I met Nikki Kelly at The Fierce Reads event in Texas to promote Lailah, and she had me at hello, so today, I’m ecstatic to have her on the blog, where she not only answered a few of my questions, but she did it with gifs. Please give Nikki a huge welcome!
Also, because Nikki is awesome, and super generous, she’s offered up a signed hardcover copy of Lailah, along with signed Lailah swag, and a bespoke Lailah tote to give away to one lucky INTERNATIONAL winner, so you know what to do-fill out the widget at the bottom of the post (I’ll pick a winner on the 12th), and good luck!
Tell us about LAILAH. What do you think makes Lailah a heroine to root for?
Lailah is the first book in The Styclar Saga – a YA PNR that centers around our heroine, Lailah, as she goes on a journey of self-discovery to uncover the secrets of her forgotten past.
In book one Lailah knows that she can die, but she wakes up again, and when she does she has very little recollection of what has gone before. She finds herself enlightened only by visions and dreams that consist of one light, one face, belonging to Gabriel.
When we first meet Lailah she is pretty lost, and although she’s actually pretty old, the last time she ‘died’ was six years ago, so in many ways she is quite child-like in her innocence and vulnerability. But, despite that, she is pretty determined and strong-minded, and through the first book her inner-strength shines through.
Although Lailah is immortal, I think we can all relate to her plight. At one time or another we have all asked that question of ourselves – around who we are and who we want to become – so I think readers will root for Lailah and want her to find her true self, and then basically set everything right across the dimensions.
Why vampires and angels? What intrigues you the most about these mythical creatures, and how did you make them stand out from a very crowded field?
The best advice I ever received about writing was to ‘write what you know, and write what you love’. For me that was YA Fantasy – with a helluva lotta swoon! Some of my favorite series are Vampire- and Angel-orientated and so naturally I wanted to incorporate them, but I decided to write about both in one book and to make them as different and as original as possible!
I wanted to write a novel that challenged assumptions and preconceptions. I wanted to show how stories recycled, over time, could become distorted and misinterpreted. Vampires (traditionally dark and demon-like) and Angels (known for being light and good) were a great basis on which to challenge assumptions, preconceptions and what we believe today simply through years of storytelling.
I took two known mythical creatures and a known mythology and twisted the ideas of what, who, when, where, how and why they came to be – and added a scientific twist.
Something I’d say about every book in the Saga is to expect the unexpected; I do enjoy a good twist!
You have a background in children’s television, and have wanted to write from a young age. What’s one of the first things you remember writing?
Filling notepad after notepad with short stories and continually asking my Mom to replenish my writing equipment! (Back then we didn’t have word processors! Okay, I am not that old – they came in when I was 14 people!) Back then, no matter what I wrote there was always plenty of swoon—my pages were filled with hot guys. I guess not much has changed…
I have always loved the art of great storytelling, across all media platforms, but my personal dream was to see a story I had written published in hardback and sitting in a bookstore—I am so lucky to be able to say that that dream has come true!
You went to the south of France (twice!!) for “research” 😉 Just teasing, I know part of the book is set there, and it’s definitely important to get a sense of place when you write. What other research did you do for the book?
Ha ha! Yes… Research… There was no sunbathing or napping in the daybed of any kind whatsoever!
Right you are, pretty much all the places in the book I visited first hand, as I like to get a sense of the settings for real, which is a terrible chore (hee hee!). Otherwise, and much more so with book two, I had to do a reasonable amount of scientific research as I put a science to the dimensions (the first, the second and the third — otherwise thought of as Heaven, Earth and Hell). I like to base the world-building around the idea that it could be possible – i.e. the science that is brought in gives the basis of what I am saying some tangibility – and then I like to go off and spin things again with my imagination!
What are a few of your biggest literary influences?
People always expect you to say something really clever here, perhaps reference the classics, but the truth is I have never read the ‘classics’ as such – well, not outside of Shakespeare and The Lord Of The Flies. (You know, the books you read for English in High School!) I am entirely influenced by High Fantasy and YA—I loved Twilight and The Sookie Stackhouse novels, and I could read The Lord of the Rings over and over… These are the stories that kept me turning the pages and made me want to write a novel.
Without thinking about it too long, if someone asked you for a book rec, which one would you give to them (aside from Lailah, of course)?
I’ll answer super honestly by giving the name of the book that I have recommended the most this year: The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo
I book push this trilogy on you all, accept it or else…
What are you currently reading? Is there anything you’re looking forward to diving into in the near future?
I have a few on the go!
Becoming Jinn by Lori Goldstein (due Spring ‘15)—I have a pdf ARC because, you know, author perks!
Velvet by Temple West (due Spring ‘15)—Again, I have a pdf ARC! Hee hee…
Compulsion by Martina Boone—enjoying this immensely!
Into Fate by Matthew Bennett—A fantasy novel, currently serializing on wattpad, which is AMAZING! It won’t be long before that story is picked up for traditional publication I’m sure!
I had great fun interviewing you on the first stop of your Fierce Reads tour! In fact, it was a night of firsts for you. What did you enjoy most about the event?
Meeting all the wonderful readers and bloggers!! I was soooo lucky and privileged that some of my Twitter blogger friends came out to see me in person and I got to squish them all by bestowing my Nikki-cuddles!!
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
“You only fail if you never try.” The wise words of my Mom, and the very words that got me through writing my first novel, Lailah, all the way to finding a publishing deal with just the right house. Try not to let others criticisms stop you doing what you want to do, after all…
In addition, we live in a modern and connected world, with so much new opportunity to be seen and heard. So I’d also say, knock on every door, and if none of them open, find yourself a window instead!
You live in London, so if someone were to visit you there for the first time, where would you take them?
That I do! Ohhhh my gosh! ALL THE PLACES!
So, high tea at The Wolseley, obvs! You can’t come to London without doing high tea!
Chelsea Embankment, as seen frequently in ‘Made in Chelsea’ – usually when someone is getting dumped!
The West End for a show; The Doctor Who Convention, if it was still open; Selfridges—if it’s Christmas, to look at the window display!
My favorite bookstore; and, if we had time, we’d pop to Buckingham Palace and see if Will and Kate were around for a cucumber sandwich 😉
What’s next for you?
Currently working on edits of Book 2 in The Saga, then after Christmas I will be working very hard to write the final book in The Saga!
The girl knows she’s different. She doesn’t age. She has no family. She has visions of a past life, but no clear clues as to what she is, or where she comes from. But there is a face in her dreams – a light that breaks through the darkness. She knows his name is Gabriel.
On her way home from work, the girl encounters an injured stranger whose name is Jonah. Soon, she will understand that Jonah belongs to a generation of Vampires that serve darker forces. Jonah and the few like him are fighting with help from an unlikely ally, a rogue Angel named Gabriel.
In the crossfire between good and evil, love and hate, and life and death, the girl learns her name: Lailah. But when the lines between black and white begin to blur, where in the spectrum will she find her place? And with whom?
Gabriel and Jonah both want to protect her. But Lailah will have to fight her own battle to find out who she truly is.