Interview with Nikki Sheehan
Nikki Sheehan is the youngest daughter of a rocket scientist. She went to a convent school in Cambridge where she was taught by real nuns in long black habits. She studied linguistics and then psychology and worked as a subtitler for the Simpsons, followed by many years as a journalist. She lives in Hove near the beach with her husband, three children, two dogs, one cat and definitely no more hamsters.
Book Walrus was hugely impressed by Nikki’s debut novel, ‘Who Framed Klaris Cliff?’ (you can see our reviews here) and caught up with Nikki just after its launch.
Hi Nikki,What made you decide to write for this age group?
I wrote WHO FRAMED KLARIS CLIFF? for my middle child, who’s now too old for it. But it’s an age group that I love. The first few years of secondary school are a time when kids really metamorphosis into what passes for young adults in a low light. It’s a hugely exciting age as the possibilities open up to them, but it’s also sad because to a certain extent they’re waving their childhoods goodbye. Being caught with a foot in each world is so interesting to write about.
What was your favourite scene to write, and why?
Although I loved the emotional and dramatic stuff, the scene that was the most enjoyable to write was when the MC Joseph and his seven-year-old neighbour Flea have to deal with an Elvis-impersonating official from RIPS (the Rogue Imaginary Person Section). Initially I had the character perform an Elvis song, but when I found out that it would cost me thousands to use the lyrics I wrote a pastiche version of Blue Suede Shoes instead, which actually fitted much better. Does that make me an Elvis tribute writer?
We think so! And a very good one at that. So, what has been the highest point, and the lowest point of your journey to publication?
I think that apart from getting my agent and selling the book, the highest point was when I met the team at OUP in Oxford for lunch. They were discussing the plot and the characters as if they were real. I sat back and listened, and I understood then that Klaris Cliff was no longer just a figment of my imagination, it was a THING that was now on its own trajectory, which was slightly overwhelming – but in a good way! My lowest point was probably the waiting. Publishing seems to work at two speeds; glacial and speed of light. Getting used to that has definitely been a challenge.
What’s been the biggest surprise about being a debut author?
The online writing community. I wasn’t on Twitter before (Hm, maybe that’s why I had time to write a book!) and I hadn’t read any writer’s blogs, so I didn’t know what to expect. But since then I’ve built up a lovely network of friends online whose support and experience has been invaluable. I’m really not sure how people did it in the old days!
You deserve all that support. You’ve written a fantastic story. What’s the nicest thing anyone has said to you about your book so far?
That’s a hard one. It might not be the nicest, but what I really like is hearing from the people who’ve been emotionally touched by the book. OK, I admit it, I’m a bit sick and I like it when people say they cried. One person said that he sat frozen in disbelief at the end. That felt good.
Book Walrus did secretly wipe away a tear close to the end. And Dylan (9) just sat on the sofa after he’d finished it mumbling ‘My mind is blown’ :). It is a fantastic book that needs celebrating! What have you done for the launch?
I had a launch party at a brilliant independent bookshop in Hove called Book Nook with my editor, my agent and friends. I thought I’d be really nervous, but I had a ball (the Prosecco probably helped!) This is what it looked like (film made by my 11 year old future-Fellini)
Are you working on Book 2? If so, can you tell us anything about it?
Actually I’m on book 3! I’ve been struggling with difficult-second-book syndrome, and I abandoned Book 2 when it was nearly finished. But I have just written another one which I have sent to my agent to see what she thinks. I’m afraid I can’t say any more than that!
We can’t wait to see it. We loved Klaris Cliff and we wish it – and you – all the success you deserve. And if there’s space for a small Book Walrus at your next launch party…