by Gillian Crowley –
Nicola Furlong zooms in for our interview on her electric bike, fresh from a hockey game with the Sidney Retreads, an old-timers’ hockey team where she was the only female player for many years.
This energetic artist, writer, radio host, gardener, hockey player and communications consultant is one of those people who epitomizes the fun of semi-retirement and retirement when there’s time to develop a diversity of interests.
Nicola was a communications specialist for many years in a variety of federal departments but in 1996, while at Fisheries and Oceans in Nanaimo, she became a victim of government cuts. At this critical juncture she decided it was time to take life’s lemons and make lemonade.
The sixth of eight children, Nicola has a “can do” attitude that helped her become an independent consultant and facilitator in Greater Victoria. Around the same time she drew on her Fine Arts degree from Carleton University to continue writing fiction, having previously written her first murder mystery featuring Riley Quinn, a professional golfer and part-time B.C. coroner, entitled Teed Off!
Her second darker novel, A Hemorrhaging of Souls, garnered praise on GoodReads, as suited for “fans of Sue Grafton, LJ Ross, Joy Ellis, Sue Fortin and L.T. Vargus [who] will embrace the tension, humour and suspense.” While marketing this psychological thriller, she “lucked into” her “divine gig” with Guideposts, an American Christian publisher that sought upbeat Murder She Wrote types of mystery stories with a positive message. Six cozy mysteries later, Nicola recognized an opportunity from the changes coming to publishing with the advent of digitalization and decided to branch out into self-publishing. With her partner, she wrote and co-created Unnatural States, a multi-media thriller which involved a unique, immersive reading experience, using words, dramatic re-enactment videos and music. Since then Nicola has self-published a number of books and eBooks, including a guide on self-publishing and a best-selling “how-to” titled Youdunit Whodunit! How to Write Mysteries. She shared her knowledge and experiences for years, teaching various writing and publishing courses at Camosun College.
In 2014 and 2016 she took a different approach while writing two women’s fiction books, Homefires and Heartsong, that explore her ideas about family relationships. These novels focus on the Shepherd sisters who have a calling to help people find forgiveness and make amends. Nicola admits that in self-publishing she has to do her own advertising, as Amazon and other self-publishing platforms don’t put much effort into promotion. Originally she had planned a third book about the “The Sisterhood of Shepherds” but at this point she is reconsidering. “When you self-publish, you put hours and hours into the writing and into trying to master the secrets to Amazon’s product-ranking algorithms, but then the eBook may only sell for a toonie a copy.”
Seeking a break from this incessant marketing challenge, Nicola returned to her artistic interests, creating funky and often humorous Steampunk art. For those unfamiliar with the term, “Steampunk” mixes modern ideas and technology with those from the Industrial Revolution when steam was a major source of power. Nicola says: “I love the idea of upcycling bits and pieces by making art from them.” She often uses joint compound to create images or presses her “odds and ends” into the thick plaster to create a new way of looking at the material. Her bold metallic work can be found at The Old Attic in Saanichton and online at www.nicolafurlong.com.
Nicola is always looking for new challenges and recently snagged a new gig as volunteer host of “About the Peninsula” on Radio Sidney. “I am really jazzed about meeting the variety of people we have on the Peninsula,” she says. Her interviewees have ranged from astrophysicists to fiddlers to dog whisperers. Radio Sidney started streaming online in fall 2018 (www.radiosidney.ca) and focuses on promoting the local arts through live interviews and local music.
What is next for this energetic artist/writer/radio host? At the moment she’s keeping her cards close to her chest, but we can be sure she’ll pop up soon with another fascinating project.