It's always so exciting for me to read the first novel of a new author. This time is special because this author is practically my neighbor as just a few country miles separate us.
I'd like to introduce you to Nicole Baart, author of After the Leaves Fall. (Isn't she cute?)
From the back of the book:
Julia Bakker's life has been marked by loss. After her mother leaves and her father dies when she's just sixteen, Julia is determined to escape the confines of her gossipy, conservative Christian town.
When her best friend and first love, Thomas, breasks her heart, Julia leaves for college - the perfect place to reinvent herself. But one wrong decision changes her life forever, and she returns to her grandmothers's farm, weary and defeated.
Yet hope takes root in unexpected places and Julia discovers that starting over looks nothing like she imagined.
I had the opporunity to get my hands on an advanced reader copy and thoroughly enjoyed this book. I also was able to ask Nicole a few questions and here are her responses.
I really liked your book. I felt that it was very different from what is typically known as "Christian Fiction". Was it your goal to be a little different?
Yes, I suppose it was. I feel bad admitting this, but I spent many years of my life avoiding Christian fiction because I thought it was too trite, too filled with easy answers. As a Christian who is also an author, I have always longed for meaningful fiction that can speak honestly about God, but that can also wrestle with doubts and uncertainty. A few years ago I read Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and it was very eye-opening for me. It wasn’t a Christian fiction book, and yet I thought the person of God just poured off the page. I had never read a more “Christian” book. When I wrote After the Leaves Fall, I wanted to do something like that. I wanted to subtly yet powerfully show the beauty of the Lord without being preachy or pretentious. I think I’ll spend the rest of my career trying to do that.
Who is your targeted audience?
On paper, my target audience is women of nearly any age. Angela Hunt endorsed After the Leaves Fall by saying: “If you are a daughter, a mother, or a grandmother, this book will touch your heart.” But I’d like to think that my audience could be wider than that. My writing partner and first draft editor is a man, and he loved the book. My husband and father love the book. Other men in my life have enjoyed it… I’d like for it to be universally appealing, but that’s for the audience to decide, not me.
Did you send out a lot of queries to get published? What was your journey to publishing?
I’ve been told I should never answer this question honestly because my story is so atypical! I sent out one query for publication and it resulted in a two-book contract with Tyndale House Publishing. Very unusual. The whole thing was like a dream. I submitted 50 pages of a manuscript, they requested to see the rest of it, and they offered me a contract. Crazy. I still can’t quite believe it.
This is a famous question among my friends... Dark or Milk chocolate?
Oh definitely dark. I absolutely love dark chocolate.
What are your goals as a writer?
This is probably going to sound really cheesy, but I just want to write. My life’s dream has always been to get a book published and now I’ve done that! How exciting! I’m trying to be content with that and not give in to my perfectionist nature by striving for the next best thing. My mind can start to play tricks on me and tell me that now it’s not enough to just be published--now I have to sell lots of copies or win some award or do something extraordinary. But I want to take things as they come and let God continue to unfold this fun adventure as he sees fit.
Some authors talk about thinking about a theme or a tag line for their body of writing. What do you think about that?
I think it’s a nice idea for people who can come up with a tag line that encompasses everything their writing is (or all they hope it will be). It sounds very daunting to me because I don’t know what I’ll be writing ten years from now. So for me to come up with some sort of a theme and then find myself moving in a different direction would be rather problematic. But if something brilliant came up I don’t think I’d be opposed to it!
Do you have a critique group or a workshop group that you attend? If so, what is that experience like? And if not, how do you get feedback and criticism for your work?
No, I have never attended a formal workshop or critique group. I do, however, have a wonderful writing partner and friend who edits all of my work. We’ve been working together for almost five years and I would absolutely be lost without him. He is very honest with me (sometimes brutally so!) but I welcome it. I actually love the editorial process. The best part is, Todd is also one of my biggest fans. He is very supportive and encouraging even when he’s telling me some particular aspect of my writing is absolute junk.
Is writing hard work for you? Is it fun or a chore?
So much fun. I love writing and I always look forward to sitting down with pen in hand.
Is there an author from the CBA world that you admire?
From what I’ve read on her website, I think Lisa Samson is a very neat woman. I hope to pick up some of her books soon. I also made a connection with new author Lisa McKay. I can’t wait to read her debut novel My Hands Came Away Red. And I’ve always loved Francine Rivers.
What is your writing uniform? Jammies? Jeans and T-shirt?
It changes every day, though I actually find that I feel better when I’m dressed nicely and feeling good about myself. It’s hard to take myself seriously in my pajamas. Usually I just get up and get ready for my day, wearing whatever I’d normally wear: jeans a nice shirt… Whatever I’m in the mood for.
It sounds like you write whenever you have a spare minute. How do you turn on the focus for such short bursts of time?
Whatever I am currently writing is always brewing in the back of my mind. Often I come up with a concept or even a specific line at different points throughout my day. Pen and paper are never far from hand in my house, and my purse is always equipped and ready. So I’m kind of writing all the time. Dropping into focus isn’t a difficult thing to do. However, sometimes weeks or months later I’ll find a scrap of paper and go, “Oh darn! That was good, I was going to include that!”
What advice would you give to an as of yet unpublished author.
That’s a hard question to answer because I don’t feel like I am in any position to give advice. But if you pressed me to say something, I guess I would suggest that any author (published or not) should spend more time writing than trying to promote their writing. Know what I’m saying? Good writing speaks for itself and that only results when you are practicing, honing your skills. If you are too obsessed about getting your work out there, I think you stand the chance of forgetting why you are doing this in the first place. Those of us who write do so because we love to write. We write because God created us with an innate desire to put words on paper. And when we deny that, when we’re more concerned about what the world thinks of our writing than what God thinks of our writing, we forget that he is the only audience that matters. Maybe that sounds overly idealistic, but I really do believe that. I’m not always capable of actively living out that worldview, but I’m trying! It’s a journey, right?
Thank you so much, Nicole! I wish you the best success and look forward to reading the rest of Julia's story in your next book.
If you would like to look at the other blogs featuring this book, go here.