Featured Interview With J. Nikol
Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?
I grew up in the Washington, DC area, bouncing around the Virginia suburbs throughout grade school. As an adult, I made my way around the country, living in New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Durham, NC, before eventually returning to Virginia.
I am currently a professor of Communication Studies at Randolph College, a small liberal arts college that sits near the banks of the James River. When I am not teaching, researching, or writing, I am spending time with my wife and stepson, grumpy chiweenie dog, grumpier gray cat, and two good-natured box turtles. I am an avid homebrewer, urban gardener, compulsive maker of things, and rabid sports fan.
I consider myself a to be a social justice activist and I am a firm believer that radical compassion can change the world.
At what age did you realize your fascination with books? When did you start writing?
I don’t have a traditional “girl loves books” story. I was a kid, and have been an adult, who loves being involved in as many things as I can get my hands on or wrap my mind around. My life as a writer, then, is characterized by being fascinated by all sorts of things.
I started writing as an undergraduate at student at Virginia Tech, eventually changing my major in Electrical Engineering to English with a concentration in Creative Writing. I was primarily a poet as a college student immersed in the writing life and though I now write fiction, I believe my love of verse, is evident in my prose.
Who are your favorite authors to read? What is your favorite genre to read. Who Inspires you in your writings?
I love writers who are willing to be a little hard on their readers–to make us work. I take great deal of inspiration from China Miéville, Margaret Atwood, and Don Dellilo.
Tell us a little about your latest book?
I am currently working on a serialized work of speculative fiction called WITHOUT LIGHT. The series is a product of my thinking and research in Critical Food Studies. Specifically, it is drawn from my attempts to understand the social and cultural dimensions of food systems that exacerbate conditions of inequality.
Coordinated movements like organics, slow food, fair trade, locavorism, and food sovereignty; and specific initiatives like farmer’s markets, CSAs, urban community gardens, gleaning programs, and food hubs, are all efforts aimed at changing what many readily call a broken and fundamentally unjust American food system–a food system that has a profoundly negative effect on millions. Michael Pollan put it wonderfully when he wrote, “[this is] the challenge — to change the system more than it changes you.”
But what if we don’t? What if we can’t?
These are the questions that drive WITHOUT LIGHT, the series imagines life in a future United States, where trends in our current food system have evolved to their (il)logical ends. The first installment, Independence Cycle | Part 1, is now available. Part 2 will be released in April 2017.
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