Author Spotlight: Nicole Kronzer
|Photo credit: Dawn Busch
April 10, 2020
We are excited to feature author Nicole Kronzer and her novel, UNSCRIPTED (Amulet Books, April 21, 2020). Be sure to enter to win a copy!
|Cover designer © Lisa White
Tell us about your background and how you came to write for teens.
I’m originally from Eau Claire, Wisconsin where I wrote all the time as a kid. I’m an extrovert, however, so the louder things I was into (theatre, band, being Hermione Granger) kind of overshadowed this quiet thing I did by myself.
I went to college for acting, acted professionally for a while, went back to college for education, and got a job teaching high school English and creative writing north of Minneapolis, Minnesota. My school librarian started bringing in all these authors in the early stages of their careers (people like Gene Luen Yang, Nina LaCour, Patrick Ness, Katherine Applegate, and Kao Kalia Yang) and each one of them, upon learning I was the creative writing teacher, would ask, “Do you write, Nicole?”
I mean, I did, but not like, for anyone. I was pretty sure people like me didn’t get to write books.
After a while, however, especially once I learned so many of our visiting authors had been, or currently were teachers, and weren’t from New York City (where I sort of thought all authors had to live), I was like, “Dude, Nicole: Maybe you should try to write a book.”
Once I got out of my own way and started writing, I never considered an audience other than teenagers. I spend my days with them. They’re my favorite people.
Congrats on your debut YA, UNSCRIPTED. Tell us about the story and what inspired you.
Thank you! UNSCRIPTED is about a girl named Zelda with Saturday Night Live dreams who attends a fancy improv camp in the mountains of Colorado. Once she’s there, she makes the top team, but discovers she’s the only girl to do so—and is the first girl on the top team in fifteen years. She finds herself in a den of misogyny, worsened by the fact that her 20-year-old coach is cruel to her during rehearsal, then way too nice to her when they’re alone. Zelda has to decide if sticking it out is too heavy a price to pay for a shot at her dream.
I drew from several sources of inspiration from my life. First, I love improv. I was on my high school improv team, started an improv team in college, and performed improv professionally for a number of years in Minneapolis. Girls were always the minority on the teams I was on, and sometimes I was the only girl performing. Often, the guys on my team were heaven. Other times, not so much. During those times, I wasn’t sure how to point at what felt wrong, or how to stand up for myself.
The toxic masculinity in this book is less about my specific experiences as a performer, however, and more about what I was seeing with my students. Girls kept coming to me asking for relationship advice. I’d ask what was wrong, and they’d describe their relationship: a guy who was isolating them from their friends and controlling their behavior. I would tell them their boyfriend was being emotionally abusive, but my student would brush me off. The good times were so good. He made her feel so special sometimes. There was no way that was abuse.
It wasn’t always girls who would be in these situations, but the vast majority were. And they were smart kids. Abuse is insidious that way. It masks itself in a veil of love and attention, but there are recognizable patterns if you know what to look for. I wanted to write a book about a smart girl who got wrapped up in an emotionally abusive relationship—I want students to be able to recognize those patterns.
In contrast, we also get to see some really lovely relationships—both romantic and platonic. That inspiration comes from my life, too.
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
I’ve heard stories of people writing many many books before landing an agent, and others nabbing one right away. I’m somewhere in between. I wrote a book over two years and then queried probably ten agents. When I hit “send” on those queries, I got the best piece of publishing advice ever: start working on the next book.
So I did. When encouraging passes started to roll in—a lot of “love your voice, but the story doesn’t really pick up for eighty pages. I’d love to read a future project!”—I was disappointed, but not devastated. I had another project well underway. That first book didn’t feel so precious because I was writing another one, and I had learned so much from my first attempt.
I re-queried a number of those encouraging agents with my second book. Six days later, my top choice agent, Sara Crowe at Pippin Properties, sent me THE email—an offer of representation. She sold UNSCRIPTED to Maggie Lehrman (genius editor with her own improv experience) at Abrams four months later.
What are some of your favorite recent YA reads?
I loved A HEART IN THE BODY IN THE WORLD by Deb Caletti, CRYING LAUGHING by Lance Rubin, FRANKLY IN LOVE by David Yoon, and A BREATH TOO LATE by Rocky Callen. (Rocky’s book comes out in April, too!)
What projects are you working on?
More contemporary YA, but I can’t talk specifics yet!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Write a lot, read a lot, and when you’re ready to ask for it, be open to feedback.
I always tell my students that writing is like having a baby. It’s your job to make that kid healthy and strong and independent. Because just like you don’t get to follow your kid around and tell everyone what they meant to do or say, or where you were coming from when you taught them something, you can’t follow your writing around. You don’t get to hover over someone’s shoulder and explain what you were thinking, or what you really meant. Writing has to stand on its own, and the way we get there is by being smart about whom we ask for feedback, and then being open to incorporating that feedback.
It’s okay, however, for a long, long time just to write and hand it off to a person and say, “Just tell me all the things you like!”
What is one thing most people don't know about you?
Here are 3:
I think all kinds of melon are mistake fruit. Waste of time. Gross city.
Ringo Starr from the Beatles walked past me at the Baltimore airport when I was in high school, and I overheard him say, “This is the worst place I’ve ever been.” (Sorry, Baltimore. I think you’re lovely.)
I read all 7 Harry Potter books out loud to my daughters doing all the voices.
Where can people find you online?
Insta and Twitter @nicolekronzer and on my website: nicolekronzer.com
In addition to writing books for teenagers, her favorite people, Nicole Kronzer is a high school English teacher and former professional actor. She loves to knit and run (usually not at the same time), and has named all the plants in her classroom. She lives with her family in Minneapolis.