Nikki Loftin lives with her Scottish photographer husband just outside Austin, Texas, surrounded by dogs, chickens, and small, loud boys. Her middle-grade novel, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, will debut on August 21, 2012. For more info, visit her website and Twitter.
Let the conversation begin!
Can you share a nugget of writing wisdom?
Don’t forget to have fun. Life can be short, and if you spend all your time doing something that gives you no joy, you’ve kind of missed the point. If you want to love writing, but still sort of dread it, it might be for the same reason I once did: I was writing in the wrong genre. Once I switched from adult literary fiction to middle grade fantasy, my writing improved, my skin cleared up, and my gray hairs vanished overnight!
Do you keep a writing journal?
I do not, and I’m sort of intimidated by people who do. I mean, I’m supposed to write all these words for books and stories, AND write about the writing? It makes my fingers cry when I even think about it. Of course, I have these fantasies that I could be one of those writers – the ones who sit in a bar, or on a park bench, jail, wherever, writing about their writing. “It was a bad day today. Only four sonnets, a haiku, and a half-chapter of the wretched novel about my thankless children. I should have had better children, or worse ones, so this novel would show more complexity. My muse has deserted me. I believe she is hiding at the bottom of a chocolate sundae. I will find her, if I have to eat every scoop of ice cream in this blighted city!” This is the sort of thing writers scribble in those journals, right?
Coffee or Tea?
One cup of coffee first, then tea all day long! I have an itty-bitty ritual of sorts. I’ll make a pot of herbal tea (a different flavor for each novel!), then drink from one of the antique, flower-painted bone china teacups I’ve collected for decades. (No, I am not kidding. It makes me feel very special and precious, and helps with the inevitable frustrations of writing. And yes, I may use a faux-British accent when I’m talking to myself as I work. Even MORE special.)
Also, the tea helps wash down the copious amounts of chocolate I consume as I work. Lindt bars, if you’re curious. Mmmm.
Why do you write?
It’s the best job in the world. To me, there is nothing more satisfying than telling a story. And since I write funny stories sometimes, I love making myself – and my readers — laugh. My first readers are my own sons (ages 9 and 12). If I can make them laugh, I win as a writer and a mom! It almost makes up for those months when I’m on deadline, and I have to hire a pack of wolves to raise them for me.
When are you the most productive?
I am most productive in the morning. When I have a deadline for a new book, I’ll take my calendar and write out how many words I must get down on paper each day. Some days it’s a thousand, some days four thousand, depending on my other responsibilities. I write until I have met my quota. I refer to this as “making the word sausage.” It’s ugly, and you probably don’t want to see how it’s done. But it gets done, and it’s delicious in the end. (And yes, I completely realize this makes my muse weep tears of ash, but she’s learned to cope. And I almost never miss a deadline.)
Daily word count?
The most I’ve ever done is around 5,000. Normally, I hit one thousand. I take breaks between novels and work on poems, short stories, and essays. I think short form fiction, in particular, is very good practice for learning to write economically.
If you were attending a Halloween party, what would your costume be?
If I wanted to be truly frightening, I would go as Dolores Umbridge, who is the worst, most evil villain in all of children’s literature. My heart beats fast when I even think about her. But I usually go as a Gypsy fortuneteller, since I love the clothes, and the drama of it all, and pretending to read peoples’ palms.
What specific thing have you done that impressed yourself?
I recently wrote an entire draft of a novel, on deadline, in five weeks from start to finish. And it didn’t stink.
Is the glass half empty or half full? What is in the glass?
The glass is always full. Sometimes it’s just half full of chocolate milkshake, and half full of the memory of chocolate milkshake.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Oh, I hope I’m writing lots and lots of books, and lots and lots of letters and emails back to kids who love reading my books. Is that too much to hope for? Also, I would like a pony.
What is the worst possible name to call a child?
What do you miss about being a child?
I miss being small and irresponsible enough to climb out on my roof. I spent most of my childhood sneaking out onto the roof of my house, and watching the world go by below me. I’d take books, snacks, paper and pen for writing poems, and stay until I heard my mom calling. Which was usually about sixty seconds after the neighbors had telephoned to report me.
What’s your passion?
Spreading joy and light, especially to kids. If I can give children even a small portion of the happiness and escape I found in books as a child, if I can transport them or make them laugh, entertain them for a few hours in the hospital or in study hall? I win.