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Interview With Nicole O’Dell

Nicole O'Dell experienced her first literary success in elementary school. Now, through her Scenarios for Girls series of interactive books, she uses that same talent to address the many difficult choices of her young adult audience.

Nicole, what initially ignited your passion for teen girls and their parents?

Fear. Seriously. The pain of my own teen years had such a profound impact on me that I desperately wanted to help my own girls avoid some of that angst. Among many tools I've employed, I developed a dinner-table game I called Scenarios. I concoct a situation that puts my kids in a moral dilemma of some kind, and then give them multiple choice options so they can choose their path. We sort through all the options and discuss the consequences of their choices. It's different than just talking about issues because it makes them take some ownership for their decisions and feel the weight of the results. From that, my Scenarios for Girls book series and my speaking ministry were borne.

Reflecting back, what do you see as most significant to your publication journey?
Ignorance. I had no idea how difficult the process was supposed to be. I went into it blindly--figured I had something to say and if God wanted me to say it, He'd make a way. He did…big time!

I didn't sign with an agent. I didn't write my book first. I hadn't attended conferences. I'd never even heard of ACFW at that point. I just sat with The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting Published and followed its instructions for writing a query and a proposal. I sent it to a contact I had at Barbour Publishing and was offered a two-book contract for Truth or Dare and All that Glitters which released in 2009. It was totally and completely a God thing.

I think my cluelessness was a blessing because if I had known how bumpy the road to publication most often was, I might have tucked my tail between my legs and ran off.

What's your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Nineteen-month-old triplets. Need I say more?

In all honesty, I'm a nut when it comes to my schedule and my triplets aren't the problem. I know it. I admit it. I need professional help.

I'm in school--taking online courses. I lead the Jr/Sr-high youth group at my church. I have six children. I write, blog, review, critique, etc. My house is not clean. My family doesn't get four-course meals very often. My laundry isn't always ever folded.

But, somehow, everything that needs to get done does. We're happy. My kids are wonderful. I'm a blessed mom with a blossoming writing career--what more could I ask for?

Everything I write flows from a drive to tell a story that affects change in the reader. Most of the things that scream to come out of me are a result of mistakes I made in my own past that I want to help others avoid.

I see writing as a piece of the big puzzle. Speaking, counseling, blogging, media--whatever else God puts in my path--are all a part of that puzzle. Eventually, I'll get to see what the pieces look like when they're all put together. ☺

What do you consider the greatest moment of your writing/publishing career?
Wow. There are so many. Signing that first contract. Holding my first books in my hand. Reading letters from readers. Hearing my daughters say that my books are awesome. ☺ Signing with Chip MacGregor--that was definitely a validating event.

I think my favorite moments, though, are those times when readers have told me that they think differently about something or have committed to watch out for a potential trouble spot in their future because of my words. That's the reason I'm doing what I'm doing, and it compels me to keep going.

Who/What spurs you to write? Where do your story and character ideas come from?
I write best to a deadline. I like pressure and thrive under stress. In the cases when I don't have a deadline, I have to make one up and then try to forget it isn't real.

My ideas come from a lot of my own circumstances or those I've heard from teens I know. The point is to be relevant and to present situations that ring true to the reader.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
The unique aspect of the Scenarios for Girls books is that each one has a choice for the reader to make. She must choose between two alternate endings and create the path for the main character. It's a fun aspect to the books, but it also serves to make the story real to the reader. The goal is that she'll read the book before she finds herself in that particular situation, commit to a good decision, and then remember her commitment when real life presses in.

As far as my storytelling, I'll be honest, I'm a relatively new author. As I mentioned before, it's only been since 2007 that I've been looking to actually publish. I had no idea how much I didn't know until I got to the point of writing books three and four, Magna and Making Waves. Since that realization, I've been soaking up any kind of teaching or tip I can find. As a result, I think I'm finding my voice.

My latest complete manuscript, The Wishing Pearl, which is not yet contracted, is my "coming-of-age" novel, I think. I believe it will mark a turning point in my writing. We shall see. ☺

Finish this sentence. The one message teen girls need to hear above all others is…
It's all about choices.

It sounds simple, but it really is. Everything we do, even the seemingly unimportant things, is affected by some sort of outside influence. A choice between A and B is made when something pushes a person just a little harder in one direction than the other. My goal is to help tweens and teens figure out which influences to listen to, and to help them pre-determine their own decision rather than waiting until they're faced with peer pressure and temptations without any preparation.

Any parting words?
I love ACFW! I've learned so much from all of you. If you've read this far into my interview, I'm truly humbled that you'd take these minutes from your day to learn about what makes me tick. I hope to get to know so many more of you in the coming years. See you at conference!

Oh, if you have a teen, please send her over to my blog ( can come, too! On Mondays I write a message to parents. Tuesdays I post my popular Girl Talk series in which my two daughters and I answer reader's questions. Wednesdays are for writing-related posts. Thursdays and Fridays are devotionals, testimonies, fun stuff, etc.

Thanks for sharing with us, Nicole!
Thank you so much for having me. What an honor!

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