Sunday, October 4, 2015

Sunday's Author Spotlight: Hope Russell Nunki

Today I’m excited to have author Hope Russell Nunki on the Sunday’s Author Spotlight. Hope is the author of the novel ‘Release’ which was published in November 2014.

About 'Release':
After three years of desperation, her release may be a new beginning... or it may be her end.

Miscarrying Theodore on Leap Day devastated Mandelyn and Henry in ways that weren’t obvious at first. As year followed year, postpartum depression, marital dysfunction, and ethical corruption quietly metastasized under the guise of a lovely home and stable careers.

To free herself of yearning and regret, Mandelyn turns to journaling with a virtual counselor, waxing nostalgic for past loves—sharp-witted Joshua, mercurial Sam, and enigmatic Dante. Never mind that Joshua came out of the closet after years of chaste camaraderie, Sam toyed with her emotions, and Dante, after a steamy year that culminated in a summer trip to India, simply faded from her life without explanation.

Never mind that, discovering her journals, Henry makes a heartbreaking decision:
“I release you. Go. Find yourself. See if something or someone—in your past or in your future—holds the keys to your happiness. Maybe you’ll find that you have what you need somewhere inside you. If you don’t live this life fully, Mandelyn, it won’t be on my account. I think you know I love you, but if the character of my love doesn’t fulfill you, I don’t have anything else to offer.

Quantum nonlocality, Proustian memory, and the energy vortexes of Sedona, Arizona play into the Odyssey takes through the chasms between science and religion, perception and reality, head and heart, love and lust, and forgiveness and gratitude.

This book is available through Amazon.

Interview with Hope Russell Nunki:

Tell us a little more about who Hope Russell Nunki is?

The easiest way to start answering that question is to say that Hope Russell Nunki is a figment of my imagination. It’s a pen name assembled from things that are important to me—virtue, family, and cosmic perspective. The surname is both the name of a navigational star and the name of my childhood pet Shetland Sheepdog.

But to get to the real point of your question, I’m an ever-evolving piece of work these days. I am a former professional mascot, signmaker, thespian, and school teacher. The common thread among these roles is a passion for illuminating common yet complex issues in accessible yet unusual ways. With a degree in theatre arts, communications, and English, I taught, directed plays, and coached speech teams in central Iowa before leaving academia and returning to my roots in the suburbs of Chicago just before the turn of the millennium.

With more than 15 years of experience in professional services marketing, I recently started a freelance writing, editing, and marketing consulting practice, Noon Key Productions LLC. Publishing Release was the launch pad for this new chapter in my life. In addition to working on my second novel, I ghost-write and by-line all manner of written content for a wide variety of clients, and I am actively seeking editing clients for fiction manuscripts, as well.

By night, I volunteer my time and opinions far too easily and laugh really obnoxiously. I serve at the pleasure of my college sorority alumnae chapter, my daughters’ cheerleading team, multiple blood drives each year, and the Society for Marketing Professional Services (SMPS). I practice hatha yoga intermittently and run 5K races poorly. My husband and I are raising four daughters who are convinced we are the modern day incarnation of the March family.
One of the book clubs who read Release shared a picture of their gathering on Nunki's Facebook page. Nunki regularly makes herself available for book club appearances in the Chicago area and nationally via Skype.

What made you start writing?

Basically, I had to write. Storytelling is the most enlightening, cathartic, and arousing thing I could imagine doing with my life. It’s my purpose, which sets the stakes pretty high. Not doing it—or worse, not doing it well—just isn’t an option. Because of that, it can also the most frustrating, terrifying, and soul-crushing thing I could imagine doing. While that’s not exactly an endorsement of my chosen profession, it’s the valleys that make the mountaintops that much more rewarding.

I played it safe for a long time, channeling my passions in stable-seeming jobs and socially-acceptable outlets, but I never felt truly alive. The closest I’ve ever felt to the way I have in the past few years as an author was during my thespian era. I was good, but I was never going to be a great actress. I was a very good director, and I think I could be a great playwright. I hope that more theatrical work is somewhere in my future.

And who are your inspirations?

I admire dozens if not hundreds of people, often within a single day. Narrowing the scope of the question to purely literary inspiration, I’m an insatiable Diana Gabaldon fan. She’s a brilliant researcher, her character development is unparalleled, and the breadth of emotion she elicits with her lyrical prose has no equal in modern literature. I usually don’t go for historical fiction because many authors of the genre rely too heavily on the built-in drama of the chosen setting. I’m not a particular fan of science fiction, either, because I see too much reliance upon its stock characters and tropes. Classification-defying Gabaldon does neither; she just writes damned good stories that elevate and scintillate. Other authors I’ve really loved of late have included Lisa Unger, Jeffrey Eugenides, Sara Gruen, and Maria Semple.
Amanda Feeley, proprietress of Esscentual Alchemy, is a natural perfumier and a long-time friend of Nunki. Based upon the descriptions in Release, she produced a trio of fragrances inspired by the novel.
What do you love most about being an author?

Where do I start? I love that every blank page is a new opportunity to evoke thought, emotion, and action. I love that the publishing evolution during the last decade has expanded the platform, so that anyone with a story and the will to take it to market can do so. Conversely, I also love that publishing is still meritocracy—that marketing schmooze only gets you so far; the provocative power of your story takes you the rest of the way.

Can you describe your writing process?

On the planners-to-pantsers spectrum, I’m probably closer to the pantser crowd. With my first novel, and with the manuscript I’m currently polishing, I started out with a synopsis—a two- or three-page summary of the story’s events. I supplemented the synopsis with a relationship map indicating each major character, lines indicating who knows who from where, and little offshoots from each character’s point on the map describing minor characters’ influences, or maybe some key backstory elements.

After that, I broke the synopses down into chapters. I didn’t title my chapters, but while they were in development, they were named in the style of old Friends episodes, such as “The one where Henry releases Mandelyn” or “The one when Mandelyn’s mom sets her straight.” This chapter breakdown resided in a working document. As I finished chapters, I exported them to a second document. This helped me resist the temptation of editing when I should have been writing new content. I read once that editing during the writing process is a form of procrastination, and it’s absolutely true.

For ‘Release’, I edited the book while I was querying agents. I had the book read by two beta groups. One was my own book club; the other was a friend’s book club comprised of her husband’s mother, her sisters, and their daughters and daughters-in-law. Once I abandoned my agent search and decided to publish independently, I hired a professional editor to do what we characterized as a light-developmental, heavy-proofreading job.

For ‘Decorum’, I plan to do things about the same way. To that end, I am currently and will continue to seek agent representation for as long as it’s reasonable to do so. I know it’s sacrilege among indie novelists, but I really hope to be picked up by a traditional publishing house. It’s not that I haven’t loved the freedom of self-publishing, but I’m not in love with taking all of the marketing 100% on my own shoulders. I’m reasonably creative, industrious, and optimistic, but that pales in comparison to the marketing muscle of the New York juggernaut.
Five teas are described in Release. In collaboration with Tiesta Tea®, a custom set of loose-leaf selections was created to perfectly capture the essence of what you read about in the novel. In keeping with the Tiesta mission, each flavor is also a functional blend with calming, energizing, slimming, immunity, or age-reversing properties.

Do you have any sort of ritual you follow?

I have no prescribed ritual, owing to the utter unpredictability of schedule. I write longhand; I write on my smartphone; I write on my computer. I even dictate sometimes. Dictation’s amazing for writing dialogue. I sit on my couch, at my kid’s athletic practices, at a desk, at the kitchen table, in my car (while parked, of course)… anywhere works, literally. The only thing I can’t do is multi-task. If I’m on family time, freelance time, editing time, or marketing time, the novel files are closed.

If there’s anything I do that rises to the level of calling it a ritual, it’s this: I write. I try to write every day if for no other reason than to clear the pipes. Sometimes you just have to flush out the useless gibberish that’s lodged in the way of the truth that needs to be freed. Just thinking about what I plan to write doesn’t count; in fact, it’s utterly dangerous. That One Great Idea has been lost countless times because I’ve been sure I’d remember it later. That never works out well.

I wrote ‘Release’ in just under three months sticking to this philosophy. ‘Decorum’ has taken much longer because, in addition to whatever vestiges I still have of a personal life, I’ve been promoting ‘Release’ over the last year while trying to advance ‘Decorum’ at the same time. No excuses, lest the project stall, as all evidence would indicate. Still, finishing a novel within a year’s time isn’t too bad.

A screenshot of an early genuine interaction online. Nunki has built a following of more than 1000 on Facebook and she is nearing 4000 followers on Twitter.
Tell us more about your books ‘Release’ and ‘Decorum’?

‘Release’ is the story of a woman’s downfall and reclamation. Postpartum depression, marital dysfunction, and ethical corruption push Mandelyn Ziegel to the breaking point. To combat her unresolved grief, nostalgic yearnings, and professional regrets, she secretly tries virtual counseling—an online, anonymous journaling program. When her husband finds and reads her entries, he sees the depth of her ennui and “releases” her to rediscover her purpose and bliss. What follows is an exploration and reconstruction of Mandelyn’s psychic foundation—her formative relationships, her character, and her ideals.

‘Decorum’ is the story of a woman on the brink of adulthood and at the center of explosive controversies that threaten her family and her future. Politics are truly local for Ginny Constable, whose family unwittingly builds relationships with both the incumbent and opposing candidates for the district’s senate seat. As the election approaches, it became clear that outward appearances, courtesies, and protocol often mask devious, even licentious machinations. On one side—the senator and her chief of staff, the career politician looking to make his mark. On the other side—the restauranteur and civic leader, supported by his former lover turned campaign manager. Attacks are levied, accusations fly, and Ginny may become the casualty of it all. The twist and turns multiply as this story unfolds, and the nature of intimacy, honesty, and leadership is revealed.

How did you come to these stories?

Thematically, ‘Release’ is a study of issues I watched friends go through leading up to the time I decided to write about them. The story was borne of my trying to make sense of their experiences. The “what if” questions I would ponder after talking with this friend or that were the basis of dialogue that takes place in the book. The third chapter and the penultimate chapter in Release were among the first written. Getting from one point to the other was the challenge.

‘Decorum’ is grounded in my time spent living in central Iowa during and after college. Iowa truly is the crucible for American politics, but living there during multiple political seasons helped me realize that the presidential race is just the tip of the iceberg. Living all over the United States growing up, I never saw a citizenry more engaged, informed, or passionate about the democratic process. Visiting Iowa ever few years since I left, I am still astounded by the incredible volume of political advertising, political events, and political access Iowans are afforded. It doesn’t hold a candle to anything I’ve experienced anywhere else, and I live in Chicago (okay, in the suburbs—but I used to live and work in the city; I’m bona fide), home of the smoke-filled room!

While in Iowa, I was still a teacher and theatre director, which accounts for the academic aspect of Decorum. My mother was a teacher, so I had the teacher’s mindset ingrained in me from a young age. I have four children who are spread out from elementary to high school right now, and I’m a pretty active volunteer and coach. Three of my in-laws are teachers, and one is a guidance counselor. For all of these reasons, I’m still in touch with what the school environment looks like today. Using the school as a story setting is kind of cliché, but for good reason. The interpersonal issues kids navigate are more than just metaphors for the rest of life to come; they are formative experiences that are relatable to a wide variety of people across economic and geographic divides.

Some Authors say they heard there characters inside their head for years before they started writing. How did your characters come to life?

No one I’ve created in my novels to date is based directly upon anyone I know in real life. Naturally, people I encounter and things I experience inform what I write. Some of the characters in Release are composites of multiple people I know, with very little invented detail holding things together. I think this is pretty common for first-time novelists. Other characters in Release, and most of the characters in Decorum are sheer fabrication.

As for hearing the characters inside my head, quoth Shrek, “Yeah, it’s getting [them] to shut up that’s the trick.”
This is a picture of the author's pen name's inspiration, the family Shetland Sheepdog named for a navigation star. For more information, visit
What is your favorite book(s)?

In addition to the work by the authors I mentioned above, I confess to being a sucker for Shakespeare, Hemingway, David Foster Wallace, and Chuck Palahniuk. Draw whatever conclusions you’d like. They’re not exactly an admirable lot, but they all know how to write a mean turn of phrase.

What are your future plans in writing?

Beyond ‘Decorum’, I have ideas for three future novels. One is a story of a cancer battle told from the perspective of the caregiver. Another is the story of a woman’s disappearance and return, told from the perspective of the woman who disappeared. Both stories are based on experiences of women I have known for years. One approached me and asked that I collaborate with her to tell the story; I asked the other one if she’d be interested in collaborating with me. After those, the next novel will be the second in the Release series, told from the point of view of Colette, a favorite secondary character of many readers and mine. After that, I’d like to develop novels based upon other characters in Release, although I imagine that other projects may draw my eye in the meantime. For instance, I also have plans to co-write a novel with successful romance novelist Jennifer Theriot.

All of this is meant to occur while I get my consulting practice up to full speed, so I have several years of work mapped out for my future.

What would your advice be to new aspiring authors?

Simple. Get to work!

About the Author:

Hope is a former professional mascot, signmaker, thespian, and school teacher. The common thread among these roles is a passion for illuminating common yet complex issues in accessible yet unusual ways. With a degree in theatre arts, communications, and English from Simpson College, she taught, directed plays, and coached speech teams in central Iowa before returning to her roots in the suburbs of Chicago.

With more than 15 years of experience in professional services marketing, she ghost-write and by-lines articles by day. By night, she volunteers her time and opinions far too easily and laugh really obnoxiously. She serves at the pleasure of her Alpha Chi Omega alumnae chapter, the local Panhellenic society, her daughters’ elementary school association, and the Society for Marketing Professional Services. She practicse hatha yoga intermittently and runs 5K races poorly. Hope and her husband are raising four daughters who are convinced we are the modern day incarnation of the March family.

Hope is not her real name, but it’s easier to say and spell correctly than her real name.

For more information about Hope Russell Nunki please visit her website, Twitter, Facebook and on Pinterest.


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  1. That's awesome that so many things were made just for the book! Perfumes and teas, very cool!

    1. It really is right?! I wish I could get some Tiesta Tea here in the Netherlands. I'm just so curious about the taste :D

  2. I love all the products made for the book...very cool.

    1. It definitely is cool. I was a little surprised when the author send me the content but I think it's really fun to have some content inspired from the book.

  3. What a great blog post! I ADORE Hope and cannot tell you how much I enjoyed her book, Release. I'm really looking forward to our upcoming collaboration! For the record, I'd like nothing more than to add a signed paperback of Release to my special collection <3

    1. Thank you Jennifer. And thank you so much for stopping by. I haven't read Hope's book, but it really sounds wonderful. I hope you can add a signed paperback to your collection one day ;)


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