2013 Debut Author Interview: Brianna on the Brink by @Nicole_McInnes

Welcome to Debut Author Nicole McInnes

I am the author of the contemporary YA novel, BRIANNA ON THE BRINK (Holiday House, Spring 2013).

I am also a university writing and literature instructor, a mom and a horsewoman.

Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, I received a Bachelor’s Degree in Literature (Creative Writing emphasis) from the University of California at Santa Cruz (go, Banana Slugs!). I also received a Master’s Degree in English (Creative Writing emphasis) from Northern Arizona University (go, Lumberjacks!).

I currently live and work in northern Arizona. Check out this cool multi-media presentation by NAU film student Haley Leonard!

What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? 
That’s easy. A warm sourdough bagel with Greek yogurt and a hot cup of coffee (very blonde with tons of milk since I start vibrating if I drink too much caffeine).

When you were little, what did you want to be when you “grew up”? 

I wanted to either be a horse trainer or a writer. I ended up doing both – supporting myself by training horses, giving riding lessons and judging horse shows while pursuing publication. My first blog was even called A Writer and a Rider. At some point along the way, it started to become clear that I’d have to choose one as my primary focus. While I chose writing, I still have two old geldings at home, and my kids and I enjoy them tremendously.

What is something people would be surprised to know about you
I adore fashion and consider it an art form unto itself. This is surprising because as a horse person, a dog person, a writer and a mom, I can usually be found either in my jammies or wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Days when I can dress up a little are a big deal for me.

Favorite place you’ve been?
There was a busy street in the middle of downtown Cairo, Egypt. I was incredibly lucky to be there with my mother when I was fifteen, and the two of us were sitting in a café when I looked out the window and saw a man apparently training a grey Arabian horse right in the middle of all the traffic and mayhem. I remember feeling completely at home in this foreign environment and having the strangest feeling of déjà vu, like I had been there before.

What’s your biggest challenge as a writer? How did you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it? 
Currently, my biggest challenge is balancing the hustle and bustle of a debut novel year with the time needed to work on my current book. The things that help most in overcoming this are connecting with other writers to see what works for them and also “Just Doing It” (i.e. writing and editing when I can, promoting when I can, taking breaks when I can).

Favorite/most influential teacher? 

Ron Hansen, the author of Mariette in Ecstasy and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, was a huge influence during my undergraduate years at UC Santa Cruz. Not only was he a generous teacher of craft, but he was able to share his experiences as a working writer in a way that helped me understand in a concrete way some of the risks and rewards involved in pursuing the writing lifestyle.

What is on your “keeper shelf” of books? 
Sara Zarr’s Story of a Girl, Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, Lorrie Moore’s Like Life, Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain, Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, tons of Steinbeck, Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, lots of literary anthologies I use for teaching, Wallace Stegner’s Angle of Repose, Dave Eggers’ A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, a bunch of poetry, The Complete Works of Shakespeare, Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Ninth Ward, Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit, Sally Swift’s Centered Riding and a ton of other horse books. Shall I go on?

Do you like the spotlight or lurking in the shadows? 

Oh, goodness. My perfect day would entail hours of just observing people in different situations, and I’m thus a huge shadow lurker. So much so that people have often told me that they thought I was stuck-up or stand-offish before they got to know me and realized what a dorky goofball I’m capable of being.

How do you go about revising/editing? 
I try to do what I tell my writing students to do. I hammer out a draft, then take a break from it for as long as I can. When I revisit what I’ve written, I can then do so with a bit of a cold, objective eye. This gives me ideas about changes that need to be made before an editor sees it and can help me take it to the next level where I’ll chop what doesn’t work, add more plot and character details where needed and basically rewrite the thing until it (hopefully) shines.

Scariest moment? 
That would have to be the Loma Prieta earthquake in October of 1989. I was a college student, and it was my first day of work at this awesome clothing boutique on the Pacific Garden Mall in downtown Santa Cruz. I remember handing a really cute polka dot dress over the counter to a customer when it felt like an enormous fist slammed into the side of the store. The next thing I knew, the building was rocking, the front windows exploded, and clothing racks were flying everywhere. I immediately went into drill sergeant mode and started yelling at everyone to get out of the store. As we were all running toward the door, I looked up and saw a wide crack opening up in the ceiling. I remember thinking the names of my parents and my brother and then thinking “Goodbye.” When we were all finally outside, I stood there with my knees shaking so hard that I thought they’d surely start knocking together. A similar scene can be found in the book I’ve just finished drafting – a moment when the main character truly believes she is going to die and the “last” thought that goes through her head is a goodbye to the people she loves most.

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects? 
I have just wrapped up another contemporary young adult novel and have a third in the works (also a contemp). I’m excited to see what sorts of adventures those novels will experience on their paths to readers’ hands, but in the meantime I’m looking forward to the release of BRIANNA ON THE BRINK (available for pre-order as of December 2012 at Barnes & Noble, Indie bookstores all over the place and Amazon). Readers should feel free to connect with me on Twitter (@Nicole_McInnes), on Facebook (NicoleMcInnesAuthor) and at my website (www.NicoleMcInnes.com). This interview has been a blast!

Brianna on the Brink by Nicole McInnes

A one-night stand has life-altering consequences for popular, sixteen-year-old Brianna, who must then accept help from the one person closest to her mistake.

Brianna on the Brink will be released on January 7, 2013