Q&A With Nina Simon
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Q&A With Nina Simon
In the past Nina Simon was an electrical engineering student by day and a slam poet by night and after a brief stint at NASA she eventually became a museum curator. For 13 years Nina Simon wrote for the blog Museum 2.0 and has written two non-fiction books The Participatory Museum, & The Art Of Relevance. Recently Nina released her first murder mystery novel that I want to read titled Mother Daughter Murder Night. Mother Daughter Murder Night is also Reese Witherspoon’s book club pick! How impressive is that?
Q: Nina I read the bio part of your website where you spoke about your mother getting advanced cancer and during that time the two of you came up with the idea for your characters for Mother Daughter Murder Night. While you wrote the story, she read. What was it like having your mother read your work and giving you constructive feedback for the book?
A: It was wonderful. My mom and I have always been close, and writing Mother-Daughter Murder Night brought us closer.
I wrote this book as a love letter to my mother, as a way to connect with her during a stage 4 cancer diagnosis. In the earliest stages, it wasn’t a book at all: it was a story my mom and I could escape into, to distract ourselves from the stress and struggle of her illness. We based the three women at the heart of the story loosely on our own family, and we’d sit for hours in hospital waiting rooms dreaming up their personalities and how they’d react to different scenarios. It was only after I really “knew” these women that I started writing their story down.
I tried to make every scene one that would make my mom smile. She’d sleep through the mornings while I sat on her bed, writing. When she woke, I’d hand her a cup of tea and a draft chapter to read. And then we’d talk. We kept going like that–me writing, her reading, and stacks of marked-up drafts accumulating— until the first draft was done.
Q: You said in your bio you always wanted to write. You wrote for the blog Museum 2.0. Would you say your experiences blogging and being an engineering student, your brief stint at NASA & being a museum curator also helped with you fiction writing?
A: Absolutely. Writing has always been part of my life, but this is the first time I’m making it my primary focus. Reading and writing poetry as a college student taught me about the power of word choice. Writing blog posts and museum exhibit labels taught me to pack big stories into small packages. And all of this writing helped me build confidence that I could write a novel… even if I didn’t entirely know what I was doing.
Q: What was it like writing for the museum blog, having your brief stint at NASA and studying engineering? All of it sounds so exciting!
A: Mother-Daughter Murder Night is my first novel but my fifth career. I love the challenges and learning that comes with embarking on something new. I feel grateful to have had so many different life experiences to draw from in my storytelling, and I hope to write more novels featuring strong women tackling tough problems for many years to come.
Q: What is it like having Reese Witherspoon choose your book for her book club? I also hear Reese is a sweetheart.
A: It was an incredible gift. Reese Witherspoon and the entire Reese’s Book Club team bring so much joy and heart to their celebration of women-centered storytelling. As soon as I heard the news, I knew it meant that Mother-Daughter Murder Night would have the opportunity to reach many diverse readers all over the world. Of course, the very first person I told (and swore to secrecy!) was my mother.
Q: What was it like transitioning from writing for a blog and two non-fiction books to writing your very first mystery novel?
A: While I’ve been writing for a long time, I’m new to writing fiction. I’m a voracious learner. When I learn a new tidbit from a craft book or podcast, I want to absorb and use that lesson in my work. When someone gives me feedback, I want to act on it right away. I want to keep growing as a writer, and I cultivate coaches, critics, cheerleaders, and my own drive to achieve that.
I’ve always been an avid reader, and that went into turbo mode as I was writing this book. I spent a lot of time dissecting my favorite mysteries, trying to figure out exactly how Louise Penny couples warmth with murder, how Tana French lays down clues, how Mick Herron judiciously drops perfect images, how Attica Locke incorporates bigger political themes, how Dennis LeHane nails interiority, how Jesse Q. Sutanto makes me laugh. I also reread old favorites like Walter Mosley, Janet Evanovich, Don Winslow, and Faye Kellerman, studying how they built well-balanced, energetic crime stories. I still have so much to learn from these writers—and many more—and it started with close reads of their texts.
Q: Would you please tell us a little bit about the plot of Mother Daughter Murder Night?
A: Mother-Daughter Murder Night is a big-hearted mystery about three generations of women—a grandma, single mom, and teenage girl—who work together to solve the murder of a naturalist who washes up on their doorstep in coastal California. It’s both a traditional mystery and a lighthearted family story, balancing twists and turns of the investigation with the growing love between the three very different, independent women.
Q: Does Hollywood have the rights to Mother Daughter Murder Night? Who would be your ideal cast for your characters? Hollywood needs original content again.
A: Yes, the book was optioned by Kapital Entertainment, and now that the writer’s strike is over, I am very excited for their work to move forward! The path from book to screen is a longshot, but I’m honored that these producers really connected with the heart at the center of this story, and I’m excited to see how I can support them in their work.
I don’t really have an ideal cast, but I’m taking nominations from readers! My one dream casting would be Sandra Bullock for the fierce, young grandma, Lana. I see Sandra Bullock as a brilliant actor who combines physical comedy, sexiness, power, and strength—all of which are present in Lana Rubicon’s character.
Q: If you are currently writing your next mystery book, would you like to reveal the plot of the next book or is it too early to say?
A: Right now, I’m focused on sharing Mother-Daughter Murder Night and connecting with people around it. It is a true joy to receive the gift of so many readers’ enthusiasm for this story. But I am definitely looking forward to writing more novels, and I’m in the early stages of planning more stories featuring teams of strong women tackling tough situations—solving crimes, preventing crimes, maybe even committing one or two!