Happy Sunday, Everyone! I’d like you all to welcome, again, the lovely and talented Colleen Nelson. She is a YA author and fellow Great Plains writer, among other things. You may recall my review of her first novel, Tori By Design and previous interview with her, as well as my review of her latest novel, The Fall.
Hi, Colleen! Would you like to begin by telling my readers a little bit about yourself?
Of course! I live in Winnipeg and have two boys, ages 6 and 8, and three grown step-children. I was a teacher for about ten years before I had my kids and now I teach preschool, do a lot of volunteer work and write, write, write!
We know you now have two young adult novels published. Please describe what it was like to get them each out in print.
Tori by Design was a long, labour-intensive project because it was my first novel. I was lucky to have an amazing editor, Ms. Anita Daher, to coach me through the process. I started writing The Fall soon after I found out Tori was going to be published, because I knew I wanted to write a book my sons would read one day (Tori is a bit girly!).
I learned so much from the writing and editing process with my first book, that writing The Fall was much faster. I still learned a lot working with Anita, but it wasn’t as grueling as with Tori. I equate an editor to a diamond cutter, bringing out the best and chipping off what detracts from the book. Anita is a master diamond cutter!
How did the process differ between each project? How were they the same?
With Tori, I sort of stumbled along, losing my way a few times and doing massive re-writes. With The Fall, I wrote with intention. I knew the story I wanted to tell and who the characters were, which is why I was able to write it in about a year (Tori took four years). One of the main things Anita taught me when I was editing my first book, was that there has to be an emotional connection between the reader and the main character. I was conscious of creating that in The Fall from the beginning.
As for similarities in the process, working with the same team at Great Plains was a bonus. I had another wonderful launch at McNally Robinson and the staff was as supportive as always.
The Fall is a very different book than Tori By Design. What sparked the idea for it?
Writing for boys required a different point of view than with Tori. Luckily, Ben, one of the main characters’ voices, came to me right away. He was a skater and had a best friend, Tessa. (Her voice also came to me clearly. In fact, she’s my favourite character.) But, of course, something has to happen to Ben, which is when I dug into my past experiences as a teacher.
When I was teaching junior high, a boy died suddenly. Watching how the other students dealt with his death was heart breaking. I say in my Author’s Note that ‘Grieving is difficult at any age, but being an adolescent complicates the situation’. I wanted to convey the confusing emotions that come along with grief and how each person handles them differently.
I thought you did a marvelous job portraying each of them – and that’s coming from a mom who had to watch her daughter & her friends go through a similar tragedy. 🙂
I found the POVs for The Fall to be presented a little differently, with Ben being in first person and the other two boys in third person. What was your reasoning for this? (not a criticism, just curious)
No criticism taken! At first, I wrote all three in first person. Ben was the main character and the other two characters didn’t speak until after the accident. As I was re-reading, I didn’t think Cory and Taz’ voices were different enough, so I switched them to third person to see if it worked better.
It was during the editing process that Anita suggested I make all three characters equal. I’d already come to know Cory and Taz as being in third person, so I kept their sections in that narrative.
Besides the obvious research into the sport of skateboarding, what other research did you need to do?
Surprisingly, I don’t know a lot about gang initiations, so that required some research. I also read some books, most notably ‘Raising Cain’ to get deeper into the adolescent male psyche. Boys don’t communicate or relate to others the same way girls do. I feel that society stifles their emotionality. I wanted the characters in The Fall to present an honest portrayal of how males grieve.
But, as a writer, every day is research. I am always paying attention to how things look, smell, taste, what sounds I hear, anything that will add depth to my writing. Just driving through a new neighborhood provides research. I never know what will appear from my subconscious as I write!
Now for some fun questions . . .
Do you prefer chocolate or ice cream?
What is your writing workspace like? (I’m in the process of redesigning mine and could use some pointers!) Feel free to attach pictures, if you like!
Lately, I’ve been relocating to the dining room table. I usually have papers, notes, calendars and coffee cups strewn around me. I’m a messy writer!
Me, too! That’s why I need a space with a door I can close when company comes over! lol
Do you have any rituals or items that help your muse speak to you as you sit down to write?
I read out loud a lot, to make sure the voice of the character is authentic, but that’s it.
Are there social media sites you’d like to share with us? (Facebook, twitter, blog, website, etc)
Are there any final words before we say goodbye?
Thank you so much for the opportunity to tell you about my writing. This book, The Fall, means a lot to me and I’m excited for people to read it!
Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Colleen! 🙂