This week for Writing Wednesday I’m so excited to bring you an interview with one of my favourite people, and a super-talented writer to boot, the fabulous Nicole Baart.
Nicole and I met via email in 2007 – the year both our first books came out. Since then she’s published four more books and had another beautiful baby.
(And I am not going to point out that she has done all of this during the time it took me to write my second book because I am more secure than that. Note to self: I am more secure than that.)
I first emailed Nicole because I noticed that she was donating a portion of her book royalties to a charity in Liberia. We connected straight away, and hanging out and talking with her until all hours of the night at several writing conferences during the last five years has been a real joy. She is one of those people I wish lived just down the street.
Nicole’s latest book, Far from Here, just released last month. I bought it on kindle and loved it. Publishers Weekly agreed with me, giving it a starred review and saying, “This gorgeously composed novel is a candid and uncompromising meditation on the marriage of a young pilot and his flight-fearing wife, their personal failings, and finding the grace to move beyond unthinkable tragedy.”
Without further ado, here is Nicole to answer a few of my questions. Enjoy.
1. Tell us about Far from Here. When did you first start thinking about writing this story?
Far from Here is a book I’ve wanted to write ever since I was a little girl. Over thirty years ago my dad’s best friend went missing in a bush plane off the coast of Alaska. He–and his plane–were never found. This unsolvable mystery is a part of our family story, and though I’ve spent years wondering exactly what happened to him, the real drama for me is in the lives of the people left behind. How do you go on when someone you love vanishes? What do you hope for? In some ways this book was agonizing to write, and in other ways it was very freeing.
2. What did you find most challenging about writing this story? Why?
Finding time to write! My days are so sundry and varied… I have an eight year old son who is in second grade, a five year old son who’s in kindergarten, and an eighteen month old son at home. My big boys play hockey, so between school, practice, games, and everything else that comes with having little boys in the house, I practically have a full time job. Of course, the baby is into everything, and I like to keep my house neat and my family well fed, so I spend a lot of time cleaning, shopping, cooking, and doing mountains of laundry. But I do manage to find time to write, mostly because I have to. I carve out two mornings a week, plus some nights after the kids are in bed. My favorite thing to do at the end of a busy, noisy, often dirty day is to sit down in the peace and quiet of my living room with a glass of wine and a pad of paper.
3. I love your book trailer – particularly what you said about hope at the end of it. What are some things you feel hopeful about right now? How have some of your own hopes changed during the past decade?
My hopes are really very simple things. I hope for healthy, well-adjusted children who love God and love life. I hope my husband and still love each other passionately after raising children, focusing on our careers, and growing up. I hope I get to keep writing for an audience. I know that all sounds pretty trite, but it’s true.
I think a lot of my hopes stem from the foundation of my youth. I had a really fabulous childhood. It was carefree and full of love… When I think about my early years it seems to be perpetually summer, my fingers sticky with blue popsicle juice (my favorite) and the warm evening air flickering with lightning bugs. I probably romanticize it, but the truth is my childhood feels like it would perfectly fit in a series of Norman Rockwell paintings. I think lots of people believe that the best artists are tortured artists, and that might be true. (I certainly had to learn to damn my characters–it didn’t come naturally to me.) But I also think that there’s a certain optimism that becomes apparent when an author has lived a beautiful life. I believe readers are hungry for that–for overtones of hope and expectation.
4. You spent some time in January in Liberia. What were you doing there? And how is your passion for writing related to your passion for the work that you are involved with in Africa?
I was in Liberia on a vision-casting trip with our non-profit organization One Body One Hope. OBOH was founded in 2007 after my husband and I travelled to Africa to bring home our adopted son. While we were there, we became close friends with a Liberian man who shared with us some of the atrocities that happened in his country during the devastating civil war. We left Africa promising to help him in any way we could… And that friendship spiralled into a steadily growing non-profit organization.
Right now we support 54 kids at an orphanage in Monrovia, but after we recently returned from Liberia, we feel that our ministry needs to be multiplied five-fold. We are passionate about working alongside our Liberian friends, and focus on relationship building and redevelopment opportunities instead of relief aid. To that end we are exploring business and agricultural opportunities, outlets for higher education, and micro-loans for people who are interested in growing their small business. We are also partnering with a bio-fuel company on a community distribution project for enviro-safe stoves and exploring the possibilities of church partnerships.
My passion for writing is intimately tied to the work I’m involved with in Africa because my job allows me to put a lot of time and effort into making OBOH run smoothly. There are some weeks I dedicate myself full-time to OBOH, and the only way I could do that is if I had the sort of flexibility that comes along with writing for a living. I also get to donate a portion of my earnings to something that I am very passionate about. And, in fact, with FAR FROM HERE I get to do something I’ve never done before: give away 100% of the royalties. I feel kind of weird admitting that, but I think you’ve admitted to the same thing, Lis, and I figure, when in Rome… Or, Laos, as it were. 😉
Thanks for having me, Lisa!
Thank you, Nicole. That was such a fun and inspiring interview to read. And, uh, actually, I’m not sure I have ever before publicly admitted the same thing, but we’re five years down the track now and in the spirit of when in Rome … yes. I do give away 100% of the royalties from My Hands Came Away Red to charities in Indonesia.
If you have a question or comment for Nicole you can leave it below, or hop on over to Nicole’s blog to learn more about her writing and to One Body One Hope to learn more about her passion for Liberia. And, of course, pick up a copy of Far from Here.