Oh, oh, I think I've found the earliest Ask Nicola question. My guess is it's from very early 1996 or even late 1995. Here it is, exactly* as I found it (yes, really, all caps and green font):
HI NICOLA, I REALLY LIKE YOUR BOOK AMMONITE, BUT I HAVEN'T FINISH REEDING IT AND I ALSO HAVE TO WRITE ABOUT SIX PAGE ESSAY, I HAVE THE BOOK AT HOME, BUT I DON'T HAVE TIME TO FINISH ON TIME AND TO WRITE ABOUT SOMETHING. SO IF YOU COULD HELP ME FOR SOMETHING, EVEN A LITTLE INTRODUCTION ABOUT THE BOOK AND THE REASON YOU WROTE ABOUT, WILL HELP. I KNOW IT WAS YOUR FIRST BOOK AND YOU WON AN AWARD, BUT I NEED YOUR HELP NOW PLEASE. THANKS FOR YOUR HELP
I'm sorry to hear you have so little time. Me too, which is why I'm not going to be writing a whole bunch of stuff for you to put in your essay. (There's plenty of material on the web page that might be useful--especially in the interview with Holland SF.) I'm biased of course, but I'd say that if you have limited time, you'd be better off finishing Ammonite and not bothering with the essay...
I've had fun today combing through the archives trying to assign rough dates to things. It's interesting to see how the questions (and the way I answer them) have changed over the years. Or not :)
* I added the Holland SF interview link