And that leads us right into another prize package--this time for some bookmarks and an ARC (advance reader copy) of THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY by Nikki Loftin. Leave a comment on this post to enter!
When Lorelei's old school mysteriously burns down, a new one appears practically overnight: Splendid Academy. Rock-climbing walls on the playground and golden bowls of candy on every desk? Gourmet meals in the cafeteria, served by waiters? Optional homework and two recess periods a day? It's every kids's dream.
But Lorelei and her new friend Andrew are pretty sure it's too good to be true. Together they uncover a sinister mystery, one with their teacher, the beautiful Ms. Morrigan, at the very center.
Then Andrew disappears. Lorelei has to save him, even if that means facing a past she'd like to forget – and taking on a teacher who's a real witch.
Here are some questions I asked Nikki:
In your website bio, you mention that you teach Zumba "to combat the ever-threatening Writer’s Butt" (I need to find something like that to combat my ever-flattening Librarian Butt!). What else do you do to keep active, and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?
First off, you should try Zumba! It’s fun, sort of like dancing in your room to the radio when you were in fourth grade. Except now you’re doing it with a bunch of other grown-up fourth graders, all of whom are laughing their heads off at their own booty-shaking. It’s the perfect way to shake off the “rejection blues” that all writers must face – and to be a little social.
I also take walks around my house out in the country, especially when I’m thinking of a new novel idea, or stumped about what comes next. Combining exercise with WIP meditation works for me! And of course, I run around like crazy to keep up with my two sons, who are 9 and 12 years old.
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was their age! I even went to graduate school to get a Master’s degree in fiction writing. But life got in the way post-graduation, and I ended up in my late thirties, happy enough, but still longing to be a writer. I had a sinking feeling if I didn’t make some drastic changes, I’d be 75 years old, wishing I’d written those novels before the arthritis set in… so I quit my job, cancelled all the magazine subscriptions and extra cable channels, gave up a lot of the little luxuries, took up part-time Zumba teaching – and full-time writing.
I wrote like my life depended on it. I still do! Now, I finish somewhere between two and four full-length manuscripts a year, as well as magazine articles, essays, short fiction, and poetry.
It's wonderful that you were able to figure out what was important to you and could find a way to follow your passions. All writers should have that kind of courage! THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY has a fantastic premise. Where did the idea for the story come from and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished reading it?
Thank you! Well, the seed of the idea grew from a conversation I had over lunch with my husband. We were bemoaning the way children’s fairy tales had been sanitized for today’s kids. Like, in the Gingerbread Man, the fox had even stopped eating the cookie in some versions of the book! The stories were becoming sweet, boring, and sometimes didn’t even make sense – fairy tales were and are supposed to be cautionary tales. I remarked that what kids needed was modern, updated fairy tales that didn’t shy away from the scary stuff. Like Hansel and Gretel, but set in a school where the teachers were the witches… The idea popped into my head, unspooling like film. I raced home rather abruptly and began writing!
I would love for readers to be empowered by the main characters, Lorelei and Andrew, when they see normal kids (no super powers here!) overcoming the forces of evil.
That is so true--kids' books are often watered-down to the point where they lose their intrigue. Bravo for doing something about it! Your book is categorized as a Middle Grade. What do you think is the marketability of MG books compared with YA?
I think MG books may be more difficult to market than YA books initially. For one thing, middle grade readers usually don’t have unfettered access to the Internet (and book blogs, etc) as many older readers do. And they don’t have as much discretionary income, either! So you have to appeal to the “gatekeepers,” the adults in charge: librarians, teachers, and parents. If I can get my book into school libraries, for instance, kids who check it out will (I hope!) spread the word.
I do think middle grade readers can be every bit as voracious as teens for good books – my 12 year old is addicted to books, and we could spend thousands on books every month if we didn’t have such an amazing local library to save us.
Yay for school libraries! Those collections could really use a book like yours, too. I also see that you're a contributor to the upcoming DEAR TEEN ME Anthology coming out this November. I really enjoyed the experience of writing a letter to my teen self. What was the experience like for you?
Well, I was such a dramatic teen, I sort of blush and laugh when I think about myself back then. So, mostly, I wanted to tell myself to chill out, calm down. I’ve actually written two letters for the Dear Teen Me site, cataloguing some of my most humiliating moments ever. I made myself laugh while writing them, so that was fun – finally realizing I’m at that stage of life where those moments are hilarious rather than humiliating.
Sounds like you've gained a lot of great perspective! What other projects are you currently working on?
I have another book coming out from Razorbill, probably in early 2014. This one is another fairy tale re-imagining, of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Nightingale. It’s a lyrical story, more magical realism than fantasy, and deals with some dark themes. I’m thrilled Razorbill chose it to come out next, and I’m just about to start the editing process.
I may have some secret news about future books, but I can’t spill just yet!
Thank you so much for the chance to share some of my writing journey with you. I hope you enjoy The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy!
We certainly will! Readers, be sure to leave a comment on this post to enter to win your own advance reader copy of THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY!
For more information, here's Nikki's bio and points of contact:
Nikki Loftin lives with her Scottish photographer husband just outside Austin, Texas, surrounded by dogs, chickens, and small, loud boys. Her middle-grade novel, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, will debut on August 21, 2012. You can visit her online at www.nikkiloftin.com.
FB: Splendid Academy