One of Nola Nash‘s bios mentions that “she also considers tacos and coffee major food groups.” Seeing as I tend to agree with that statement, I’m sure we’d get along just fine should we ever meet in person. But Nola is another author I know only virtually, having crossed paths multiple times before finally publishing with the same publishing house. Nola is the author of the Crescent City series, which is set in New Orleans, and her latest work, Traveler, released earlier this month. Grace Sammon says of the book: “Traveler is part fantasy, part history lesson, part travelogue, and all adventure. It is a read ‘out of my genre’ that once again reminds me that excellent storytelling trumps pigeonholing any book.” It’s a truly enjoyable read! Nola wears many hats in addition to her author’s hat, so I’m grateful she found the time to answer these questions!
Christina: Congrats on the publication of Traveler! What a mix of time travel, romance, and history! Can you give us a little bit of background about the book? Where did the inspiration for it come from?
Nola: The inspiration for Traveler actually came to me when I was in traffic in the more modern part of the town I live in. Looking around at all the new development, I realized that I just didn’t feel as comfortable around all of that as I did in old places. I grew up watching silver screen movies, listening to big band music, and reading books set in historic times. In that moment at that red light, I thought, “What if this isn’t when I really belong? How would I know? How would I get back?” And Traveler was born.
Christina: Shelby Starling, the main character in Traveler, travels! She takes us to such places as Rome and Madrid. How much research did you have to do to capture the details? Did anything surprise you in your research?
Nola: Shelby’s travels take her so many fun places! Research was key to making sure the readers feel as immersed in the places, both modern and ancient versions, as Shelby does. Some of the locations she goes to, I’ve been myself. Others, I haven’t. The idea was to be so accurate that the reader would be hard pressed to figure out which was which. To do that, there were countless hours of research that went into all of it, but I loved every minute. I always am surprised by things I find in my research and often work those little nuggets into the novel. When Shelby is wandering around Rome, she makes her way to a library. I was surprised by how many amazing works were kept in such an inconspicuous place! In researching Madrid, I discovered the “cookie nuns” that appear in the book. Their cloister provided exactly what I needed in that particular point of the story.
Christina: One Goodreads reviewer described the book as “one part Indiana Jones, with a shot of ‘Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’ for good measure,” and I think that’s pretty apt. What do you think? To what would you compare the book?
Nola: Haha! I love that comparison and the reviewer couldn’t be more spot on! As a kid, I wanted to be Indiana Jones when I grew up. I think some of that bled into Shelby’s adventure. And adding the Bill and Ted reference really does sum it up. I’ve also had it paired with My Life in Ruins meets The Mummy, which totally works too. Both descriptions capture the intensity of the adventure with the snark and unpredictability of Shelby herself. I don’t think I could have said it better myself!
Christina: Traveler is not your first novel. You’re also the author of the Crescent City series, which takes place in your beloved New Orleans. Do you see any parallels between Traveler and the Crescent City series? And Traveler is the first in a new series, right? What’s next for Shelby?
Nola: Traveler and the Crescent City series share a sense of mystery and delving into things that can’t be explained away by logic and science. Other than that, they are very different books. I love that I’ve had the chance to write such different things! Actually, the series I’m working on are completely different from each other and different from the couple of stand alones I’m working on. I’ve always been told I’m unique (maybe a nice way to tell me I’m odd?) so I embrace that in the projects I take on. Uniqueness and variety make me a happy writer. Traveler is indeed the first in the three book series. Watcher is the next one. In that one we see Shelby more in control of where and when she ends up. Instead of memories grabbing at her, she travels with intention. What that intention is, I’ll leave to the readers to discover.
Christina: Community theater is near and dear to your heart. How do your experiences there inform your writing? Did you ever consider becoming a professional actor?
Nola: I do love community theater! I grew up in it. It definitely influences my writing in that I want my characters to seem as real on the page as they would on the stage. That means giving them characteristics that are revealed as the characters go about doing things that move the plot. I don’t do paragraphs of descriptions. You wouldn’t have an actor stand there while a narrator tells all about them. Sure, you can see their physical appearance on the stage and not in a book, but unless physical details are crucial, I leave a lot to the imagination of the reader to create the appearance that works for them. The action will reveal the characteristics and even some physical traits along the way, just like on stage. While a lot of people thought I would go to college and get a theater degree, I never considered it. To me, becoming a professional actor meant becoming a professional server at a restaurant. I knew enough people trying to make it as actors to know that wasn’t for me. I love theater. I didn’t want to make it something that I equated with struggle.
Christina: You’re also the host of the Dead Folks’ Tales podcast, which is “a New Orleans-centric exploration of southern gothic history and hauntings.” How did this podcast come about? What do you hope to do with the podcast?
Nola: Dead Folks’ Tales podcast started with another live Facebook show I was doing with another person. That show ended and I really missed the parts where I got to tell snippets of New Orleans and south Louisiana history and hauntings. I mentioned that to Pam Stack, the executive producer of Authors on the Air Global Radio Network and she loved the idea of making a show around just that. She gives me lots of autonomy to do what I want with the show, so I’ve had the chance to talk to everyone from authors to musicians to museum curators. It’s lots of fun!
Christina: Okay, let’s talk Duddley! What sort of dog is he? How did he get his name (and the unusual spelling), and is he good office mate? Anything else you’d like to share about this special canine friend?
Nola: Ahh! My little Duddley! Love that little fluffball. He’s a Havanese, specifically a silver and cream chocolate Havanese. A mouthful, I know. His name came from a nickname my mom used to call my brother – Cuddly Duddley. Since there are two Ds in Cuddly, there are 2 Ds in Duddley, too. He’s usually a good officemate, but he likes to be held a lot draped over my shoulder (I call him my pirate parrot when he does that) which can make it difficult to type. But most of the time, he curls up and sleeps next to me while I’m working. He’s my shadow and my sidekick who gets way more “likes” on social media than I do!
Thanks to Nola for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.