Today, we welcome Nancy K. Wallace, the author of Harper Voyager’s Fantasy series, Wolves of Llisé. Nancy was signed in the same open submission pool where we had our start, and it’s been a blast getting to know her.
Like any good fairy tale, let’s begin with Once Upon a Time. Nancy, what’s your “Once Upon a Time”?
I led a charmed childhood thanks to loving and creative parents. Our house came complete with bedtime stories, Summer Solstice Tea Parties for the fairies who lived in our woods, magical Christmas Eves, gumdrop trees, and ponies. I went to bed every night knowing my parents loved me and that tomorrow would bring some new wonderful, magical adventure!
Sometimes in fairy tales, a fairy godmother appears to make dreams come true. In this case, the dream involves becoming a published author. Let us know how you got your first break.
I had a fairy godfather. Dr. Arthur Bushing was one of my professors from Maryville College. I fell asleep every morning in his 18th Century Literary Criticism class but he liked me anyway. On a trip back to school for a wedding, I asked to see him. I was a children’s librarian writing fantasy at the time and he was retired, living in this beautiful home with books lining every wall. I admitted my frustration at not being able to break into publishing. He said, “You work with children. Try writing something in your area of expertise first and see what happens.” What happened was multiple magazine sales of children’s poetry and my first picture book, The Christmas Cats in 2011. Here I am 21 books later! I’d say it was good advice!
Wow! Twenty-one books since 2011. You are prolific! So, every protagonist has to overcome a challenge. What is your greatest challenge?
My childhood was lovely, as I mentioned earlier, but the December I was eleven, my father died suddenly of a heart attack. My lovely, comfortable world fractured. I don’t think I have ever felt safe again. Oddly enough, my early immersion in books, especially fantasy, let me believe that there might still be a happy ending. I actually used to dream that my father was a spy and had to pretend he was dead to go on some secret mission. For years, I expected him to turn up, smiling with his arms open wide to hug us all, and make everything all right again.
I’m so sorry. On that note, the hero can’t triumph without a few defeats along the way. Can you share a defeat that you suffered in your writing career and what you learned from it?
I had a very dear friend who was a former editor of GQ. I gave him my first manuscript to read hoping he would be bowled over by my expertise and exceptional skill at writing. He returned with a list of corrections a mile long!! He was merciless and I cried and cried. The experience almost made me quit writing but when I calmed down I realized he was right and I had a long way to go before a publisher would give a second look at my work. So, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote, printing out reams of paper and correcting them in bed every night.
I think most of us have a similar experience. It’s hard to take something that you think is amazing and recognize its flaws. I think it’s even harder to make those changes, but from our experience, it’s been well worth it.
Let’s shift to the bright side. What’s your greatest victory as a writer?
I’ve had 19 children’s books published (you’d think I’d be satisfied) but my first love was always fantasy and I continued to write it. In 2012, when Harper Collins advertised its two week open submission, I took two weeks’ vacation and finished a manuscript that I had shown to no one except my boss. She had been willing to read a chapter a week as I wrote it. As a former newspaper editor, I expected derogatory comments but, she loved the book! I finished the last three chapters and submitted it. Unbelievably, eighteen months later, Harper Collins, UK picked Among Wolves along with fourteen others to publish out of over 5000 submissions!!
Congratulations! We know how that feels. Sometime we’ll have to meet at an event and swap stories about our submissions. So, where do you see yourself today? What are your current projects and what can we look forward to in the next year?
I’m in the middle of finishing the third book in the Wolves of Llisé series. It’s called Before Winter and it follows Among Wolves (2015) and Grim Tidings (2016). It is very difficult to write because the plotline could go on forever. I’m trying to tie all the loose ends together but hoping these characters may return someday. I don’t think they’ve finished telling me their story.
I also have two great ideas for middle grade fantasies that I can’t wait to work on!
Every story should end with a Happily Ever After. If you could write your own “Happily Ever After”, what would it be?
I’d like to make enough writing to retire. I love working with kids but they are beginning to wear me out! My husband and I live in the beautiful old farmhouse I grew up in. I want plenty of time for gardening, hosting parties, reading, and decorating. Basically, I want to be Martha Stewart! Most of all, I’d like some grandchildren to pass on all my childhood traditions to.
Here’s hoping those dreams come true. So, for everyone out there wishing on a star hoping to be an author, what advice would you give them?
Don’t ever give up! The only difference between a published author and a wannabee is persistence. It took me 23 years before I had my first book published but once I did, things just snowballed.
Well said. If we’d like to learn more for the About the Author section of your story, what’s the best way for everyone to keep up with you?
Thank you, Nancy! It was an absolute delight! And thank you for all the encouragement that you’ve given us.