Sunday Interview #26 – Colleen Nelson

Today, I’d like to introduce you to fellow Great Plains author, Colleen Nelson. I reviewed her first YA novel, Tori By Design, in Friday’s post. Please put your hands together and welcome Colleen. (Clap, clap! Whoot, whoot!)

Colleen Nelson

Welcome to my blog, Colleen! Please tell my readers al little about yourself.

Thanks for the opportunity to be on your blog, Susan! It’s great to see other writers making an effort to reach readers and writers through social media. 

I am the mother of two boys, and the step-mom to three kids ages 19-25. I taught junior high for ten years before going on a very extended maternity leave and now I teach preschool and write. I spend a lot of my time doing volunteer work for my community centre (I am the president at Tuxedo Community Centre) and my son’s school. I love to travel, sew and read.

What made you realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was on maternity leave with my first son, James, I decided to take a class through the Manitoba Writers Guild called ‘Writing for Children’ with Margaret Shaw-McKinnon. I need to keep my brain active, but was house-bound with my infant son. Writing became a great outlet to be creative and provided focus to my day. As soon as James went down for a nap, I found my way to the computer and spent a few blissful hours lost in my head with characters…instead of doing laundry or the dishes! I guess you could say, writing started as more of a hobby than a career.

Tori By Design

That’s kind of how it started for me, too…and who wants to do laundry or the dishes when you could be writing, right? 🙂

What gave you the idea for Tori By Design?

My husband’s work is based in New York, so we have an apartment in NYC and I’ve spent a lot of time living there. For a while, I took a leave from teaching to move out there. During that time, I volunteered at an Upper East Side private school. It was there that I started to wonder what a girl from Winnipeg would experience if she moved to NYC. 

I also love fashion, so I wrote Tori as a wanna-be fashion designer because NYC is the perfect place for a girl who loves clothes to live.

That is so cool! 🙂

How did you create the character of Tori?

Tori is a composite of two special girls in my life: my step-daughters, Sacha and Chloe, and a little bit of me. Watching my step-daughters go through their adolescence and teaching junior high school students, gave me different perspectives on what it is like to be a teenager these days. Tori has a lot of great characteristics, but she is also self-centered. Every character needs her flaw, right? My editor, Anita Daher, really helped to draw out Tori’s character arc and develop her into a well-rounded character.

Anita is such a great editor, isn’t she? She really knows how to bring out the best in our work. 🙂

Your descriptions of New York make your readers feel as if they are right there. I understand you lived there for a while. Please tell us about your experience in The Big Apple.

I absolutely LOVE NYC! It is my second home and I know the city very well. NYC has a pulse and pace that is unlike anywhere else I have ever been. Tokyo and London come close, but they don’t have the same aggression and forge-ahead attitude that you find in NYC. Living there, I worked as a docent at two museums, went to Broadway shows, lived in a tiny, crummy apartment, took the subway and discovered what makes the city so great. I love that each neighborhood has its own distinct character, from cobble stone streets in SOHO to the brownstones of the Upper West Side, no two areas are the same. The restaurants, shopping and access to cultural instituions means there is never ‘nothing to do’. The big buildings and sights get old fast and I always tell friends who visit to explore the neighborhoods to really get a sense of the city. Eat at a diner, shop at boutiques, visit the small museums and talk to people. New Yorkers are so friendly, helpful and proud of their city.

Sounds like a fantastic experience. You are very lucky! 🙂

I understand you are working on a new novel. Would you like to give my readers a sneak peek or are you superstitious about discussing a Work In Progress?

I have three in the works. “The Fall” is out in March and is about four boys and the tragic accident that shapes their lives. It is geared towards an older teen audience than ‘Tori by Design’ and is a gritty reflection of how boys deal with grief. I am very excited about it and can’t wait to have it launched!

The other two books, one is with a publisher as we speak, but I haven’t heard feedback yet, is about a small, conservative Manitoba town and the secrets that its townspeople have kept hidden for decades. As the main character and a boy from a nearby reserve begin to discover the truth, they realize that the secrets that have kept them apart, are the very things drawing them closer together.

I’ve only completed a first draft of the fourth book, but it is about a girl who seeks refuge at her aunt’s cottage after a troubled upbringing. It deals with the complex relationships women have with each other, mother to mother, mother to daughter, sister to sister. I’m looking forward to continuing to work on it this winter.

Wow! Sounds like you’ve been pretty busy – and will be busy for awhile! They all have great story lines and I can’t wait to read them! 🙂

Now, for something a little more fun – what is your favourite comfort food?

A steaming cup of strong coffee in my favouite mug is the most comforting! But chocolate is a close second! Especially chewy chocolate chip cookies!

Yum! Me, too! 🙂

What is your workspace like? (Feel free to include a photo, if you like)

I’m too embarrassed to include a photo of my messy, cramped work area. I don’t do well with an empty desk (empty desk-empty mind?) so I make sure there’s always a few piles of papers, hand lotion, a couple of library books, pens, pencils, my calendar and some photos strewn around me. Maybe it’s a chicken and egg thing: I work best when it’s cluttered, or it’s cluttered because I’m working…

That sounds very much like my workplace! lol

Who is your favourite Young Adult author?

Tough one. I read a lot but, I have to say, I have a lot of respect for William Bell because his books were able to draw in boys who weren’t inclined to read. I think that young adult male audience is the toughest one to crack. His books ‘Stones’ and ‘Blue Helmet’ were popular books with the boys when I taught.

You’re right about how difficult it is drawing the teen boys to reading. I’ll have to check out his books. 🙂

Are there any social media sites you’d like to share with us?

I have to admit, I am brutal at updating things. I have a blog at http://colleennelson.blogspot.com but it’s turned into an info site for people going to NYC, more than anything about my writing. For “The Fall”, I’ve started to put together  a blog with links to articles and forums about how teens deal with traumatic events. I will send you the link when I get it started.

I am also on Facebook at colleennelson547/

Do you have any last words before we close?

Thanks again for this opportunity. I know doing the blog takes time away from your own writing, but you are providing a great way for authors to connect with their audience. It’s been a pleasure!

Glad you enjoyed the experience. Thank you for taking the time to chat with me, Colleen, and may your book sales be many. 🙂

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13 comments on “Sunday Interview #26 – Colleen Nelson

  1. I really do look forward to these interviews and you manage to find out so many interesting facts about your guests. How lovely to be able to explore New York – it’s very near the top of my “would like to visit” list. Thanks again for an interesting interview.

  2. Another inspiring glimpse into a writer’s life. I admire Colleen for managing to write between work and children. I failed in that respect and had to wait many years to gain the space I require to focus on my writing.

    • I agree with you! When I began writing, I wasn’t working and could use the time while the kids were at school to hone my craft. Now that I’m working, even though it’s only part-time, I have a lot less time to spend writing. Colleen, I don’t know how you do it! 🙂

  3. I feel like I know Colleen after this interview. I feel like we’d be good friends, if I lived in NYC. And I feel like I wish I lived in NYC part time (very part time – one month a year?). Great interview. The YA books Colleen writes sound interesting, ‘real’ and good reads for teens.

  4. It’s my first visit here and it’s quite inviting. Thanks for doing this, Susan! This interview was fun to read. I enjoyed Colleen’s first book and look forward to the new release. As to NYC – I did one short three day visit – prepared not to like it – and instead loved it. It has a real positive vibe, I agree. Next time I go, I’ll check out Colleen’s blog first.

    • Sounds like a good idea! She probably has some pointers, there. I’d like to go to NYC just to say I’ve been there, although there are reservations about being in such a huge city with so many people – and Hubby is not in the least bit interested in going there! I’m glad you dropped by, Gabriele! 🙂

  5. Pingback: Sunday Interview – Colleen Nelson | mywithershins

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