Publishers’ Preview: 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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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.

Photo: Nigel Livingstone.

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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