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FIVE QUESTIONS . . . with Nicole M. Wolverton

Welcome to FIVE QUESTIONS. In this feature on my blog, you'll learn about new and exciting books from the author's themselves. You'll hear about the book, their characters, the inspiration behind the book, and other insider details. All through five simple questions.

Today, we are hearing from Nicole Wolverton about her new novel A MISFORTUNE OF LAKE MONSTERS, available starting today.

What is your new book about?

A MISFORTUNE OF LAKE MONSTERS tells the story of a high school senior whose college plans are disrupted when her family selects her to take over their generations-long legacy of secretly impersonating their rural town's infamous lake monster--but when she discovers a very real and very deadly monster in the lake, the family secret must be broken so she can enlist her best friends to help save the town. Early reviewers are calling it Stranger Things-esque--simultaneously horror-y and thriller-y, with mystery and scifi elements, a big focus on friendships, and a bit nostalgic-feeling.

Of all the characters in your book, which one do you relate to the most, and why?


If forced to choose, I'd probably say Lemon, our lake monster impersonator in A MISFORTUNE OF LAKE MONSTERS. The thing I identify with her most is her absolute certainty that she wants to go to college to become a veterinarian--but that there are barriers to her becoming who she believes that she's destined to be. I was 100% that girl--I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that I wanted to go to college and be a writer of some sort, but I grew up in a fairly poor family, and no one had any money for me to go to college. I plowed ahead anyway thanks to financial aid (not nearly enough to cover the costs, which is why I didn't graduate with my bachelors until I was 40). As an aside, in a nod to practicality, I initially majored in journalism in college, thinking that would be something at which I could make a living. Who knew that journalism would become such a controversial profession, let alone print journalism dying, little by little? Anyway, Lemon and I do have ambition and that sense of conviction in common... and we also share a grandfather. I modeled Lemon's grandfather's diction and language usage entirely on my grandfather, who passed away about 20 years ago. My own Pappap was a very taciturn man, and when he did speak, he had a very particular cadence and accent to his words. In many ways, writing in my grandfather's voice was a bit of a challenge, but it was a fun challenge--that also made it seem like my grandfather was living in my head while I was writing Lemon's grandfather's scenes. For that reason, I could related to the relationship Lemon has with her grandfather--because in some ways, that was my relationship too (though not in the worst of ways!).

What was the inspiration behind the book?

I grew up in a small Pennsylvania town in northeast Pennsylvania--and there was a lake within view of my childhood house, so similar to the setting of A MISFORTUNE OF LAKE MONSTERS (albeit without the tourists and the lake monster lore). As a kid, my most hated chore was doing the dishes, and so I'd be standing at the sink, hands in the suds, staring out the window at the lake and letting my mind wander. I've always been a horror fan, and so of course my brain immediately went to all the creatures and monsters that might exist--especially the idea that something horrifying might be lurking below the surface of the water, including a Loch Ness Monster type of thing. It was a rural area without a lot of things to do... I had to make my own fun! Those ideas percolated for decades before I came up with a full plot involving my little lake!

What's the most interesting or unusual thing you learned while researching for this book?

As part of the research for A MISFORTUNE OF LAKE MONSTERS, I visited Loch Ness in Scotland! The lake near my childhood home is pretty small--it's a man-made reservoir rather than a real lake. Lake Lokakoma, the lake in my book, is massive, more like Loch Ness... and so I felt like it was important to get the feel of how the water moves on a humongous lake and what the ferry tours look like and how the trees reflect on the water and, well, all the ways that Loch Ness differs from my little lake. There's so much information available in the area about the history of the Loch Ness Monster and the theories about what the monster could be, whether it's people seeing logs in the water or more conspiracy theory-esque ideas. 2024 also saw a big resurgence in organized efforts to spot the Loch Ness Monster, which was super interesting. I also ended up learning as much as humanly possible about cryptids, particularly cryptids known to populate U.S. states. Pennsylvania does have its own lake monster, coincidentally--Raystown Ray! My favorite bizarro cryptid, though, is either the Loveland Frogman (a man-sized frog who hides until Loveland, Ohio bridges while brandishing a sparkly wand) or the Mongolian Death Worm (a fat, red, and very poisonous worm that gets to be about two feet long and travels underground in the Gobi desert--the Tremors movie series was inspired by it).

Lastly, I learned an awful lot of animal habitat and invasive species trivia. I would kill it on Jeopardy!

What was the biggest challenge (research, literary, psychological, and logistical) in bringing this book to life?

My answer to this question changes from week to week. Right now, I'd say writing a character in the book named Skeet. I find him completely irredeemable--he's a prime example of toxic masculinity. He is the kind of guy that is at the center of this whole social media discussion of women overwhelmingly choosing bear encounters over encounters with strange men--and the kind of guy who would complain about the women doing so. But no character is truly irredeemable, and so I took finding a way to make him even remotely sympathetic as my own personal challenge while writing the book. Making him sympathetic turned out to be a function of his family being so rotten that he never stood a chance of being a decent human being, so yeah, I mean, you have to dig a little, but it's possible to feel sorry for Skeet. Not a lot, of course.

A MISFORTUNE OF LAKE MONSTERS is available now, and can be purchased at the following retailers. - Supporting Local Bookstores


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