Discovering the Wonder in S.E.M. Ishida’s Nick Newton

K.A.:
Excited to have S.E.M. Ishida on the blog today talking about her wonderfully inventive, middle-grade steampunk series about a boy named Nick Newton.

Welcome, S.E.M.! For those unfamiliar, please tell us about Nick and his story.

S.E.M.:
Nick Newton Is Not a Genius and its sequel, Nick Newton: The Highest Bidder, are both speculative fiction middle grade books.

S.E.M:
When you live with a family of geniuses, a normal day involves ancient robots, flying baby carriages, and mysterious millionaires. All before lunchtime. Meet Nick Newton, a merely average boy from the country of Thauma. Nick’s not brilliant like his mom and dad or a child prodigy like his sister, but he won’t let that stop him from uncovering the mysteries of a clockwork factory or revealing a war hero’s greatest secret. With help from two new friends and his butler named Jude, Nick embarks on an adventure that will change his life forever.

Nick’s mechanical friend, Plink.

K.A.:
In all of the story, do you have a favorite line?

S.E.M.:
“Always, always, always ask your mother before borrowing her welding torch.”

K.A.:
That’s an awesome line! Definitely solid advice. ;)

So what’s the story behind this story, what inspired you?

S.E.M:
As a child, I watched cartoons like Dexter’s Laboratory and Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. When I got older, I read Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. While I can enjoy stories with genius protagonists, I’m not a genius myself, and, thankfully, being a genius isn’t a prerequisite for fulfillment and making an impact on the world around you. Thus, I decided to write a “reverse boy genius” story in which the protagonist comes from a family of geniuses, but he is “average.”

K.A.:
Nick is such a fun character, and the world certainly needs more stories with everyday kids doing extraordinary things. More heart. More grit. It’s one of the reasons I love your series.

K.A.:
Tell us about the research that went into this story, did you venture into any new areas or topics?

S.E.M:
I’ve had an interest in science since childhood, but I still have so much more I want to learn about technology. Although the technology in the story is fantastical, technology is a field that continues to challenge and inspire me.

K.A.:
The ever changing landscape of technology is really something. In the process of writing this story, what would you say is the most interesting discovery you made?

S.E.M:
I originally sent a shorter version of Nick Newton to the publisher and pitched it as an early chapter book for younger readers. The editor suggested making it longer and for an older audience, which I did. I think seeing Nick Newton as a middle grade book helped me realize how much I enjoy middle grade. Although I’m exploring writing in other genres and for other ages, I also plan to continue writing middle grade stories.

K.A.:
Any Easter eggs readers should keep an eye out for?

S.E.M:
The winged toilet in chapter twenty might seem totally random, but it comes from my childhood memories of visiting the electronics store and looking at the computers. My favorite screensaver featured flying toilets flapping their wings across the monitor. It was delightfully bizarre.

K.A.:
So that’s where the winged toilet idea came from!

Any other behind-the-scenes information you didn’t already mention that you can share with us? :)

S.E.M:
I didn’t meet my illustrator, Dana Thompson, until after the completion of the book, but I think his art style and the finished illustrations fit the story so well! The illustrations for Nick Newton demonstrate the skill of the illustrator and also the importance of having a publisher and editor with the right understanding of the heart of your book. With this understanding, they can find the right illustrator and design the book in a way that complements your story.

K.A.:
Nick Newton Is Not a Genius is available from BJU Press, or on Amazon. Don’t forget to check out the book trailer below!

K.A.:
I’ve really enjoyed learning more about your Nick Newton series. Thank you for taking time to give us a backstage tour, S.E.M.!

About S.E.M. Ishida

Sarah Ishida enjoys good stories in a variety of forms, including books, graphic novels, and video games. With a Master of Science in technical communication, she is a technical communicator for a multinational technology company. Besides writing, she also likes to draw, sew, and collect toys.

You can connect with her at her website, or on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

 

 

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