Interview with Nicole McInnes

Nicole McInnes

Nicole McInnes is the author of the contemporary YA novel, BRIANNA ON THE BRINK (Holiday House, Spring 2013).
She is also a university writing and literature instructor, a mom and a horsewoman.

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


Brianna on the Brink (2013)
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Thank you so much for stopping our (Richa @ City of Books and I) Books That Glow: YA & MG 2013 event to answer some questions about yourself and your book, Brianna on the Brink!

Describe your book in 3 three-word sentences

Cheerleader rules school.
One-night stand happens.
Life goes kaboom.

How did you come up with the idea for Brianna on the Brink?

I was just really interested in exploring the idea of what happens when one impulsive decision changes the course of a life entirely. Brianna is a girl who, to her peers, seems to have it all– looks, popularity, etc. What Brianna knows, though, is that there have been some real trade-offs along the way, and she’s become a not very nice person. In trying to relieve the deep pain resulting from a sucktastic home life, Brianna hooks up with an older guy who gives her the kind of attention she craves. Things get messy quick, though, and when her life as “the girl who has it all” implodes, she needs to find a way to pick up the pieces and survive.

As this is your debut, what was the road to publishing like?

I’ve described this road as more like tunneling through solid rock with a cereal spoon, but maybe that’s a bit dramatic. I always knew I wanted to be traditionally published, so I went the traditional route of writing the best drafts I could, researching and querying agents, and learning about the submission (to editors) process. Though the different phases of he process (getting an agent, landing a book deal, surviving the editing process and, final, getting to enjoy book release day) seemed to take forever, it’s all been so worth it. One of the toughest things about being a debut author, I think, is the fact that everything is new. Everything’s a “first”. I assume I’ll know what to expect a bit more the next time around, but you never know.

Why do you write YA fiction?

While I don’t necessarily buy into the notion that the teen years are “the set years of your life!” I do believe they are some of the most vivid and, in many ways, most interesting. There are so many ups and downs, so many firsts. (Now that I think about it, those years are sort of like the publishing process. Hmmm.) Anyway, I feel like I have a really good recall in my head of the emotions and concerns and issues being a teen entails and how much anguish and elation can be embedded within that time of life. It all makes for great storytelling potential. Plus, teen readers are just incredibly involved with and enthusiastic about books. What’s not to love?

Hahaha, the last bit’s really true. I’m proof!


As Gollum is to the ring, I am to chocolate and/or good sourdough bread.

If I was a superhero I would be called Myopic Girl (because I am ridiculously near-sighted) and my special power would be feeling my way along walls in the dark when I’m not wearing my glasses or contacts. (Haha! OMG this is hilarious XD)

The weirdest thing I’ve EVER eaten would have to be cow tongue sandwiches on white bread with yellow mustard. These were somewhat of a junior high staple for me, since my mom was doing a lot of unusual gourmet cooking at the time (i.e. tripe [bovine stomach lining], ox tail soup, you name it). (Inset appropriate sound here). I know, right? (Wow... just wow. Well, can’t really judge– I’ve eaten some weird things in my life as well.)

If your book was to become a movie, who would you cast?

I can definitely see someone like Elizabeth Gillies (Victorious) as Brianna; Emma Roberts (The Art of Getting By) as Jules; a slightly older Jennifer Lawrence as Jane (they’d have to work hard to make her plain looking until her beauty is uncovered); Robert Pattinson as Derek; Emmy Rossum as Brianna’s hardcore older sister Keisha; and John Mahoney (who played Kelsey Grammer’s father on Frasier) as Earl.

Might be a little hard for Jennifer Lawrence to look plain, but LOVE this cast. Totally wish this will become a movie now! :D

If you have a time machine, travel to the past, and meet yourself as a teen, what advice would you give you?

Here’s how that conversation would go.

Present Me: “Hey, Nicole, it’s me”
Past Me: “We never grew boobs??”
Present Me: (Looking down at chest) “Oh, yeah, I know. But think you’ll find there are actually benefits to–“
Past Me: “What the hell?”
Present Me: “Okay, focus for a second. You know that dream you had as a kid? The one where you wanted to train horses and write books?”
Past Me: “Duh. Of course I remember. It’s not like I’m old *coughlikeyoucough* and losing my memory or anything”
Present Me: “I’m going to let that last comment slide. Because what I want to tell you is that we get to do both. So, work hard and enjoy the ride!”
Past Me: “Dude, really?”
Present Me: “Would I lie to you?”
Past Me: “Hey that’s the cool new Annie Lennox song!”
Present Me: *sigh*
Past Me: “Seriously, though. Is it rad getting to train horses and write books?”
Present Me: “Totally. It’s totally rad. and bitchin’.”
Past Me: “Dude, nobody even, like, says ‘bitchin'’ anymore.”
Present Me: “I was just joking.”
Past Me: “I am so totally stoked right now.”
Present Me: “But you should know it’s going to be important for you to always believe in yourself, because there’s a lot of hard stuff coming your way, too.”
Past Me: “Wait. What?”
Present Me: “Like really, REALLY hard stuff that I won’t even go into right now.”
Past Me: *fingers in ears* “Lalalalalalalalala... I am not listening to you... lalalalala– train horses, write books– lalalalalalalalala.”
Present Me: “Okay, I’ll just let you figure out stuff along the way, I guess. Hey it’s been really cool seeing you again.”
Past Me: “Wait. You’re leaving?”
Present Me: “Yup. That time machine won’t wait all day. Oh, and one more thing.”
Past Me: *stares expectantly*
Present Me: “Go easy on the mint green eye shadow for your junior prom. Those pictures are going to be around forever. Remember, less is more.”
Past Me: “Except when it comes to our boobs, in which case...”
Present Me: “Lalalalalalala... I’m not listening to you...lalalalalala...”

*All you can hear are gasps for breath, because the interviewer is laughing too hard*

This is just too good :D

When you’re not writing, what can you be found doing?

Feeding the eaters. Seriously, I have two kids, two horses, two dogs, a cat and several house plants that need my attention on regular basis. Some of them make the job that much more worthwhile by being better snugglers than the others.

What do you have next in store for us?

More books, hopefully! I’m currently revising another contemporary YA manuscript that has some really dark elements mixed in with the more lighthearted teen stuff. I also have a work-in-progress contemporary YA that I’m really excited about.

YAY! I’m excited too :D
Do you have any tips for aspiring authors out there?

Yes! First, decide which you want to take toward publication (i.e. self-oublishing or traditional publishing). If the latter, do your research. Write the best book possible. Get an agent. Understand that as long as you are a writer, there is no point at which the work actually stops. You might make rests now and then. You might pause to take in the view from different points along the journey, but publication is just one more point on the map that, if you’re lucky, will chart your course for a lifetime.

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Thank you so much to the absolutely hilarious Nicole for answering these questions! I’m really excited to read Brianna on the Brink– here’s a little more about it:

Sixteen-year-old Brianna Taylor finds herself lost, alone and with a major surprise in store after a one-night-stand. Just when she’s got nowhere left to turn, help arrives from the one person who is closest to her big mistake, but accepting that help will leave Brianna forced to choose between clinging to the ledge of fear and abandonment – or jumping into the unknown where a second chance at hope might just be waiting.

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