I am thrilled to welcome contemporary romance author Nina Kaye to my blog this week. I recently read Nina’s novel, Take a Moment and loved it. But before we get into the interview I’m going to copy my Amazon review of her book so that you can see what I’m talking about.
This is a stunning book and I loved every single page. It made me laugh, it made me cry – and it made me think.
It’s the story of Alex who has the perfect life until she is suddenly struck down with MS and it tracks her brave attempt to regain some independence and build a new – and very different – life for herself.
It’s a very honest, unsentimental account of learning to live with a debilitating and life changing illness and is told with humour and compassion. I loved everything about this book – including the descriptions of Birmingham. It sounds a fabulous place and has made me want to go there.
Welcome to my blog, Nina and thank you so much for a really great read. How would you describe your genre? And do you write series or stand alone?
My books are probably best described as contemporary romance. Take A Moment, is marketed as a heartwarming romance, which I think suits it perfectly. I write standalone novels, however I do have a two-parter at the back of my writing closet that I hope will see the light of day at some point.
Tell us what inspires you most. Is the characters? Settings? (I loved the Birmingham setting in Take a Moment, by the way.) Or are you inspired by books you’ve read?
My inspiration often comes from my personal experiences and what’s going on around me. I like to write about things I’ve had some experience of to give them extra credibility, but I also apply a good bit of imagination. For example, Take A Moment, is inspired by my own experience of long-term illness, my love of karaoke and music, and a city that I’ve gotten to know and become very fond of (Birmingham).
For characters, I tend to take traits from people I know or encounter and characters I see on screen. I never base them entirely on family, friends or acquaintances as they might then recognise themselves in my work – and I’m not sure that would go down so well. I also don’t tend to take my inspiration from other books in case I create something too similar.
You certainly succeeded. I’m not sure I’d join you in the karaoke but you’ve made me want to visit Birmingham! So, how did you writing journey start?
I’ve spent most of my life as a ‘frustrated creative’ – someone who wanted to follow a more creative path, but who fell into a ‘safe’ career. I dreamt of being an author from a young age, when I was devouring the likes of The Babysitter’s Club and Point Horror. At 17 years old, I even flirted with writing outside the classroom when supposedly studying for my exams.
Fast forward nearly 20 years and it was my life-changing illness that got me on the path to becoming a serious writer. In 2014 my body essentially ‘broke’, and I spent months rehabilitating from a raft of confusing and debilitating neurological symptoms. During this time, I turned to writing to support my cognitive and physical rehabilitation, and the silver lining to all of this is that it led to me achieving my dream of being a published author.
Take a Moment is your second published novel. Tell us a little about your first.
My debut novel, The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating, was actually the second book I wrote. It’s about Liv, whose high-flying career goes off the rails and she finds herself working at a glitzy new gin bar to pay the bills. She’s determined not to let romance distract her while she tries to get back on track, but with a hot colleague and a mysterious online follower in the mix, her dating life gets quite shaken up. It’s actually a story with some poignancy and themes of hardship, as well as finding love and a new beginning – and there’s a good dollop of humour along the way.
It’s on my To Be Read pile and I’m looking forward to reading it. But back to Take A Moment for a bit. What was the inspiration behind it?
The main inspiration for Take A Moment is my own experience of living with a life changing illness. When I became ill, my body failed me in incomprehensible ways: I experienced uncontrollable shaking and tremors, difficulty walking, loss of balance, faltering speech. My vision and hearing were distorted; I lost my ability to concentrate, couldn’t find words, could barely eat and I would fall flat on my face several times a day. That was only part of the picture.
I was eventually diagnosed with a condition called Functional Neurological Disorder (FND). Simply put, my nervous system isn’t working properly and there’s a problem with the messaging between my brain and my body. It isn’t a degenerative condition, but it can be as physically debilitating and life limiting as MS and other neurological diseases, and it’s a condition for which there is no known cure.
I’ve managed to reclaim my previous quality of life to a certain extent, but I’ve been left with chronic symptoms. These include pain, cognitive difficulties, fatigue, and a nervous system that’s stuck in high alert. And I still occasionally have acute flare ups of the symptoms I mentioned earlier.
When I started writing Take A Moment, I wanted to raise awareness of neurological/chronic illness as well as tell a good story. It was my way of giving a glimpse into the experiences of people with debilitating chronic conditions – because no one can ever really know what that feels like until it happens to them. I chose to write about a character with MS so that it wasn’t too close and because many of the symptoms I experience overlap. It was important to me to get across what it feels like to have your life suddenly shattered, while at the same time keeping the story light and humorous.
My main character Alex’s experiences are drawn from my own: losing my independence and feeling suddenly vulnerable, concern about being unreliable, being treated differently, and facing professional barriers. Too often the focus is on what people can’t do rather than what they can – and I’ve gained some incredible strengths and insights through having lived this experience. I wanted to show this through my story: that being differently abled is not the end, it can almost be a new beginning, provided the right support is in place.
On the positive side, some people can surprise you. In the organisation where I work now, I have hugely supportive managers who let me manage my health situation my way, while also allowing me to be the ambitious person that I am. Characters like Emmanual and Matt in my story are a reflection of the wonderful people in my life who have both supported me and cheered me on.
You certainly succeeded in your aim, Nina. I loved the way Alex’s strong character shone through. She was never the stereotype ‘brave girl fighting against the odds’ , although she was brave and she certainly did a lot of fighting. But you didn’t shy away from depicting her darker, weaker moments and this was what made her character so believable and compelling.
It was, as I said earlier, not only a really good read with a strong storyline and well written characters, but it was also very thought provoking. I am so looking forward to reading more of your work, so what is next?
My next standalone novel, One Night in Edinburgh, will be published 23rd June and I’m really excited to share it. It’s about a woman who suddenly finds herself single on Hogmanay (that the Scottish term for New Year’s Eve in case anyone’s not familiar). It’s another heartwarming romance, this time set in and around Edinburgh’s waterfront – a bit lighter and more humorous than Take A Moment, but it still gives a nod to the harder realities of life.
Definitely something to look forward to then! Thank you so much for answering my questions with such patience and honesty.
Final question, three things we might not know about you.
- My favourite karaoke song is Don’t Cry for Me Argentina – the faster Miami mix by Madonna, not the version from the musical.
- I have 18 different types of gin in my drinks cabinet (that I go through very slowly – just to clarify)
- At my day job, I chair a network for colleagues with disabilities and long-term health conditions.
Author Twitter / Facebook / Instagram handles: all @NinaKayeAuthor
I wasn’t sure what you’d look for in terms of buy links and what the reach of your blog is so just went for Amazon UK/AU/US/CA to cover the English-speaking countries.
And here are some additional UK links for the paperback in case you want to include any of these:
Nina Kaye is a contemporary romance author who writes warm, witty and uplifting reads with a deeper edge. She lives in Edinburgh with her husband and much adored side-kick, James. In addition to writing, Nina enjoys swimming, gin and karaoke (preferably all enjoyed together in a sunny, seaside destination). Nina has previously published The Gin Lover’s Guide to Dating and has also been a contender for the RNA Joan Hessayson Award.