Thursday, December 6, 2012

An Interview with Nikki Loftin

Q: Patty Campbell talks about the germ for a piece of writing being like the sand in the oyster.  What is your grain of sand? Do you begin with character or setting or something else?

A: This is one of those questions I answer differently on different days! I suppose some of my novels spring from a bit of sand – an irritation that I can’t stop thinking about. My debut novel, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, came from a conversation my husband and I had about the watering down of classic fairy tales. We both wondered at how safe and even boring some of our old favorites had become! I explained that what I wanted to write was a scary story for kids, to keep them engaged – something like Hansel and Gretel, but set in a school, where the teachers were the witches -- and then I raced home and began to write!

My next book started with a memory. When I was a little girl, I used to climb trees. I had a favorite one, a sycamore, and I used to dream about building a nest in it. And so Nightingale’s Nest was born… Of course, it wouldn’t really take off as a novel until I wove in aspects of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, “The Nightingale,” to give it more structure and depth.

Another of my manuscripts sprang from my love of Dante, another from my childhood as a preacher’s kid -- I guess I begin differently for every book, grateful another idea has come in whatever fashion!

Q: What do you hear from your readers?

A: I am at that most lovely stage of my career – the very beginning – when every fan latter or email makes me giddy with happiness! I have my first two letters taped to the door of my computer, to give me inspiration on the hard days, and remind me for whom I’m writing. Most of my readers ask about a sequel to my book. I’m never quite sure what to say – I have two more books coming out, but all of them are stand alones! I think I might revisit the world of my first novel with some short stories someday.

Q: Who is your favorite character you have written about?

A: The favorite character I have written about is the main character of my next book, Nightingale’s Nest (coming out in early 2014 from Razorbill/Penguin). His name is Little John Fischer and he’s a twelve-year old boy having to learn very quickly how to be a man to support and protect his family… and the magical orphaned girl who he discovers singing in a nest built high in a tree. He is such a compassionate, lonely, and honorable boy. When I think about him, I want to hug him! And then apologize for all the terrible things I did to him in the course of that book. Authors are awful to their characters; it’s shameful, really. :)

Q: Do you have a pet (pets)?  Tell us about it (them) and how they help/hinder your writing.

A: I have two lovely rescue dogs that keep me company while I write. They also accompany me while I think about what I’m writing. I find that, if I get stuck on a story I’m writing, a good, long walk helps me work out the problems. And having a dog who wants to take a LOT of good, long walks makes sure I always have an excuse to go and consult with the muse!

I also have chickens, and my sons have hermit crabs and a baby hedgehog. The baby hedgehog is a bit of a distraction, as she is the cutest thing ever, and I have to work not to go play with her during writing time!

Q: What is the hardest part of waiting for a book from the end of your writing to when it is released?

A: All of it! Really, it’s a wonderful, frustrating time for me as a writer. I was not born patient, and I haven’t improved much with age. Those months -- years! – between the final revision and the book on the shelf are crazy-making. Right now, my first book is barely out there, and I already have people emailing to ask when the next one will be out! My short answer is “in a million years,” because that’s what it feels like – but I know, with all the work, writing, and life that I’ll have to deal with in the interim, the time will pass. Eventually. And it might even pass pleasantly, if I eat enough chocolate.

Did I mention how important chocolate is to the writing process? It’s the secret to my success, anyway. Lots and lots of dark, lovely chocolate. Mmmmm.

Thank you for your time Nikki. We look forward to seeing you at the festival!

For more about Nikki Loftin, visit her website.

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