Book People: Lisa Nicol
You will find my video review of Lisa Nicol’s latest book on my Youtube channel, but in a nutshell, ‘Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth’ is for readers 8-88 who want to escape into a fantastical world where pocket dogs are standard companions for all and where chocolate fountains, ostrich rides, flying and are mandatory. Both Lisa Nicol’s novels are infused with pure sparkling joy and readers are invited to set aside the mundane realities of life for a time and full immerse themselves in her fantastical worlds. I love realistic fiction for middle and upper primary readers which deals with all the big themes in life. But I also love handing over a book to a child that is pure joy, heart and soul. It is a privilege indeed to have Lisa Nicol on the blog today…thank you Lisa!
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TEN THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT LISA NICOL
- Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book is a middle grade novel called ‘Vincent and the Grandest Hotel on Earth’. It’s about a young boy called Vincent who scores a job shining shoes at The Grandest Hotel on Earth. Ever since Vincent’s little brother Thom was born, life at home has been pretty tough. Things are not quite right with Thom and he takes up all his parent’s time and money. So Vincent is ecstatic about heading off to the luxurious Grand. He’s heard plenty of stories about the place. But nothing can prepare him for what actually happens when he walks through the gates of The Grandest Hotel on Earth. It’s wilder than the African savanna, more fantastical than Disneyland and more magical than Shangri-La.
- How did you get started as a writer?
I never dreamed of being a writer. I dreamed of being a documentary-maker. I sidestepped into writing whilst travelling alone with a slightly cracked heart. I wrote a story and that night I had a dream. The dream told me clearly I was should write. I remember at the time being shocked as it was not something I had ever considered. The first things I wrote were articles for newspapers. Then I had kids and in a state of sleep-deprived-delirium I kept getting ideas for children’s stories. I wrote a picture book and it was eventually published by a small independent publisher. But when I started writing middle grade, I knew I’d finally found my lane.
- What does a typical day look like for you?
Drag myself out of bed at 7.03am. Get three kids out the door in time for school and looking like they actually attend school – with varying degrees of success. Grab the second coffee in the pot and head to my office. What comes next depends. I may have a corporate writing job to do. I may be beginning, in the middle of, or finishing a children’s book – three totally different looking days. I may be working on a film project with my creative partner Anna Craney. A lot of the time I’m super focused and don’t look up till I have to walk the dog around 6pm. Other times the gods of procrastination and bad juju will toy with me and hours will be misspent in ways I am unprepared to divulge. After dog walking it’s time to concoct something edible and yell at my children to get off their devices. Again, with varying degrees of success.
- Can you describe your workspace for us?
It’s a shed-come-office. Inside I’m surrounded by thousands of CDs, books and DVDs as well as the rubble of domestic life that slowly reduces my work space to a singular chair swivel. Bills that need paying, beanbags that need repairing, a bag of batteries that need to be thoughtfully disposed of, an empty fish tank. Unfortunately, my office only gets a clean out in between projects. There’s just always more important things to do. Like write. My door is painted yellow as a tip of the hat to Roald Dahl, one of my heroes. And above my desk I have a picture of Nelson Mandela and my Dad. Both big men I look to for inspiration when the going gets tough.
- Any words of advice for young readers and writers?
Read and write whatever you like. Not what other people think you should like.
- Do you have a favourite book or character (your own or somebody else’s)?
Well I’m very fond of Dr Boogaloo and his good wife Bessie. I’m often in need of a visit to The Boogaloo Family Clinic of Musical Cures and they have fixed my tune more times than I care to remember, I find just a stroll through the grounds is therapeutic. I also love Zelda and Dr Maaboottee from The Grandest Hotel on Earth. Such a lovely couple.
- If you were not a creator of books for young people what would you be?
I often wish I was a midwife. My mother was a midwife and I could have carried on the family tradition. To witness and assist babies as they enter the world must be transcendental. And at the same time so practical. There probably aren’t many jobs you can say that about.
- What is your favourite food to eat and/or your favourite music to listen to whilst you are working on your books?
Oh how I wish I could listen to music and write; I just find music too distracting. It draws me in and away from the writing. I do stop writing and listen to music to help me find the heart of a scene or character. When writing ‘Vincent’ I listened to Eric Satie’s ‘Gymnopedie No 1’, Bach’s ‘Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major’, and Gurrumul’s ‘Djarimirri’, all of which feature in the story.
I try not to eat and write because I’m nearly always writing. I do snack on tamari almonds and drink a lot of turmeric tea.
- How much of yourself or people you know is in your books?
I certainly use traits, mannerisms, saying, dialogue and anything else I can steal from the people around me. No doubt there are bits and pieces of myself in there too but probably people who know me are better at identifying them than I am.
- If you could have one wish for the world what would it be?
To take care of this magnificent, splendiferous, spectacularly beautiful planet we call home.