Book: Dear Martin
Author: Nic Stone
Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.
You can find her goofing off and/or fangirling over her adorable little family on most social media platforms.
Very. As a young person myself, I DIDN'T see myself reflected positively in book characters or creators, and so it took me a while to even realize I COULD exist in those spaces.
I'm thrilled to be a part of shifting that reality so that young people now are seeing themselves reflected in myriad ways. It helps them to see the possibility and encourages them to dream big and aim high, I think.
2. Were you a big YA reader growing up or was this a genre you stumbled into later in life?
I read a Gossip Girl a bit (can't believe I just confessed that, lol!), but was in my 20s when I got into what people think of YA today. Started with Veronica Roth's DIVERGENT, then went through a dystopia phase before finding John Green at like 27. And I was hooked then. Only problem was the lack of black main characters. So I set out to fix that part.
3. How did living abroad change the perspective of your writing? Moreover, did your writing style change because of this experience?
I started writing after living abroad so I didn't really have a *style* before, but it was the experience of living abroad and hearing all these stories I didn't know existed that sparked my desire to write in the first place.
I met a young lady in Bethlehem whose one ambition was to attend university in the UK, but she wasn't able to because she had no country of citizenship and therefore couldn't get a passport.
It made me realize how much I--as well as the collective American WE--take for granted, and that was the spark I needed to start storytelling.
4. So instead of a writing process, you say you have a “mnemonic”. Can you explain that further and how that has helped your writing?
I - *Inspiration*: When I get the idea. It can come from anywhere or anything like there was this one time the power went out in a high school during one of my school visits--and stayed out for hours. The emergency systems went down so they couldn't call the buses, and I thought to myself: this is the perfect setting for The Purge: High School Edition.
Only - *Organization*: I then buy a composition notebook and fill it with anything that comes into my head related to the idea. Like the Purge, the notebook would be filled with character names and traits and vendettas lines of quippy dialogue. Once I have a handle on the actual plot, I create a chapter outline.
Eat - *Execution*: this is just using the outline to write an initial draft. It can take anywhere from a month to six months (though I don't like spending more than a couple of months drafting).
Raspberries - *Revision*: when I edit and, you know, make it make sense. (I hate this part the most, lol.) Sometimes this is extensive and there are charts and lists and storyboards. Sometimes it's fast because the Muse did her thing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
5. What inspired “Dear Martin” and how cool is it to say that your book has touched the lives of so many people in a positive way?
The death of Jordan Davis (everyone go look that name up) and then the response to the protest and marches that broke out across the country after the death of Mike Brown: hearing people say Dr. King would be opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement just ground my gears.
Especially as the mother of black boys I have to *prepare* for potential interactions with law enforcement. I'm glad people are reading and thinking about these things now, and shoutout to my peers/predecessors: Kekla Magoon (HOW IT WENT DOWN), Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (ALL AMERICAN BOYS), and Angie Thomas (THE HATE U GIVE).
6. Besides Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., did any other activist have any influence in the telling of this story?
I feel like a lot of activists influenced the story. Past and current. Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, John Lewis, Elie Weisel, Angela Davis, Bree Newsome, Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi to name a few.
7. Congratulations on your new book release Jackpot! What can readers expect from this book and what do you hope readers take away from it?
At its core, JACKPOT is a book about economic inequality and the stress of relative poverty. My greatest hope is that when readers turn the final page, they'll feel either validated or enlightened: no matter where one (or one's parents) falls on the socioeconomic spectrum, every single human being on earth has value that isn't monetary.
8. Can you talk a little bit about your publishing process? How hard or how easy was it for you to get your book published?
This is a difficult question to answer largely because I don't have any frame of reference outside of my own experience? And my experience was atypical. We'd submit a different book, an editor liked my writing, but wasn't sold on that book, so she asked if I was working on anything else.
I pulled together a proposal for DEAR MARTIN and she bought the idea. So I got to write the book. I've sold five other books to this particular editor since. Publishing is hard in general and a thick skin is necessary. I'm thankful.
Spelman and the HBCU experience were magic. It was a place where the burden of a very specific type of attention fell away. The attention I'm talking about is a thing I don't really know how to describe other than to say it was heavy.
I felt like people around me were constantly watching and waiting for me to mess up so they'd feel justified in the secret, awful things they believed about *people like* me. Like the time I told a classmate my ACT score (it was higher than hers) and she looked me skeptically and said: "There's no way you got a higher score than me."
HBCUs are oases where African Americans can be in a space of our own and... thrive. I'd go back if Spelman offered an MBA program!
10. Who has been an important mentor in your life and what have they taught you about success and happiness?
Jodi Picoult and Jason Reynolds. Both taught me the importance of the *slow burn*. Your first--or second, third, or fourth even--book not being a massive runaway bestseller with a movie and TV show and merch doesn't mean you're a failure and your career is over. Keep working. Producing. Improving. Consistency is key.
11. What’s the best book you have read in 2019 thus far?
12. What’s your best advice for getting through writer’s block?
I don't believe in it. Just gotta write even when it's hard. Writing is rewriting and *perfect* writing doesn't exist. So put some words down and go back later to fix them.
13. Do you plan on writing more books in the future?
Yep. Can't stop, won't stop.
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