Teen Writers Bloc

A Blog by the New School Writing for Children MFA Class of 2012

13496312 1 Debut Author Interview: Nicole McInnes discusses BRIANNA ON THE BRINKThis week, we’re super-excited to feature debut author Nicole McInnes, whose conteporary YA novel, Brianna on the Brink, hits on March 15. The book explores the devastating effects of a steamy one-night stand. It’s definitely a book worth adding to your TBR pile!

We caught up with Nicole to chat about the book, the writing process, and the long path to publication.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer? 

I was born and raised just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, which meant I got to hang out in all sorts of cool places as a teenager — places like Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley and The Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco. I went to college at UC Santa Cruz for my undergraduate years and then moved to the mountains of northern Arizona for graduate school. I consider both states my home, though I still live in the mountains. As an undergraduate, I came to a crossroads where I had to choose between creative writing and theater arts as a major. I went with writing and haven’t looked back since. I think what most made me want to write were all the incredible books I’d read since childhood. I split my workday between writing my own books and teaching university writing and literature classes, which is a good fit for me.

Can you give us a quick synopsis of BRIANNA ON THE BRINK? How did you come up with the concept for the book? 

Here’s the scoop: Sixteen-year-old Brianna Taylor finds herself lost, alone and with a major surprise in store after a one-night-stand. Just when she’s got nowhere left to turn, help arrives from the one person who is closest to her big mistake, but accepting that help will leave Brianna forced to choose between clinging to the ledge of fear and abandonment – or jumping into the unknown where a second chance at hope might just be waiting.

The concept came to me thematically, which is to say I was thinking in terms of the big “what if” questions — questions like, “What if a married woman was betrayed in a major way by a teen girl who ended up being more of a lost child than an easy-to-hate villain?” I initially thought of the story from the woman’s point of view, but it wasn’t long before Brianna’s voice was the one demanding to be heard.

My process started with a lengthy drafting process followed by bribing my best beta readers to have a look followed by sending it off to my agent. I’m lucky to have a highly editorial agent (Stacey Glick at DGLM), so she and I worked on the manuscript some more before it was ready to go out. Once it landed at Holiday House, I got to work with editor extraordinaire Sylvie Frank, who really helped me make the story shine. I’m not quite sure what I did to deserve getting to work with such amazing people, from Stacey and Sylvie to the art and publicity folks at Holiday House, but there you have it.

What’s your writing process? What does a typical writing day look like? 

What is this “typical writing day” of which you speak? Seriously, my process is a bit of a glorious mess, but so far it seems to work pretty well. I try to write in the mornings, since that’s my most productive time, but the ideas really start flowing at night after I’ve gone to bed, turned off the lights, and am drifting into Lullaby Land (which is why I’ve learned to always keep a pad of paper and a pen in the nightstand. I’m pretty good at writing in the dark, too). I almost always write at home, since the background noise of a café or other, no doubt more interesting, place would drive me batty. My initial inspiration for characters and plots comes from anywhere and everywhere — from news stories to snippets of conversation I’ve overheard to songs on the radio…you name it.

What has your path to publication been like? 

My path to publication has been a long (decade-plus), uphill battle that, at times, felt like I was tunneling through solid rock with a cereal spoon. I’m looking forward to finally being an overnight success. The most surprising part of the entire journey has been the fact that I honestly wouldn’t change anything about it. This may sound barf-able to writers still struggling to get an agent or a book deal (and my 2005 self would probably slap me upside the head if she could), but it’s the truth. For one thing, I’m glad I’m debuting now in this age of instant connection with readers and other writers via social media. Also, I have a nagging suspicion that I needed the toughening up all those years of discouragement, envy and existentialist woe provided.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? What advice would you yourself give aspiring authors?

The best writing advice is, hands down, this: Don’t ever give up. Never. Ever. Do you hear me? Well, I mean, give up if you decide you really don’t want/need to write, but if you’re intent on writing and selling books, you may well have to suffer through many levels of incredibly unpleasant, fire and brimstone badness to do so. Then again, you might be one of those perky 20-somethings who lands an agent and a book deal on the first try almost without thinking about it. In which case, good for you, Snowflake! (*grits teeth*)

 Debut Author Interview: Nicole McInnes discusses BRIANNA ON THE BRINKWhat was your favorite book when you were a kid/teenager? What are you reading now?

I was a pretty active reader as a kid, so it’s hard to pick just one favorite book.

I loved Judy Blume’s Blubber and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret (natch). Also, I *may* have snuck behind my elementary school with a bunch of other girls so we could quickly flip through to the naughty bit pages in Forever, but that’s most likely just a rumor. Various horse stories — like The Black Stallion and Black Beauty — were always a big hit with me as was Wilson Rawls’ classic Where the Red Fern Grows, which I read over and over (even though I’d end up doing the extended ugly cry every time I reached the end).

I am currently reading Ransom Riggs’ mind-scrambling (in a good way) Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

What’s next for you writing-wise (and otherwise!)?

I have a completed manuscript draft in the hands of my agent and another that I’m just starting. Both are contemporary young adult, since I’ve fallen head-over-heels for the genre. One of these days, I plan to take a trip outside the house where I’ve heard there’s nature and something called “the sun.”

Do you believe in being part of a “bloc” of writers? Are critique groups and writing communities helpful to you?

Yes to both! I’m a member of The Lucky 13s and The Class of 2K13, and I’ve learned so much/laughed so hard with debut writers from both groups. Writing is such a solitary act by its very nature, so connection in whatever form works is a good thing.

 Thanks for stopping by, Nicole! 
Photo Credit: Holiday House
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