Oakland native Nina LaCour always knew she wanted to be a writer, but over the past two years, she’s made that dream a reality. Nina’s debut young adult novel, Hold Still, was released by Dutton (a division of Penguin) last week, and she’s already signed on for a second novel.
Tell us what a typical day looks like for you.
I teach high school in the mornings, so my workday begins at 7:45. For a few hours, I sit around a big table with between 10 and 14 students per class and talk about books. When I get home I need a little while to wind down from teaching, so I use that time to answer interview questions for YA bloggers and get in touch with my agent or the people at Penguin about book stuff. They are all in New York, and I'm in California, so these calls have to take place early in my day.
No matter how often I do it, it takes me a little while to settle into writing. Usually I'll begin by reading over my newer scenes or notes. I also keep an ever-changing outline up on my wall, so I keep track of what I've written and what I need to write, and I'll cross scenes out if I decide that I'm taking a different direction. And then, finally, I start typing. I'm a slow writer, so on a good day I'll get one or two pages written. On a slow day I might just end up revising existing scenes or writing a bunch of notes, or working forever on one important paragraph.
To hear more about Nina's cool job, keep reading.
How did you get into your current field?
My parents tell me that I was nine when I declared that I was going to be a writer. When I was younger I primarily wrote poetry. Then, for a little while in high school I thought I might want to be a speech writer. Even now when I hear a great political speech — like Obama's victory speech, for example — I fantasize about how cool it would be to work behind the scenes on something like that. By the time I started college at San Francisco State, I was ready to focus on writing fiction, and that is the genre I've stayed with. I went to graduate school for creative writing and the first hundred pages of my first novel, Hold Still, was my graduate thesis. I think that I will always write novels and short stories because new characters continue to find their ways into my head and then stories begin to form around them until I have to write it all down.
What makes your job cool?
My job is so cool on so many levels. I would write no matter what. Even if I never earned a penny off my novels and no one ever read my stories, I would write. So the fact that I can do this as a job is amazing. Now that my first book has been published I'm starting to hear from my readers, some of whom are strangers and some of whom are family members and close friends and acquaintances, and it's so deeply touching to hear from these people after they've read my book.
The whole process is amazing, that I can daydream about characters until they seem real enough to write about, and then spend hundreds of hours holed up in my apartment or in cafes, typing and deleting and typing more, and then work with an editor to make the book better, and then send it to New York where dozens of people collaborate to make it an actual product, and then watch it appear on bookstore shelves, and then hear from people who bought it, and stayed up reading late at night or took it on airplanes or on their morning commutes and now think about these situations and characters that used to be just vague ideas in my head. It's incredible.
Photo courtesy of Kristyn Stroble