We love when authors have new books coming out – it gives us a chance to ask them a few questions and promote the launch. Nikki Loftin’s work has been called “mesmerizing” and “irresistible” and we would agree. She is also very nice!
Mark your calendars, Nikki’s Wish Girl will be available February 24.
Middle Grade Mafia: I love the quote you have on your web site:
“Tell me what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver, The Summer Day
Can you tell us how you decided to become a writer?
Nikki Loftin: Writer? Ha! I knew by the time I was nine that I wanted to be a Published Author when I grew up. I knew this because a teacher had sent in a poem I wrote (about the Trojan War) to the local newspaper, and they published it alongside my picture and my name, and the thrill of thinking everyone (In the entire world! Every single person born EVER!) was reading my words lingered for years.
It took me decades to figure out that, sure, being published is great, but the actual act of writing the books/poems/essays, the moment of creation, was the real payoff for me. I am never happier than when I am drafting a new manuscript, whether it gets published or not. I love writing. The page is my true home.
MGM: I’ve read your favorite childhood book was Pippi Longstocking. What kind of books did you like the least as a child and what does that say about you?
NL: This is a ridiculously difficult question, and it shouldn’t be. The thing is, as a kid I read books like most people breathe air: constantly, without even thinking about each individual breath/book. I loved them all, like different flavors of ice cream. The only truly awful reading experience I can recall is when the teacher would force us to read only so far in a book (usually because we were reading aloud in class), and require us to shut the book at the end of some arbitrary paragraph or chapter. That interruption of the narrative for me was almost physically painful! I got in trouble a lot for reading past where we were instructed to stop. But I never stopped doing it. Some things are worth getting in trouble for.
Oh, I suppose I just revealed my obstinate and rebellious streak. Had it as a kid, still have it. These days, I think it often helps me power through to the end of manuscripts. I will NOT give up.
MGM: Some have described your first book, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, as a re-telling of Hansel and Gretel, and your second, Nightingale’s Nest as a retelling of The Nightingale. What drew you to these fairy tales?
NL: When I was a kid, my mom had a collection of old leather-bound books on the shelves of our living room, and my favorite ones were the books full of original Grimm and Andersen fairy tales. I re-read them a thousand times or more, and spent countless hours daydreaming about my favorites. I adored The Nightingale, since I was a musician, and Hansel and Gretel… well, all I need to say are two words: candy house. Yum!
MGM: Congratulations on the release of your new book Wish Girl.
NL: Thank you!
MGM: What inspired this book and what do you hope readers get from it?
NL: Wish Girl was inspired by more than one event/person in my life, but at its core, it’s a love letter to the place where I felt most safe, and most myself, as a child. When I was growing up, my parents spent lots of summers working on a ramshackle house on a hilltop in rural Texas, and I spent as much time as I could running off and getting into mischief. Rattlesnakes, poison ivy, cactus spines? They were all wonderful adventures to me, and when I was alone in a valley I found out there, I felt safe and wild and free. Many of the things that happen to Annie and Peter in Wish Girl happened to me and my sister when we were young, more or less, charged with magic to help readers understand the significance of that particular place. It’s fiction, yes, but Peter and Annie are based on kids I knew and loved when I was teaching, and their stories are heartbreakingly real. I hope readers will see the magic of friendship, and art, and understand how important it is to accept the ones we love while we have them for who they are, not who we wish they were.
MGM: You’ve said your books Nightingale’s Nest and Wish Girl originated in poems you wrote. Do you think being a poet makes you a better middle-grade writer?
NL: I’m not sure! I love writing in a lyrical style… but when I’m writing for middle grade, the most important thing in my mind is to tell a story that will be irresistible to a young reader. The story itself, not the language, takes precedence. But since I do spend a lot of time outside of my middle grade writing life thinking about words, and creating poems, perhaps that does give my subconscious some interesting images to work with when I’m drafting.
MGM: What advice can you give aspiring writers?
NL: The same advice we all give: Read! I have read voraciously since I can remember, and the words, images, and stories I’ve collected are my treasures.
I would also add, go outside. There is so much to see and experience outside our rooms and walls. The feel of soft wind on your face, the distant sounds that color your landscape, the changing shades of the sky, can all fill you with wonder and emotion. These feelings are the shells on the beach, the bright red feathers, the crystal-shot rocks that writers pick up, collect, and carry home to their desks to work with. The moments you spend away from the page, walking around and watching the world, can make an ordinary story sparkle.