PENNY ON THE TRACKS was selected for the 2023 WFWA Mentorship Program and is a 2023 First Pages Prize finalist. A prior unpublished novel won Top 100 in the 2023 Launch Pad Prose Competition. Nola holds a BA in French & English Literature and Creative Writing from Vassar College and an MSc in Psychoanalytic Psychology from University College London. She began her career in subsidiary rights at Simon & Schuster and as an editorial assistant at The Stonesong Press literary agency before pivoting to her current career in advertising. She’s a member of WFWA, Paragraph NY, and a mentor at Girls Write Now.
Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?
It all started when my dad read me Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, and from there, I was hooked. As a kid, I began to write my own stories but never realized it could become something more serious until sixth grade when my English teacher discovered I was using reading time to write a novella about vampires. She suggested I submit my story to a short story contest in Washington, D.C., where I grew up and I won third place and fifty bucks—my first paycheck!
What inspired you to start writing this book?
The seed idea for this book came from a story my dad used to tell me about a game he and his friends played in the seventies laying pennies along the Metro-North railroad tracks to be flattened by passing trains. I was on a jog one day and a rather morbid thought popped into my head: what if one of the kids had gotten hit by a train—how would that change the course of the others’ lives? Asher’s story kind of spilled out from there.
Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?
It came right away—I knew the title before I even knew the story.
If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?
“The Four Summers” by Vivaldi, Paganini’s “24 Caprices,” “You’ve Got a Friend” by James Taylor, “SOS” by ABBA. These may or may not be referenced in the story 🙂
Describe your dream book cover.
I’ve thought about this a lot, actually. I like the idea of a sepia-toned image of four friends, their backs to the camera, arms around each other’s backs, staring out at the railroad tracks bordering the river. Or maybe an artistic shot of a penny on the tracks.
What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?
I’ve worked in book publishing and, most recently, in digital advertising. A fun fact about me that most people don’t know is I played semi-professional soccer in France.
What books did you read (for research or comfort) throughout your writing process?
I read a ton of potential comparative upmarket titles, as well as some niche nonfiction for specific areas of research.
What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?
I hope the readers will take away that life is all about human connection, and also self-forgiveness.
Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.