Nicole Kronzer is the author of the young adult novels Unscripted and The Roof Over Our Heads. Unscripted was named a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association and was a MN Book Award Finalist. She is also a high school English teacher in the Anoka-Hennepin School District and former professional actor.
Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story?
My featured book is The Roof Over Our Heads. It is about a 17-year-old boy named Finn who lives with his theatre-person family in a historical mansion. The family serves as house caretakers, and when the roof starts to leak, and the owner wants to sell it, Finn and his family gather up their friends, dress everyone up like it’s 1891, and put on a play to save the house. The play is called “A Midsummer Night’s Art Heist Garden Party Escape Room Murder.” There are multiple scenes going on at the same time in different rooms in the house, and the audience follows whichever characters they’re most interested in. They gather together at the end to solve the murder and art heist, and if they do, they get to see the end of the play. If not, the murderer and the thief go free, and they must leave the house immediately. Behind the scenes, however, Finn can’t memorize lines. But he’s sure the only way to be accepted by his family, his crush—even his nemesis—is to be an actor. Never mind that his talents lie elsewhere; never mind that he doesn’t have to earn their love.
In addition to being a novelist, I also teach high school English. In my Creative Writing II class, we research the James J. Hill family, house, and Minnesota in the 1890s, then go on a field trip to see the James J. Hill house in St. Paul. After our tour, we go back to class and write historical fiction. After years of reading delightful stories such as, “James J. Hill, Vampire Hunter” and ones that employed time traveling fireplaces and secret love affairs, I was itching to do my own assignment. YA historical fiction can be a tough sell in the marketplace, however, so I decided to keep my book in the present day. I call the mansion “the Jorgensen House,” but it’s a direct steal of the Hill House! The other thing that influenced this book were my twelfth graders telling me about their post-secondary plans. I was noticing a trend where kids were going into fields that didn’t really align with their interests and passions. When pressed, they often revealed that they thought their paths were what their families wanted them to do. The story of an arty kid in a math/science family feels like an old story, however, so I flipped it. What if there was an arty family, and there was a teenager desperate to fit in with them? It was fun to normalize a life in the arts, which is a wonderful and possible life!
Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book? What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
This book required a lot of research due to the characters masquerading as Minnesotans in the 1890s. In addition to reading many books about Victorian life and the Gilded Age, I visited the Hill House countless times, spent an evening at the Ramsey House learning how to use a woodburning stove, and visited the Minnesota History Center where I got to hold Mrs. Hill’s personal papers in my own hands. The research was interspersed with me outlining and developing characters, which all in all, took two or three months.
The most difficult part of my artistic process is deciding what is going to happen and in what order. Writing dialogue is my favorite part. Often, the bulk of my early drafts are just dialogue. It’s difficult for me to have patience at each stage of the book writing process—I want it all to happen at once! But a book is many drafts, many passes, and many, many written but unused scenes!
Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?
I wrote so much Babysitter’s Club fan fiction as a kid. Using someone else’s characters and creating your own stories is a wonderful way to learn how to write. Thanks, Ann M. Martin! I was well into adulthood, however, before I started taking myself seriously as a writer. YA authors such as Rainbow Rowell and John Green were strong influences on my early efforts. Nina LaCour is the practical, boots on the ground reason I am an author, however. She visited the high school where I teach, and something about talking to her convinced me I've got to try to do this whole thing. She has remained by my side as a mentor and friend for over a decade.
Now, I am so honored to be among the incredible Kidlit community in Minnesota. There are so many of us, and everyone is so supportive of one another.
Has a library or librarian impacted your life or your writing life?
I have been teaching at Champlin Park High School since 2006, and in that time, I have had two marvelous school librarians: Terri Evans and Allison Hackenmiller. Terri Evans is the person who brought authors to our school, which changed my writing life forever, showing me they were people—just like me—and that meant I could try to write professionally, too. Allison Hackenmiller puts so many books in so many kids’ hands and helps me stay connected to what teenagers want to read. She also reads my drafts!
When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to run and knit—or maybe I should say I like to knit, and I like how I feel after I’ve run!
Favorite place to go in Minnesota?
Sea Salt at Minnehaha Falls
Where can readers find you online?