Gigi: One thing The Promise makes me want to do is plant some trees! Do you have a favorite tree?
Nicola: I have lots of favourite trees! I love beech trees, with their pale grey bark that gleams like skin; I love Rowans that grow in the Scottish highlands and are so beautiful in spring blossom and autumns berries; I love scots pine with their twisted terracotta trunks but most of all I love the oak trees that make the ancient oak woodlands of Wales where I live…..full of birds and insects and carpeted with bluebells in early May around my birthday.
Gigi: I really appreciate how feisty and sure the old lady with the pocketbook full of acorns is in this story. Do you have a devotion to elders?
Nicola: I lost both my parents in my twenties so I’ve missed out on that generation in my own family – except for my aunty, who was still painting her own ceilings at 95. She left me her diamond rings – I wear them every day and think of her and how much she used to make me laugh. I got the giggles with her more times than anyone else in my whole life.
Gigi: The pacing of The Promise is awesome. The story moves quickly at the right times (like when the girl is a thief) and slows down (she stops to appreciate the beauty around her) at the perfect times, too. How do you do that?
Normally I take ages writing picture books, but The Promise sort of wrote itself – I sat down at my desk and two hours later, there it was. So the answer to this question is that I don’t really know, except that when a story is really in your heart, and when you’ve read a lot of stories and poems, you give the right rhythm as instinctively as a heartbeat.
Gigi: When I’m writing with kids, in all grades, I find that often times they are so passionate about our beautiful planet. Do you also experience that?
Nicola: Always, always. Children have not yet forgotten the spiritual umbilical chord that ties us all to nature. I’m often moved to tears by their passion in contrast to the cynical indifference of adults.
Gigi: Where do you see yourself in The Promise?
Nicola: Great and difficult question – in one sense I’m not in my stories although they are in me and part of me, I gave to be a little outside to look at them and to tell them. But in another we are ALL in The Promise, we can all see in ourselves the possibility for change. Personal transformation can seem like the hardest thing, but it can come in a single revelatory moment, and in that moment we become a new version of ourselves able to transform the world around us.
Gigi: What makes this character a strong girl?
Nicola: Many things – she has already survived as a child alone in a city, but it’s her ability to see and to seize the opportunity for change and then act on it that transmit her strength into power.
Gigi: Finish this sentence, strong girls_____
Nicola: are everywhere.
Gigi: What are you working on next?
Nicola: A book of poems about the sea, the life in it, the way humans have navigated over it and what it means to us in our dreams.
Gigi: Sounds amazing! I look forward to reading that one. Thank you for visiting Girls of Summer!