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Chatting with Entangled Writer Lea Nolan, Author of Conjure

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The dynamic Lea Nolan couldn’t read until the third grade. After a lot of tough effort she finally got the hang of it and swiftly discovered the way to skip tasks was to tell her parents she was reading.

Rapidly she was addicted, consuming volumes by Roald Dahl, E.B. White, Judy Blume, C.S. Lewis, and everything with a glossy Newberry Award sticker on the cover. Stories delivered a gateway to enraptured locales where anything was imaginable and characters depended on their intelligence to twist out of distressing circumstances. Nowadays, Lea pens for Entangled Publishing the types of tales she pursued as a teen–smart paranormals with lively heroines, smokin’ heroes (like my Jacob!), nefarious stratagems, and above all, a measure of mysticisms, a waft of desire, and a peppering of antiquity.

Nolan is definitely one smart cookie with degrees in history and women’s studies focused in public policy. Nolan resides in Maryland with her courageously reassuring husband and three crafty kids, who take a page from their mom and know how to wiggle out of their chores! *wink*

When you’re deeply connected and immersed in a book, Lea, have you ever had a dream that you felt was not your dream? Do your characters dream within you? Have you had a dream that was one of your characters?

No, this has never happened to me, or at least if it has I’m not aware of it! As cool as it might be I’m actually kind of glad it hasn’t. You see, when I’m deeply immersed in a book the plot and characters invade every square inch of my brain. Their problems and choices are constantly churning in the background, taking up my subconscious. I know it sounds crazy obsessive, but it’s the truth! When I’m deep into drafting they’re the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I drift off to sleep so I need my dreams to help me sort out everything else that’s going on.

What do you do for fun?

As a mom, wife and writer I don’t have as much free time as I used to but when I do get some down time I love to watch movies, make jewelry and go on dates with my husband. We’ve been married for 20 years and it’s still fun to be with him.

What is the guilty pleasure you find the most addicting?

Oh my gosh, I’m not sure if I should admit this publicly, but hands down, I’m addicted to the Real Housewives series, especially the New York, New Jersey and Beverly Hills editions. I know it’s wrong but I love their bling, decadence and cattiness. As hard as I try, I can’t quit them. *hangs head in shame*

As you gear up for the release of Conjure, Lea, what have you learned about yourself since penning it?

First I’ve learned never to say, I can’t. After I’d finished my first, still unpublished manuscript, I was sure I’d never be able to write another book. Well, I proved myself very, very wrong. Also, I’ve learned that I have a wicked imagination. Even though I wrote it, some of Conjure’s twists and turns still take my by surprise.

What do you find most distracting and rewarding about social media when plotting your outlines?

First the downside: Distracting is the operative word! When I’m drafting I don’t allow myself to engage in social media because the pretty, shiny websites distract me and eat up a giant portion of my day. To make sure I follow my own orders, I bought myself the Freedom program which is an app that locks you off the internet for a prescribed amount of time. I usually unplug for six or eight hours, breathe a sign of relief and get to work.

The upside of social media: It’s an extraordinary tool to interact with readers, bloggers and other authors. When I was a kid I remember doing a class project where we each wrote to our favorite author. I scribbled my note and my teacher (allegedly) sent it off. I waited weeks but never heard back. I was heartbroken. Fast forward to today where readers can shoot off a tweet and get a response within twenty-four hours. Simply amazing.

What does empowerment mean to you?

This is a great question. For me, empowerment means setting my mind on something and achieving it. Knowing I’ve attained my goals gives me an astonishing sense of accomplishment and confidence, and propels me toward the next supposedly insurmountable challenge.

What three books in your teens has cultivated your affection of the written word?

I was a voracious tween and teen reader so it’s hard to just pick three books, but I’ll tell you three that stick out in my mind: 1) C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. The fantasy world was so visceral, the danger so threatening, and the morals so weighty. 2) J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. I was with Bilbo every step of the way to Smaug’s treasure. 3) Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo. Strange choice perhaps, especially since I despised this book for how horribly depressed it made me, but that’s part of its genius. Nearly thirty years later, the horror depicted within its pages is still with me. If that doesn’t prove how powerful the written word can be, I don’t know what will.

What three books to movies did you find yourself saying, “Did I read that”?

The Princess Bride, The Princess Diaries, and Ella Enchanted. (Yes, the “princess” theme is not lost on me. :)

What do you love about the YA medium?

Teens feel things so deeply and their perception of events is so extreme–a zit on prom night is the end of the world; one snarky comment from a mean girl can send a heroine to her bed; and a hero’s kiss sends a girl’s heart into overdrive. I love delving into these emotional depths and their consequences. Also, it’s fascinating to watch characters struggle to come of age during this tumultuous time of their lives.

What do you believe you can bring to the teen literary sphere that has yet to be tapped into?

One of the things I’d like to think I bring is that while I take my readers on a fast-paced journey through fantastical circumstances, I also explore themes and issues that make them think. Also, my books take place in the present but have their origins in the past. That historical intersection is pretty unique.

Describe how your road to Entangled Publishing began?

While we were on submission with Conjure, I saw a tweet from Liz Pelletier asking for YA books in a high school setting. I had such a book, my first manuscript that wasn’t represented by my then agent, so I figured I’d query Liz. Although Liz ultimately passed on that project, she loved the voice and asked to see anything else I had. We had planned to send Conjure to Entangled but we were still subbing in small batches so we hadn’t gotten to them yet. Naturally, given Liz’s enthusiasm, I contacted my agent and asked her to submit Conjure right away. She did and within a couple weeks we had an offer. But more importantly, Liz loved this action-adventure, sweet love story and knew exactly how to position it in the market. Signing with Entangled was a no-brainer.

What is your life at Entangled like now that book one of The Hoodoo Apprentice is ready to launch?

Busy! I’m preparing for my blog tour and tweaking my website and Facebook pages, including a new page for The Hoodoo Apprentice Series. I’m not the most technically savvy person so I sometimes spend an inordinate amount of time figuring out what for some is probably a very simple thing. But it’s been a great learning experience and I’m working with some very talented publicity folks at Entangled who’ve made it infinitely easier and a whole lot of fun.

Would you ever consider writing for their Brazen or Indulgence line?

Funny you should ask! I have written a story for the Indulgence line that features a gorgeous billionaire hero, a heroine with a heart of gold and a secret baby! This story, tentatively titled Embracing His Brother’s Baby is slated for an October 2012 release and will be published under a pen name, Lillie Finn. I loved writing an adult romance and hope to write more in the future!

How do you find balance?

This is a tough one. It’s difficult and frankly I don’t think I’ve got it down yet. It’s so easy to get consumed with writing and the business of writing, and of course, I’m dedicated to being the best wife and mother I can be. My husband steps in a lot to help, but with three youngish kids, there’s always something they need, homework to help with, places to drive them, groceries to buy and laundry to do. And that’s just the “need to do” stuff. Forget about the “want to do” items like just hanging out with them, talking and laughing about something crazy that happened at school and taking them on fun journeys. I’m striving to find better balance not only for their sake, but for mine. I’ve recently been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and I know that I need to introduce more order in my life so I can enjoy everything to its fullest while remaining healthy.

What three books were the most dreadful you remember reading in your teens for school and in the teen genre in general? What were the most memorable?

Luckily I must have blocked out every horrid book I ever read as a teen because I honestly can’t think of any! As for the memorable ones, well, there’s Judy Blume’s Forever because my friend and I forged a letter from my mom to the library granting me permission to sign it out. And because it was the 80’s and the YA pickings were so slim, I turned to adult books fairly quickly. So V.C. Andrew’s Flowers in the Attic series, Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire books, and Steven King’s Pet Sematary loom large in my memory.

Do you think tablets have encouraged reading or hindered the love of words by having all the games, movies and extras added on? Do you prefer to read on your tablet or are you strictly an e-reader type of mama?

I don’t have a tablet myself but two of my kids have their own Kindle Fires. My son is a total techno boy who is easily distracted by his games and Netflix app so I doubt he reads as much as he should on that contraption. My oldest daughter is a different story. She is a huge reader and is devoted to her books. When she’s deeply engrossed in a book, it doesn’t matter what apps are lurking in the background, she doesn’t play or watch movies. So I suppose it depends on the reader and their personality. When I got my e-reader, I purposely chose one that didn’t have all those apps primarily because I didn’t want it to become another “toy” my kids would steal from me (like my beloved iPhone). I have a regular Kindle that gives me exactly what I want: my books without any extraneous bells and whistles.

Did you embrace e-readers from the start, Lea, or were you reluctant like I was because voracious bookaphiles were losing the history of books scattered about, perusing shelves and the heady scent of a spanking new book? Lea, I was reluctant to go digital because I wanted to maintain the tactile essence a book gives the discerning vintage book snob…like me. *giggling*Then I got one and it was o-v-e-r! I was able to carry hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of books on one little handy, dandy gizmo. OVER! I have a Sony reader, Kobo, Nook, Kindle Touch, and Fire. My eyes are lusting over an iPad and a Kindle HD. Like I stated once I started, Lea, I just couldn’t stop…and I still love books all over. Books from the floor to the ceiling, busting all over. Piled from the floor to the sky…Whoa! I am getting giddy and feeling flush. *laughing*

You know, I was very reluctant to dive into the world of e-readers. I find I absorb material easier and with more depth when I grip a book in my hands, rather than read off a screen. This is especially true when I’m doing the occasional health policy consulting gig and need to highlight the text and write notes in the margins or on a sticky note. So it took a bit of adjustment to learn how to read novels on an e-reader. But now that I’ve gotten used to it, I confess I really love having my books in one place at my fingertips whenever I want them. And my husband loves that my books aren’t piling up like they used to! I still buy physical books, especially if they’ve made a huge impact on me, or if they’ve been penned by my writer friends.

Share what Conjure means to you and what you want readers to take away from their reading experience?

To me, Conjure means believing in yourself and your capacity to love and sacrifice for those who mean the most to you. I hope readers come away from Conjure believing in the power of magic, redemption and the most powerful elixir of all, love.

Thank you, Lea, for taking the time to dish with me. I wish you the best.

Thanks so much for having me, this was a distinct pleasure!

Nolan’s debut YA novel, Conjure, book one in The Hoodoo Apprentice Series will release on October 16, 2012 from Entangled Publishing under the Entangled Teen imprint. You can learn more about her on her website. Conjure is available for preorder at both Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

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About Diane Morasco