Happy Halloween and Welcome Peeps!
Today on ye old blog I’m thrilled to have my friend and fellow Kensington publishing sister, Nicole Blades here to answer a couple of question on her latest release:
HAVE YOU MET NORA? (OUT TODAY!).
She’s blossomed from a wealthy surgeon’s beautiful daughter to elegant socialite to being the top fashion stylist in the country. And Nora Mackenzie is only days away from marrying into one of New York’s richest, most powerful families. But her fairy tale rise is rooted in an incredible deception—one scandal away from turning her perfect world to ashes . . .
What no one knows is that Nora is the biracial daughter of a Caribbean woman and a long-gone white father. Adopted—and abused—by her mother’s employer, then sent to an exclusive boarding school to buy her silence, Nora found that “passing” as a white woman could give her everything she never had.
Now, an ex-classmate who Nora betrayed many years ago has returned to her life to even the score. Her machinations are turning Nora’s privilege into one gilded trap after another. Running out of choices, Nora must decide how far she will go to protect a lie or give up and finally face the truth.
Thank you so much for being here Nicole and for answering my questions:
KMJ: First off What inspired you to write this story?
N.B.: I’ve always been deeply interested in identity, more specifically, how someone organizes their entire spirit around being something and claiming it out loud. I’m also curious about the weird line between how we see ourselves and how we wish the world views us. For some people, the two versions are similar and live close to that line. And of course, for others, the two “selves” can be worlds apart.
For this story, I wanted to go even deeper with this concept and examine how someone could construct an identity rooted in a lie, taking “fake it ‘til you make it” to a totally different level. And then, how far would they go to protect that identity that they’ve created out of nothing but dust and dreams? I had to find out!
K.M.J: What advice would you give other aspiring writers?
N.B.: I’ve been asked to offer advice to writers a few times, and I tend to say basic things. I must preface this by saying that advice can be tricky. What works for one person might lead to total disaster for another—and getting too many opinions can often leave you feeling more bewildered than when you started. You have to have a certain presence of mind and awareness to recognize what “wise words” to keep and what you can just let fall away. All that said (heh.), here’s my advice to writers: First, read. I know, with the way the world is spinning and all that’s going on, It can certainly feel like there’s not enough time to read everything. So many links, so many books, so many articles and posts! But the fact is, you have to make the time to read books, because writers read. And it’s important to read wide–read genres that are not necessarily up your alley, read authors you wouldn’t normally lean toward, read great work and less-great work too. Keep it varied; expose yourself to all the flavors, and add breadth to your POV.
The second key piece of advice I would suggest is also simple (in theory, anyway): You must write. It’s one thing to say that you want to write X or Y, but it’s whole other thing to actual sit your bum in the chair and do it. We are busy, all of us. We are juggling plenty, but you must make the time to write if you want to be a writer. Find a schedule that works with your life—getting up before the sun or blocking off two hours at night after everyone’s gone to bed—and write, and try to do it every day. Even if it starts with 20 minutes a day and you build from there, just do it. Storytelling is a craft and you have to continue to work on it.
Lastly, find your voice and use it. Don’t bother emulating your favorite writer. That’s their voice. Use yours to tell the stories that you want to read, the stories that you’re not seeing out there. Trying to decipher the code about what sells and what people want to read is wasted energy. You should have one goal: tell a great story. Focus on that goal. All the other stuff—the genre that works for you, loyal readers, bigger-better opportunities, even book sales—they are byproducts that often show up when you’re fixed on telling a good story in your voice.
K.M.J:Lastly, please share with us what’s next for you?
N.B.: Next for me is the H.Y.M.N. (small) book tour. First stop is the nation’s capital. I’ll be at Sankofa Bookstore in Washington D.C. on November 6th at 6:30 p.m. Then back to New England for a local-ish book event at R.J. Julia Bookstore at Wesleyan on November 14th at 7 p.m. before heading to Canada for fun events in my hometown Montreal followed by Toronto. (All my upcoming events are listed on my web site: NicoleBlades.com.)
I’m also working on a new novel. I don’t like to talking too much about whatever I’m cooking up. I’m a little weird and low-key superstitious about it, but I’ll just say break out of my usual rule and say this: It’s about a scientist, struggling to move through her broken life, who stumbles into investigating a mysterious illness that’s killing off the nation’s youth. I’m really hoping to be finished by the end of the year. Wish me luck, and good writing vibes!
And now here is an excerpt from HAVE YOUR MET NORA?:
Nora opened her eyes and stared through the darkness at the ceiling. Three twenty-eight, she thought, before rolling up off her back a little and craning her neck to look just past Fisher’s shoulders at the blue numbers on the clock by his nightstand. He was dead asleep, the rhythmic flow of his deep breathing like white noise. The numbers gleamed: 3:41 am. Close enough, she thought, and returned to the ceiling. Although Nora had long been an early riser—she couldn’t remember a time when she had slept later than the sun—this was different.
She eased the covers off and slid out from under Fisher’s muscled arm, moving slow and steady toward the edge of the bed. She hopped down, landing with a soft thud, and then froze, shifting her eyes back to Fisher. No change. Not even a break in the beat. Nora grabbed her iPhone and padded along the hall. The moon, pushing through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the penthouse, provided more than enough light for Nora to find the handle to the mini champagne fridge that Fisher bought for her last year. Nora gave the half-drunk bottle of Armand de Brignac—a gift from a client—her deepest bow with prayer hands before grabbing it and shutting the fridge door with her foot. She pulled the orange stopper from the bottle, letting it drop to the floor, and started typing into her phone on her way to the bathroom at the far end of the penthouse. Nora waited until she was inside the empty, freestanding tub before taking her first, long swig from the bottle. She rested her phone on the ledge of the tub and pressed a button on a remote that sent the massive blinds skyward. Nora stayed there in the empty basin, soaking in the city’s glow, and waited.
Her phone buzzed and vibrated against the acrylic. She took another sip before answering it.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” a croaky voice said.
Nora shook her head. “I’m just—”
“Nervous? You’re just nervous, hon. It’s pre-wedding jitters. You’re fixin’ to get married to that gorgeous, big-*icked, super-hot bastard in twenty-two—no, twenty-one days and you’re feeling anxious. That’s all. No Biggie Smalls.”
“Jenna, I’m sitting in an empty tub, pounding old champagne straight from the bottle, and staring out the *ucking window. Do you really think it’s necessary to remind me that there are twenty-two days—”
“Technically it’s twenty-one—”
“Jesus, fine, twenty-one days. It’s twenty-one days before the wedding. I’m aware. My whole entire body is aware. We’re all very aware.”
“Deep breaths, sweetheart. You’re freaking out. This is what freaking out looks like on all normal women,” Jenna said. Her Southern twang, though soft, still tickled Nora. “You’re just different. It’s foreign territory for you.”
Nora stopped mid-swig, her arm wobbling and then dropping with the weight of the bottle into her lap. “What does that mean?” she said, squinting her eyes and bracing her body.
“Nothing, just, I don’t know. . . . I mean, you’re always even and calm; it’s preternatural,” Jenna said. “No matter what’s going on, you’re on like perma-chill. It’s automatic for you. No headless chicken stuff.” A chuckle. “It’s why we kept calling you I.Q. when we first met you. Ice Queen.”
Jenna’s full creaky cackle made Nora move the phone away from her ear and level it on the ledge of the tub. She could still hear Jenna from that distance, but pushed Speaker anyway and went back to drinking her champagne. Nora reclined, cradling the bottle into her chest. “Ice Queen? Seriously? And here I was thinking you were dazzled by my smarts.”
“Oh, we were. Totally. By your smarts, for sure, and also your long legs, your frat-boy mouth, your perky *its, them Kelly Ripa arms, and your entire wardrobe, espesh the shoes. Plus, you speak fluent French—I mean, *ucking French—and you’re the first white girl I’ve ever met who can actually dance. Like, legit, Beyoncé backup dancer dance. Need I go on?”
“Yes, you need. Come on, I’m practically perfect,” Nora said, the beginnings of a laugh tickling her throat.
“Practically?” Jenna said, yawning. “Okay, so we’ve thoroughly covered your Boss Bitch status. It’s why Fish is locking you down so fast, while those eggs are still viable.” Nora’s expanding grin disappeared, replaced by a clenched jaw and gnashed teeth. “What I need clarity on is: Why are dry-tub drinking again?”
“How did you know I’m in the tub?”
“Echoes, booby. Also, you said so earlier. Either way, I’ve got you pretty much figured out. You’re not the QB on this play. What’s the wedding planner’s name again, Gloria? Glenda? Whatever. She’s the quarterback. She’s the one calling all the plays, and you’re watching from the sidelines and it’s driving you bananz.”
“First, are you talking sports at me?”
“A little,” Jenna said through her teeth.
“You’re still hooking up with that sports writer guy?”
“Wait, isn’t he the one who sent you the dick pic when you asked to see his new coffee table?”
“Well, it was pretty impressive . . . the coffee table.”
“Jesus, Jenna. What needs to happen to get you out of these dating app traps? Nothing but Dumpster fires on there.”
“Hold up, I met Sports Guy the old-school way, my dear: at a bar, not on a dating app,” Jenna said. “You kidding me? My filters are tight. He would’ve never made the cut.”
“What about the one who called you from rehab on what was supposed to be your third date?”
“Oh, that whole thing was about me trying to be charitable. I’m from Texas. It’s how we do.”
“Father-God, you need prayer,” Nora said, closing her eyes and leaning her head back in the tub.
“You sound like my sister’s nanny, Bernadette. She says that all the time about those twins: Fahdah-Gowd,” Jenna said, mangling it. “She’s from Trinidad, I think. No, St. Kitts. One of those islands. But you got that accent down solid. So many tricks in your little black hat, woman.”
You can pick up your copy of HAVE YOU MET NORA?
And Follow Nicole on line at NicoleBlades.com to stay up on her latest happenings!
Thanks so much for being with us Nicole!