I met Nicole M. Hewitt years ago at a local children’s writers’ critique group. Being a writer, a middle-grade and young-adult book blogger, and a book buyer, I knew she would have some great insight for writers, teachers, parents, and librarians.
About Nicole: Her Role as a Writer
Hi Nicole! Tell us about yourself.
I live in the Chicago suburbs with my husband, three kids (one of whom is away at college) and three dogs. I was actually a theater major when I went to school, but it’s been quite awhile since I’ve been on a stage. When my kids were younger, I was a homeschooling mom. I taught theater, language arts and writing at a large homeschool co-op, which I loved!
How fun for them! How did you start writing? What do you like to write?
I always wanted to write when I was younger, but I could never figure out how to write a whole book. I wrote lots of snippets and some chapters, but I didn’t really understand how to structure a story. But once I started blogging, my passion for writing was reignited, and I thought I’d give it another try. I joined NaNoWriMo (which is a challenge to write a 50,000 word book in the month of November) and wrote the required words, but once again, I couldn’t quite get to the words “The End.” But I kept at it. I wrote my first full novel between classes while I worked at the homeschool co-op and kept going from there!
You have a new book coming out. What is it about?
My debut is called THE SONG OF ORPHAN’S GARDEN, and it will be releasing in early 2025 (it takes a long time to publish a book!).
The book is a fantasy re-imagining of Oscar Wilde’s short story “The Selfish Giant” and it’s written in verse. We pitched it as FROZEN meets THE BFG, which I think fits the book really well. It’s about an orphaned Human girl and a banished Giant boy who both need the same magical garden in order to survive in their arctic world that’s getting colder every day!
It sounds really fun! Do you feel your other jobs helped you to revise this book?
I definitely think my experience with blogging helped me understand storytelling in a way that I hadn’t before. Reviewing books and thinking about them critically gives you a good sense of what works and what doesn’t. I was also working as a freelance editor for a while, and that absolutely helped me with my writing. I didn’t start working as a bookseller until after I’d written my current book, and I’m not sure it’s helped my writing (if anything, it takes up a lot of my writing time), but I love connecting people with books they’ll love, so it’s worth it.
About Her Blog: How It Helps Her as a Writer
You also write a blog feedyourfictionaddiction.com Tell us about it.
Feed Your Fiction Addiction is a mostly middle grade and YA blog where I talk about the many books I love! I also sometimes host giveaways and post general bookish discussions. I’ll admit that I’ve had less time to keep up with my blog lately, but I still generally post several times a month.
From reading so many books, are there any trends you’re finding right now?
Oooh! This is a good question. Middle grade horror has become all the rage lately. R.L. Stine has always known that kids like to be scared, but now more and more authors are jumping in with spooky reads.
I agree—kids love scary books! When you’re reading through a middle-grade novel, is there anything that writers do that you feel may be a turn-off to middle schoolers?
If a story is too didactic, this can be an issue. Kids know when they’re being talked down to. That doesn’t mean books can’t have important themes or that the author can’t have a distinct point-of-view in their writing, but you don’t want to hit kids over the head with the message in a way that feels preachy.
What are some of your favorite middle grade books from 2023?
I’ve read so many I loved! Here are a few middle grades:
BETWEEN MONSTERS AND MARVELS by Alysa Wishingrad
THE GOLDEN FROG GAMES (Witchlings #2) by Claribel A. Ortega
GOOD DIFFERENT by Meg Eden Kuyatt
And a few YA:
ONE GIRL IN ALL THE WORLD (In Every Generation #2) by Kendare Blake
ALWAYS ISN’T FOREVER by J.C. Cervantes
GIVE ME A SIGN by Anna Sortino
Any books you’re looking forward to their upcoming release?
My mentee through a program called Author Mentor Match is debuting with the book we worked on in 2024. Her name is Anne Rellihan and the book is called NOT THE WORST FRIEND IN THE WORLD. The book is truly fantastic, and kids are going to love it!
Another book I’ve already read and loved is THE MYSTERY OF LOCKED ROOMS by Lindsay Currie. As a big fan of escape rooms, this book was perfect for me!
About Being a Book Buyer: Trends/Holes in the Market
You also work at Barnes & Noble. What do you do there?
I’m a senior bookseller. I work throughout the store, but tend to specialize in the kids’ department (which covers everything from board books on up to middle grade).
So you choose which books to purchase? Do you ever help people find books?
I can request books to be ordered for the store by doing what we call “shortlisting” them. All of the books that are shortlisted get reviewed by someone who does the actual ordering (usually I get the books I’ve shortlisted, but occasionally there are reasons that a book can’t be ordered into the store). I definitely help people find books. That’s one of my main responsibilities and my favorite part of the job. I love helping people find something that will be perfect for them (or for the child they’re buying for).
What types of books would you say are hot right now?
In picture books, funny always seems to sell. A personal favorite is THE KNIGHT SNACKER by Valerie Wicker.
Like I already mentioned, MG horror is big right now. I also get a lot of people looking for funny books for younger MG readers. For them, I often recommend THE AREA 51 FILES by Julie Buxbaum.
In YA, mysteries are where it’s at, especially if there’s a bit of romance thrown in. THE INHERITANCE GAMES series is huge, along with other series like A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER. Sad also sells well in YA, the sadder the better!!
As far as non-fiction for kids goes, National Geographic Kids books and the WHO WAS series really can’t be beat.
What titles do you often suggest to kids?
I already mentioned some, but here are a few more that I consistently recommend:
ALONE by Megan E. Freeman (for kids who like verse novels, survival story, or just an intriguing read)
SCRITCH SCRATCH by Lindsay Currie (for MG horror fans)
THE INCREDIBLY DEAD PETS OF REX DEXTER by Aaron Reynolds (for kids looking for a funny read)
JENNIFER CHAN IS NOT ALONE by Tae Keller (for kids who like contemporary with heart or kids who are looking for an excellent story about bullying)
The ARU SHAH series by Roshani Chokshi (for fantasy lovers)
I could honestly go on and on…
What types/subjects of books are kids requesting that you’re finding there’s not enough of?
We talk a lot about that gap between MG and YA, and I often see that at the store. For instance, there are some good MG romance books out there (I sent a girl home just today with THIS IS HOW I ROLL by Debbi Michiko Florence – I hope she loves it!), but I’d love to see more. A lot of younger readers end up in YA, where they might not quite be ready for all the themes and content.
About School Visits & Social Media
Are you doing school visits related to your book?
Yes, even though my book isn’t releasing until 2025, I’ve got school visits lined up for next year, mostly doing poetry workshops with kids.
How can we learn more about you?
Great information and book lists. I’m excited to check out some of these titles!
Thanks so much for having me on the blog!