‘Dear Martin’ is one of those books that make you stop. Stop and think. Stop and plan. Stop and …hope. It’s also the kind of book that makes you forget that you’re reading a book, not just because the words leap off the page, but because they feel real – as scary as that is.
This is the world we live in, the world Nic Stone tries to make sense of in this book. And, in the end, it’s not even about whether she managed it or not, it’s only about the fac that she tried.
We had a chance to speak to Nic Stone about her book and about the things she fangirls about, and here’s that interview for you. We’re pretty sure that, when you’re done reading it, you’ll be as excited for this book as we are for you to read it.
The book clearly reflects a reality that has become more and more pronounced – or public – in the last few years. Did you always want to write a book like this or did you just feel like you needed to?
This book definitely came out of a desperation, I would say, to get a better handle on the world around me when it seemed to be falling apart. I spent the bulk of my adolescence in a super diverse environment, and the first twenty-four years of my life with a police officer for a father, so while I *knew* in the back of my mind that racism was still an issue in this country, the idea of unarmed black kids being killed for basically no reason shook all my paradigms apart—especially when the killers were cops.
For one, it forced me to sift through my own experiences and actually acknowledge some of the inherent racism I faced as a teen (like the test score scene in the book? Really happened to me senior year.). And for another: I have two little African American boys that I grew inside my own body (#WomanPower), and it was jarring to realize I’ll one day have to prepare them for interactions with cops, something I hoped I would never have to do because “The world will be different when they grow up,” right? Frankly, I’m not so sure.
What’s your favorite thing about “Dear Martin”?
IT’S SHORT! Which was hella hard to pull off, let me tell ya. I also really love the formatting: prose to letters to sections in pure dialogue to newspaper articles and news transcripts… Keeps things interesting. I hope.
Alternatively, which scene was the hardest to write? Was it emotional to be telling the story when there’s so much you’re saying that reflects real life?
**Deliberately vague response** The one scene in the church where, for the first time in the novel, everyone’s on the same page. I sobbed through the whole thing, and to this day can’t actually read it. And yes, writing this entire book was basically the worst. Because of deadlines, I had to do the research while I was drafting, so I spent eight solid weeks either sobbing or raging. It was rough.
What’s the message you want to send with the book and who are you sending the message to?
Hmmm… “message” is a strong word. The book definitely doesn’t have a specific one. I will say that my intention in writing it was to get people thinking and talking about race. I wanted readers of color to know that they are not imagining things when certain comments from white people feel *off*, and I wanted white readers to have a safe space to really check their biases. Hopefully it worked!
Who are your role models? Who do you read to inspire you?
Surprise, surprise, but Dr. King is really and truly a role model for me, largely due to his mastery of rhetoric and the way he used logic almost like a weapon. Anyone who reads or listens to his speeches or sermons can clearly see that he was a brilliant orator, but if one were to really think about some of the stuff he said? Man. Like there’s this one sermon—The Drum Major Instinct. In it, he talks about the human compulsion to be first, best, most highly respected and valued, that type of thing, and he points out how not having a rein on that compulsion can lead to use harming one another for the sake of either achieving or maintaining that “Drum Major” position. It’s so simple, and yet so profound simultaneously
What’s the plan after this? What does Nic Stone write after Dear Martin?
**in super serious guru voice*** All shall be made known in time, grasshoppah. (**Cough** What I’m allowed to say: the next thing—which will be out next fall, perhaps in October maybe, but you didn’t hear that from me, ahem—is very different from this first thing… and yet not at the same time. It’s really the book I wish I’d had as a teen when I was trying to figure out who it was okay to love. And there’s a decent amount of kissing, euphemistically speaking.)
What book are you looking forward to reading? What movie adaptation of a book are you looking forward to seeing?
Aww man, there is a LIST, my friends. I think at the top issssss… SING UNBURIED SING by Jesmyn Ward, followed very closely by THE POET X, a verse novel from slam poet extraordinaire Elizabeth Acevedo, due out next spring. And I cannot even wait to see both SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA and THE HATE U GIVE on screen. They’re both going to be lit. I can tell.
What do you fangirl over?
Harry Potter definitely (yes, I am a cliche and totally fine with it, thank you very much). Also Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty (I mean, have you seen her?), Mr. Robot/Rami Malek (who will be playing Freddie Mercury in an upcoming Queen film? Like what even is this heaven I’m living in?!), and the one and only Jesse Andrews (no you have a massive author crush, not me).
Didn’t we tell you? When just reading about the author is this fun, imagine reading about the book!
Dear Martin, published by Crown Books for Young Readers, will be available October 17th 2017.