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Summer 2017 Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors: Five Questions for Nic Stone

Publishers' Previews: Special advertising supplement in The Horn Book Magazine

This interview originally appeared in the July/August 2017 Horn Book Magazine as part of the Summer 2017 Publishers’ Previews: Debut Authors, an advertising supplement that allows participating publishers a chance to each highlight a first book. They choose the books; we ask the questions.

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Photo: Nigel Livingstone.

In Dear Martin, contemporary African American teen Justyce writes in his journal to Martin Luther King Jr. as a way to make sense of his bifurcated world: his posh, mostly white prep school and his black family and community threatened by police violence.

1. Who would you write to?

At the risk of sounding narcissistic, I’d have to say I would write to myself. As an author, I find that I occupy a sort of dual consciousness where I’m both within the character, seeing the character’s world as they do, and outside the character, seeing from a point of objectivity. Justyce is writing to Dr. King, but his letters are really a form of self-reflection where he’s looking at the world from within and without.

2. What role does reading play in solving a problem such as police violence against black teens?

For me, good fiction has always been an entry point into another’s experience, as well as a place I can grapple with big-picture issues in private. Reading provides a space for people to both see and be seen, and in the midst of both, to think critically — the first step to true problem solving.

3. And what role did reading play in your development as a writer?

I really only started writing because I was dissatisfied with the reading options available to me. The lack of books featuring people who looked like me, grappling with situations I was familiar with, bothered me no end, so I decided to try and write the stories I felt were missing.

4. Did you go to prep school like Justyce?

I didn’t (though I have a cousin and beta readers who did). Many of Justyce’s experiences are pulled from my own life, but my context was a public school where I was a part of the gifted program and often the only African American student in class.

5. What is the best attitude with which to watch the news?

I personally don’t watch anymore. I stopped largely because I struggled to find the right attitude with which to watch, so perhaps I’m not the best person to answer this question (this is where I would insert a laughing emoji).

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