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Friday, February 21, 2014

Nightingale's Nest Blog Tour {Interview, Excerpt, Giveaway}

I'm so excited to have the Nightingale's Nest Blog Tour stopping by today! Below you can check out an Excerpt from this middle-grade book, my Interview with author Nikki Loftin, and the Giveaway...

Nightingales Nest
by Nikki Loftin

A powerful novel about friendship and family that calls to mind Bridge to Terabithia

Twelve-year-old John Fischer Jr., or "Little John" as he’s always been known, is spending his summer helping his father with his tree removal business, clearing brush for Mr. King, the wealthy owner of a chain of Texas dollar stores, when he hears a beautiful song that transfixes him. He follows the melody and finds, not a bird, but a young girl sitting in the branches of a tall sycamore tree.

There’s something magical about this girl, Gayle, especially her soaring singing voice, and Little John’s friendship with Gayle quickly becomes the one bright spot in his life, for his home is dominated by sorrow over his sister’s death and his parents’ ever-tightening financial difficulties.

But then Mr. King draws Little John into an impossible choice—forced to choose between his family’s survival and a betrayal of Gayle that puts her future in jeopardy.

Inspired by a Hans Christian Andersen story, Nightingale's Nest is an unforgettable novel about a boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders and a girl with the gift of healing in her voice.

“What’s your name?” She didn’t answer. She looked confused, like she wasn’t certain what I’d asked. Maybe she didn’t speak English, I thought. Or maybe she was touched, like my Grandma used to say when she meant crazy. I tried again, “You got a name?”
“Gayle,” she said, clearing her throat to repeat the word. Her speaking voice was unsteady, like she wasn’t used to talking. “I’m Gayle.”
I recognized the roughness of too many tears cried in the sound of her words. It was the same way my own voice had been for a long time.
Something had happened to her, something bad.
I spoke a little louder, and tried to smile. “I’m Little John.” I lifted my arms, flexed the muscles and made a constipated/mad face like one of the Wrestling Federation guys on TV. I knew it made me look ridiculous, lips pulled back from my teeth, my eyes crossed. But I wanted her to laugh at me. “Little, on account of I’m so small and puny.”
Laughter spilled down for a split second. “You’re not little.”
“Sure I am,” I said. “It just looks like I’m big from up there. It’s a – what do you call it? – an optical illusion. Why don’t you come and see for yourself? Climb on down. Careful, though. That rotten tree isn’t sturdy enough for an enormous girl like you.”
The laughter pealed out again, and I saw her reach out to the tree trunk and hug it, of all things. “It’s okay,” she whispered to the trunk. “You’re not rotten.” Like it was her friend, and I’d hurt its feelings. Her feet looked unsteady on the high branch, and the leaves all around her were shaking.  

What three words best describe Nightingale’s Nest?

Bittersweet, magical, mystery.

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give this book a try?

Nightingale’s Nest is a modern-day fairy tale for kids who know that magic is real, and know that it can come into your life when you most need it - and for anyone who might have forgotten what that magic looks and sounds like.

Grab a copy of Nightingale’s Nest and answer the following:

favorite chapter? Chapter 30

favorite page? 232 (This is from an ARC. I am not sure what it would be in the final copy!)

flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser:
page 7. “I wiped my eyes again and squinted up at her. The more she sang, the more she seemed to shimmer against the sky, her edges feathering into the background blue.”

What inspired Nightingale’s Nest and how did the story come to be?

When I first started writing for kids, I wrote what I assumed were picture books: short, quiet almost-poems that came from my childhood memories. Even when I figured out they didn’t work as picture books, I couldn’t stop thinking about one or two of them in particular. Turns out, they were the seeds of my next two novels! I took the first one, called “The Treasure Nest,” wrapped it around one of my favorite, strange fairy tales (“The Nightingale” by Hans Christian Andersen), and it grew into Nightingale’s Nest.
Writing this book was a strangely organic process. It felt like I was uncovering a story that already existed, not just making one up. The characters became real for me, and stayed that way. I feel like I know Little John and Gayle, and I love them.

Can you tell us a bit about your two young characters, Little John and Gayle? What makes them special and what do you love about them?

Little John is a twelve year-old boy who has grown as tall and strong as a man in the past year – but not soon enough to save his little sister, who fell to her death months before when he was unable to catch her. He’s working for his dad’s tree-trimming service the summer he meets Gayle, a strange eight year-old, tree-loving foster girl who seems to think she’s a bird.
I love these two so much! Little John has such a heart – he only wants to protect his family, and Gayle, and do what’s right. But it’s hard to know what “right” is when everything in your life has gone so wrong. He desperately needs the magic Gayle brings into his life – and the friendship. Gayle is the singing bird she acts like; when she’s on the page, my heart feels light and I just know everything will be okay. She’s so small and helpless, yet strong in her belief in Little John and her ability to forgive and heal.

What do you hope readers, especially young readers, will walk away with or learn from Nightingale’s Nest?

I hope young readers will see that there’s always a chance for forgiveness, and the possibility of hope even in the darkest times. And honestly? I would like older readers to remember those days when they knew magic was real, knew that miracles could happen. We lose that faith as we grow up, but when you’re young, it can be as clear as the blue sky.

As a middle-grade author, why do you think middle-grade books are so important? What do you love about writing and reading MG?

I think middle-grade books are the most important books we ever read! When I was that age, I read voraciously, constantly trying to make sense out of a world that seemed inexplicable and harsh. I was one of those “overly sensitive” kids, and the books I devoured back then helped me learn to navigate the real world. Bridge to Terabithia, pretty much all of C. S Lewis, Island of the Blue Dolphins, Charlotte’s Web – books like these served as my safe place, my “nest.” I think they can do that for many young readers. I love writing for those readers because I think, in some way, I am still one of them deep down – a kid climbing a tree with a stack of books, looking for answers and meaning and mystery. I love being able to write all those things for those readers… and for myself.   

Who are your all time favorite male and female middle-grade characters (that you didn’t create)?

My love for Pippi Longstocking is well-documented, so that’s an easy one! I pretty much dreamed about being her for most of my childhood. But male characters… I think my favorite one of all time is Roald Dahl’s the BFG. He’s such an amazing friend to Sophie, and I could listen to him talk all day!

Fill in the blanks:
I’m really awesome at Zumba dancing!

I’m really embarrassed to admit I eat chocolate all the time. As in, every single week.

The last great book I read was A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness. Sure it made me cry for about ten days, but wow. That book changed me, and maybe even changed the way I think about children’s books.

If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by Nightingale’s Nest, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?

Ooh! I would make a version of a “surprise” cupcake, and each one would have something different hidden in the middle. Something significant to the person I give it to, a personal gift. The frosting would be made of those chow mein noodles covered with chocolate, to look just like a bird’s nest, and there would be candy feathers inside the nest, and tiny chocolate eggs. I would call those cupcakes Treasure Nests, and they would taste like Belgian chocolate, birdsong,  and memories.

Nikki Loftin is a writer and native Texan who lives just outside Austin, Texas, with her two boys, two dogs, nine chickens, and one very patient husband. She writes Middle Grade novel-length fiction as well as personal essays, puppet plays, articles, poems, and short stories. She is the author of The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy and Nightingale's Nest. Nikki is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin graduate writing program (MA, '98). She has been a popcorn seller, waitress, bookstore employee, Music and Gifted/Talented teacher, and a Director of Family Ministries. Her favorite food/obsession is ice cream, preferably Blue Bell Moo-llenium Crunch. On very good days, she prefers writing even to ice cream.

Win signed copies of Nikki Loftin's books: Nightingale's Nest and The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy!
This is a blog tour wide giveaway. Open US/CAN only

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1 comment:

Jessica Lawson said...

I was already excited for this book, and now I'm dying to read it even more! Loved hearing about your characters and appreciation for middle grade books/readers :)