Today we have an interview with author Nina Chapman who will make you laugh and cheer as she shares the challenges of releasing a book and teaching during the pandemic. Her middle grade book, MICAH MCKINNEY AND THE BOYS OF SUMMER, which released a year ago at the beginning of the pandemic, is only part of an exciting giveaway that includes a signed copy of MICAH MCKINNEY AND THE BOYS OF SUMMER and a swag bag chockfull of goodies from the author. Comment on the blogpost to enter the giveaway.
What were you like at the age of your target audience?
I was a lot like Micah, the main character of my novel. I was a tomboy and I loved playing outside. You could always find me out riding my bike barefoot around the neighborhood, looking for other kids to play with or shenanigans to get into.
I grew up on a street full of boys and together we made up lots of games that we would play in our front yards and in the street. When I started writing MICAH MCKINNEY AND THE BOYS OF SUMMER, I wanted to really tap into that nostalgic feeling I get when I think about my childhood. Everytime I smell fresh cut grass or sunblock, I’m brought back to those long summer days and all of the fun that we had. I wanted that to be the backdrop of this book and for readers to feel the way that I felt as I wandered the neighborhood having adventures.
Once I started writing from Micah’s perspective all of the insecurities that I had during that time came to the surface for Micah. Eventually, I had to dig into why she was so awkward and insecure at the beginning of the book and in doing so I had to ask myself, why I was so awkward. Why did I feel the way that I did? A lot of that boiled down to the loss of my mom. There were a lot of secrets that surrounded her death which over time lended itself to shame.
I never really talked about my mom to my friends. Like Micah, I didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for me. So I was surprised when her death began to pop up in my writing. I tried to hold it at bay, only briefly mentioning it and instead focusing more on the fun stuff, the crushes and the shenanigans. As the story progressed it kept coming up, and seemingly without my permission it ended up playing a bigger and bigger role in the plot of the book.
As the story took a life of its own, it became clear that this part of me was begging to be worked out. It was like the girl that I was, had come back to life and was begging for me to write a book just for her. A book that would help her feel a little less alone in the world during this time in her life.
When reading the book you will notice Micah’s transformation as she opens up and allows herself to be vulnerable to her friends. What you don’t see is the transformation that happened behind the scenes as I transformed right alongside her.
What inspires you?
Inspiration pops up everywhere! I can be going on a walk and notice the way the sun hits the fence or a scent that lingers in the air and I’ll want to include it in my writing.
Music plays a major role in my writing as well. I have a playlist for everything I write. My oldest daughter, Bridget, and I always talk about the songs we’ve found and the stories they’ve inspired within us.
It’s now even a part of my writing routine. Before a writing session I will listen to the music that reminds me of my story and I’ll daydream while I workout, just imagining what is going to happen with my characters in that day’s writing. (I probably make the weirdest faces when this is happening.) I can rarely write without it. Especially in the beginning when a story is first starting to manifest itself.
My students also inspire me. I’m a middle school Drama teacher and I just love seeing kids as they navigate their way through these formative years. I have students who have no idea how awesome they are, and I just love watching them grow into themselves before they head into high school. It’s the struggles they go through that inspire me most and the growth they have as they navigate their way through it all.
What’s one thing you hope your readers take away from your book?
The biggest compliment I get is just how relatable the book is. One reader told me, “It was almost scary, like you were sharing all of my secrets!”
That’s what I wanted. I wanted my readers to feel like they aren’t alone in it all… the struggles, the insecurities, the flaws and the mistakes that come with being a human. That’s life, without those things you aren’t really living.
The biggest take away I would like for my readers to get from reading this book is to just embrace who you are, flaws, struggles, mistakes and all! It may not always be pretty, but when you are true to yourself everything falls into alignment. You meet the people you were meant to meet. You learn the lessons that were meant to help you grow the most. It’s within the struggle that you find your strength and you can’t find that if you are too busy hiding from who you are.
What’s next for you?
The one year anniversary of my book is April 1st. Yes, my debut book came out on April Fools Day during a global pandemic. (Happy Debut Day… nope, nope. Nevermind. April Fools!) I was devastated by all of the cancelled plans at first, but have now embraced it as part of my author’s journey. I’m going to celebrate the one year anniversary by first doing a public reading as part of the Neal Cross Lecture Series at the University of Northern Colorado on March 25th at 7:00. Note from Laura, this event already happened and I’m hoping it was recorded so that we can access it.
Then I’m going on an epic road trip with my daughters to celebrate all of the things we couldn’t celebrate this past year (book releases, birthdays, graduations). It’ll just be us, our masks and our adventurous spirits, navigating the wild west and entertaining the stories that live in our heads along the way.
This summer I am looking forward to connecting to readers with some fun summer resources and activities that I have planned. As a teacher I’m also looking forward to getting a respite from teaching through the toughest year a teacher could possibly teach through. I’ll have the breathing room to get back into my writing routine. Meaning, I’ll be able to hang out with the voices in my head, and not once will I have to tell them that their dad is changing his pants in the background of our zoom call or that they need to unmute themselves!
If you’d like to connect with Nina and find out more about her books: