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Three Questions With Debut YA Author Nikki Barthelmess (THE QUIET YOU CARRY, launches March 5th)

Nikki Barthelmess is a journalist and author of young adult books. She entered foster care in Nevada at twelve and spent the next six years living in six different towns. During this time, Nikki found solace in books, her journal, and teachers who encouraged her as a writer. The Quiet You Carry is her first novel. You can find out more about Nikki at her website, on TwitterInstagram and Goodreads.

If you live in the Santa Barbara area, drop by Chaucer’s Books on Thu. March 7th at 7 pm for Nikki’s book launch: see details on the Chaucer’s Books website.

Synopsis of THE QUIET YOU CARRY (Flux Books):

The Quiet You Carry follows 17-year-old Victoria, who, after she’s kicked out of her toxic family, must contend with a chaotic foster home, dodge prying eyes at school, hang onto her college dreams, and somehow protect the stepsister she left behind.

Q. Could you please take a photo of something in your office and tell us the story behind it?

This is a picture of my sister Rachelle and me when we were in college (and when I used to dye my hair blond!):

My sister and I used to fight like cats and dogs when we were growing up. After we entered foster care, sometimes we lived in separate homes. Later, after she moved away for college, our younger brother and I were adopted into a different family. Although Rachelle and I have a lot in common, our relationship continued to be rocky into adulthood, until about two years ago when our brother died. We’ve grown close, which is something I dreamed of as a teenager when all I wanted was to be just like her.

This picture on my desk brings to mind what my sister and I have overcome since all those years ago when we took it. Rather than reminding me to stew over whatever our most recent disagreement was (I’ve been told I hold a grudge!), this photograph makes me think of how special our bond is and how proud we are of each other.

Q. What advice do you have for young writers?

Go outside.

Most writers love reading and writing more than just about anything else. But to be able to write interesting stories, we have to live. So get out there. Do things that invigorate and scare you. Travel. Meet new people and listen to their stories. Doing so can help you learn about others, why they do what they do, and how those actions affect them.

For instance, I once had an Uber driver tell me about how he moved to America at his parents urging, leaving the woman he loved behind. His best friend ended up marrying her and the driver still thought about her every day even twenty years later. This story is tragic, but meeting this man and talking to him about duty, family, regret, and love has stayed with me. Whether or not anything from this encounter ever makes it into a story— as an idea for a book, or that feeling of longing being a character trait or motivation, for example— I am grateful for that moment of connection.

The way we see the world comes from our backgrounds and our experiences, along with the people we meet along the way and what we learn from them. That is what we have to draw from to write our books.

Q. What are you excited about right now?

I am thrilled that my debut novel is going to be published! The Quiet You Carry is about a teen experiencing foster care for the first time. Victoria wants nothing more than to move on, pretend her life is normal, and plan her escape to college. So she’s keeping her painful past hidden from her new classmates in the small town she’s relocated to, and she doesn’t want social services to know what really happened at home with her dad the night they took her away. But she’s also worried about her stepsister, left behind with her father. I won’t give too much away, but there are parts of the story that get pretty dark. But there’s also hope. I couldn’t be happier that it’s going out in the world.

For more insights from book creators, see my Inkygirl Interview Archives and Advice For Young Writers And Illustrators From Book Creators.