Nicole Adair is an LDS writer of young adult books: A Tangle of Dreams, A Memory Made Real, and Voted Most Likely. A Memory Made Real is the sequel to A Tangle of Dreams and was released in November 2023. I caught up with her shortly afterward to talk about her book and her writing process.
Tell us about yourself!
I graduated from BYU and BYU-Hawaii with a degree in political science. I’ve been married for almost thirteen years and I’ve got three daughters. I write young adult novels.
Have you always wanted to be an author?
English was always my best subject at school, hands down. I’ve always connected to the written word, and I’ve always been a big reader, but I didn’t grow up trying to write books. When I was twelve, I sat down to write a book and got a paragraph in and was like, “Well this is too hard!”
In 2019, I ended up doing this Relief Society challenge for my stake. It was to give something up for thirty days and replace it with something better. I had this specific prompting to give up TV, and thought, I can’t do that. It sounded terrible and really hard! I had a five-month-old baby at the time, and all I did was watch TV at two in the morning while nursing her. But I kept having this feeling to turn it off. I was disturbed by how much I didn’t want to, so I decided to just follow through on it. I did, and I replaced TV with reading.
As I did that, my mind cracked open. I know it was a prompting to clear the noise so I could hear my own thoughts and get out of this rut because there was something better out there. As soon as I started doing that challenge, I was like…is this a story idea?? I’d never had that before. I felt like I could write a book before I even got the full idea for my story. Looking back, I found journal entries where I had written, “I feel like I need to connect more with myself more through writing,” and then I did this challenge. All these little things led me to that point.
So, I started a note in my phone with ideas for the story concept that I had, and the characters and who they were and how they were connected. It kept getting longer and longer, but I wasn’t taking it seriously yet. One time in the car I was making a note of something. My husband asked me what I was doing, and I told him, “Nothing! Nothing!” I felt really embarrassed about it! I didn’t know what I was doing. Like who am I to write a book? That was fall of 2019, and in January of 2020, my New Year’s resolution was to write until it was done. I didn’t know what that would look like or how long it would take, but I was going to write something every day. And I finished my first draft of my first novel, A Tangle of Dreams, in May 2020.
My oldest was in kindergarten at the time, so she ended up being at home, but I was working around naptimes and all that. I had just decided this is what I’m going to do. It seems ridiculous looking back! I just knew before I was even done with my first draft that I was going to publish it.
Do you still feel that confidence with your writing?
I do! I think I feel more confident in my ability as a writer, and specifically as a novelist. I know how to now because I’ve done it! I will never forget my first writing sessions for A Tangle of Dreams where you’re sitting down and writing things like, “He walked into the room. And he looked at her.” I felt so clunky and awkward and did not know what I was doing. But writing is a muscle, and the more you use it the stronger it gets.
What does your writing process look like now?
I have learned to write with my children. I used to write a lot late at night, but that wasn’t very sustainable health-wise. So sometimes I write in the morning, but I also write during the day when my kids are home. I work around preschool schedules and that stuff, so I do have some uninterrupted writing time, but that’s rare. Most of my writing time is interrupted. Constantly. But I also like having my kids be a part of it, and I want them to see me doing it. It’s hard, and they’re not always understanding, and they watch too much TV, but I want them to see me going after something I want. So, I try to really talk through what I’m doing. I tell them, “I’m doing something for work. I’m not trying to ignore you; I’m focused on something right now. I’m going to go in here and write. Here’s your snacks, don’t come in every five minutes.” Sure enough they do! It’s hard, but I can’t imagine doing it any other way.
How did you decide to self-publish your books?
Initially I was only interested in traditional publishing. In my mind, self-publishing was for people who couldn’t get their book published. Then I started researching it. I was revising my book that summer and thinking about what path was right for me. It became a matter of prayer. It was really important to me to ask which direction I should go. I will never forget, I was rocking my baby to sleep and pondering it, and I had a really distinct impression that I needed to self-publish. I wrote it down, because I knew I was going to need to reread it a million times or I wouldn’t believe it: “You need to self-publish because you have a lot to learn about yourself through this process.”
I’ve since learned there’s an incredible thriving industry of indie authors. It’s not what I expected at all. It’s very fun! But I was so nervous about being a new author, and I really wanted someone to buy my book from me. I wanted an agent to tell me, “Yes, I will fight for your story. Yes, it should be published.” However, I felt I was being taught that I needed to do it for myself. It was this really radical self-actualization. I needed to learn to believe in my work enough that I would invest in it with my money, my time, and all of that. I now have an LLC called Validation Press that I publish under. I was validating myself, that I’m a good writer and my stories are worth telling. It has taught me so much about who I am, and faith, and reliance on the Lord, and here we are three books later!
Do you intend to continue self-publishing?
We’ll see! I have no idea where the future will take me! But for now, I love having my hand in every part of the process. I get the final say in everything. Probably too controlling, but I like that! I’m the boss!
Aside from having full creative control, what have you really enjoyed about taking your stories from ideas to actual books?
I loved the cover design process! It was so much fun! For A Tangle of Dreams I had a really specific visual in mind. I wanted it to be this beautiful piece of art that I would hang in my house. When I found Paige Poppe, a local watercolor artist, we had an hour-long phone call about the story and what I was visualizing. When she sent me the proofs, I said, “THAT’S IT! That’s exactly what I was visualizing!” And of course, getting to hold the book is such a dream. It’s so exciting. When I did A Memory Made Real, I knew it was a long book, but when I opened it for the first time I thought, “Oh my gosh, it’s huge!” Until then, it was just a Word document I could scroll through, so it was so satisfying to see it looking like a book.
You said your books and publishing process have been divinely influenced. How else does your faith show up in your writing?
Once I finished the first draft of A Tangle of Dreams, I knew I needed a place to talk about it. I started a writing account on Instagram and tried to find other writers. Initially I didn’t really talk about my faith there that often, but the more I write, the more it comes out. Writing is a spiritual practice for me. I kept having these thoughts come to mind, these mini essays I would write that were specifically about faith. I was so nervous and intimidated, but I knew these were words I wanted to share. And I started connecting with so many Christian women all over the world! It has been such a beautiful and unexpected thing. It’s really opened up how I write, and now I feel like it colors all of my writing. No, I don’t deal with religion in my books, but there are themes of it. It’s so connected with me that I don’t think I can separate it entirely.
What are you looking forward to working on now that A Memory Made Real has been published?
When I started A Tangle of Dreams, I knew it was going to be a duology, but I had no other ideas. None. I was really stressed out about that. I have a lot of writer friends who are so overflowing with story ideas that it’s hard for them to stick with one until it’s finished. They wanted to know how I finished A Tangle of Dreams in eighteen months. Well, I had literally no other ideas distracting me.
I wrote the first draft for the sequel to A Tangle of Dreams back in 2021. It wasn’t as much fun to write, so I felt super tired and drained. And two days later I had an idea that became Voted Most Likely while I was in the shower. I was so excited that I had another story idea that I drafted it like a maniac. It was ready for publishing before A Memory Made Real was ready, which confused everyone, but I’m so proud of that one.
Since then, I have started having ideas for future books, which is fun! As soon as each book comes out, I want to be working on the next thing. That’s what my mind craves and my soul loves: the making of it. I’ve started writing a new story, and I intend to work on it every day and see where it takes me. Since I don’t plot ahead of time, much of the story is unlocked for me in the act of writing. It’s a very weird but faith-filled process. It’s exciting because I haven’t written new words since Voted Most Likely almost two years ago!
Does getting back into a writing routine feel difficult after so long?
Even when I’m not drafting or working on a book, I’m always writing and refining my voice. Now it’s just getting back in the habit of daily drafting with a specific purpose. On one hand it’s just fun! On the other hand, I’m so critical of it while I’m writing. That first draft is really bad and I hate writing poorly! But you can’t have any forward momentum in the story if you’re constantly editing yourself. You have to let go and write a bad draft. Bad drafts become good books.
What other advice do you have for aspiring writers?
Writing every day is not for everyone but it works for me. I treat my writing sessions like appointments. If I say I’m going to write from 10 to 11 am, I’m going to do it.
Also: it’s okay if it’s hard. So many writers struggle with not feeling inspired all of the time. But it’s the act of discipline that strengthens the muscle. If you wait to write only when you’re inspired, it will take a really long time. Much of it is just showing up and doing the work and seeing where it takes you. And that is hard. Of course it’s hard! You’re making something out of nothing!
I try to be really transparent about the fact that writing is hard and I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m still here. It’s a running joke with my Instagram community that behind every good book is a big pile of laundry. It’s important for people to see I’m not doing it all. I’m juggling, and dropping a lot of balls, but that’s ok. It seems to give other people permission to struggle in their own creative endeavors. When you’re in the middle you just want the finished product. But it’s been proven to me time and time again, the struggle is what makes it meaningful. It feels good to have the book done because it was hard and it was beautiful.
You can follow Nicole on Instagram at @writenicolewrite or sign up for her weekly newsletter on her website writenicolewrite.com. Her books A Tangle of Dreams, A Memory Made Real, and Voted Most Likely are available to purchase on Amazon.