For many years Jane Nickerson and her family lived in a big old house in Aberdeen, Mississippi, where she was also the children’s librarian. She has always loved the South, “the olden days,” gothic tales, houses, kids, writing, and interesting villains. After five great years living in Ontario, Canada, Jane and her husband have returned to Aberdeen where they live in a lovely little old house that is a television star.
A Bit More
Jane is the youngest of five children. She attended kindergarten in three different states—Nevada, Utah, and California—and went on to high school and university in Utah. She married Ted Nickerson, whom she met at Brigham Young University. They lived for a short time in Oklahoma and Texas, before moving on to Aberdeen, Mississippi, where they raised their five fabulous, talented, and creative children, one born every two years for ten years. Living in small town Mississippi was like Coming Home. The Nickersons all loved the south. They bought a hundred-year-old, derelict house with twenty-three rooms, which they named “Tamarind,” because Jane liked the sound of that word. They spent eighteen years in that house, and still weren’t finished renovating it when they moved away.
Jane adores kids and her jobs usually involved them. She babysat, taught many a Sunday School class, taught pre-school, and was a children’s librarian. She sold her first stories to children’s magazines. She wrote a couple of juvenile fantasy novels (which she still thinks are very good, if she ever gets around to refurbishing them), while her kids were young, and submitted them to publishers and got lots of rejections (some of them hand-written, which was a good sign). Eventually she was too busy with her family, since her kids were a zillion times more important than writing, to try again for several years, except for some human interest articles, mainly featuring children, which she wrote for the local newspaper.
In 2009, she and her husband moved to Bradford, Ontario, Canada, where Jane could not get a regular job, so she began writing and submitting again. In 2013, they returned to Aberdeen, Mississippi and bought a home that had been featured on an HGTV program called "Hometown Renovation".
If You’re Actually Interested…
I had an exceptionally happy childhood…and teenagehood…and all the years since then.
My mother was a wonderful storyteller and poet. My siblings and I would lounge around in the dark while Mom spun her magic. Our favorites were the adventures of an elf named Rickety Rack who was banished from fairyland and rode on a blue jay.
I was a strange little girl. My family knew this, but I don’t think most other people did, since I was shy and didn’t let strangers know the odd things I was thinking. I have always made up stories, which I called my “thinks.” I made them up as I played Barbies and Troll dolls, as I roller-skated, swung at the park, as I explored The Creek near my home, and most of all, as I bounced a ball against the garage door. In fact, my constant ball-bouncing was so annoying to my siblings that they would hide the ball and Mom would have to buy me more balls, because I really HAD to keep my hands moving while my brain was brewing stories.
Way back when I was little, my made-up stories were often spin-offs of the books I liked, taking place in a particular world, enhancing a lesser character or changing things around in a way I found more satisfying. My first book, written at age eight, featured a witch’s broom named Ben Ortho. The nice thing about this main character was that he was easy to draw, since I also illustrated my early books. My second book, written soon after, was called "This is Emily", and was about a pioneer girl. My siblings got ahold of Emily and teased me unmercifully about it, so I learned to write secretly.
I continued to write in high school, although I learned to be less shy and act a little more normal, realizing that there was a time and a place for being lost to the real world. I filled file boxes with my short stories and my beginnings of books. These stories often had interesting houses as the setting, and I would draw up the houses’ floorplans as well. Off and on teachers noticed that I could write. I won a few contests and edited the school literary magazine. One teacher asked, “Did you REALLY write this yourself?” in an accusatory tone. It was flattering that he thought I must have copied it from somewhere.
My hobbies and interests lend themselves to writing. Reading and daydreaming and people-watching and word-loving are all very helpful.
I read A LOT—mostly fantasy and historical and Gothic romance/mystery—and when I can’t find a book that lends the right mood at a particular time, I’ll dash off a short story to catch that mood.
Nowadays I do my thinking as I mow the grass, shovel the snow, drive, soak in long baths, explore the nearby wilds, and drift off to sleep.
My husband finds me very nosey. I’ve always been interested in people, watching them, listening to snatches of strangers’ conversations, and imagining backstories for them. To misquote Gracie Allen, “People are more interesting than anyone.” I have great fun making imaginary characters be who I want them to be and do what I want them to do.
And words—I love words. “Wax” and “lapis-lazuli” are some I find especially satisfying. It’s so pleasing to find the exact right word to create an atmosphere or emotion.
I submitted my first story to a magazine back in the nineties, after I had been reading a story to one of my kids from a magazine at the pediatrician’s office. When I finished it, I thought, That was really bad, and then I scolded myself, because I wasn’t allowed to judge anything if I’d never been published myself. And so I decided I had to try.
I got lots of rejections, but also quite a few acceptances. Something kept driving me to send my babies out to be judged and possibly found lacking, in spite of my natural shyness. Those rejections hurt, but the acceptances and the little bits of money I was paid helped to validate my writing. I couldn’t actually be bad at it if people were willing to pay for it.
I chose to stop writing for several years when I realized that my kids were suffering because of it. I would be lost in my tale-weaving and I would realize that one of them had been trying to talk to me for several minutes and I had been ignoring them.
When I took up my pen (or rather keyboard) again, I realized that times had changed and that if I wanted a novel published, I really had to convince an agent to take me on, which was not easy. Eventually Wendy Schmalz liked STRANDS OF BRONZE AND GOLD enough to represent me. There were still lots of rejections from publishers as she sent it out, but at last! At last! Knopf accepted it and wonderful Allison Wortsche, who seems to be a kindred spirit, became my editor.
My lifelong dream came true.
See what people are saying about Jane's work at her Facebook site.