TKM: How did you become a writer?
Nancy: I really didn’t have much a choice, it just seemed like that’s what I was supposed to do. When I was little, I was always making up stories and when I was a tween, I read everything I could get my hands on, especially Nancy Drew. I remember the day when I finished Nancy for the twelfth time and I remember thinking I couldn’t be Nancy Drew—she’s too perfect—but I could write books like her.
I started writing right away, and kept making up stories. In middle school (7-9), those teachers sucked that out of me (it was all about grammar) and in high school, my teachers encouraged me. I did an English degree (and what do you do with that but teach so I taught for years). I encouraged my students to write and wrote everything they were writing and then I took a leave of absence from my job and pursued my writing as a job.
TKM: What inspires you to write?
Nancy: I think it just writing period is part of who I am. I can’t not write.
In terms of writing for teenagers, I just felt like so much of what I was seeing was either talking down to them (especially in the Christian market and making it sound like if you just pray and are good, everything will turn out fine), but what I was seeing the general market was very dark (they called it issues fiction or problem novels—someone running away or eating disorders, teenage angst) and I felt like there had to be a happy medium. I wanted to talk to them as not necessarily the kids who had all the problems but not the ones who had a happy life either. I was inspired to just write real Christian stuff.
In the 80s, that was the time of the moral majority and ultra-conservative Christian movements and it was very legalistic and rules-oriented and modesty was a big focus; I felt like that wasn’t Christianity to me. What about having that real relationship with God? I couldn’t do that by preaching at them, so it had to be woven into the story. What does it look like, realistically? It doesn’t look like you give your life to Christ and everything is perfect. It does change your life, but not always in the way that you think it will.
TKM: Who is your favourite author and why?
Nancy: It changes from time to time. This is an odd answer, I’m sure. I think my favourite book of all time is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The reason it’s my favourite book is that he found his voice in that book and wrote about something very important, which was the myth of the American dream. He spoke out in that book about what was happening in that generation and I think it’s the same thing happening in the current generation. I think it’s so beautiful, so timely, so tightly written and it’s what I try to do myself, in that let’s look at what is happening and address it. He does it without wasting words, yet those characters come up off the page and wrap themselves around your imagination.
In terms of writing for young people, L. M. Montgomery is my favourite. Only in the last few years have I read Emily and Story Girl and then I read about her life and I think she also epitomized the very best of being an author and understanding her audience and never talking to them. She inspires me and I read about her and her stuff over and over again. If I find myself in a slump, I pick up Anne of Green Gables again. She was writing about her own experiences, yet making them good, and shows these girls holding onto always who they are and making a different in other people’s lives.