Sensational Sophomores is a periodic blog series highlighting authors who are releasing their second book. Today, I am honored to be welcoming Nicole Melleby, author of Hurricane Season and the upcoming In the Role of Brie Hutchens… (4/21/2020), for an interview!
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Nicole Melleby is a born-and-bred Jersey girl with a passion for storytelling. She studied creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and currently teaches creative writing and literature courses with a handful of local universities. Her debut novel, HURRICANE SEASON earned three starred reviews and was awarded the Skipping Stones Honor Award for exceptional contribution to multicultural and ecological awareness in children’s literature. Her second novel, IN THE ROLE OF BRIE HUTCHENS… will be released Spring 2020. When she’s not writing, Nicole can be found browsing the shelves at her local comic shop or watching soap operas with a cup of tea.
Thank you for being here today, Nicole! I was hoping we could start off by talking a little bit about Brie from your forthcoming second book, In the Role of Brie Hutchins… Could you tell us a little bit about who she is and what her life is like?
Brie Hutchens is a soap opera loving Catholic school girl who has a complicated relationship with her mom, which is only further complicated by her mom’s strong faith and Brie’s first crush on another girl. Brie knows she’s gay, and is well aware of the Catholic church’s stance on that, so she doesn’t share her mom’s faith, nor does she really understand it. What Brie really wants is to get into the performing arts high school next year, but with her working-class family’s financial struggles (and the fact that Brie’s grades thus far are mediocre at best) she has to prove to her parents that she can—and should—be allowed to apply. Nothing seems to really go Brie’s way, however, when her mom walks in on Brie googling inappropriate photos of Brie’s favorite soap opera actress, and to divert her mom’s attention, Brie lies and says she’s been chosen to play the big role in her 8th grades religious May Crowning ceremony.
So, to make that actually happen, and to successfully attain her dreams (and to get her mom to really see her) Brie’s got a lot of work to do.
The music somebody listens to can reveal a lot about the person. What three songs are at the top of Brie’s playlist?
- Hair by Lady Gaga
- Hymn by Kesha
- Truth Hurts by Lizzo
Let’s move a little bit into the actual writing that brought Brie to life. You told me that the second book is such an odd beast for so many authors. What has been different for you this second time around as opposed to the process with your debut, Hurricane Season?
Being able to write and edit a book while you have another book out in the world is challenging, because you’re getting feedback and critiques from reviewers and readers on your first book, and that can really get into your head while you try to keep writing. That, doubled with the fact that you’ve worked and worked and worked on the first book until it was polished, and now you’re basically starting from square one, and it’s easy to forget that the first book started with a messy draft, too, and wasn’t perfect from the get-go. So, it’s a lot of balancing you have to get used to.
What is something on your author bucket list? Any specific events you’re dying to attend, anthology you want to contribute to, an author you want to collaborate with?
I think my author bucket list item would be to write for comics, or a comic book character related IP. I’m kind of a huge comic nerd, and love to talk comics, so if anyone reading this also loves comics, come chat!
Rapid fire! What does your perfect breakfast consist of?
Copious amounts of coffee.
Matching or mismatched socks?
MATCHING. I also have to match my socks to the rest of my outfit.
Art festival or music festival?
High school Melleby would have said music festival, but they kiiiind of exhaust me now. Can I say book festival? My answer is book festival.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
Unlike Brie, I did not want to get chosen to crown Mary during my own 8th grade May Crowning ceremony. My mom was one of my 8th grade teachers, and I didn’t want everyone saying I only got chosen because of her, so I purposely tried to half-heartedly write the essay the faculty used to choose who would crown her. In my school, the top 10 essays got to be on Mary’s “court”. I came in at number 3.
Introducing Brie Hutchens: soap opera super fan, aspiring actor, and so-so student at her small Catholic school. Brie has big plans for eighth grade. She’s going to be the star of the school play and convince her parents to let her go to the performing arts high school. But when Brie’s mom walks in on her accidentally looking at some possibly inappropriate photos of her favorite actress, Brie panics and blurts out that she’s been chosen to crown the Mary statue during her school’s May Crowning ceremony. Brie’s mom is distracted with pride—but Brie’s in big trouble: she has not been chosen. No one has. Worse, Brie has almost no chance to get the job, which always goes to a top student.
Desperate to make her lie become truth, Brie turns to Kennedy, the girl everyone expects to crown Mary. But sometimes just looking at Kennedy gives Brie butterflies. Juggling her confusing feelings with the rapidly approaching May Crowning, not to mention her hilarious non-star turn in the school play, Brie navigates truth and lies, expectations and identity, and how to—finally—make her mother really see her as she is.
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