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  • Writer's pictureBrandie June

Interview With Author Nicole M. Wolverton

Think a nice, cool dip in a lake is a great way to cool off now that summer's here? You might want to think again after reading Nicole M. Wolverton's new YA thriller, A Misfortune of Lake Monsters. I recently had the chance to chat with Nicole about her inspiration behind the story, the importance of taking breaks, key advice for writing thrillers, and more!

Author Nicole M. Wolverton

What is the premise of A Misfortune of Lake Monsters?

A high school senior's college plans are thwarted when her family elects her to take over their generations-long legacy of secretly impersonating their rural Pennsylvania's town lake monster--but when she discovers a real monster in the lake, secrets must fall by the wayside in order to pull her best friends in on the con to save the town. Foreward Reviews says, "High stakes and an endearing romance rocket the thriller A Misfortune of Lake Monsters to mythical heights" (July/August 2024 issue).

What inspired you to write this story?

The origin story of A Misfortune of Lake Monsters goes back to when I was a kid--I grew up in a rural Pennsylvania town much like the one where the book takes place, and my most hated childhood chore was washing dishes. I would stand at the sink, getting pre-teen dishpan hands. and stare out the window at the lake behind my house and let my brain wander... to what terrifying things might lurk under the water. Hey, when you live in a small town and you hate doing dishes, you have to make your own fun! Years later, the idea of a small town lake with its own monster came back to me and evolved into something much larger.

While this is your YA debut, you’ve also written an adult thriller (The Trajectory of Dreams). What are some of the differences between writing YA and adult?

I genuinely do not feel like there's THAT much of a difference between the two categories. I know some people feel as though the writing for YA has to be simpler than for adult novels--or that plots have to be less complicated, less dark, or less challenging--but teen readers are incredibly intelligent, sophisticated, and capable. Their lives are complex, and so are their fears. I remember as a teenager being frustrated by adults who felt I couldn't understand or shouldn't have agency or lacked reason, and so I write for the kind of person I was when I was in that age range when I'm writing YA. The true difference is more often than not, YA books have at least some plot devoted to coming-of-age issues, whether that's figuring out what comes after high school, figuring out who you are or who you want to be or who you should be, or figuring out the extent of your boundaries.

I also know that you’ve written many short stories. How does your process differ between short stories and full manuscripts?

I treat short stories, more often than not, as idea incubators. There's not quite the commitment level of a novel. I'm aggressively organized when writing a novel, starting with a very complete outline, character profiles, and a lot of research about various components. And then there's the actual writing part--it's difficult for me to stop writing until a first draft is complete because I get very focused. Short stories allow me far more freedom. I don't have that sense of failure if I don't finish a short story or if I have an idea that doesn't go where I thought it would. I rarely outline short stories for that reason. I'm more at ease letting my brain meander. It's not that I haven't had full manuscripts deviate from plan, but because I spend so much time up front on the outline, thinking through possibilities, those deviations happen less often. I often use short story writing as a palate cleanser between longer projects, and sometimes I use them to develop characters in a novel-length manuscript I'm writing.

What’s the most important thing to writing a great thriller?

Pacing is critical. You can have the best idea in the world, but if things move along too slowly or too fast, it ruins the tension. Ruined tension is death, and not in a good way!

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Don't be afraid to take breaks. There's so much pressure to produce. I'm guilty of putting pressure on myself, and sometimes the pressure is external. But if you don't write for a day, a month, or even a year, you're not broken or defective. Sometimes you just need a rest. Your brain needs to rest. The writing will always be there--don't force it and make yourself unhappy.

Your bio lists you as a stinky cheese connoisseur. What is the best stinky cheese?

A perfectly ripe Brie de Meaux smells like unwashed bare feet that have been running through a forest for about two weeks in the middle of summer...and is completely delicious. It's always my first choice when it comes to cheese. Of course, my husband can't abide the smell--he leaves the room when I'm eating it.

Where can people order your books?

Anywhere books are sold! Of course, there is a special preorder campaign happening with A Novel Idea in Philadelphia--if you preorder the hardcover, you'll receive a signed copy with a special bookmark, a couple of monster-y stickers, and an I Believe In Lake Monsters postcard. Oh, the first 50 preorders receive an I Believe In Lake Monsters tote bag.

Where’s the best place to follow you?

My website is at I'm at @nicolemwolverton at Instagram, Threads, and Bluesky.

A Misfortune of Lake Monsters book cover

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