So excited to welcome another one of my agent sisters to the blog today! Nicole Blades is the author of the novels The Thunder Beneath Us, Earth’s Waters, and Have You Met Nora? She’s also a prior Deb Ball guest author, so we’re thrilled to have her back! After you’ve read her interview below, check out her previous post, The Truth About Diversity in Publishing.
Nicole Blades is a novelist, speaker, 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. Nicole lives in Connecticut with her husband and their son. You may find her on social media at: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and iTunes.
For more about Nicole’s latest novel Have You Met Nora? – including how you can win a copy! – keep reading.
The road to publication is twisty at best—tell us about some of your twists.
“What took you so long?” That was the gist of the question I was once asked in an interview to promote the publication of my second novel THE THUNDER BENEATH US. It was one of those *look-directly-at-the-camera* moments like my name is Jim from The Office. The question may have seemed simple, maybe even innocuous to the reporter. But to me? It was a condemnation: What took you so long to finish this book, woman!?
My debut, EARTH’S WATERS, was published in 2007. Then THUNDER came out in Fall 2016. So, what took so long? The short answer: Life. Life happened. It wasn’t my intention to have this many years fall between my debut novel and my next book. I had been writing and working as a journalist throughout all that time. How it all came to be like this has a few twists and turns.
It goes like this: Eight years ago, I finished writing what was then my second novel. After querying agents with Book No. 2 for a while, there were no bites and it never got picked up, so I started working on Book 3. That third novel became THE THUNDER BENEATH US, but it’s technically my second one published. And the second novel—the one I thought that had I finished back in 2010—well, that went through many changes and revisions and recasts, but the heart of the story always remained the same, and that’s the book that became HAVE YOU MET NORA?, published last fall. And that’s what took me so long. Did you follow that rollercoaster ride? Ha.
When you were a teenager, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?
I was an avid reader as a kid, and my imagination was always turned up to 11. Secretly, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to put my dreamed-up stories down on paper so others could read, too, and hopefully get lost in them. I didn’t have the courage to see it or say it then, but the desire to tell stories stayed there in my belly, like some low-burning fire.
At one point I thought maybe I would be a lawyer, because it seemed like a “real” job that had very clear lines and rules to it. To my young mind, a writer, much like a fine artist, seemed somewhat obscure. But I kept writing. Just for myself. I kept reading and letting my imagination run free.
Then one of my father’s colleagues had a son who was going to journalism school, and it was like a window into the world of storytelling opened up to me. It was fact-based stories, but it still involved painting vivid pictures with just words. I was sold. I would be a journalist, I told myself. So, that’s the path I ventured down before finally and officially jumping all the way into creative writing many years later. And I’ve never looked back!
Which talent do you wish you had?
There are many! I wish I could speak several different languages fluently. I wish I could play the drums like the second coming of Sheila E. or Dave Grohl or Questlove. But above all, I wish I was a mega speed reader. Seriously! If I could devour books like the speed of light, you couldn’t tell me nothin’! I would be reading all of the books. All. Of. Them. And my current stack by my bed (Mount Nightstand) would be conquered in a blink…only to be replenished and start reading fresh goodness all over again.
What is your advice for aspiring writers?
My advice for writers has remained the same for years, because I truly believe it. It boils down to three things: 1) Read. You have to read. It’s a vital part of the craft. Be voracious and various about it, too. Read different genres and styles and even quality of writing, because it’s all going to help your development as a storyteller and sharpen your skills. 2) Write. It sounds obvious, but we all know it can be so damn challenging! But writers write; they practice their art, because it doesn’t come magically to anyone. So, create a schedule that works for your life. This might mean getting up before the sun or blocking off two hours at night after everyone’s gone to bed to write. And try to do it every day. Storytelling is a craft and you have to continue to work on it. 3) Find you voice and use it. Don’t bother emulating your favorite writer. That’s their voice. Use yours to tell the stories you want to read.
What’s your next big thing?
At the end of August, I finished working on my fourth novel about a brilliant pathologist and chemist who is developing an unprecedented drug that will allow users to control their dreams. Otherwise, she is shut down, submerged in a grief haze and effectively functioning as a mere work robot with no light or life behind her eyes. Then, an epidemic breaks out—in Chicago first before quickly spreading across the country—resulting in large numbers of young people falling fatally ill. She starts digging for answers, but her search may uncover more horror than she ever imagined.
Also, I’ve just finished writing my first TV pilot. It’s a 30-minute dramedy. I’m still polishing it (revisions just never end, right?), but I really believe in this material. Hoping to see it land in the right hands so this story can be told. (*ahem* Ava DuVernay, I’m talking about you!)
Retweet this post (make sure you follow @DebutanteBall too!) or share it on Facebook for a chance to win a copy of Nicole’s latest novel. We will contact the lucky winner on Friday, October 12th (US Only).
— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) October 6, 2018
Here’s more about Have You Met Nora?:
She’s blossomed from wealthy surgeon’s beautiful daughter to elegant socialite to being the top fashion stylist in the country. And Nora Mackenzie is only days away from marrying into one of New York’s richest, most powerful families. But her fairy tale rise is rooted in an incredible deception—one scandal away from turning her perfect world to ashes . . .
What no one knows is that Nora is the biracial daughter of a Caribbean woman and a long-gone white father. Adopted—and abused—by her mother’s employer, then sent to an exclusive boarding school to buy her silence, Nora found that “passing” as a white woman could give her everything she never had. Every golden opportunity she seized and every deception she worked kept that powerless, forgotten girl forever in the past.
Now, an ex-classmate who Nora betrayed many years ago has returned to her life to even the score. She’s a woman who won’t be bought off, reasoned against, or pleaded with. Her machinations are turning Nora’s privilege into one gilded trap after another. Running out of choices, Nora must decide how far she will go to protect a lie or give up and finally face the truth.