense of observation, particularly of people and their personalities.
The other is John Grisham, because I admire his infusion of social issues into his novels, and his experience as a liberal who has spent much of his life in the relatively conservative deep south of the US. Justice Gone was partly inspired by many of Grisham’s novels.
5. If I were stranded on a deserted island or suffering from a four hour layover at the airport, why would your book(s) be great company?
Several reasons. In all my books, the writing style is quite cinematic, so the reading experience can be somewhat visual, almost as if you were watching a film. My first two novels take place in exotic settings (Journey Towards a Falling Sun – in the wild frontier of northern Kenya; The Plain of Jars – in the jungles of Laos) which adds to the escapism, and the last one, Justice Gone, is a suspenseful courtroom drama that could easily be adapted to film. All the novels have memorable characters and the stories are full of emotion: you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll forget the time that goes on by.
6. Share your process of writing in regards to: plot and character development, story outline, research (do you Google or visit places/people, or make it up on the spot), writing schedule, editing and number of rewrites.
Imagination. Whoever you are, not only me, if you are a fiction writer you have to be able to imagine things in your head, like dreaming. Sometimes the plot changes as you progress, and that’s good, it usually means improvement (if you are not getting carried away). The characters become real-live entities, like people you know, and they should elicit feelings in you (admiration, empathy, loathing etc.).
I don’t write outlines, and certainly don’t have a schedule (maybe pulp-fiction writers who write formula books can do that). The number of re-writes vary from three or four, and sometimes even too many to keep track of (I can have up to ten different versions on my computer). I always have a third party editor. Having two editors is even better.
As far as research goes, because The Plain of Jars is a historical novel, I had to do a lot of background reading – I must have gone through a hundred books or more. And for Justice Gone, because I am not a lawyer but wanted 100% accuracy for the courtroom drama, I spent hours studying the legal system in the state of New Jersey.
7. “I think I have a good idea for a story, but I don’t know where or how to begin. Your process may not work for me. Any advice?”
Just write your ideas down, and mull it over. You can always work on it in the course of time.
But again, you need imagination. If you don’t have imagination, then write non-fiction.
8. I saw an amusing T-shirt the other day which read, “Every great idea I have gets me in trouble.” What is your philosophy of life?
How about “ Today’s mighty oak is just yesterday’s nut, that held its ground.” That’s from David Icke, the alien conspiracy guy.
Or how about “Thou shall not be such a shit you don’t know you are one.” That’s from William S. Burroughs.
But the most important is “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard said that.
All of these attitudes have helped me through life.
9. Please tell me you’re not going to stop writing? What’s next for you?
It’s interesting that you mention “stop writing.” That option is certainly in the cards. If sales of my books continue to be dismal (a few hundred copies) I might question whether it’s worth the effort. Good quality writing isn’t enough these days to keep one’s book from being buried by the thousands of new fiction titles coming out each month. Constant exposure is key.
But before I take that step, I do have another manuscript that will definitely be published. It can be a considered a prequel for Tessa Thorpe, the main character in Justice Gone (I actually wrote it before Justice Gone). It is a psychological thriller about a psychiatrist and a patient who claims he is a well-known terrorist. Publication date to be sometime in 2020.
10. Where can people find more information on you and your projects?
I am most active on Goodreads, then also Facebook. I do have an author’s website, but it’s not yet fully developed (http://author-n-lombardi-jr.com/). I have profiles on AllAuthor.com, and The Author’s Den. I also have a website dedicated to The Plain of Jars – http://plainofjars.net
N. Lombardi Jr, the N for Nicholas, has spent over half his life in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, working as a groundwater geologist. Nick can speak five languages: Swahili, Thai, Lao, Chinese, and Khmer (Cambodian).
In 1997, while visiting Lao People’s Democratic Republic, he witnessed the remnants of a secret war that had been waged for nine years, among which were children wounded from leftover cluster bombs. Driven by what he saw, he worked on The Plain of Jars for the next eight years.
Nick maintains a website with content that spans most aspects of the novel: The Secret War, Laotian culture, Buddhism etc. http://plainofjars.net
His second novel, Journey Towards a Falling Sun, is set in the wild frontier of northern Kenya.
His latest novel, Justice Gone was inspired by the fatal beating of a homeless man by police.
Nick now lives in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Visit his goodreads page: