Thursday, September 20, 2018

Nancy Richardson Fischer Author Interview

Photo Content from Nancy Richardson Fischer

I was born on the east coast and went to Cornell University. After college I worked as a writer for Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus. It was a fun first job and I learned how to write quickly, and also that when elephants sneeze on you it's very (VERY) messy. After a year in the circus, I moved out west. I lived in Aspen, Colorado where I skied as much as possible and worked as a waitress in a Mexican restaurant. Great experience but I learned that waitressing is hard (HARD) and I'm not very good at it.

After Aspen, I moved to San Francisco, California where I worked as a writer for University of California, San Francisco and wrote freelance for LucasFilm. At UCSF I learned that sitting in a cubicle under fluorescent lights dulls my soul. LucasFilm taught me that writing freelance, especially fiction, is fun (FUN). So I headed to graduate school in Boulder, Colorado to further hone my skills.

For the first part of my freelance writing career I wrote sport autobiographies. I'd visit and travel with an athlete like Monica Seles, Bela Karolyi, Nadia Comaneci or Apolo Ohno and then write their book. It was a terrific job, but after ten years and tons of incredible experiences I got tired of writing other peoples' stories and not my own.

Today I live in the Pacific Northwest with my amazing husband, Henry, and our mostly loveable (but sometimes vorpal) Vizsla, Boone. When I'm not conjuring a story, I love to kite-board, bike, ski or plan adventures with Boone and Henry, who both make me laugh for different reasons and who are the best partners in fun a gal could ever imagine.


Age Range: 12 - 18 years
Grade Level: 7 - 9
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Harlequin Teen; Original edition (September 4, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1335012362
ISBN-13: 978-1335012364


"Nancy Richardson Fischer has managed to combine so many important topics-family, mental illness, extinction, animal welfare, and adolescence-into an accessible, moving and extraordinary story." ―Ellen C. O'Connell, Executive Vice President, Global, Space for Giants

"This book was an absolute pleasure to read. I encourage everyone to read this inspirational book and discuss mental illness and tolerance and the need to improve wildlife protection." ―Katie Rowe, Pritzker Genius Award nominee, Co-founder Reteti Elephant Sanctuary

"This moving coming-of-age adventure story is a captivating page-turner that crescendos to a valiant and surprisingly delightful conclusion filled with hope for both humans and elephants." ―Patricia Sims, Filmmaker, When Elephants Were Young. Founder, World Elephant Day

"When Elephants Fly is a compelling read, beautifully threading the complex relationship between mothers and daughters, mental illness and elephants." ―National Book Award finalist Carrie Arcos

"Not only does this book show the reader the perils of keeping elephants in zoos and having them perform in circuses, it does it with heart, grace, and imagination." ―Nina Berry, author of The Notorious Pagan Jones and the Otherkin series

"Unlike anything I've read before in YA, When Elephants Fly is both a fascinating adventure and a stirring coming-of-age novel. There are few clear heroes or villains, and no easy answers for Lily as she moves into an uncertain future. The bond between elephant and girl is deftly wrought-reminiscent of Alec and the Black in Walter Farley's classic, The Black Stallion, but for an older, contemporary audience." ―Sara Zarr, author of Gem & Dixie

Where were you born and where do you call home?
I was born on the East Coast but home is the Pacific Northwest. It’s super rainy in the winter but as the saying goes: There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to have a life in writing?
I always wanted to be a writer, but in college everyone told me to find a major that would lead to a safe job, like advertising or event planning. Nothing wrong with either of those, but they weren’t my passion. Life is too short to spend one minute not following your dreams. Whatever your passion, pursue it. If it’s writing then put your butt in that chair (for hours, days, months, years … with breaks of course;-) and don’t give up until you make your dreams happen!

What were your inspirations for the character development?
The inspirations for the characters in When Elephants Fly came from personal experiences. 

I have a good friend, Bea, whose mother has a mental health condition. Learning about Bea’s experiences growing up with a mom in and out of hospitals, plus her fears that she, too, might have similar issues (children with a parent who has a mental health condition have approximately a 10% chance of also having a mental health condition) was heart-rending and powerful. 

Bea was able to overcome her fears and went to college, pursued her professional dreams, eventually got married and had a child. But her experiences made me wonder about all the young adults who couldn’t overcome their fears, or whose fears became their reality. The questions that arose, and my desire to write a universal story about the challenges, big and small, real or imagined that stop people from living in the moment (when possible), led to the creation of Lily, my protagonist. 

My elephant calf, Swifty, was inspired by my first job out of college as a traveling writer for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The performers in the show were incredible athletes, but seeing wild animals in captivity, especially the elephants, was horrible. When I quit that job, I promised myself I’d figure out a way to shine a light on both the sad lives of wild animals in roadside safaris and circuses, and their ever-worsening plight in their natural habitats. 

Elephants in the wild will be extinct in the next twenty years if nothing is done to protect them from poaching and habitat loss. I support the work of Space for Giants ( and Reteti Elephant Sanctuary ( Both are working tirelessly to save the majestic, intelligent, kind and loving elephant from extinction. Please check out their websites and donate if you’re inspired to join the fight to save elephants!

What was your unforgettable moment while writing WHEN ELEPHANTS FLY?
The writing process is never done, even when searching for an agent, or after the book has been purchased. My most unforgettable moment was the call from Stephanie Kip Rostan, of Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency, saying that she wanted to represent me. Until that point, I wasn’t sure that When Elephants Fly would ever be more than a book on my computer. Steph is brilliant, funny and committed. She sold WEF at auction and that gave me the opportunity to work with the incredibly talented Natashya Wilson, Editorial Director of Harlequin Teen (renamed Inkyard Press in 2019), and her wonderful team. 

Are there authors that you’re excited to engage/work with?
I’m a huge fan of Sarah Zarr, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Julie Kagawa, Jennifer Niven, Carrie Arcos, John Green, Laurie Forest, and Robin Roe. I’d be excited to learn from any of them! 

What book would you recommend for others to read?
In the YA world, The Fall of Innocence by Jenny Torres Sanchez, an achingly beautiful story about what it means to survive. 

In the adult book world I recommend The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. It’s the story of a Jesuit mission to another planet that serves as a reminder that everything we assume about anything/anyone is based on our own experiences, not necessarily reality.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Lily?
While creating Lily, I read accounts written by young adults with mental health conditions as well as books and articles written by their family members. I also watched countless programs and videos, and had conversations with psychiatrists who treat patients with mental health issues. What surprised me was the incredible resiliency of the human spirit; the power of family and hope, and the importance of having someone or something to love and fight for when facing adversity. 

I was also surprised to learn that approximately one-third of homeless persons have serious mental illnesses. Every homeless adult with a mental health condition was once a young adult like Lily. Their lives were derailed—maybe they didn’t have family support, or someone to love, or proper medical care, or their condition overwhelmed everyone involved, including them. My dream is that When Elephants Fly will help create understanding and empathy for people with mental health issues and give hope to those struggling to thrive.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
Thanks for asking! Right now I’m in the midst of editing a new young adult novel tentatively titled: The Speed of Falling Objects (HarperCollins/Inkyard Press October 2019). I’m super excited about this story!!

There are four reasons Danny barely knows her dad. First, her mom hates the guy. Second, her dad is Cougar Warren, famous TV survivalist. Third, Cougar wanted a son, hence her name. Fourth, Danny is an embarrassment. Her dad is athletic, charismatic, and handsome. Danny stinks at sports, has only one friend, and bears the nickname Pigeon for the way she moved her head as a kid after losing one eye. 

For her 16th birthday, Cougar finally invites Danny to be part of a TV episode featuring Gus Price, a popular teen actor. Danny’s mom forbids it, but an unearthed secret leads Danny to defy her. She joins Cougar for what she hopes will be the start of a real father-daughter relationship.

When their small plane crashes in the jungles of Peru leaving most of the film crew dead, Danny, Cougar, and Gus must work together to survive their injuries and the jungle’s perils. Their ordeal shatters Danny’s perception of her parents, illuminates her unique skills, and teaches her that falling for Gus requires its own kind of bravery. 

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d love to introduce Lily to Violet from Jennifer Niven’s All The Bright Places. Both Lily and Violet live for the future, though they have different reasons. Violet wants to escape her hometown and the memory of her sister’s death. Lily wants to skip from age 18 to 30 to avoid the danger zone for schizophrenia, a mental health condition that has impacted all the women in her family. Both have to find a way to live in the present or miss out on the joys and heartaches that make life worth living. If Lily and Violet actually met, I think they’d be faithful friends.

What cartoon character best describes you?
I’m not sure any of them! But I’d like to be a bit like Cartman from South Park. Who wouldn’t want to own an amusement park or be super pragmatic and goal-oriented in dire circumstances? 

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
I’m afraid of so many things and none are unique! The dark, spiders, losing anyone I love, my dog getting hurt, dread diseases … But I do my best to push all of them aside because I believe that worrying is wishing for something bad to happen. 

What is your happiest childhood memory?
This one took some thought! I grew up with a fearful parent, something I recognized even at a young age. My happiest childhood memories have to do with overcoming both big and small fears, making the decision to be the person I wanted to be, not the person I felt at times destined to be. 

An example? I was a diver and had an accident where I hit the board resulting in cuts, bruises, and the overwhelming fear that it’d happen again. One of my favorite memories is going back to the scene of my accident, getting on the diving board and doing that reverse one-and-a-half-somersault again and again until the fear disappeared. 

Can you define love in your own way?
Love … being the best person you can be, even when it’s hard, for your favorite person in the world. 

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
My husband and I discovered that when we were in our twenties we lived on the same street in San Francisco for over a year but never met. My front window actually looked out on his garage!! If I had the chance to go back in time I’d sit on that street corner for hours, days, months, until I met him so that we wouldn’t have had to wait ten more years to meet, marry, and begin our life together. 

Is there anything going on this weekend?
Besides writing? If there’s wind you’ll find me taking a break to go kite-surfing! 

Which incident in your life that totally changed the way you think today?
Hands down, meeting my husband. He’s direct, kind, pragmatic, adventurous, and immensely capable. Also, he doesn’t sweat the small stuff. I’m overflowing with imagination, rarely practical, even more adventurous, usually kind, but the small stuff can twist me into knots. Today I try to think more like my husband, which helps smooth out the rough spots J. But when I’m writing, I embrace every single one of my quirks! 

“Crazy is genetic.”

“One door leads to Normal, the other to Insanity.”

“I will inherit a key but I don’t get to pick which door it unlocks.”

“This is the game I play, pretending not to notice the way he watches me, waiting for crazy to smash into our lives again.”

“My world is a kaleidoscope, with a twist it comes into focus—my father doesn’t think I’ll make it through four years of college because he doesn’t think I have four years of sanity left.”

“I’m a girl with an extremely uncertain future.”

“I hold my breath, frozen like a soldier who has stepped on a land mine. But no matter what I do, eventually it’s going to blow me up.”

“If you need to fly,” I say, because I can’t bear her suffering, “you can fly.”

“The one certainty in life is that it changes.”

“It’s impossible to bend crazy to your will. It wins, hands down.”

“The only promise with schizophrenia is that there’s both hope and despair.”

“Crazy is genetic. It’s the house I was born inside. There are no windows, just two locked doors. One door leads to Normal, the other to Insanity. At some point, I will inherit a key, but I don’t get to pick which door it unlocks. Even if I did, there’s no guarantee I’d understand the choice, or realize where I was when I got there.”

“What are you, the Make-A-Wish Foundation?” It’s a joke, but my voice comes out too sharp. I push my chair back; start to pace around the small room. “I’m not some kid with cancer that needs to live my dream before I croak. I’m not dying. I just might not have a future as…as me.”

“After Raki rejected her, Swifty cried for hours. I want people to see her tears, to know that in any life, elephant or human, they mean despair.”

There are some battles worth fighting even if it means losing yourself.

T. Lily Decker is a high school senior with a twelve-year plan: avoid stress, drugs, alcohol and boyfriends, and take regular psych quizzes administered by her best friend, Sawyer, to make sure she's not developing schizophrenia.Genetics are not on Lily's side.

When she was seven, her mother, who had paranoid schizophrenia, tried to kill her. And a secret has revealed that Lily's odds are even worse than she thought. Still, there's a chance to avoid triggering the mental health condition, if Lily can live a careful life from ages eighteen to thirty, when schizophrenia most commonly manifests.

But when a newspaper internship results in Lily witnessing a mother elephant try to kill her three-week-old calf, Swifty, Lily can't abandon the story or the calf. With Swifty in danger of dying from grief, Lily must choose whether to risk everything, including her sanity and a first love, on a desperate road trip to save the calf's life, perhaps finding her own version of freedom along the way.

You can purchase When Elephants Fly at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you NANCY RICHARDSON FISCHER for making this giveaway possible.
3 Winners will receive a Copy of WHEN ELEPHANTS FLY by Nancy Ricgardson Fischer. 
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