When it comes to writing advice, I tend to think simple is best because it’s the most direct and the most useful, the kind of advice that doesn’t wrap us up in trying to figure it out, leaving us time for, you know, writing. That’s what we have here today with author Nicole Blades, in addition to a peek inside her new novel, The Thunder Beneath Us.
As I start writing my next novel, I loved learning what sparked this one for Nicole. (And her main character has the best name. Pun intended!)
What moment sparked your latest work-in-progress? Tell us in the comments!
And please welcome Nicole Blades to WFW!
Author Nicole Blades Doesn’t Feel Constrained by the Women’s Fiction Label
Amy: Nicole, welcome to Women’s Fiction Writers and congratulations on your second novel, The Thunder Beneath Us!
This novel deals with a long-held secret and tragedy, so I wonder what could prompt that situation to grab you. Can you tell us about the moment the idea for your novel sparked inside you?
Nicole: Thanks for having me, Amy!
The idea for this book sparked from a magazine story I read about six years ago about these three brothers who went duck-hunting as part of their Christmas get-together. But it all turned horrible when the family dog accidently punched a hole in the lightly frozen lake. The brothers tried to save the dog, and all three of the men were pulled down into freezing water. Two of the brothers drowned and one survived.
The story really stayed with me. I kept thinking about the level of guilt the one surviving brother probably carried, and how that kind of torment could really alter how he sees himself moving forward. Although the brothers were grown men when the accident happened, I started wondering how that heaviness and guilt would translate to someone who was just a teenager when their life fractured apart.
Amy: As writers, we all have ways we write novels. What’s your secret ingredient for writing your stories? I think mine is jalapeno popcorn! I’ve also taken a liking to index cards. Totally different but both important in their own ways!
Nicole: I don’t know if I have a secret ingredient, but something I kind of insist on having around when I’m writing is natural light. I need to be able to look out a window and let my mind roam. It’s simple, but really important, and the sun and daylight coming through the window as I write seems to open up something up in me and allows me to settle into the work. Of course, this isn’t possible when I’m writing late at night. For those times when it’s late and the house is quite and I’m pushed up against a deadline, my secret ingredient might be having my music playing low in the background. I have a playlist that I put together that helps to create the mood and emotion I’m hoping to set down on the page.
Amy: Without giving too much away, what was the most difficult scene to write in this book. Why was it difficult and how did you get through it? How did you feel about that scene when you finished
Nicole: It was scene between my protagonist Best Lightburn and her father. Without spoiling anything, the reason why it was so difficult was because it was a very emotional moment between them. Best and her father have a very close relationship, and having this significant moment meant going deep and dark and that’s not a “default” station for me.
When I finished writing the scene I felt relieved because I was happy with it and I was also happy that I got through it and it was behind me.
Amy: Now that we know a little about how you wrote The Thunder Beneath Us, would you tell us a little about the story? Maybe something that isn’t on the back cover?
Nicole: Best Lightburn is this quick-witted, headstrong, remarkable young woman. But she’s also broken. She’s wounded in that deep way. And even though so much of her pain and torment seems like it has scabbed over, it’s all still rather fresh and at the surface—maybe more than even she realizes. THUNDER is about Best finally trying to heal and put the fracture pieces back together.
Amy: As you can probably tell, I don’t shy away from the women’s fiction label. I don’t feel constrained by it, am not insulted by it. But many women author cringe. Where do you fall on the Women’s Fiction Label continuum?
Nicole: To be honest with you, I don’t have any issues with the “women’s fiction” label. Nor do I feel constrained by it. I once had an old journalist colleague ask me how the “whole chic lit thing” was going and I must admit that my lip started to curl a little, but that was because it sounded dismissive, even though I know him and don’t believe it was his intention. However, if someone’s talking about women’s fiction in a way that feels like they are trying to push it into the margins, then I have an issue.
Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors?
Nicole: Three things: First, You have to read. You must. Be voracious and various about it. Read different genres and styles and quality of writing, because it’s all going to help your own writing and develop your storytelling. Secondly, you have to write. Practice the craft. It doesn’t come magically to anyone (and if they say so, I’ve got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn!).
Nicole Blades is a writer and journalist who has been putting her stories on paper since the third grade. Born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, by Caribbean parents, Nicole moved to New York City and launched her journalism career working at Essence® magazine. She later co-founded the online magazine SheNetworks, and worked as an editor at ESPN and Women’s Health. Now a freelance writer, her features and essays have appeared in MORE magazine, Cosmopolitan, NYTimes.com, WashingtonPost.com, BuzzFeed, xoJane.com, BlogHer.com, and HuffPost. She also maintains Ms. Mary Mack, a blog that aims to bring compassion and common sense back to parenthood. Visit her online at NicoleBlades.com.
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