I recently had the opportunity of interviewing the wonderful Nancy Richardson Fischer! Her new YA novel, When Elephants Fly, will be available September 4, 2018. It’s a heartfelt and adventurous story about a girl who overcomes her fear to save a baby elephant, a must read this year. Here are some of her answers on her newest novel and more!
Jennifer: What inspired you to write When Elephants Fly?
Nancy Richardson Fischer: A dear friend inspired When Elephants Fly. Her mom has a mental health condition and Bea (not her real name) grew up worrying that she, too, might have similar issues. Instead of living in fear, Bea chose to pursue her dreams, go to college, get married and have a child. Her courage made me wonder about all the other kids who live in fear, especially the ones who become frozen, biding time until they’re out of the danger zone for a mental health condition. When Elephants Fly is a universal tale about how we all face challenges, big and small, some surmountable, and others not, and the courage it takes to move beyond them when possible and live in the moment.
J: How long did it take you to write your first draft?
NRF: It took about a year to write the first draft. I didn’t sweat the small stuff, I just got the story on paper;-).
J: How did you come up with its title?
NRF: I can’t take credit for the title. I’m terrible at titles! When Elephants Fly was the work of the incredible marketing team at HarperCollins/Harlequin Teen and my brilliant editor, Natashya Wilson.
J: T. Lily Deck, the protagonist of WEF, is such an interesting character with a really complex backstory. How do you come up with your characters? Do they immediately pop into your head, or is it a slow and patient process?
NRF: Every character is different, but Lily started with a kernel of fear … I wanted to create a young woman with a ton of promise but who allowed others to define her. There are obstacles in the future that Lily may not be able to handle on her own or surmount, but at the start of the story, she couldn’t see that the future is always uncertain and the present is all any of us are guaranteed. Then the fun part was finding a way to force Lily into the present. To do that, I needed to find a really compelling reason for Lily to risk her future. Enter Swifty☺!!
J: You’ve mentioned before that you’ve worked as a writer in Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus. What was it like and did it influence how you wrote WEF?
NRF: Writing for Ringling was an exciting first job out of college. The performers were incredible athletes who passed their skills down through generations. The animals at the show were just … sad. No wild animal should ever be forced to perform unnatural tricks or kept in a cage. When I quit that job, I promised myself that I’d do something, beyond donating to elephant conservation organizations, to shine a light on the abysmal lives of wild animals, and especially elephants, in circuses, roadside safaris and some zoos. My time at Ringling is a huge part of why there is an elephant conservation thread throughout When Elephants Fly and I hope the story will inspire readers to get involved in the protection and conservation of elephants. There’s a resource section at the end of the novel that can help anyone interested in saving wild elephants from extinction and protecting those already in captivity.
J: Before WEF, you wrote quite a few sport autobiographies. How did it compare with writing young adult novels?
NRF: Nothing compares to writing YA novels! I love it so much and part of that is that I’m telling my own stories now, not someone else’s, and part is because that time of life is so fresh, new and exciting.
J: When Elephants Fly is a beautiful story about a girl risking everything to save a baby elephant and finding herself along the way. It covers so many powerful themes that really speak to the readers. Ultimately, what is the main message that you hope your readers will take from reading the book?
NRF: My hope is that this story creates empathy for those living with mental health conditions; a desire to act to help save elephants from extinction; and the takeaway that When Elephants Fly is a universal story about overcoming fear and living in the moment because the moment is all any of us are guaranteed.
J: The amount of research done in this book is truly incredible and admirable. What was the research process like for you?
NRF: I love the research process! I liken it to going down what you think is a straight road but then taking thousands of tiny streets and avenues. It’s an adventure and a fulfilling journey!
J: What’s your favourite animal?
NRF: In the wild? Elephants followed by giraffes. In my house? My dog, Boone☺.
J: One of my most burning questions while reading the book: Who is Swift Jones?
NRF: Besides being a famous pop star? Who do you think she is????
J: You’ve mentioned that you’re working on a second novel. Is there anything you can share with us about it?
NRF: Of course and thanks for asking! My new novel is tentatively titled The Speed of Falling Objects (HarperCollins/Inkyard Press October 2019):
Here’s the synopsis (Let me know what you think!!):
There are four reasons Danny barely knows her dad. First, her mom hates the guy. Second, her dad is Cougar Warren, famous TV survivalist. Third, Cougar wanted a son, hence her name. Fourth, Danny is an embarrassment. Her dad is athletic, charismatic, and handsome. Danny stinks at sports, has only one friend, and bears the nickname Pigeon for the way she moved her head as a kid after losing one eye.
For her 16th birthday, Cougar finally invites Danny to be part of a TV episode featuring Gus Price, a popular teen actor. Danny’s mom forbids it, but an unearthed secret leads Danny to defy her. She joins Cougar for what she hopes will be the start of a real father-daughter relationship.
When their small plane crashes in the jungles of Peru leaving most of the film crew dead, Danny, Cougar, and Gus must work together to survive their injuries and the jungle’s perils. Their ordeal shatters Danny’s perception of her parents, illuminates her unique skills, and teaches her that falling for Gus requires its own kind of bravery.
J: Finally, what is your advice for aspiring writers?
NRF: If writing is your passion, then don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t have a career doing what you love. Writing is 10% inspiration and 90% putting your butt in the chair, learning your craft, and staying put until you finish what you’ve started.
Well, that’s the end of the interview. It was an absolute joy corresponding with Nancy and learning more about her works and ideas. Please go and check out her works! I hope you guys love WEF as much as I do 🙂
Nancy Richardson Fischer is a graduate of Cornell University, a published author with children’s, teen and adult titles to her credit, including Star Wars titles for Lucas Film and numerous athlete autobiographies, such as Julie Krone, Bela Karolyi and Monica Seles. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.
Find out more at www.nancyrichardsonfischer.com.