It is my pleasure to welcome Nicole Mabry to the Debutante Ball today! Nicole and I have met virtually through our Debut Authors of Color group. PAST THIS POINT, an apocalyptic women’s fiction thriller, tells the story of one woman and her dog fighting to survive during a deadly virus outbreak that renders New York City a ghost town.
Nicole Mabry grew up in Northern California but has lived in Queens for the past 17 years. Her award-winning photography has graced the covers of books internationally and has been featured in shows throughout the city. After a successful 20-year career in photography, she decided to take a left turn and go from telling a story with an image, to telling a story with words.
Tell us about your next big project.
I just finished co-authoring a thriller with my writing partner. We had been wanting to write something together for a long time because we have opposite talents and thought those talents would compliment one other. I’d suggested several plots over a few months, but then one night I called her with a brainstorm of an idea, and she loved it. It was like lightning, the plot poured out of us the same night, we wrote a rough draft in 2 months and a month later, started querying agents. It’s been a whirlwind. Don’t want to give too much away, but it’s a serial killer thriller with dual timelines that taps into the current true crime trends.
Do you have a regular first reader?
If so, who is it and why? My best friend Debbie is always my first reader. She’s the one who encouraged me to write my novel in the first place, she read it chapter by chapter and gave helpful notes along the way which changed the course of my novel several times, and read several complete versions. She even read and critiqued all my pitch materials. I keep expecting her to say she doesn’t have time or is a little tired of reading the same piece over and over. But she never does and is always excited to read what I’ve done next. As a writer, that is invaluable, especially because her notes are always shrewd and helpful.
What first inspired you to start writing?
When I was six, my mom took me to the library and told me I had to pick a book with over a hundred pages. I was a hyperactive kid and if my teacher gave us a workbook for the entire year, I’d complete it in one night. So, she decided to occupy my overactive mind with books. I chose The Boxcar Children and by the end of that book, I knew I wanted create stories. However, I didn’t start writing until much later and I’m not sure I ever would have if it weren’t for my best friend, Debbie. I’d had a crazy dream one night when Governor Cuomo shut down all forms of transportation in NYC due to Winter Storm Juno. At the same time there was a flu going around at my office. That night, my brain created a dream that melded the shutdown and the flu, and that dream essentially became the plot of my book. The dream was so vivid that I just had to tell Debbie. When I was done, she said, ‘You have to write this!’ If it weren’t for that one line of encouragement, I’m not sure Past This Point would have been written.
If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?
WRITE! Since I was a little girl, my mom would constantly tell me that I was going to be a writer. She kept everything I ever wrote, essays, poems and even my 20-page college thesis paper on the art of the Harlem Renaissance. But of course, I didn’t want to do what my mom told me to, so I went to school for Art History and Photography instead. And while I loved those majors and still work in photography, now that I wrote my debut novel in my forties, it looks like my mom was right all along. I wish I hadn’t been so hellbent on being an adult and making my own decisions, and would have listened to my mom’s wisdom. I look back and think about all the books I could have written by now if I had indulged my writing side at a much younger age.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I took a class a few years ago called ‘Surprise Yourself’ and it was the best class I’ve ever taken. While the content was great, the instructor, Molly Prentiss was amazing. Having a great teacher to encourage and teach makes all the difference in what and how we learn. Molly helped me so much in my writing, encouraged a safe and supportive environment in her class and ended up propelling the short story I’d written in her class into a full novel. At the same time, I was taking an online class called ‘Making Every Sentence Count.’ Which for better or worse, opened my eyes to considering every single word of a sentence. I learned how to make my sentences stronger and more lyrical at a granular level. I’ve taken many great classes, but these two really stand out in my mind and were by far the best money I’ve spent.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Karis Hylen has been through the New York City dating wringer. After years of failed relationships, she abandons her social life and whittles her days down to work and spending time with her dog, Zeke. Her self-imposed exile ends up saving her life when an untreatable virus sweeps the east coast, killing millions.
Alone in her apartment building, Karis survives with only Zeke, phone calls to her mom, and conversations with two young girls living across the courtyard. With the city in a state of martial law, violence and the smell of rotting corpses surround her every day. But her biggest enemy is her own mind. As cabin fever sets in, vivid hallucinations make her question her sanity.
In addition to her dwindling food and water stash, Karis must now struggle to keep her mind in check. When a mysterious man enters the scene, she hopes she can convince him to help her make it to the quarantine border. With the world crumbling around her, Karis discovers her inner strength but may find that she needs people after all.
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