I am beyond excited to have Nikki Loftin by the blog today. I absolutely adored her debut, THE SINISTER SWEETNESS OF SPLENDID ACADEMY, and her new release, NIGHTINGALE’S NEST, sounds just as brilliant.
About the Author: Nikki Loftin is a writer and native Texan who lives just outside Austin, Texas, with her two boys, two dogs, nine chickens, and one very patient husband. She writes Middle Grade novel-length fiction as well as personal essays, puppet plays, articles, poems, and short stories. Nikki is represented by Suzie Townsend of New Leaf Literary Agency. Her debut novel, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, was published by Razorbill (Penguin) in Summer 2012. Her second book, Nightingale’s Nest , will come out on Feb. 20, 2014.
What is your favorite thing about middle grade?
My favorite thing about middle grade books is how important they are! When I ask adults what books shaped them, molded them into the people they became, they almost never come back with an adult title. Bridge to Terabithia, A Wrinkle in Time, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe… these are the kinds of books that leave deep, significant impressions in our lives. Middle grade books have staying power.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I have to work my writing schedule around my Zumba job and raising two boys, but on a very good writing day, I’ll hit the desk at 7:45 a.m. in my pajamas. When I’m drafting, I won’t get up for anything but lunch, tea, or chocolate breaks until around 2:30. (I do get up to change into real clothes before the school bus arrives! Got to keep up appearances.)
If I’m revising? I will get up for five thousand breaks, call everyone I know to make sure they’re feeling adequately sorry for me, and whine and moan about my horrible writing to my dogs, my goats, and any telemarketers who mistakenly call. I hate revising. Hate hate hate it. I wish it weren’t the most important part of writing a book.
What is one of your favorite middle grade reads?
Just one? Not fair! I’ll give you two. Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s amazing One for the Murphys is truly a masterpiece, and years after I first read it, I find myself thinking about her main character, that prickly, tender-hearted Carley Connors, and wondering how she’s doing. Lynda made her characters so incredibly real, I feel like I know them. More recently, Anne Ursu’s The Real Boy became one of my favorite fantasy MG reads. Her world-building and fairy-tale twisting delights me, especially coupled with such gorgeous language.
If you could swap lives with any character in literature for a day, who would you pick?
Easy! Pippi Longstocking. I would have everything I wanted as a child: A monkey, a horse, bags of gold, great friends, trees to climb, utter independence, red hair, and super strength.
That sounds like a smart swap :). Now, what is next for you?
I’m finishing up my next middle grade novel, Wish Girl, about a boy who moves to the countryside, near a valley that seems utterly magical. He meets a smart, bossy girl who may or may not make wishes come true…and also may need him to help her stay alive.
I think readers who enjoy Nightingale’s Nest will love this one. It’s not a fairy-tale retelling, but it’s full of magic and danger and a pinch of tragedy, too.
Well I definitely cannot wait for WISH GIRL, Nikki – that sounds fantastic. Thanks so much for stopping by
About NIGHTINGALE’S NEST: Twelve-year-old John Fischer Jr., or “Little John” as he’s always been known, is spending his summer helping his father with his tree removal business, clearing brush for Mr. King, the wealthy owner of a chain of Texas dollar stores, when he hears a beautiful song that transfixes him. He follows the melody and finds, not a bird, but a young girl sitting in the branches of a tall sycamore tree.
There’s something magical about this girl, Gayle, especially her soaring singing voice, and Little John’s friendship with Gayle quickly becomes the one bright spot in his life, for his home is dominated by sorrow over his sister’s death and his parents’ ever-tightening financial difficulties.
But then Mr. King draws Little John into an impossible choice—forced to choose between his family’s survival and a betrayal of Gayle that puts her future in jeopardy.
Inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen story, Nightingale’s Nest is an unforgettable novel about a boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders and a girl with the gift of healing in her voice.
Now, I also have an exclusive excerpt from the book. Check it out:
When I first heard Gayle, I couldn’t tell if she was a bird or a girl. All I knew for sure was that the music she made wasn’t like anything I’d heard before. It was magic.
Even a kid like me could recognize that.
I’d just come from clearing brush on the Emperor’s property. He wasn’t really an Emperor, of course. His name was Mr. Azariah King, but he’d owned a chain of those almost-everything-for-a-dollar stores in our part of Texas for years, called Emperor’s Emporiums, so everybody called him the Emperor.
Except for my dad. He hated the man. But not enough to turn down a steady ten-week job for the summer, even if it was almost a hundred degrees most days. Money was money, and our landlord wasn’t going to wait until a better job came along, Mom told us. Dad said he wasn’t as worried about rent as he was about getting our cable TV hooked back up; he hadn’t been able to catch a single baseball game since the end of May.
So Dad, the Big John of Big John’s Tree and Brush Removal, had taken the job to work on the Emperor’s failing pecan trees, all hundred and four acres of them. As for me, I was only twelve, but I’d grown seven inches in nine months. Dad said I was old enough and strong enough to learn how to work with trees during summer vacation. And if I messed up, cut too deep into one of the Emperor’s pecans and killed it? He said that would serve the money-grubber right.
I didn’t care if I killed a tree, either. I thought the world would be a better place if every tree in it was cut down.
So are you guys excited for Nightingale’s Nest release in a few days? Check back for my review sometime this week or early next week as well :)