When local author Nicole Persun began writing her first novel at the age of 15, she didn’t tell anyone.
“You feel self conscious about everything at that age,” said Persun, who is now 25. But she was especially nervous to tell her dad, an award-winning author of 22 novels, four poetry collections and three non-fiction books.
“Story was always part of my childhood,” she said. “When I was a kid, my dad and I would make up stories instead of reading them.”
If she had a bad dream, they would make up an alternate ending. Taking walks through Fort Worden, they would make up stories about what surrounded them.
Instead of telling him she was writing a novel of her own, she asked her dad for some books on writing. Then, she began to ask him more and more questions.
“I got halfway through before I realized I had no knowledge of what I was doing,” she said. That’s when she asked her father if he wanted to read what she had written so far.
“Of course I said ‘no,’” said Terry Persun. “If I made a face or said any commentary on her writing, it’d change how she wrote it. It would change her own style.”
By the time she had graduated high school, Persun had published two fantasy novels with Booktrope Editions, a start-up press that launched Tess Hardwick.
Now, after having moved away to Seattle and then back to the Peninsula, Persun is developing her new style.
On July 1, she published “The Ingredients of Us,” with Lake Union Publishing, one of Amazon’s imprints. With themes such as heartbreak, divorce and the best recipes to bake when going through it, it falls into the contemporary fiction category.
But even though she is stepping out with a new genre and under a new pen name—publishing her new book under the name “Jennifer Gold,”—Persun has kept her dad’s healthy writing habits, including a piece of advice she will always remember: Write your novel all the way through before sharing it or editing it.
“Once you know you can write a novel, then you know you can write a novel,” Terry Persun said. “You just have to get it all out.”
When she was a teenager, her dad began to help Persun cultivate healthy writing habits, like waking up every morning and writing. He and her mother helped her attend the Pacific Northwest Writing Conference, so she could meet other authors and learn about the craft.
“I even recommended a few instructors who were a little dry to test how serious she really was about it,” Terry Persun said. “She came out of the classes with a big smile on her face.”
While attending the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts to get her MFA in Creative Writing, Persun began exploring other forms of writing, including short stories, novellas as well as other genres.
Her current book evolved alongside her. It started out as a short story for a class assignment. Then it became a novella. Then, she realized it was a novel.
“The idea was so much bigger than a short story,” she said. “It was a huge departure from what I’ve done before. It uprooted my process.”
And while she will never rule out any genre, especially one she loves as much as fantasy, Persun’s new book kickstarted a new phase of writing for her.
“It reignited everything and changed the way I operated,” she said. “It’s new and different, and it helped me define my process better.”
Now, Persun is back in Jefferson County, living in Quilcene with her husband and working on two new novels. One, which is slated to come out next year, is set in Port Townsend and follows the life of a marine biologist.
While “Ingredients of Us” could be described as a “reverse love story,” with recipes strewn through the ups and downs of the plot, her next book takes on the world of coffee and marine biology, and Persun hints that sitting by the water in Velocity Cafe might have played a big part in the book’s scenery.
Meanwhile, she has the start of another book beginning to percolate in her mind, which she plans to work on while editing her new book.
“I usually write a book from beginning to end in a relatively short amount of time,” she said. Still taking her father’s first pieces of advice, Persun believes in the Anne Lamott edict of “shitty first drafts.”
“I like the metaphor that if writing is like sculpting, the first draft is like getting your hunk of marble off the mountain and into the workshop,” she said. “You can only begin sculpting after it is there.”