Alyssa: Did you initially set out to write a series?
Nicole: I wasn't completely sure. That was the goal, at least, but I had never written a fictional anything, so I had no idea if I was going to be able to pull it off. Once I started, though, I couldn't stop. The characters become like your friends or your family, and I couldn't not finish their story for them.
Alyssa: What sets this book apart from your previous books? Anyone else’s book on teenagers, life, love and self-discovery?
Nicole: This book, for me, was the first time I had someone say to me, "When I read this, I forgot you wrote it. It was just a story and I was in it." I feel like this book was where I found my real author "legs" so to speak, and got out of my comfort zone. I think all of my books share a quality of realism. They could be written about your best friend, or the kids you went to school with. I don't do outlandish storylines, I try to bring to life the everyday emotional trauma and joy we all experience in our adolescence.
Alyssa: When writing YA novels, you have to really dig deep on emotions, to help your characters become relatable. How (what did you use) were you able to get readers to connect to Vanessa and the others?
Nicole: Vanessa was a little bit different for me than when I wrote Courtney, the protagonist in the first novel of this series. Courtney was very much like me, and Vanessa very much the opposite. What I found though, in writing her transformation, is that everyone, even the mean girl with the flippy hair, has their own crap they're going through. Once I can find that, I know people will relate, even if it doesn't mirror their own experience. Struggles and victories and self-doubt and bravery are universal.
Alyssa: What are your going to write next? Do you have another project currently running?
Nicole: Right now I am working on a project called The Tower that I am just SO EXCITED about. I will talk to everyone I meet about it, and I'm not sorry. This is a departure from Gem City in that it's a bit darker; it touches on some really raw emotions and difficult issues for teenagers. I am glad I'm writing this novel now, because I feel like I can do this story justice after writing three other books. I'm less afraid of offending people and ready to just write the story how it's supposed to be written. It's a triple point of view story about three pagan witches living in Indiana. There are so many layers of conflict in this one, I can't wait to watch how it all plays out. That manuscript will be ready for beta readers in August!
Alyssa: Did you base any of your characters on you? Family/Friends?
Nicole: I think there are always elements of reality in my characters- some more than others. Courtney definitely has a lot of elements of me in her personality. Jess, a side character from this book has very clear influence of a dear friend of mine (I had her permission, don't worry), but most of them are are a mish-mosh of reality and imagination.
Alyssa: What is your writing process like?
Nicole: Insane? Lol. I have the story idea in my head, and the first thing I do is take to the internet to find photos of what my characters look like. I have to get to know them. Then I will do a complete free-write in a document next to each character photo to get their back story, what they're trying to do, their struggle, their flaws, anything I can think of. Once that's done... I write. I always have the loose outline in my head, but it changes so much I stopped writing it down. I usually write from about 8:30 to midnight most every night, after my son goes to bed. I don't always write from beginning to end- sometimes there are scenes that demand to be written, and I will write those first and go back and fill in the holes once they're out of my head.
Alyssa: What is your favorite book and why?
Nicole: I'm going to take this question as meaning my favorite book ever, and not my favorite book I've written. My favorite book, and the one I've read more times than any other, is The Deathly Hallows. Never had I anticipated a book as much as that one and it actually lived up to everything I wanted it to be. When I closed that book, I felt like it was the end of something so magical and special that it took a really long time to get over. That takes a special writer to be able to create something like that, so it's always at the top of my list.
Thanks so much for inviting me to participate!! I loved answering these. Let me know if these were the types of photos you were looking for or not, thanks
Thank you as well Nicole and the best of luck to you. Cheers!
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