Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Q&A with Nicole D. Collier




Nicole D. Collier is the author of the new middle grade novel The Many Fortunes of Maya. She also has written the middle grade novel Just Right Jillian. An executive coach and former elementary school teacher, she lives in St. Petersburg, Florida.


Q: What inspired you to write The Many Fortunes of Maya, and how did you create your character Maya, or “MJ”?


A: Growing up I was a certified Daddy’s girl. I definitely loved my mother, but the relationship Daddy and I shared was special. At one point in elementary school, my parents’ relationship deteriorated and they decided a trial separation was in order. It didn’t last long (two weeks), but I really missed him and was very happy when he came back home. I wanted to write a story grounded in that moment.


When it comes to characters, I usually spend a lot of time getting to know them. For MJ, I started with some of my life experiences – I loved the flute in middle school, for instance – but I also asked myself a lot of questions and journaled to get to know her.


I also use running as a creative thinking time, so on longer runs, I would “listen” to her in conversations with friends or her parents to try and nail her voice.  


Q: How would you describe MJ’s relationships with her parents?


A: Like me, MJ is a Daddy’s girl, but she loves her mom, too. And in fact, she’s disappointed and sad that her mother seems to have lost interest in MJ’s favorite things. MJ also blames her mom for causing the rift between her parents, so it’s safe to say her relationship with her mom is a lot more complicated.


Even so, she loves both parents on their own terms, and really wonders if the three of them can be happy together.


Q: The writer Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich said of the book, “With sweetness, humor, and an abundance of heart, Collier paints an authentic and layered portrait of what it means to ask questions that don't have simple answers, to be true to oneself, and to grow with and because of the love that surrounds us.” What do you think of that description, and what do you hope readers take away from the story?


A: I love that description and I’m so honored Olugbemisola wrote that blurb. It’s special because I had a really hard time getting Maya’s story on the page and reading her book Operation Sisterhood really helped me to “hear” Maya again when I was stuck.


My goal is to write stories for young people that bridge the gap between who they are and who they want to be. There’s so much to figure out and I want them to feel seen, heard and understood on their journey.


I really hope readers know that all of us have deep downs and we’re all looking for ways to bring them safely to the light. Tune in to yourself to better hear your own truth, and find allies to help you make sense of things. Many events are outside of your control, but you have a lot of power. Own that power.


Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I knew pretty early how the book would end, but it was a hard and rocky road to get there. The book I planned and the one I wrote and revised are very different entities, lol! Most of the same beats are there, but I really had to do some digging to understand the characters and their motivations. That meant things moved around, expanded or shrunk or disappeared completely in revisions. The process tested and fortified my resilience, to be honest.  


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m tackling a new middle grade. This one is a best friend story with a speculative twist. I’m still very early in the process, but ultimately, it’s a lighthearted story about what it means to be a real friend.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: You have the power to write your own fortune. Pull out your favorite writing utensil and get started!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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