Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Q&A with Nicole Kronzer



Nicole Kronzer is the author of the new young adult novel The Roof Over Our Heads. She also has written the YA novel Unscripted. A former actor, she teaches English and creative writing. She lives in Minneapolis.


Q: What inspired you to write The Roof Over Our Heads, and how did you create your character Finn?


A: There’s a whimsical answer to this question: I love old houses, treasure hunting, theatre kids, romance, and comedy. This book is all of that! 


But, like in the book, there’s a much more serious answer underneath all that whimsy, and it has a lot to do with identity and belonging.


I teach high school English–mostly seniors–and it’s such a privilege to stand by students as they investigate the world and themselves and try to figure out who they are and their place in the world. When I was their age, I struggled so much with the answers to those questions. It has taken me decades to figure out just some of the answers. 


So Finn comes from a multi-racial family (like me), is trying to figure out how to navigate the expectations of his family and society and his friends (me, too), and to be okay with all of himself–even when other people aren’t (oh…).


Finn came out of my heart to lead the way to understanding and acceptance of myself. I didn’t know that’s what he was doing until the book was done. Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop calls books “mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors” for readers. Finn has been all three of those things for me, too. 


Q: The author Carrie Mesrobian said of the book, “A fun, joyful, and multi-genre romp—with murder mystery, treasure hunts, romance, and historical fiction, to name a few—The Roof Over Our Heads is full of all the juicy backstage intrigue theater fans will love.” What do you think of that description, especially regarding the idea of a multi-genre novel?


A: I love that description. As far as it being a multi-genre novel, I suppose it technically is! Between the prose and the scenes from the play we see as well as the newspaper articles and social media posts–yeah! That’s a pile of genres! 


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


A: Oooh good question. I knew some of it–what Finn would learn and who he’d end up with and that there would be an issue with a doorknob–but my original outline ends way earlier than the book actually ends now.


While there is totally a love story in this book, there isn’t just a romantic love story. There’s also a love story about a family, and that was another something that I only discovered along the way. But the last line–which I love–stayed the same from my first draft. (After I axed the epilogue. Woof.) 


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: One thing I tell my seniors is that you have to follow the spark in your heart. And as much as you might love your adults, you are the one who has to live your life–not them. I see teenagers make choices that they think will bring them security or approval, but your soul can’t thrive on those things alone.


Somehow, this message ended up in the book in the mouth of my bro-y organ performance major, Magnus Torvald. But Magnus also tells us he understands he won’t be able to only play the organ for a living, but there has to be organ-playing in it.


Award-winning author Elana K. Arnold tells writers (and all artists) to have an “alongside plan.” It’s not a back-up plan–it’s the thing you do that pays the rent alongside the work of your heart. YOUR heart. And as we know, the heart is a pretty important part of the body!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: So much and nothing I can talk specifically about yet. Publishing is weird! But rest assured it’s more classic me: funny stuff mixed with serious stuff with plenty of hope wrapped up together.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: The cover of Roof is so gorgeous, and the illustrator is UK-based artist Andrew Hudson. Go check out his work! 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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