Welcome to the latest installment of Breaking In, where I interview authors about their experiences breaking in as writers — how they did it, what it felt like to get there, and how it differed from what they were expecting.
Today, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to interview author Lorna Schultz Nicholson. As noted in the bio on her website, Lorna Schultz Nicholson grew up in St. Catharines, Ontario, and as a child loved to read and write. But then athletics took over and she put it all aside to be a jock.
Later, her writing resurfaced in the media arena when she hosted and wrote fitness and lifestyle TV programming in Victoria, BC and Ottawa. Later, she wrote, hosted and produced the syndicated radio show Family Time.
After moving to Calgary with her family, Lorna wrote freelance magazine articles, as well as a sports column, and served as community events reporter for a local radio station. Eventually, wanting to focus on writing books and on her family, Lorna decided to dedicate her time to raising her children and writing both novels and non-fiction books.
Since then, she has enjoyed tremendous success, having published no less than thirty-two books, including nine YA novels, eight Middle Grade novels, seven non-fiction and recordbooks and eight picture books.
Her most recent work is the Red Maple Award-nominated Fragile Bones: Harrison & Anna, from Clockwise Press, the first book in her new One-2-One series.
Anna, a bright senior and aspiring med student, has been paired with Harrison, a boy with autism/Asperger’s Syndrome and an obsession with anatomy, in their high school’s Best Buddies club. Told in their two voices, the novel explores the relationship between the teens as each learns to see the world in surprisingly different ways. The first in a series of novels for teens, each telling the stories of a different pair of young people in the Best Buddies club.
Fragile Bones is available online from Amazon.com in the US, and in Canada from Amazon.ca and Chapters.Indigo.ca. You can find a complete list of Lorna’s works, and how to find them, here.
[SGM] Welcome to the blog, Lorna! To begin, when did you feel like you’d broken in as a writer?
[LSN] Oh wow, has this made me think. Hmmm. When did I break in as a writer? I’m not sure if I even feel as if I’ve broken in as a writer after 32 books published. I know that probably sounds a bit crazy and a cop-out to the question but perhaps it’s because people still ask me, “Oh, are you on the NY Times Bestselling List?” or “Have your books been made into movies?” or “Do you know JK Rowling or Suzanne Collins because they are famous authors?” After answering no to each question, I feel as if maybe I’m not a writer yet??????
Okay, so writers tend to have insecurities and every time we publish a new book we are anxious and stressed and…insecure. But then, I arrive at a school for an author visit and an eager student will raise his/her hand and say, “I’ve read your book and loved it.” For a few moments my heart swells and I forget about the lists and the movie deals and the money I don’t make and the fame I don’t have and if my book is good enough and I feel like a REAL WRITER. So perhaps that is my answer. I feel as if I broke in as an writer the first time that little boy in that school way back when told me he loved my book. Oh, and his mother told me later he wasn’t a reader and she was thrilled he had finally read a book! Yeah.
What was your path to breaking in? Did you have a strategy? Did it work, or did you end up getting there another way?
I had no strategy but to keep writing. I think I wrote three novels before my first novel was published. And they were adult mysteries and I published a middle grade sport novel. I was slugging away at the mystery novels, writing entire novels before sending to agents and editors, going to conferences, and doing all the right things that the writing books tell you, when a good friend of mine and a wonderful author, Jacqueline Guest, kept phoning me for advice on a soccer novel she was writing. I was a jock at heart and knew my rules and regulations. So I gave her the details and said, “I should write one of those novels.” She then told me she was moving into edgy teen fiction and I should send something to her editor. So I wrote a first chapter and chapter outline and sent it in. And the editor got in touch with me and wanted the entire manuscript. Gulp. I hadn’t written it yet. Thank goodness I had an outline. I wrote fast and furious and that was the first novel I ever published. And poof, I became a children’s writer. I still have a dream (let’s call it a goal to give it more umpff) to write an adult mystery series when I retire. Lol.
And following up on that, knowing what you do now, what would you do differently?
I’m not sure I would do anything differently. My journey has not been in a straight line but I’m not a straight line kind of girl. I know I’ve wasted time here and there but we can learn from mistakes. Oh, one thing I would have done differently is when I was young and in grade seven I should have listened to my grammar teacher. Seriously, she knew her stuff and I didn’t listen.
Now that you’ve broken in, is it like or unlike what you expected? How?
Now that I’ve broken in (THANK YOU for saying this about me) I think it is unlike what I expected. Publishing is such a series of steps. You get the first deal and then you have to suddenly market and sell so the euphoria of the sell takes a back seat right from the get-go. You do book signings and sit there and sell a handful of novels. I mean, there are only a few of the big names who draw crowds. After a few published novels it is time to make some sort of list. You get on the list and you want to get on a bigger list. You write another book and want to sell more copies or get in with a bigger house. Oh, and you have to be on Facebook and Twitter and post, post, post. Build a platform, yah know. On and on it goes. The work that is not writing is kind of unexpected. What is also unexpected and more important is… I didn’t expect to love writing every book so much. Seriously. The passion shocks me. To still sit at my computer and get lost in my thoughts and find that passion in creation, book after book, was not something I expected. I’m a person who gets bored easily and I’ve never, ever been bored when I’m writing. That makes the writing process simply amazing.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on the second novel in the One-2-One series. Fragile Bones was the first in that series and the second book is titled Born With. I’m in love with my characters and I’ve done the first draft and so much research and now I’m into that second and third draft where I can go deeper and create more layers. I’m so excited about this novel and can’t wait for the finished product. Of course, once released in book form I will get anxious again. I hope it resonates like I want it to and I hope it has a powerful yet entertaining message and I hope a student will say, “I read your book and it meant so much to me!” I’m also working on a few other things that don’t have contracts yet so I can’t talk about them. Darn it.
How can people keep up with you online?
My website is www.lornaschultznicholson.com and there is a contact button to email me. And, please, do email me and I’m honest when I say I’d love to hear from you. I’m also on Facebook as Lorna Schultz Nicholson and Twitter as @lornasn and that Linked In one (but honestly I don’t use it much. I know, I know, I should) as Lorna Schultz Nicholson. Oh, and I’m on Instagram as Lorna Nicholson but if you go on that one to find me you might see pictures of my kids and my dogs. I think that’s it.
Thank you, Lorna, for your thoughtful and honest responses. And man, if there’s one thing I’ve learned through these interviews, it’s that nobody thinks they’ve broken in — it’s a process, and something you have to keep doing, over and over again.
Coming up next on the blog: I’m still planning on doing a year in review post while we still have a year to review. But before then, it looks like we’re going to have time for one more Breaking In interview before the holidays, so stay tuned!