Author Spotlight: Julia Nobel talks The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane
I'm super excited to be featuring Julia Nobel on today's blog! Julia is a middle grade author from Victoria, Canada. Her childhood obsession with The Babysitters Club turned into a lifelong passion for reading and writing children’s literature. She offers writing masterclasses and courses for writers in all genres, and was a Pitch Wars Mentor in 2017.
Her debut middle grade novel, The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane is the first in an exciting new series and it's available now from Sourcebooks Jabberwocky. Indulge in the synopsis below!
The first in an exciting new series, this suspenseful debut brings readers on a journey filled with secrets, mystery, and unforgettable characters.
With a dad who disappeared years ago and a mother who's a bit too busy to parent, Emmy is shipped off to Wellsworth, a prestigious boarding school in England, where she's sure she won't fit in.
But then she finds a box of mysterious medallions in the attic of her home--medallions that belonged to her father. Her father who may have gone to Wellsworth.
When she arrives at school, she finds the strange symbols from the medallions etched into walls and books, which leads Emmy and her new friends, Jack and Lola, to Wellsworth's secret society: The Order of Black Hollow Lane. Emmy can't help but think that the society had something to do with her dad's disappearance, and that there may be more than just dark secrets in the halls of Wellsworth.
And now, here's my chat with Julia!
Hi, Julia! Welcome and congrats on The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?
The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane is about Emmy, an American girl who finds out she’s being sent to a British boarding school while her mom films a reality TV show. She has nowhere else to go, as her mother doesn’t have any family and her father disappeared ten years earlier. Before she leaves, she receives an anonymous letter tell her that there is more to her father than she realizes, and if she’s ever found any of his relics, to keep them safe. This letter leads her to discover a box of strange medallions hidden in her attic. When symbols from those medallions pop up at her new school, she and her two new friends get caught in the web of a secret society which may have links to her missing father.
I’m a teacher, and I was standing on the playground one day when an idea came to me: what would it be like for an American girl to be sent to a British boarding school? Why would she end up there? What might she find when she got there? The questions just kept swirling through my head and eventually an idea for a novel started to form.
What do you love most about Emmy?
I love that she’s an introvert who does big, bold things. I love that she’s scared and brave at the same time. Emmy is really strong, but she definitely doesn’t know it yet, and I think that’s true for a lot of girls in their tweens.
I'm a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane teach you?
Honestly, The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane taught me how to be a writer. I had no idea how to take an idea and turn it into real story, let alone into a publishable book. I had to learn pacing, character development, emotional resonance, story structure, and pretty well everything that you need to create a book. The biggest thing it taught me is how to write with an authentic voice, which is incredibly hard in middle grade. I think I will always be working on creating a voice that resonates with MG readers, because those readers are constantly changing.
Humor is such an important ingredient in (most) middle grade. Do you have any tips for making sure it sounds authentic?
I think the only way to make sure humour sounds authentic is to make sure no one other than your character would ever say it that way. I’ve never been a really funny person, but one of Emmy’s best friends, Lola, has a serious sarcastic streak. The only way to make her funny was to really get inside her head and her heart and ask what would her genuine reaction be in this moment? Often that reaction was pretty sarcastic, so I went with it. But no one else in anything I’ve ever written could respond the way Lola does. Her humour is completely based on who she is and where she comes from.
From a writing standpoint, which character in The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane was the hardest to crack? And how did you crack them?
I think the hardest to crack was a character named Jack. He’s one of Emmy’s best friends at her new school, but he also has some dark secrets and serious skeletons in his family’s closet. It took awhile to really bring that into his character and create the depth he needed to feel whole.
What are you reading, watching, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
I am completely infatuated with Hip Hop Evolution on Netflix right now! It basically takes you through the history of hip hop from the 1970’s through the early 1990’s, and oh my gosh, I can’t believe I’ve been missing this for so long! I’ve never listened to a ton of hip hop—I’m from a family of classical musicians, so I wasn’t exactly exposed to it growing up. Watching early pioneers take beats and samples and create something new is literally awe-inspiring, especially watching them do it with vinyl. I’m in love!
And finally, what’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far in your publishing career?
The number one lesson I’ve learned so far is that in publishing, there will always be someone doing better than you. Someone else will get more offers from agents, or a bigger book deal, or be higher on the NY Times Bestseller list, etc., etc. It’s actually kind of freeing, because it makes comparison pointless. People will always be doing better than I am, so all I can do is focus on my own work.
Many thanks go out to Julia for taking the time to tell us more about The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane, as well as sharing all of her amazing advice on writing middle grade, and more. Be to sure to add Julia's suspenseful mystery to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,