Friday, March 14, 2014

Feature Friday: Jane Nickerson

Jane has always loved the South, “the olden days,” gothic tales, houses, kids, writing, and interesting villains. She has five children, has taught preschool, and was a children’s librarian for many years. She grew up in California, but considers small town Mississippi her real home. She lives in an old house in Aberdeen, Mississippi, and is a full time writer.

Interview:
A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Jane:
Remember that being published is not the end all/be all for a writer. Some of the joy goes out of the creative process when you’re trying to please other people, worry about contracts, worry about critics, etc. Write because you love to write, and write what you love writing. Then, maybe submit it for publication, maybe not. Also, even if you do submit and NEVER get published, that does not mean that you’re not a wonderful writer; it simply means that maybe your style is not what is currently popular and sellable. Enjoy it anyway, because it’s yours.

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Jane:
I have so many favorites it’s hard to pick one. So…ONE of my favorites is A WIZARD OF EARTHSEA, by Ursula K. LeGuin. I love her simple, beautiful writing style, the atmosphere of her books, and her amazing world building. I’m a big fan of fantasy.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for The Mirk and Midnight Hour?

Jane:
I’ve always liked the “Ballad of Tam Lin.” It’s terribly romantic and quite beautiful. In order to adapt it to Civil War era Mississippi, I needed to turn the fairies into a type of local southern workers of magic—hence, voodoo practitioners. The captured knight evolved into a captured, wounded Union soldier—a story that I’ve played around with in my head for years.

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing The Mirk and Midnight Hour?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Jane:
As I was writing, and the story took off by itself as good stories tend to do, I discovered that there were really two big plots going on, and that neither was small enough to be considered a subplot. I could not bear to abandon either one, so I decided, To heck with it, I’ll have co-plots. I wove the two plots together, and so MIRK has more than one villain and more than one climax. Also, as in STRANDS, because of the time period and setting, I had to address the institution of slavery. A very tough thing. I did my best to deal with it using both realism and sensitivity.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in The Mirk and Midnight Hour is your favorite and why?

Jane:
I’m rather fond of villains. (In books, of course. Not in real life.) So, I really like Dorian, in spite of all his failings. He’s an amusing, fun-loving kind of guy who is not afraid to laugh at himself.

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Jane:
I’ve written fiction since I first learned to read and write. My first book, written at age eight, was called BEN ORTHO, and the title character was a witch’s broom. I’ve written stories ever since, but didn’t try to get anything published until all my five kids were in school. Then I submitted lots of children’s stories to magazines and sold many of them. I wrote a couple of middle grade novels and tried to submit them to publishers without an agent. A few publishers expressed some interest, but then I entered a crisis time with some of my kids, and, because my family is of the greatest importance, I quit writing for years because I needed to concentrate on it. Then, in 2010, my kids were all grown up, I moved to Canada and could not find a job, and I decided the time had finally come to take my writing seriously. I wrote STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD, was taken on by Wendy Schmalz, my agent, and she sold both STRANDS and THE MIRK AND MIDNIGHT HOUR to Knopf. These last four years have been very interesting and fulfilling ones for me.

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

Jane:
I wrote a sequel to STRANDS which has not been accepted for publication as yet for various reasons. I still hope to do something with it because I think it’s really good. So, it’s on a back burner. This time I decided to go for some high fantasy because that’s always been my favorite genre. I’m half way through a novel I’ve titled “Winged Things.”

A.L.:
Why did you decide to write a Tam Lin retelling set in Civil War era?  Likewise (since I'm also an author of a Tam Lin retelling) I'm curious to know why you picked Tam Lin over other stories to retell.

Jane:
Ahh, I will have to look up yours! I’ve read a few Tam Lin retellings and enjoyed them. As I said, Tam Lin is a charming story and I love the romance in it. So…romantic. The hero is fascinating, but helpless, and it’s up to the brave, resourceful heroine to rescue him. I set it in Civil War era because that setting and time period has always interested me. It’s tragic in so many layers and so many ways, and that touch of pathos lends a great deal of atmosphere. I lived in Mississippi for many years, and am living there again now, after five years in Canada.

A.L.:
In your opinion, what's the most hauntingly beautiful place to visit in all of Mississippi?

Jane:
There is an 1800’s cemetery in my town, which never fails to captivate me. The beautiful towering trees, marble stones, the old, old griefs… “Here lies the soldier boy.” “Here lies buried many hopes and dreams.” Pathos again.

A.L.:
If your life were a fairy tale retelling, whose story would it be?

Jane:
Maybe “Snow White and Rose Red.” The heroines are kind, family-oriented, resourceful girls, who live happily ever after. I hope I am leading that kind of life.

The Giveaway:
Jane is giving away one copy (INT) of THE MIRK AND MIDNIGHT HOUR.

The Mirk and Midnight Hour: A Southern girl. A wounded soldier. A chilling force deep in the forest.
All collide at night’s darkest hour.

Seventeen-year-old Violet Dancey has been left at home in Mississippi with a laudanum-addicted stepmother and love-crazed stepsister while her father fights in the war—a war that has already claimed her twin brother. 


When she comes across a severely injured Union soldier lying in an abandoned lodge deep in the woods, things begin to change. Thomas is the enemy—one of the men who might have killed her own brother—and yet she's drawn to him. But Violet isn't Thomas's only visitor; someone has been tending to his wounds—keeping him alive—and it becomes chillingly clear that this care hasn't been out of compassion. 


Against the dangers of war and ominous powers of voodoo, Violet must fight to protect her home and the people she loves.


From the author of Strands of Bronze and Gold comes a haunting love story and suspenseful thriller based on the ancient fairy tale of “Tam Lin.”


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