I am officially the second stop on Nicole Baart's blog tour - how fun is that?!!? Nicole's first book, After the Leaves Fall, is due out SOON!!! I received a copy and devoured it, and I can't say enough good about it. I did not want it to end and now I can't wait for the sequel!! So, I was thrilled to interview her as a stop on her blog tour. So grab a cup of coffee and enjoy chatting with Nicole:
My earliest memories include wanting to be an author, so I can’t really pinpoint when it all began. I’ve practically been a bookworm since birth and a wannabe author for nearly as long.
How long have you been working on your books?
I wrote After the Leaves Fall in just under six months in my spare time. The book more of less flowed out of me, which is kind of funny because the story was very new in my mind. I have some stories that have been rattling around in there for years, but for some reason I struggle to finish them. Then along comes this character of Julia De Smit, and suddenly I’m writing over 700 pages of her story in no time. Summer Snow, the sequel, came out equally as fast as the first one. I guess together they took me a year to write. Who knows, maybe my next book will be like pulling teeth--it could take years to finish! (Though I kind of doubt it, the story is mostly written in my head already.)
I’ve heard it is a trilogy that you are writing. Can you give us some background? Will they all be about the same characters, what is the main storyline, etc?
Honestly, I don’t know if these books about Julia will become a trilogy or not. Summer Snow is definitely a sequel; it picks up only weeks after the conclusion of After the Leaves Fall. But I’m not sure if there will be a third book or not. I’m not sure if Tyndale would even want a third book in this series! I guess we’ll have to see what happens.
However, I can tell you that Summer Snow contains most of the same characters that readers will hopefully have grown to love in After the Leaves Fall. Plus, there are a few new characters that I am particularly fond of! I don’t want to give anything away, but I’m just crazy about these new additions to Julia’s already complicated life.
As far as a main storyline goes, in both books Julia continues the journey to understanding herself and her place in this world. It’s a simple concept, but something that I think we all struggle with. I think in some ways I wrote After the Leaves Fall because I’ve seen so many people (including myself) stumble through life struggling with those big, existential questions: Who am I? What am I here for? Am I valuable/loved/needed? And often our culture tries to convince us that if we can’t answer those questions with something brilliant and wonderful we are worthless. Our story isn’t worth telling. Instead we focus on the glamour stories, the happily ever after endings, the impossible unrealities we view from our couches. I wanted to tell the story of a normal young woman and show how her life can be, and is, very beautiful even though it is nothing extraordinary in the eyes of the world. In fact, in many ways Julia is a failure in the eyes of the world. That’s the best part about her--her brokenness is exactly where her beauty takes root.
Is it all fictional or does something from your past play into the storylines?
Julia and I don’t have a lot in common. But in some ways I suppose she embodies some of my deepest fears--I think a psychologist would probably be able to show me how I used her to role-play my own reactions to some ugly situations that life could have thrown at me. Or maybe I’m overanalyzing! Anyway, there is very little in her character that is drawn from me.
Two specific elements of the book are very real to me though: the role of Julia’s grandmother in her life and her deep connection to and appreciation of nature. I am very attached to both of my grandmothers and the character of Nellie is an amalgamation of my sweet grandmas. And all the descriptions of the Midwest--the weather, the scenery, the hidden beauty--are from my own experiences. I love Iowa, I think it’s beautiful, and I think that sentiment definitely comes through in the book.
How do you juggle being a busy mom and an author?
It’s hard! I have not been able to write much this summer because our schedules have been so off, and I’m definitely feeling it. I’m just not myself when I’m not writing. But on the other hand, I have had times when I’m writing too much and not spending enough time with my family. It’s a tough balance to strike sometimes, but we (my husband Aaron and I) are learning as we go and willing to adjust as necessary. For now, I write a lot in my head and then scramble like a madwoman when I have time alone with a pen and paper. My mom watches the boys one morning a week and Aaron takes a morning, too, so that’s when I’m most productive. I can do about a chapter a week.
Tell us about the moment when you found out that Tyndale wanted you!
Wow, I don’t know how to describe it. It’s so silly to say this, but I guess I felt like my body no longer had room for my spirit. I wanted to crawl out of my skin because there wasn’t room for me inside of it anymore! For days I just floated around the house smiling like an idiot. Aaron would catch me grinning to myself and start laughing. We laughed a lot for a few weeks. Oh, and my family took me out to a really nice restaurant and gave me a bunch of silly “authorly” gifts: a pair of reading glasses with a long, bead chain, a ream of paper, a pretty scarf…
Who is your favorite author?
Do I have to pick just one? I’ll pretend you wrote authors… J
I love rich language (which explains my adoration for poetry) so I’m a huge fan of Annie Dillard. One of her essays is like eating a single piece of dark chocolate--I could savor it for an hour. This love of language also makes me a sucker for English authors (Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Shakespeare, etc.). As for newer authors, I’m crazy about Leif Enger’s debut novel Peace Like a River. I could read it again and again.