Guest Post: Nikki Trionfo, on Shatter and Her Life as an Author

Nikki Trionfo, author of Shatter, provides answers to some questions about her book and her writing life.

Q: What was your favorite part of writing Shatter?

A: To be honest, I’m going to have to say that learning about my own prejudices was my favorite part. I won’t give away too much to avoid spoilers, but I will say one of the characters was originally supposed to be a villain. About a quarter of the way into the book, I ached for him the way I had ached for my trouble students as a teacher. I felt like I understood why he made so many bad choices. I realized that as author I had written a plot that didn’t allow him to ever make positive changes in his life. I believe in positive change. So I tweaked the premise of the book and rewrote a lot. A lot. But it was worth it. I hope real teens know they have a chance to change if they fight for it.

Q: What actress who you pick to play Salem?

A: If we could go back in time, a young Kristen Bell! She played Veronica in Veronica Mars, which inspired Shatter.  These days, maybe Sabrina Carpenter. My 10-year-old loves her. 

Q: What would you tell other writers?

I’m in love with the idea of a writing bucket-list these days, not just because other cool people are doing it but because of an aspect of writing that’s difficult for nearly everyone.  Eternal . . .

. . . Waiting

For almost ten years I wanted to be an author. I wrote and wrote for six years. I finished a second manuscript and loved it. I was proud. Today, four years later, it’s debuting. That’s a lot of waiting! Waiting messed with my head. Definitions also messed with my head. In many ways, I was just as accomplished a writer then as I was now, but wasn’t an author. For four years.

Becoming an author is not like becoming an NBA player. With NBA dreams, by the time you’re twenty-five, you have what’s known as an ANSWER. You are either 1) a professional NBA player, or 2) mourning your no and moving on.

Writers, on the other hand, have no idea what an ANSWER is because we are told never to move on in the face of a no. Did you get rejected by fifty-six agents? Query fifty-six more. Besides, thirty-four of the agents you queried haven’t responded, so technically they could still say yes. GO CHECK YOUR EMAIL NOW!!

It was like breaking the space-time continuum. The time-loop scenario was so embedded into the process of writing that sometimes, even when I made progress, I couldn’t see it. I jumped directly from trying to get a manuscript written to trying to score an agent to trying to get a contract with no sense of accomplishment.

That’s where a writing bucket-list came in and saved me.

I jotted down a whole bunch of things I dreamed of doing, and celebrated when I accomplished them even though Taylor Swift has still never written a song about the main character of Shatter. I did this long before I got any publication contract. I framed the award certificate of a small writing contest. I splurged on $15 worth of business cards—color business cards. The real deal. I volunteered to teach teenagers about writing even though I wasn’t a “real author.” My friends were already doing cool stuff like this. Heather Clark had a bumper sticker that simply read “Writer.” Eric James Stone got more specific with his personalized license plate: SFWRTR.

You might be like me. You might have all sorts of writing bucket-list items that don’t require achievements like being published or being a best-seller. Don’t fall into the time-loop and lose out on them. Write them down. Do them. Celebrate them. The silly ones. The little ones. The big ones. And I’m not going to limit your imagination by listing sixty things below. This is about what you want. To get the ball rolling, however, I do plan to tweet a few of my items each Tuesday for the next month. Feel free to join in. I’ll use #WritingBL since #WritingBucketList is so long.

There. Did you see that? I just accomplished my Writing Bucket List Item Number 43: “publicly declare a new writing-oriented hashtag.”

Try it yourself. It feels amazing!

Book Review of Shatter by Nikki Trionfo: an Intense Mystery

I don’t often read mysteries, per se, but I was recently given the opportunity to review the soon-to-be-published Shatter by Nikki Trionfo, a mystery of the best sort by an author of my acquaintance. In my life as a writer, I have the opportunity to meet and learn from many authors and read many of their books. Nikki is one of those authors. Shatter, her debut novel, is set in contemporary California and follows one teenage girl’s quest to get to the bottom of her sister’s recent, supposedly-accidental death. Its pacing is superb, its plot is as twisty and straight as a french braid, and its writing is prosaic but tight, all of which make of a deliciously suspenseful and intense read.

For me to like a book, especially a mystery, it is essential that there is a good “hook”–meaning a strong “whodunit” question posed at the very beginning–quickly followed by a steady, brisk accumulation of clues, red herrings, and well-structured chapters. I don’t like mysteries that spend all their time meandering toward an ending that is simply pulled out of nowhere, like Forever Odd by Dean Koontz, in my opinion.  I like stories that neither insult me with their simplicity, nor confuse me with their pretentious overcomplicatedness. Shatter‘s plot steps briskly from hook to observation to next clue to twist throughout, which is awesome. The teenage girl main character Salem Jefferson unexpectedly finds herself in the middle of a fight between peach growers (one of whom is her father), the union representatives that fight for the interests of the migrant workers that the growers hire, and the hispanic gangs that feed on the desperation of those migrant workers. This unique premise is refreshing, and the fact that she dovetails it into Salem’s class assignment to debate the lingering conspiracy theories surrounding President John F. Kennedy’s assassination is masterful.

And, oh, the twists! They are so amazingly unpredictable-but-completely-slap-your-forehead-foreseeable, and they all weave smartly toward an ending that is truly an expected surprise. Brilliant, Nikki. Just brilliant. Along the way, Nikki provides not just one red herring, but several, which is not easy to do. And all of them seem feasible. Throughout, her writing is prosaic but tight, delivered in a kind of in-your-face present tense that hikes the tension from page one.  Take this example:

“I searched news sites this morning and learned his sister was expected to live. I was blissful at the news. Jealous. Carrie didn’t live. The little girl did live–a drop of innocence in gang-infested waters.”

I give Shatter a solid 9.5 out of 10 stars. The only things that keep me from giving it the full 10 are the fact that I never really felt like I had a good picture in my mind of what most of the characters looked like, which isn’t a crucial element, but still one I enjoy. Also, there were a few typos in my advanced reader copy, which was a tiny bit distracting to my always-editing mind. Other than that, it was an excellent read.

Nikki was gracious enough to provide this guest post with a “behind the scenes” look at Shatter, and some thoughts on her writing process. She’s hosting a plethora of book launch giveaways and festivities that will coincide with the book’s release on May 9th.

For a chance to win a $30 Amazon gift card:

  • comment on this post and tell me what most makes you want to read the book and/or enter the Inspired by Shatter contest
  • Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For a chance to Win a Copy of the Book, Plus…

To enter to win a raffle for a copy of the book, plus one given to the middle or high school of your choice, or $50, go to http://www.nikkitrionfo.com/InspiredbyShatter/. Basically, Inspired by Shatter is a social media campaign to get the word out about the book. To participate, people make a Facebook or Instagram post with the theme Inspired by Shatter using the hashtags #ShattertheBook and #DanceOffMay19.