Author Spotlight: Nicole Lesperance
|© Carter Hasegawa/ Long River Photography|
March 5, 2021
We are excited to feature author Nicole Lesperance who has both a MG and YA debut this year, THE NIGHTMARE THIEF (Sourcebooks for Young Readers) and THE WIDE STARLIGHT (Razorbill/PRH), both out now! Enter to win a copy of The Wide Starlight.
|Illustration © Federica Renna, designed by Jordan Kost/Danielle McNaughton|
|Illustration © Ioana Harasim, Designer: Kristin Boyle|
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children and teens.
I've been working as an editor for around twenty years now, and I've always loved writing, but for the longest time I didn't think I had enough creativity to write a whole book. Then when I had my daughter, I had this chunk of two hours every day with nothing to do and nowhere to go. I'd had this super vivid dream that I kept thinking about, and it felt like a great idea for a book, so I started writing down little pieces of it while my daughter was napping, and it gradually evolved into a book.
YA wasn't really a huge category when I was a teenager, but I started reading it in my 20s and it sort of clicked that this might be something I could be good at. I love how you can blend genres in YA and that's totally fine, and I love writing from a teenage perspective, where everything is fresh and new and so much more emotionally vivid. As for my middle grade book, The Nightmare Thief, I had originally planned to write it as a YA, but my agent thought it would work better as MG. Since I was already reading loads of MG books with my kids at the time, it was a pretty natural transition to write in that category.
What a year! Congratulations on publishing both your debut MG and YA within months of each other, The Nightmare Thief and The Wide Starlight! Tell us about both these books and what inspired you.
Thank you! It's been a pretty wild couple of months. The Nightmare Thief is my middle grade debut, and it's about a 12-year-old girl named Maren who works in her family’s shop, making and selling dreams. When a sinister customer tries to blackmail her into making nightmares for some secret plot, she must decide whether to protect her family or protect unknown dreamers from her family’s magic. It was inspired by this little typewriter shop that I used to live near in Arlington, MA. It's jam-packed full of antique typewriters and it smells incredible in there, and you feel like you've traveled back in time when you step inside. It seems like the kind of place that might have a secret back room where magical things happen, so I took that idea and ran with it.
My YA book, The Wide Starlight, is about a teenage girl named Eli. When Eli was little, her mother took her out onto a frozen fjord, whistled at the Northern Lights, and got swept away into the sky. Ten years later, Eli whistles at the lights and her mother returns, but nothing is quite right. She must piece together her memories, told as Norwegian folk tales, and journey to the arctic archipelago of Svalbard to figure out what really happened.
The idea came from the legend that I happened upon that said if you whistle at the Northern Lights, they'll swoop down and carry you off forever. I started researching the legend, and I found all these other amazing stories from all over the world. There are stories of fire foxes, spirits playing a game with a walrus' skull, warriors having epic battles, etc. And I started to think about how the Northern Lights are just a natural phenomenon and it's the stories that give them their magic. So from that idea came the concept for my book, that magic can come out of stories, as well as other celestial things like the moon and the Northern Lights.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
It was very long and winding and twisty and uphill most of the way. I started writing seriously almost ten years to the day before my debut came out! But in hindsight, I'm glad it took that long because I had a lot to learn and figure out. I'm so grateful to my agent, Kathleen Rushall, who believed in my work and was so persistent in sending it out and keeping my spirits up. And my critique partners and writing friends were invaluable in getting me through all the lows and celebrating all the highs with me.
Can you tell us about the publication journey of The Wide Starlight and how the story evolved over time?
The Wide Starlight took a long time to find its home, and at one point we pulled it from submission and I rewrote the entire book from scratch, changing the setting of Part 2 from Canada to Svalbard and adding in all of the memories told as fairy tales. It was difficult to rewrite and revise the book so many times, but in the end, I feel grateful for the journey it went on because I think it finally turned out like it was supposed to. It just took me a long time to figure out what that actually was.
What projects are you working on now?
Right now I'm tackling the edits for the sequel to The Nightmare Thief, which is called The Dream Spies. It takes place at a summer camp for dreamers, and Maren and her family go there to investigate because they're concerned that something shady is going on. And of course, something very shady is going on! I'm also working on another YA book that I can't say too much about yet!
What are the 1-2 best things you did for your writing career? What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
The best thing I did was to find writer friends who were at the same stage in their writing journeys and could give me feedback on my writing as well as moral support. I met a lot of them through Absolute Write, which was also invaluable for finding out all about the publishing industry, from getting started all the way through finding an agent and going on submission. I've also connected with people via Twitter and my literary agency, and those friendships have been so essential to my writing journey and also my mental health!
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
I am an avid knitter, just like Eli in The Wide Starlight! Right now I'm on a huge Fair Isle kick, making sweaters with those elaborate, different colored patterns. I find knitting really helpful for managing stress, especially because you can't go on the internet while you're doing it. One of my favorite things to do is watch a movie or an engrossing show like The Crown and knit along.
Where can people find you online?
You can find more info about me on my website, nicolelesperance.com. On Twitter I'm @niclesperance, and on Instagram I'm @nicolesperance.
Nicole grew up on Cape Cod and graduated from Wesleyan University. She spent a few years in London and now lives near Boston with her husband, two kids, and two rambunctious black cats. She writes YA and MG books and works as a tech research editor. In her spare time, she likes to practice yoga, knit, and read tarot cards.
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