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Friday, June 27, 2008

Spotlight on Nicole Baart and Summer Snow


Nicole Baart was born and raised in Iowa, where she and her family now live. She taught high school English for several years in Canada but is now the full-time mother of two young sons and the wife of a pastor. After the Leaves Fall and its sequel, Summer Snow, are Nicole's first two novels. Visit her Web site at

by Nicole Baart
Published by Tyndale House Publishers


Julia DeSmit is finally learning to accept her new life. Optimistic and anxious to begin again after dropping out of college, she is taking fumbling steps down a challenging yet hope-filled road. But the careful existence Julia has begun to build falls hopelessly to pieces when her estranged mother, Janice, appears on the front porch one icy March night. Mother and daughter have not seen or talked in ten years, and a decade of anger, resentment, and bitterness follows in Janice's wake, along with a surprise Julia could never have anticipated. Julia is convinced that which is broken cannot be mended. Yet when she faces the very decision her mother did years before, she begins to realize what it means to truly accept grace. Will it be her undoing, or the impetus for a change she'd never dared hope for?

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1. What gave you the inspiration for this book?

Summer Snow is the sequel to my debut novel After the Leaves Fall. The concept for these books grew out of a personal writing exercise that I thought was for therapeutic purposes only. I don't journal, but I do write poems, scenes and stories to deal with and deconstruct different events and emotions in my life. Leaves and Snow were written from a graveyard scene that I had created to help me deal with the death of my grandfather. My grandpa and I were very close, and he passed away in Iowa when I was nine months pregnant and living in Vancouver, British Columbia. I couldn't travel home for his funeral because I was due any day, and since I never got to experience that closure I struggled with his death for several months. One day I just sat down and wrote the scene from an October funeral. It became the first chapter of After the Leaves Fall.

2. How much of your own experiences influenced your characters? What aspects became traits that are theirs and theirs alone?

Julia is the main character in my first two books. She lives in a small town in Iowa, and many of her experiences with the culture and climate of Midwestern America are derived from my own life. However, Julia and I are more different than we are alike. In many ways she is my alter ego, the woman that I could have been if the Lord had seen fit to shape my life differently. Julia has had an extremely difficult childhood while the Lord has blessed me with two loving parents and a supportive network of other family and friends.J ulia is in many ways jaded and somewhat cynical while I am known for my relentless optimism and inability to see the worst in people. Julia has made some really poor choices in her life and has to live with the consequences... Hmmm. I wish I could say I've never made a mistake but that just wouldn't be true! I guess we're alike in that regard.

3. What themes exist in Summer Snow that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?

In the first few pages of After the Leaves Fall, Julia's grandmother tells her: "I love it best when the leaves fall...because it's not over, everything is just waiting for spring." Both books deal with the theme of renewal, of anticipating the restoration of spring in both a literal and a figurative way. I've included many references to the changing of the seasons and the way the Lord works through the different stages in our own lives. Summer Snow is the completion of the metaphor, the story of the subtle changes that begin to indicate growth in Julia.

Another major theme is forgiveness, both for other people and for ourselves. Sometimes I think we are our own harshest critics, and all the anger that we have directed at other people is really bitterness that we are trying to deflect from ourselves. Julia is an angry young woman in many ways, but sadly, much of her resentment is a form of self-loathing.

4. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?

The most difficult parts for me to write were the portions of the book that dealt with Julia's anger toward her mother. My mom is a wonderful woman who has done nothing but love and support me from the day I was born. It was hard for me to imagine what it must feel like to have never felt that sort of love from the woman who gave birth to you. And it was emotional for me to realize that many women do feel that way: unloved and abandoned. I cried with Julia many times.

My favorite parts to write were the many scenes of hope... In one chapter Julia is leaving her job late at night and the moon is dangling in the sky like a jewel, in another she spends some time in the garden with her grandmother. But the absolute best scene to write was the chapter from which the title is derived. When I was in high school and college, I was a lifeguard at the local sand pit. In the afternoon, before the swimming pit was open to the public, I'd arrive early to set everything up. The best few days of summer were when the cottonwoods around the pond were shedding their fluff. I loved to swim out into the middle all by myself and float there on my back amid the frenzy of white. It looked just like summer snow to me and I had a blast recapturing that memory for the book.

5. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?

My next book is set for release in the spring of 2009. The story is multi-layered and complex, filled with surprises. I really enjoyed writing this book, but it was very difficult, too, because in it I wrestle with some very weighty issues. Suicide, mental illness, and revenge all play a major role in the plot. Also, as I was nearing the end of the book, some circumstances in my life began to mirror a few of the things I was struggling through in my manuscript. All of the sudden these abstract emotions were very raw and very close to home. I almost couldn't finish. But I'm glad that I did and I look forward to discussing this new book in depth in the months to come.

But that's all pretty theoretical. Just so you know what the book is about, I'll include a quick synopsis:

Abigail Bennett's life is unraveling. She has just abandoned her job, her swanky south Florida apartment, her elderly father, everything to chase down the object of her obsession. He's a total stranger and an alleged heartbreaker. His name is Tyler Kamp.

Abigail's journey is awash in memories of her childhood, for even as she races into her future, her past continually pulls her back. Though she tries to ignore each painful recollection of her younger days--a time filled with strict religious rules and regulations, and peppered with the errors and expectations of her aging parents--Abigail's youth cannot be ignored. And at the center of it all is Abigail's relationship with her younger sister, Hailey. Hailey is indefinably needy and strangely toxic, dangerously beautiful and frighteningly volatile. Abigail finds herself continually replaying her past, desperate for clues and longing for a chance to atone for long-ago mistakes.

Past and present finally collide when Abigail's obsession forces her to chase Tyler from Florida all the way across the continent to British Columbia's fabled Summerlands. Torn between grace and condemnation, redemption and revenge, Abigail faces the implications of living a less than perfect life. And though she is convinced that everything is black or white, obsession, and ultimately justice, prove to be much more complicated than Abigail first imagined.

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Wow! That sounds like a book with some meaty content. Looking forward to seeing it in 2009! Thank you, Nicole, for being in the spotlight with us.

Readers, leave a comment for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of Summer Snow.

If you wish to comment but don't want to be entered, say so when you post. Make sure you also leave your email address (name at domainname or that it's available for viewing in your blogger profile. Wouldn't want you to miss out on winning a book. :)

And if you want to make certain you don't miss anything, check the box that says 'email follow-up comments to:' when you leave a comment and they'll be sent to the email address associated with your blogging account. That way you'll be notified of any comments and will know when I announce the winner.

This week, the contest is open to US/Canada residents only.

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Carole said...

I enjoyed the interview with Nicole, and would love to read her book. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy.

cjarvis [at] bellsouth [dot] net

windycindy said...

Hello, I have been reading about this book. The cover of the book really strikes me for some reason. I enjoy reading books that deal with female relationships like friends, mother/daughter and sisters. Please enter me in your book drawing. Many
thanks, Cindi

tetewa said...

Sounds like another good one!

cpullum said...

Another exciting book on your blog the story almost fits my life.
Love to read it!!

Grateful Gramma said...

I'd love to read this one. Please enter my name in the drawing. Thanks!

kamewh said...

I enjoyed the interview and would love to read the book!

2twins said...

This looks like a fascinating story, I would love to read this

Carolynn said...

Please enter me, I can't wait to read this book!

Pamela J said...

How true it is, to see someone strike out in anger and the root is them deflecting the bitterness through anger from themselves. I'd love to read this book, please enter me. Thanks.
cepjwms at yahoo dot com

Nicole Baart said...

Thank you so much for hosting this interview and giveaway, Amber!


Anonymous said...

I appreciate the interview. I only read 3-4 books a year, and this one has just made my list. Thanks!

Cheryl said...

I would love a chance to win this book. It sounds great! My email address is shryackmom[@]charter[.]net

Tiffany Amber Stockton said...

We have a winner for this drawing and that is:


Congratulations! I've emailed you for your mailing information so Debbie can send out your book.

Another winner on Debbie Fuller Thomas' interview. Three more winners coming on Friday. Stay tuned!

Thanks for your continued support.