Hey guys! I’m here with another author spotlight for the Ontario Teen Book Fest! This time I’m featuring the author of the Twin Willows trilogy and “The Forgotten” , Nicole Maggi! I’ll be interviewing her for the first book in her trilogy, “Winter Falls”, (which you can see my review here!) but before that, let me give you the details on OTBF.
What: The Ontario Teen Book Fest is an annual book event that features over a dozen bestselling YA authors. It is a FREE and UNTICKETED event so feel free to invite all your friends! This year’s author lineup includes Julie Buxbaum, Romina Russell, Gretchen McNeil, Charlotte Huang, Sara Elizabeth Santana, and more! Check out the blog tour schedule after these event details to see a full list of which authors will be joining us this year!
When: Saturday March 25th, 9 am to 5 pm
Where: Colony High School 3850 E. Riverside Drive, Ontario, CA 91761
There will be books available for purchase at the event, as well as t-shirts and posters. You are more than welcome to bring books from home, but try to help support Once Upon A Time by purchasing a book or two from them.
Blog Tour Schedule
Today’s author spotlight is… Nicole Maggi!
Kindle #1 Bestseller
2016 International Thriller Writers Thriller Award nominee
2015 Junior Library Guild Selection
Georgie’s new heart saved her life…but now she’s losing her mind.
Georgie Kendrick wakes up after a heart transplant, but the organ beating in her chest doesn’t seem to be in tune with the rest of her body. Why does she have a sudden urge for strawberries when she’s been allergic for years? Why can’t she remember last Christmas?
Driven to find her donor, Georgie discovers her heart belonged to a girl her own age who fell out of the foster care system and into a rough life on the streets. Everyone thinks she committed suicide, but Georgie is compelled to find the truth – before she loses herself completely.
Winter Falls (Twin Willows trilogy, #1)
Alessia Jacobs is a typical sixteen-year-old, dying to get out of her small town of Twin Willows, Maine. Things look up when a new family comes to town, but when she falls for the hot, mysterious son, Jonah, her life turns upside down.
Weird visions of transforming into an otherworldly falcon are just the beginning. Soon she learns she’s part of the Benandanti, an ancient cult of warriors with the unique power to separate their souls from their bodies and take on the forms of magnificent animals.
Alessia never would’ve suspected it, but her boring town is the site of an epic struggle between the Benandanti and the Malandanti to control powerful magic in the surrounding forest.
As Alessia is drawn into the Benandanti’s mission, her relationship with Jonah intensifies. When her two worlds collide, Alessia’s forced to weigh choices a sixteen-year-old should never have to make.
Interview with Nicole Maggi
1. Before “Winter Falls”, I had never read a book that had shape shifting as a main concept in the story, much less separating one’s soul from the body at will, so this was a really interesting read for me. I had never heard of the Benandanti before either. How did you first find out about the legend and how did that lead you to write Alessia’s story?
I actually stumbled upon the Benandanti on Wikipedia. For some reason, I was on the page for European Witch-hunts, and the Benandanti were a footnote on that page. When I clicked on the link and started to read, I got that tingly feeling at the back of my neck and I just knew this was my next story. Originally, I set out to write a historical novel, set in the 1500’s (during the time the Benandanti were investigated by the Roman Inquisition). I wrote for several months and then got terribly stuck. After floundering for a while, I had a eureka moment when I realized it wasn’t meant to be a historical novel. While the original core of the myth of the Benandanti is intact in the trilogy, I changed a lot to suit my story.
2. Were any of your characters inspired by real life people?
Yes. The character of Lidia is heavily based on my maternal grandmother, Rose (to whom the book is dedicated). Whenever I was writing a scene set in Lidia’s kitchen, it was my grandma’s kitchen that I pictured.
3. How did you decide which animal Alessia would transform into? Was there any significant meaning to it?
So, funny story. Originally, Alessia transformed into an owl. I love owls; they’re so beautiful and mysterious, plus…you know…Harry Potter! But when we sold the book to my first publisher, they didn’t think owls were “sexy” enough. (Their word, not mine!) They wanted me to change it to something feline, like a lynx. But my agent adamantly refused. She didn’t want to lose all the flight imagery and description that I’d written. She suggested a falcon, because they are the fastest creatures on earth, and they have such a royal history; they were used by medieval kings and queens to send messages. The publisher went for that, and I changed Alessia into a falcon.
A year and a half later, after my editor left and that publisher cancelled the contract, my agent told me to revise the novel any way I wanted before we put the book back out on submission. I briefly considered changing Alessia back to an owl, but by that point a falcon seemed to suit her better. Owls symbolize wisdom and Alessia, though very bright and smart, is often impulsive and doesn’t always make the best choices. And Alessia is fierce, both as a warrior and a friend, and a falcon represented that much better than an owl.
4. When in your writing process for “Winter Falls” did you realize that you were working on a trilogy? Or was that your intention from the beginning?
Once I changed the book from historical fiction, I realized it was also a trilogy. So I started writing it with the intention of making it a 3-book series from the beginning.
5. Are you currently working on another book or project? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?
Yes! I just turned in a book to my editor. It’s my first straight contemporary. It’s about an unlikely friendship between two girls that blossoms when one girl gets into a particular type of trouble that only the other girl can help her with. This book should be out in Fall 2018, from Sourcebooks Fire who published my thriller THE FORGETTING. Since that is now off my desk, and on my editor’s, I’m in the very early stages of a new project. While I was writing the contemporary, I really missed magic and fantasy. Writing the contemporary novel was rewarding but I need a little weird in my books. So my next project is going to be historical fantasy, which I’m really, really excited about.
6. Is there a genre that you hope to write for one day that you haven’t yet?
I’ve always LOVED historical fantasy – The Gemma Doyle Trilogy by Libba Bray and JONATHAN STRANGE & MR. NORRELL by Susanna Clarke are two of my favorites – so I am SO excited to finally be writing one! Although, check back in with me next year when I’m up to my eyeballs in research.
7. What is the best part about being a member of the YA community?
Hands down, the other authors I have become friends with. Especially here in LA, where I live, the community is so supportive and fun. Seeing each other at events and doing panels is great, but the real fun happens when we all get together and drink, LOL.
8. What is your favorite thing about writing YA?
My life was pretty tumultuous when I was a teen. Books were my refuge. If my books can provide refuge to even just one kid, then I’ve done my job right. I was also so inspired by books at that age; everything I read, from Les Miserables to Sidney Sheldon’s novels made such an impression on me. I’m always thinking about that when I write; what kind of impression is this book going to have on a teen reader? Getting to write for teens, at a time in their lives when they are still figuring out who they are and who they want to be, when they’re breaking away from their parents and deciding what they want their life and world to look like for themselves, is such an honor and privilege to me.
9. Continuing off of the previous question, what made you decide to write YA novels as opposed to… let’s say New Adult, or Children’s books, for example?
I didn’t originally start out writing YA, but my first novel (which remains unpublished) got a lot of feedback from editors that it felt like YA. So my agent encouraged me to go in that direction, and when I did, it felt like coming home. Suddenly all the books I’d loved as a kid (Tamora Pierce, Jane Yolan, Lois Duncan, Judy Blume) came rushing back to me. My teen years are still so present inside me, so writing in a teen voice is so comfortable for me, like wearing a favorite pair of jeans.
10. What advice would you give writers who aspire to have a book published one day?
Read. Read a lot! And read outside the genre you want to write in. I try to read a lot of different genres – adult fiction, non-fiction, memoir – and I think it’s important for your writing to be a well-rounded reader.
Don’t be so quick to show your work to anyone after you’ve written something. Once you show your work to someone, you open it up to criticism. Constructive criticism can be incredibly useful, but if you’re not ready to hear it, it can be damaging. I like to think of my writing as a fragile glass ball. Until I know that glass has become unbreakable, I keep it to myself.
Lastly, some people say to write every day, but I find that advice a little abusive, because there are just some days where you can’t write! So my advice instead is to do something creative every day. That can be as simple as cooking a great meal, or taking a walk and noticing how many shades of green you spot. Or write a poem (it can be a haiku!) or paint a picture, or color in one of those fancy adult coloring books. Or write a page in your journal. Just anything creative to keep the juices flowing. That way, when you are able to sit down to write, you’ll be ready.
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions, Nicole! I enjoyed reading your responses. 🙂 Thanks Sara for organizing all this again, and thank YOU for joining me for today’s blog tour stop! It’s been fun and I hope you enjoy the rest of the tour!