An Interview with Nicola East
Nicola East is, along with Sumaira Wilson, co-founder and director of the publishing sensation that is SpellBound Books Ltd. I am amazed and thrilled that she has found time in her busy schedule to chat with me today. Thank you for your time, Nikki.
First, what inspired you to establish SpellBound Books Ltd with Sumaira?
The desire to become a digital gypsy! I’ve always wanted to live that way but didn’t know how – meeting Sumaira meant that between us, we could figure out a way. SpellBound Books was that way.
What is your role in the company?
I am the editorial and artistic or creative director – we can’t decide what my title should be!
So, I primarily edit the manuscripts and work with the authors to get their story into the best shape. I then work on the cover – I find that while I’m editing, something usually pops into my head regarding the cover design. I then put a few mock-ups together and work with the author until everyone is happy that we’ve got the perfect image to reflect the book.
What was the first book SpellBound published?
The first book we published is called The C Word. Before we were a publisher, Sumaira & I decided to put together an anthology of short stories to raise money for PPE for the NHS. It has stories from unknown, debut, authors to famous, household names, and everything in between. We’re still very proud of it. Organising that book made us realise that our skill sets matched really well – we’re very yin & yang - and complement each other perfectly in the way we work. So much so we decided to set up SpellBound Books.
What is the next book the company will publish? When can we expect to see that?
The beginning of April will see us publish Gonzobelly by Andrew Komarnyckyj. It’s a great book that is a nod to gonzo journalism with the protagonist being the author. It’s funny in a social critique, satire kinda way. It’s very good and the sequel will also be published by SpellBound.
Who is your favourite author to read?
That’s an unanswerable question! I love crime fiction, it’s definitely my favourite genre, and although I love a stand-alone, I am a big fan of a series. I like getting to know the characters over the course of several adventures! I love reading Abir Mukherjee, Vaseem Khan and Michael Robotham. I haven’t included SpellBound authors but it goes without saying that I love all of them.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I’m always working. I have a day job which I work Sunday through Tuesday, and I do SpellBound work after that as well as Wednesday to Saturday! I don’t mind working at something I love doing – I just wish I could do it all the time. That’s the goal - SpellBound grows sufficiently to allow me to quit the day job.
When did you know you wanted to become a publisher?
As soon as Sumaira and I started to put together The C Word, we knew we were destined to be publishers.
Which genres of novels does SpellBound publish?
We publish whatever books we like regardless of genre. If a story grabs us, we are happy to publish it.
What do you like most about being a publisher?
Firstly, I like the freedom to work with one of my best friends in the world. Secondly, that we’re able to promote and support charities and social issues as part of our work.
Do you have a specific working routine?
Not really but I do like to be organised. If I’m editing, I like silence or possibly some spa-type music, although that does tend to make me want to sleep!! Haha.
What advice do you have for writers submitting to SpellBound?
Make sure you spellcheck your work! When I receive a manuscript that has numerous errors within the first few paragraphs, it really puts me off, it’s as if the author doesn’t care about their work. And if that’s the case, why should we? A submission is a calling card and the first impression should be a good one.
If your life were to be made into a book, what would the title be?
The Fortunate Accident!
If your life were to be made into a movie, who would you like to play you?
Olivia Coleman, Katherine Parkinson or Tamsin Greig. All comedy geniuses which would be very handy since my life story is a very bizarre one at times, plus I like a good giggle!
I’ve has been involved with the crime fiction community for well over a decade. Initially a freelancer, I've assisted numerous authors with promotions, building websites, proofreading, branding and much more. I’ve been described as ‘one of the most skilled marketers within the business and an excellent facilitator.’
I am a Co-Founder of Hull Noir, and in 2017 we hosted our first crime fiction festival, over the course of a week, celebrating Hull’s City Of Culture status. We used the traditional panel set up for our festival, but we also incorporated film and music to highlight and reinforce the impact of specific authors and/or crime works that have influenced, and still influence, to this day. Our second festival in 2020 was cancelled due to the COVID pandemic. We rescheduled several times, not knowing how long we would all be locked down for, eventually we changed our format and held the whole festival online in 2021. We had attendees from over a dozen countries which was just wonderful especially given the worldwide situation.
I have hosted Noir @ The Bar in both my hometown of Hull, as part of our festival, and also in London, where I live. I have chaired a panel of super talented authors at Newcastle Noir 2018 and, along with my wonderful son George, I helped coordinate logistics for Bouchercon 2018 in St. Petersburg, Florida. That was an amazing experience – hard work – but thoroughly enjoyable and very satisfying. Coordinating 600 authors for book signings was a new challenge but, with the wonderful assistants I had, it went swimmingly. Even having to move two huge lines of fans waiting for book signings, that needed to be relocated last minute, was fun – I found that a conga and sharing the English innate passion for queuing fairly was a perfect solution!! Another fact from Florida; a panellist I interviewed for Newcastle Noir (NN18) also had their debut at Bouchercon 2018 after I recommended the festival to him. Abir Mukherjee has gone on to be an incredibly successful author, winning numerous prizes and recognition for his wonderful series. One of my other panellists from NN18, Vaseem Khan, has recently been announced as the Chair for Theakston Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival 2023, held annually in Harrogate, England. I’m proud to have known, recognised the talent, and helped these wonderful writers before they were even published and can now call them friends.
I still have a day job and currently that is managing a pub in the City of London. I have worked in hospitality, either full or part time, for over 35 years. It brings with it a multitude of transferrable skills that help with running festivals – dealing with people in a busy, excitable environment being one of the best ones!
Finally, during the COVID lockdowns, my friend and I decided to pool our skills and put together an anthology of short stories to raise money for charity. Long story short, this escalated into us deciding to create a small, indy, publishing house focussing on digital books. We created SpellBound Books and have subsequently published over 100 titles in numerous genres. We have taught ourselves everything necessary to keep all services in-house and I’ve found it very satisfying learning, perfecting and discovering new skills.
Essentially, I love books and I love being around people who love books. I am a chatterbox but will listen and take notice of what you want/expect from me. You will also always get honest opinions and advice from me. It's my Yorkshire blood!