Loretta Nyhan is the author of The Witch Collector, a young adult paranormal romance-thriller coming in April. Loretta is a professor of literature at DeVry University, as well as a co-author of women’s fiction. She lives near Chicago with her husband and sons, and enjoy gardening, Halloween, and witches.
Could you tell us five random facts about yourself?
1. I am crazy-obsessed with the Beatles.
2. I’ve lived on both coasts, in New York City and Los Angeles, but I’m happiest in the Midwest.
3. I hate — really, really hate — the sound of flip-flops slapping against a tile floor. I hate flip-flops in general. Worst shoe ever.
4. I’m into herbal remedies and essential oils and other assorted hippie-girl stuff. I draw the line at dousing myself in patchouli, though.
5. I am shockingly bad at Scrabble and Words with Friends.
Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer.
In high school I found my niche writing for the school paper. I wrote nonfiction essays in college, and after graduation I wrote for a number of national trade magazines. When I went back to school for an advanced degree, however, I chose the teaching track instead of creative writing. I was afraid that if I started writing fiction, it would mean I’d have to show people what I wrote, and what if they hated it? That kind of fear just kills any creative urges. As a result, I didn’t write much of anything for years. Later, after my youngest started preschool, I decided it was silly to be scared of a blank page, and I began my first novel.
What has surprised you about writing and publishing?
How nice everyone is. I’m not kidding. I’d heard my share of publishing horror stories, but every single person I’ve met on this journey to publication has been wonderful. I wasn’t expecting that.
Why do you feel drawn to the stories you write?
I’ve always loved witchy things, and writing The Witch Collector let me create spells, explore the tarot, and live temporarily in an alternative, magical Chicago. I also like the unending possibilities of the paranormal world.
What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
My first rejection from a publisher really stung. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I interpreted it as, you have no talent whatsoever and should never write anything again. I let myself have a crisis of confidence for about five minutes. Then I got over it.
What has been the best compliment?
Someone once said I was the most observant person she’d ever known. I thought that was cool.
Where’s your favorite place to write?
At a desk in a small alcove attached to my bedroom. It’s not very interesting, which is a good thing. I need blank walls and silence.
What is one thing you wish you’d known when you sat down to write your novel?
Writing by the seat of my pants doesn’t work so well with a mystery. I had to write a detailed outline, but I didn’t realize this until I’d already floundered through a couple of chapters.
How do you approach writing villains or antagonists?
The same way I do protagonists. They have to feel real to me, with hopes and desires and struggles. Characters must have valid reasons for doing what they do, even villains —
actually, especially villains.
How do you construct the world and tonal environment of your story?
I usually start with a real place and then let my imagination take over. The inspiration for the setting of The Witch Collector is the Logan Square neighborhood in Chicago. I’d drive through it on my way to work and think, this is where the witches live.
Which is easier to write: The first line or the last line?
The first line, always. I can’t start a book unless I’m happy with the first line.
What is your favorite chapter or scene you’ve written recently?
There’s an alchemist in The Witch Collector — a leather-clad, heavily pierced Joan Jett lookalike. Every scene with her in it was so much fun to write.
Which one YA novel do you wish you had when you were a teen?
Looking for Alaska by John Green. Though I read it as an adult, I got that same feeling I did when I read The Catcher in the Rye at fifteen, the sense that I was understood.
Do you have things you need in order to write (i.e. coffee, cupcakes, music)?
Green tea, dark chocolate, yoga pants.
What are you working on now?
Another YA thriller, set in Chicago in 1881, ten years after The Great Fire. I also write women’s fiction with a partner, Suzanne Hayes. We’re finishing up our second book for Harlequin-Mira, called Finding Kingston.
Bonus question! Would you rather be a book, or a computer?
I’d like to be that unusual novel with dog-eared pages someone stumbles upon in a secondhand shop and simply can’t put down.
About ‘The Witch Collector’:
The day after her best friend’s funeral, Breeda’s parents pack her up, usher her into the car, and then drive out of Oregon without looking back. Breeda doesn’t know why they left so urgently or why they’re headed to Chicago — but she does know that it’s against the rules to leave without consulting your Coven Leader… It’s a crime punishable by banishment.
All her family has is each other now, in a city that feels strange, unfamiliar, and dark. But when Breeda comes home on her first night in Chicago to find their apartment ransacked and only a bloody handprint left behind, she realizes that you can’t outrun the craft.
For more about Loretta Nyhan:
You can visit Loretta on her blog and on Twitter as @LorettaNyhan. The Witch Collector will be published as a digital novel by HarperTeen Impulse, availible for purchase on digital readers from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Part one will be released on April 2 and Part two will follow on May 7.