Natalie Lloyd lives, writes and daydreams in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her first novel, A Snicker of Magic, was released by Scholastic in February. She listens to bluegrass music, collects old books, and likes exploring quirky mountain towns with her dog, Biscuit.
For what age audience do you write?
I’m most excited when young readers connect with the book. I like writing tween characters because they’re still brave enough to wear their hearts on their sleeve. They’re imaginative, curious and hopeful. And I vividly remember how I felt in middle school – awkward, brave, hopeful, self-conscious, curious and afraid- all at once. All of those feelings still tumble together inside me, but they felt much more intense in middle school. As far as genre, I love writing magical realism. I used to think I would write fantasy, and I might do some of that eventually. But I have the most fun writing about the magic a character can find in an ordinary day.
Tell us about your book.
A Snicker of Magic is the story of 12 year old Felicity Pickle, who has moved all over the South with her dog, her sister, and her road-loving mother. The Pickles move back to their mama’s hometown, a quirky little spot in Tennessee called Midnight Gulch. Felicity soon learns Midnight Gulch is famous (or infamous, maybe) because it used to be a magical place, and people who lived there had magic in their veins…until a curse drove the magic away. When Felicity discovers the curse is linked to her own family’s misfortune, she sets out to break the curse, bring back the magic, and find a permanent home for her wandering heart.
Henry: I’d think twice about moving to a town named Midnight Gulch.
What do you hope readers will get from reading that book?
If a reader enjoys reading the story, that’s an incredible thing for a writer to hear. Readers have shared different ways they connected with the story, and I’m always bowled over. One of my favorites is when readers decide to “Be the Beedle.” There’s an anonymous do-gooder in Midnight Gulch, a mysterious character called The Beedle, who has been doing kind things all over town for years. Some readers have decided to be the Beedle in their classrooms and communities, and that makes my heart spin.
Henry: Not to be confused with Dan Santat’s Beekle.
What is a powerful lesson you’ve learned from being a writer?
I think most writers do their best writing when they’re brave enough to wear their hearts on their sleeves. That can make other parts of this process painful. But having an openness to the world, and especially a sensitivity to people, makes for better writing and a better life. Even when you’re doing what you love, I think dark days can make you feel pretty low. But the joy I get from writing, and from connecting with readers who’ve loved the book, make all the tough days worth it.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
I would echo Dori from Finding Nemo and say, “Keep on swimming!” Keep writing. Keep reading. Keep going.
Henry: “Fish gotta’ swim. Bird gotta’ eat.” Yes, persistence and a thick skin.
Do you have any favorite quotes?
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well have not lived at all. In which case, you fail by default.” – JK Rowling
Henry: “Who Dares, Wins” – British Special Air Service
Do you have any strange rituals that you observe when you write?
I think I write best when my dog, Biscuit, is close beside me. She actually helped me finish A Snicker of Magic in a really sweet way. Sometimes I get so excited about new ideas, that I abandon stories midway through. But I knew if I could picture Biscuit scampering through the scenes, I would keep going—so I wrote her into the story. It worked!
Henry: Biscuit is your spirit animal. Does she get a portion of the royalties?
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
I would be able to find homes for every stray and shelter-animal. I don’t know what kind of powers I would need for that to happen. But I think everybody is an animal-lover once they find the right animal.
Henry: A unique and lovely response.
What is your favorite creature that exists only in literature?
Definitely Aslan, from C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. The first time I felt book magic, it was because of that series. The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe helped me through some tough moments when I was little. Even though the book was fictional, the courage I found in the pages was real.
Henry: Ah, now that was a lion’s lion.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to travel! I like to explore old antique stores, because I feel like stories are hiding in every book and nook and shelf. I like snuggling with my dog and watching movies, reading, spending time with my friends, and hanging out with my family.
What would you like it to say on your tombstone?
My next story is set (mostly) in an old cemetery, so I’ve been paying special attention to stones and epitaphs lately. One of the sweetest I’ve seen was on the grave of a child: She went about doing good. I think that’s an amazing way to be remembered. I think I would want something like this:
She loved, bravely.
Henry: And wrote with her heart on her sleeve.
Where can readers find your work?
A Snicker of Magic is available in print and audio in bookstores and online.
This interview is also posted on the San Diego Children’s Books Examiner.