Today MG lit author Nikki Loftin stops by The Hiding Spot to chat a bit about her newest book, Wish Girl, how her past jobs have influenced her writing, and more! Be sure to check out my review of Wish Girl, too, which you can read here.
The valley where Peter and Annie meet is a character in its own right. Can you speak a bit about the valley – its inspiration and personality?
Sure! The valley is based on a real place I visited most summers when I was little. My parents were trying to build a house out of scraps of lumber and free stuff on the top of a hill in Texas. My older sister and I ran wild in the uninhabited valley every summer while our parents worked. It was paradise plus rattlesnakes. In my mind, the valley I loved as a child was alive somehow. I felt protected and safe when I was there. I tried to put that feeling into my book, giving Peter the same geographical “friend” that I’d known, and added a little more overt magic – in a more overt way – to the fictional place.
I loved Peter and Annie, of course, but, when invited to interview you, I knew I couldn’t pass up the chance to ask you about the Colonel’s wife. Again, can you speak about this character’s inspiration and inclusion in the novel?
Oh, hooray! Nobody asks me about Mrs. Empson, and I love her so much! She’s like Yoda, with better grammar. :) Actually, at one end of the real valley I knew, there was an A-frame house, just like in the book. A widower called The Colonel lived there. I didn’t know him very well, and his wife had been dead for years. So the Colonel’s Wife, in my story, is entirely fictional, but she is based on a conglomeration of characters I’ve known in my life in Central Texas. My world is full of these capable, independent, gruff women who do for themselves, don’t fit into “polite” society, and have hearts as big as the Texas sky.As a side note, Empson is my grandmother’s maiden name. Growing up, I always teased my grandma that I’d use her name in a steamy romance novel someday… this is probably better.
What jobs did you have on your way to becoming a published author? Is there a certain work experience that has shaped your writing or provided inspiration?
I had the standard odd assortment of jobs as a young woman: waitress, hostess, popcorn seller at the theatre, bookstore clerk, salesperson. But after college, I lucked into an alternative certification program to be a teacher, and got hired at the most magical school in New Braunfels, Texas. I practically danced my way to work every day – I loved the kids, the other teachers, the principal, and the work itself. I never knew how much fun working with kids could be! So my next job, as a Director of Family Ministries, was a continuation of that career. In that job, I was given the task of thinking incredibly deeply about topics like grace, love, redemption, sacrifice, good and evil – and asked to speak to the kids of the church every Sunday morning in the children’s sermon in a way that made those topics meaningful and relevant to their lives. A big job! I think I still do that, in the back of my mind, all the time, and that’s what inspires me when I wrote my books – wanting to explain those “big” things in ways that appeal to kids, and help them to navigate this complicated world.
If you had to pick a favorite word, what would it be and why?
Murmuration. I love the sound of it, and I love what it means: either a murmuring sound… or a flock of starlings. And how they fly!
My blog is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Who, what, or where can be credited as your personal escape from reality?
Books are the perfect hiding spot. But, aside from books, my escape when I was a little girl was my valley. Now? It’s still the natural world, but the best place I’ve found to really retreat is Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Magical, strange, and perfect for writing. I make sure to spend a week or two out there every so often.
What can readers look forward to next?
I’m in an anthology of scary stories in September! It’s called Guys Read: Terrifying Tales, and I wrote a horrifying story for it. I think fans of my first novel, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, will love it. It’s super creepy.
More about the author
Nikki Loftin lives with her Scottish photographer husband just outside Austin, Texas, surrounded by dogs, chickens, goats, and rambunctious boys. She is the author of the multiply starred-reviewed Nightingale’s Nest and The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, which Publisher’s Weekly called “mesmerizing” and Kirkus called “irresistible.” Her newest novel, Wish Girl, was published on February 24, 2015. Visit her website, here.