I am so psyched to welcome the delightful Nicole Melleby to the site today to talk a little bit about the inspiration for her Middle Grade debut, Hurricane Season, which releases today from Algonquin Young Readers! Before she begins, here’s a little more about the book:
Fig, a sixth grader, wants more than anything to see the world as her father does. The once-renowned pianist, who hasn’t composed a song in years and has unpredictable good and bad days, is something of a mystery to Fig. Though she’s a science and math nerd, she tries taking an art class just to be closer to him, to experience life the way an artist does. But then Fig’s dad shows up at school, disoriented and desperately searching for Fig. Not only has the class not brought Fig closer to understanding him, it has brought social services to their door.
Diving into books about Van Gogh to understand the madness of artists, calling on her best friend for advice, and turning to a new neighbor for support, Fig continues to try everything she can think of to understand her father, to save him from himself, and to find space in her life to discover who she is even as the walls are falling down around her.
Nicole Melleby’s Hurricane Season is a stunning novel about a girl struggling to be a kid as pressing adult concerns weigh on her. It’s also about taking risks and facing danger, about love and art, and about coming of age and coming out. And more than anything else, it is a story of the healing power of love—and the limits of that power.
And here’s the post! Take it away, Nicole!
Last summer, my dad called up their cable service after he had been yelling all day about the Weather Channel not being part of their package anymore to yell some more.
My dad loves the Weather Channel.
For the Christmas after Hurricane Sandy, my brother and I put together a “Hurricane Survival Box” that included cans of soaps, extra batteries, flashlights, and other necessities.
He loved it. He also loved the little portable weather station I gave him for Father’s Day last year. It sits in the living room near the window, and he checks it every morning to see what the temperature is, how fast the wind speeds are.
My dad, for reasons we never quite figured out, loves the weather, and he especially loves Hurricanes.
My parents’ house had the best basement when I was growing up. It was finished with carpet and couches, had a bar (not stocked, but that didn’t ruin the novelty) and a TV and a fooseball table. It also was pretty sound proof, so that’s where we spent most of our weekends in high school.
My dad was the parent who, while he respected our privacy, would always poke his head into the basement, “You guys good down there? You need anything?”
A friend of mine once joked, “What would your dad do if I asked for something ridiculous? Like a pie?”
Well, he probably would have asked what kind of pie and then gone out to get it.
I grew up in a suburban New Jersey beach town and went to Catholic school and being gay wasn’t something I even had the words to explore, let alone the freedom to. I was in my twenties by the time I was able to come out to myself. I came out to my parents much later.
For me, when I finally came out to my parents, it wasn’t a choice. It was a necessity. I was suffocating in having to hide this part of my life (this huge part of my life—I was seeing someone, and I was neck deep in an MFA program where all my writing was LGBTQ focused) and it reached a point where I didn’t think I could go on much longer in the closet.
It was a Tuesday I finally did it.
I was living at home with my parents still, and both of them were working. I woke up, got dressed, packed a bag, left a handwritten letter (in which I rambled so much I ended up talking about Caitlyn Jenner, because my mom is a Kardashian fan and I thought it would help) and got the heck out of there.
I drove to a friend’s place who lived an hour and a half away. They bought me ice cream and beer.
My mom called later that day. I ignored the call. (And then immediately called back because I knew I had to.) For her part, it was complicated, but she loved me. It took some time, but we’re okay.
As for my dad, I received these texts:
When I sat down to write Hurricane Season, the one thing I knew going in was that I wanted to capture the feeling that I had reading that text for a middle grade audience. I wanted to have the heart of the story be about a father and daughter, and when the daughter came out to her dad, I wanted it to be a non-issue. He loves her, full stop.
I wrote the entire book around that moment, that feeling.
So, thank you, Dad. For those text messages, and for all of it.
Nicole Melleby is a born-and-bred Jersey girl with a passion for storytelling. She studied creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and currently teaches creative writing and literature courses with a handful of local universities. When she’s not writing, she can be found browsing the shelves at her local comic shop or watching soap operas with a cup of tea. HURRICANE SEASON (Algonquin Young Readers) is her debut novel.