Children's author K.K Nikolaou stopped by to talk to us about writing kids' books and her debut novel, The Nokka.
K.K Nikolaou is a writer of children's fantasy. SCBWI member and Golden Egg Academy Alumni KK has been mentored by Maurice Lyon who has worked with authors such as Philip Pullman and Michelle Harrison. Maurice was also her editor for The Nokka, which is the first book in a series of three and has also been illustrated by the author.
I’ve always loved writing and have dabbled with stories all my life, however, my first attempt at a ‘proper’ one didn’t come until I was in my early forties. A short fantasy adventure for younger children. Unfortunately, the pretty much completed draft was eradicated when my house got struck by lightning and all my electrical devices were wiped out. The insurance company ‘lost’ my PC so I was never able to recover my files. After that I didn’t have the heart to rewrite it so I started a new project. If it weren’t for that bolt of lightening The Nokka might never have existed.
I am a panster rather than a plotter. I started The Nokka with a seed of an idea which evolved as I wrote it. There was some planning involved, scribbled notes mainly and small chapter summaries – just a sentence or two for guidance, but certainly no careful structuring. I actually wrote the first chapters with no clear idea of the middle or end.
The book is a middle grade fantasy adventure for 9 - 12 year olds. It’s set in Cornwall, in a little village called Gilangelly and based on a local legend that states somewhere in the nearby woods there’s a hidden portal that leads to a secret parallel world.
The story begins with Jenifer, one of the main characters, being given a mysterious pouch by her grandmother. The pouch contains clues to the location of the portal and Jenifer enlists the help of her friend Jory to help her solve them. The two go on to enter the secret world but things go terribly wrong and they become trapped there.
It took five years in all. Two years in I turned to professional help in the way of Imogen Cooper’s Golden Egg Academy. Here I received one to one support from top industry editor, Maurice Lyon. He told me ‘very good’ was not enough and that if I was serious about getting published then it would have to be exceptional. Consequently, there was a lot of rewriting.
My publishers designed it but I did have some input. I wanted it to convey an element of mystery so I suggested a dense leafy woodland, focussing on a pair of pixie boots that were radiating magic sparkles. I also asked if it could be really special – vibrant colours, embossed and with foil.
I get up early and after a bowl of cereal and a cup of coffee, take my boxer dog Betty for a 3 mile walk. I return home starving and, after a second, more substantial breakfast, retreat to my writing cave which is a desk in my bedroom.
I wish I could say I was one of those writers whose fingers fly over the keyboard banging out words but sadly, I’m not. I can spend ages painstakingly constructing a paragraph and much time is spent staring vacantly out of the window. Time goes quickly though and usually I can’t believe where the hours have gone.
As well as saving my work to an external drive, I always email it to myself. This isn’t solely to safeguard against stray lightning bolts – I like to read it through later in the evening and make notes. It’s amazing how seeing the text in a different font can show up typos and inconsistencies in flow.
It took eight very, very long months. When I finally held my book in my hand I was so emotional I cried.
The Nokka is available both online and in a number of bookshops such as Waterstones. There is a paperback and an e version.
I’m working on the next book in the series. I'm around half way through the first draft.
Emma Carroll. She writes fabulous stories with such apparent ease (although I suspect this is not the case at all) And her books all have beautiful covers.
Thank you so much to K.K Nikolaou for taking the time to drop in at WritingNV.com You can follow her on Twitter @KKaranikolaou
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