Interview with Nicole Blades, author of Have You Met Nora?

Monday, March 12, 2018
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Nicole Blades about her writing and her latest book Have You Met Nora? and it is my distinct privilege to share this interview with WOW! readers today. Stop back in a few weeks for my 5 star review of Have You Met Nora?

About the Book:

She’s blossomed from a wealthy surgeon’s beautiful daughter to elegant socialite to being the top fashion stylist in the country. And Nora Mackenzie is only days away from marrying into one of New York’s richest, most powerful families. But her fairy tale rise is rooted in an incredible deception—one scandal away from turning her perfect world to ashes . . .

What no one knows is that Nora is the biracial daughter of a Caribbean woman and a long-gone white father. Adopted—and abused—by her mother’s employer, then sent to an exclusive boarding school to buy her silence, Nora found that “passing” as a white woman could give her everything she never had.

Now, an ex-classmate who Nora betrayed many years ago has returned to her life to even the score. Her machinations are turning Nora’s privilege into one gilded trap after another. Running out of choices, Nora must decide how far she will go to protect a lie or give up and finally face the truth.

About the Author:

Nicole Blades is a novelist, speaker, and journalist. She started at Essence magazine, later co-founded the online magazine SheNetworks, and worked as an editor at ESPN and Women’s Health.

Nicole's work has appeared in The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, Women’s Health, Good Housekeeping,,, and BuzzFeed. Her latest book, HAVE YOU MET NORA?, is out now, along with her previous novels THE THUNDER BENEATH US, and EARTH’S WATERS. Listen to her weekly podcast, Hey, Sis!, about women finding their focus and place in business, art, culture, and life. And find out more at:

Finding Nicole Online:





............. interview with Crystal J. Casavant-Otto

WOW: Nicole, thank you so much for chatting with me today. You have such attention to detail in your writing. I can't wait to hear more about you and your writing process. Let's get to it:

Where do you write? What does your space look like?

Nicole: This is a great question, because I'm always into where folks write and what their writing space looks like. Uh, a.k.a. I'm nosy! I typically write at my desk in my home office. It's this really cool, rustic, thick wood desk. It's by a window that allows the warmth of the sun to spill over on me. Something about natural light helps my overall writing mood. And I live in New England, so you definitely need whatever sun and warmth you can get during the long winter months. The office is pretty bright, full of lots of natural light. Also important to me and my general mood. The window looks out to this large, gorgeous, leafy tree that birds seem to really enjoy. I keep promising to research what kind of tree it is, because it's served me so well for the last four years. (Maybe that detail will make it into a future story!)

The desk is relatively clean. I don't work well with clutter. I have a notebook and a book or two stacked off to the side along with a plastic glass with pens—my fancy fountain pen I bought in Italy has its own separate stand—as well as a folder with notes and magazine pages I've torn out with pictures and articles for research, and my Blue Yeti microphone for my podcast. Oh, and there's also a photo of Idris Elba in a suit smiling right at me with this message I formatted on it ("I Forgive You").

Sometimes I would need a change of scenery or just to be around other people to observe and eavesdrop (yep.) on their random interactions. That's when I head to a café or coffeeshop to work. But I always look for a window seat where I can set up the "satellite office." A window is a must. And it needs to look out at something. Brick walls or gross, leaking air conditioning units do not count as something.

WOW: I agree, clutter is going to be the death of me (you can imagine with a family of 7...)

In Have You Met Nora?, I love Nora’s tenacity. In what ways are you and Nora similar? Tell us more about how this character and how the book came about?

Nicole: Nora is definitely tenacious. Because of certain spoiler-y circumstances and choices made by her and for her, she has created this ideal version of herself and living a life that she feels she deserves. And now she is faced with the question: How far are you willing to go to protect it?

In terms of my similarities with Nora, there are some basic things that we have in common: born and raised in Montrealer; Caribbean roots; attended an all-girls Catholic high school (though hers was a boarding school in Vermont, mine was not); and we're both strong-willed. But that's about it... thankfully! Her life is filled with much more drama and crazy twists and turns than mine will ever be, and I'm completely fine with that.

The idea for the story came where all my other ideas do: real life. I’ve always been deeply interested in identity, more specifically, how someone organizes their entire spirit around being something—a chef, an activist, a mother, a writer, a survivor. In so many instances, claiming that title involves a significant moment when it becomes undeniably clear how essential it (cooking, parenthood, writing, fighting injustice, etc.) is to who you are at your core and how you want the world to view you. For so many people that big moment involves stepping out of a comfort zone and putting faith in that identity, ready to defend it to anyone who questions or doubts it. It's that level of commitment to an identity and selfhood that intrigues me.

For this story, I wanted to go even deeper with this concept of identity and add race into the discussion. In Nora's case, this meant examining how someone could construct an identity rooted in a lie. And then, how far would they go to protect that identity, deception be damned! It's like fake it 'til you make Level 100.

WOW: Level 100 for sure! No one is ever quite who they seem to be.

What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for 2018 and beyond?

Nicole: Next for me is, I’m working on a new novel. I don’t like to let the steam of the pot while I’m cooking up something, so I’ll just say that it’s about a scientist, struggling to move through her broken life, who stumbles into investigating a mysterious illness that’s killing off the nation’s youth.

My writing goals for 2018 are the same as they always are every year: Keep writing. I take writing seriously; it's my vocation. And when I’m actively writing, I’m very focused on it. It's be said many times this past year, but it's so true: now more than ever, our stories--women's stories, Black stories, people of color and those historically pushed to the margins of the main narrative--are important and need to be told. It may sound a little corny, but I feel so honored to be part of this immense, important tradition of storytelling, and I want to keep at it for as long as I have a voice and something to say.

WOW: Like anything, we just have to keep going. Thank you for sharing your talent for storytelling.

Who has been most influential in your writing career and how so?

Nicole: There are two people whom I always thank for ignited my love of storytelling and writing. The first is my father, who is a fantastic, natural storyteller. The way he would have someone on the edge of their seat waiting to hear what happened next--all because of how he painted this picture with words--was thrilling and fascinating to me. The other person is my third grade teacher, Mr. Harry Polka. He was a big supporter of creative writing and seeing what these young minds dreamed up. He encouraged us to write down our stories and to do it everyday. And he showed such interest in what we were writing, too. It really set me up to believe that what I had to say was interesting and even important. I’ll always be grateful to him for that. And I keep saying that I will track the man down one day to thank him in person or at least by a handwritten note. I will, I will, I must!

WOW: Thank you again for sharing with our readers. I hope we will work together in the future on a book blog tour, but in the meantime just keep on telling those stories!

Dear Readers - pick up your copy today and be sure to stop back in a few weeks for more on Have You Met Nora?



Sioux Roslawski said...

Crystal--Thanks for doing this interview, and I'm sorry about the posting screw-up.

Nicole--At first I read it as you had a photo of Idris Elba in a SWIMsuit, and wondered where you got it (and how I could get one). Thankfully, for my rapidly beating heart, I reread it and calmed down... a bit.

I too enjoy hearing about where writers write.

And a teacher named Harry Polka? What a wonderful name for a teacher and a future character.

Good luck with your future writing.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Great interview, ladies!

Nicole ~ I loved hearing about your office, and your "satellite office" - that is so cute!

Oooh, interesting premise for your novel. I'm so intrigued.

You have a great work ethic, and I think it's so important to keep the momentum going. I agree with you about the importance of marginalized voices, and it's exciting to see things changing in the publishing industry with #ownvoices and other initiatives.

I agree with Sioux's comment--what a great name, Harry Polka. You should look him up!

Thanks for the interview, and I look forward to checking out your book. :)

Renee Roberson said...

Great interview, ladies! "Have You Met Nora" sounds fascinating (as does your WIP) and I look forward to reading your work, Nicole!

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