Here’s another interview for New Book 2016 (#NYNB2016), This one is of Nicole Sewell, author of Outside.
Where are you from?
I was born in California, raised in Michigan, and currently live about twenty minutes outside of Atlanta, Georgia. Most of my stories take place in Georgia. I may not have been born here, or raised here, but there’s something about the South that feels more like home than any other place I’ve ever lived.
Tell us your latest news?
I recently had my second child. She arrived the day after Thanksgiving, which was three weeks early.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The message is simple: You don’t have to follow a path that someone else is forcing you down. It’s okay to think for yourself and forge your own way.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Probably Lauren Oliver or Jennifer Armentrout. And my critique partner, Amy. She has a book coming out in 2017. She definitely helped me take my writing to the next level. I read some of my old stuff from before I partnered with her and it’s totally cringe worthy!
What book are you reading now?
I’m reading an ARC of The Trouble with Family by Heather Hobbs. It’s due to release in March 2016 from Loomis Park Press. I’m also reading The Collector by Victoria Scott. And re-reading Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu. I love that book!
What are your current projects?
I have a few works-in-progress. One that I’m most excited about is a paranormal series. I have never written a series, but when the idea came to me I knew it was the perfect story to split into a series.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Keeping characters consistent is always a challenge. It’s tempting to bend a character to do what you want them to do, but if it’s contrary to their behavior up until that point, readers will pick up on it quickly.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part of writing Outside was keeping Alaina consistent and having her gradually come out of her shell.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that you can’t force a story. If you try to write when you’re not “feeling” it, you’ll end up with a pile of unusable crap.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes. Beware of FILTER WORDS! If you’re not sure what they are, google it. There are a lot of really helpful articles about filter words. And get yourself a brutally honest critique partner. Or better yet, two critique partners who aren’t afraid to hurt your feelings. Also, make sure you have thick skin. If you can’t take criticism, you’ll never get better as a writer.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
A lot of times my plots and characters just come to me. Usually as I’m falling asleep or doing some kind of mind-numbing task, like cleaning the kitchen or driving. Then I get on Pinterest and create a secret board with photos and inspiration for the idea. After sitting on the idea for a few days, I send an email to my critique partners and run the idea by them. Writing out the summary in the email is usually when I am able to determine if an idea is feasible or not.
Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
My mom read to me all the time growing up. She’d read me all kinds of books. I remember her reading me Mrs. Pollifax mysteries when I was in grade school. My cousins were all avid readers too and as we got older we would amuse ourselves by writing funny stories and fan fiction.
How does your book relate to your spiritual practice or other life path?
I know what it’s like to be lose your faith and question beliefs you’ve grown up with. When I was writing Outside, I tapped into that confusion. My mom is nothing like Alaina’s mother in the story, but figuring out that my beliefs were different from hers and then having to tell her as much was absolutely terrifying. I used all those feelings and emotions when I wrote Outside.
What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
My main goal was to write a cohesive story with likeable characters and I think I did that. One of my most honest beta readers told me that the characters were so real to her that she wanted to hang out with them, so I must’ve done something right.
What are some of the references that you used while researching this book?
The cult in the story, Shiloh, takes scriptures and twists them to mean what they need them to mean in order to retain control of the followers. I spent a lot of time searching for the right scriptures to use. I had to find ones that could be easily taken out of context. And to keep everything consistent, I only used the King James version of the bible.
What do you think most characterizes your writing?
Strong voice and realistic dialogue. I try to make sure each of my characters has their own voice and that the main character in each book I write is significantly different from the last. Nothing aggravates me more as a reader than when an author I like releases a new book and the main character sounds and acts just like the ones in all their previous books. I’m not talking about books in a series, obviously.
And nothing ruins a book faster than lame, unrealistic dialogue. I do my best to write the way that people speak.
Are there misconceptions that people have about your book? If so, explain.
My book is not a “faith” story. I was careful to keep Jesus out of it because religion really is a touchy subject. I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to their beliefs and I did my best not to step on any toes. I myself am a Christian.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
Lauren Oliver is a favorite of mine. And Rainbow Rowell. I remember reading the first few pages of Attachments by Rainbow Rowell and thinking, “Wow. I will never be this good…” She makes me want to be a better writer. Another book that really changed things for me was Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver. The voice in that one stuck with me long after I finished reading. So did Kent McFuller. It was the first time I understood the term “book boyfriend.”
What process did you go through to get your book published?
I attempted to query an earlier version of my book and got some very positive feedback from agents. Ultimately, though, they all said the same thing: There isn’t room in the market for this story. So I shelved it and wrote another book (Emerson Hills. Releasing in October 2016). I queried that one and got the same feedback. So, I decided to self-publish. And I was going to, too. But after talking to my cousin, we decided to do one better: Create our own publishing company for all those YA and NA writers who, like us, had great stories but kept getting rejected by agents.
How do you find or make time to write?
I squeeze writing in whenever I get a quiet moment. I hold a full-time job and have children and a husband to take care of. I’m never alone and uninterrupted free time is rare. I frequently write scene ideas or bits and pieces of a story on my phone and email it to myself if I can’t get to my laptop. I write during breaks at work and during lunch. I write in bed at night. I get up early on Saturday mornings and write before anyone else gets up. Seriously. Any free moment I can find, I write.
Want to know more about Nicole? Check out her authors pages:
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