Nicole Melleby: Hurricane Season
May is my birthday month, and there are some AMAZING books that I feel like are my own personal birthday presents from the Novel19s community! Here we goooo!
by Nicole Melleby
Fig, a sixth grader, wants more than anything to see the world as her father does. The once-renowned pianist, who hasn’t composed a song in years and has unpredictable good and bad days, is something of a mystery to Fig. Though she’s a science and math nerd, she tries taking an art class just to be closer to him, to experience life the way an artist does. But then Fig’s dad shows up at school, disoriented and desperately searching for Fig. Not only has the class not brought Fig closer to understanding him, it has brought social services to their door.
Diving into books about Van Gogh to understand the madness of artists, calling on her best friend for advice, and turning to a new neighbor for support, Fig continues to try everything she can think of to understand her father, to save him from himself, and to find space in her life to discover who she is even as the walls are falling down around her.
Nicole Melleby’s Hurricane Season is a stunning novel about a girl struggling to be a kid as pressing adult concerns weigh on her. It’s also about taking risks and facing danger, about love and art, and about coming of age and coming out. And more than anything else, it is a story of the healing power of love—and the limits of that power.
May 7th, 2019
Introduce yourself and your debut novel!
Hi! I’m Nicole Melleby, and I am a born-and-bread Jersey girl. I got my MFA in creative writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University and I currently teach creative writing and literature courses with FDU and Kean University. My debut novel, HURRICANE SEASON (Algonquin Young Readers) was called “a thoughtful portrayal of mental illness with queer content that avoids coming-out clichés” in Kirkus, and, in a starred review, School Library Journal said, “Fig’s story will engage middle grade readers who enjoy thoughtful novels that address complex topics. It may even inspire them to seek out the works of van Gogh.” When I’m not writing, I can be found browsing the shelves at my local comic shop (yay, Geekery!) or watching soap operas with a cup of tea.
What’s the most surprising part about your debut journey so far?
How much I’m enjoying it! Which may sound ridiculous—but I was convinced I’d spend the majority of my debut year crushed under self-doubt and anxiety. I think the best advice I’ve gotten is: ENJOY IT. And I’m really trying to. (Even though, yes, I still get plenty of self-doubt and anxiety!)
Give a shout-out to a fellow debut!
Shout out to my book-birthday siblings: JUST SOUTH OF HOME by Karen Strong, and SUPER JAKE AND THE KING OF CHAOS by Naomi Milliner both come out with HURRICANE SEASON on May 7th!
How long did it take you to write this book?
This was one of those rare books that just flew out of me. It took me two and a half weeks to finish the first draft, and I started it immediately after I landed after a trip to London. Revisions took a bit from there—the first draft was about 36k and we finished at around 56k—but it was one of the easiest stories I’ve ever poured my heart into.
What inspired you to write this book?
I started writing it almost immediately after taking a trip to London. I was in a bit of a rut, and I knew I wanted to write a story about a father/daughter relationship ever since I came out to my dad, but I didn’t know what else the story needed to be about. I crashed my aunt and uncle’s trip to London to visit my cousin who was studying abroad. They all slept in every morning, and I was an early riser, so I went by myself one morning to the National Gallery of London. A tour guide was talking about Van Gogh and mental illness. Everything just clicked and fell into place in my head from there.
What advice would you give to a new writer?
Writing aside, publishing is like 80% waiting, 20% writing emails. Resilience is not only key, but it’s necessary.
Describe your writing space.
I’ll be completely honest, I wrote the entirety of my debut novel chilling in my bed. Most of the time with a cup of coffee, but always in bed. I like to be comfortable! I also always need something on the TV—I ate writing in silence, but I find music too distracting, so I usually stick with something I don’t need to pay attention to, like the Food Network, or a show I’ve seen a million times I can throw on Netflix (shout out to Lie to Me.)
What book or author has most influenced your own writing?
When I was in grad school I was studying YA creative writing, but I wasn’t confident as an LGBTQ writer yet. A mentor introduced me to Robin Talley’s debut novel that year, and it was really my first experience with LGBTQ YA. I’ve since read the wealth of LGBTQ YA (and MG) books that exist, but at the time it was world changing for me. I’ve read all of Robin Talley’s novels since, but it was that moment that I stopped and said “I want to do this.”
Share a playlist!
Ohhh! Okay, so there’s this Spotify playlist called GAY ANTHEMS that’s like….the pop playlist of my dreams. Seriously: Britney, Cher, Gaga, Carly Rae…it’s wonderful, and I run to it every morning.
Link to your favorite song!
Thanks for interviewing, Nicole! Check out Nicole's book on 5/7/19!