I first met Nicole Seitz at Palmetto Christian Academy (PCA), a private Christian-based school that I was visiting for my son’s upcoming academic year. Clad in a smock apron, Nicole smiled warmly and had a smear of paint on her high cheekbones (though I may have imagined that part). Her personality was wholly and gracefully unassuming as she discussed art and how she teaches her students to create their own works of art at PCA.
It wasn’t until I researched her online later that week, that I learned of her many accolades in the artistic world: six novels published through an esteemed Nashville publisher, a feature in the Oprah Magazine, Official Commemorative Edition, in June of 2010, and a request to present the baccalaureate address at the College of Charleston. Nicole Seitz is a humble, successful woman who is inspired by art and allows both her paintbrush and her prose to flow freely, all the while thanking God above for the gifts and talents bestowed on her. From painter to writer, teacher to mother, Nicole Seitz has been touted by many, and her stories are a must-read for those interested in “Southern Lit.”
Her novel list includes The Spirit of Sweetgrass, Trouble the Water, The Hundred Years of Happiness, Saving Cicadas, The Inheritance of Beauty, and Beyond Molasses Creek, and are available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Christianbook, and Indiebound. Though Christian fiction saw a notable decrease in sales of up to 15% from 2013-2014, Seitz’s contribution to the market has been impressive. Beyond new marketing strategies, Christian publishers are relying on seasoned authors like Nicole and their numerous fans to change the direction of the Christian market. Check out her books at www.nicoleseitz.com.
- For readers and writers, when did you first know that you wanted to write women’s fiction and create inspiring Christian stories?
I first began writing as a form of encouragement. Many years ago, my niece broke her arm. I wrote a rhyming children’s book for her and then tried to get it published. It didn’t. I received oodles of rejections, but it introduced me to the publishing arena. When I was pregnant with my daughter, I wanted to write a novel for her, one that encouraged her to be herself and cautioned her about the inner struggles of growing up. That novel received rejections, too. A couple years later, I was pregnant with my son. I wasn’t thinking of writing a story then, but the idea for one struck me as I drove past a roadside sweetgrass basket stand. Within 5 months, that story wrote itself basically. The Spirit of Sweetgrass became my first published novel. Did I plan on writing for the Christian market? No. But my agent was Christian, and he sold it to a Christian publisher. This began my run of six novels for women!
- Since you are both an author and an artist, what do you see as the artistic differences between creating a novel and creating a piece of art?
The difference between writing and painting might be the time it takes to complete a project. Painting, for me, has always been quick. I started when my children were little. The paint had to be dry when they woke up from their naps! But writing novels is a long, lingering, luxurious thought process that lasts months on end. Writing, for me, is much more satisfying.
- What are the similarities?
They are very similar. Each has structure, whether planned or intuitive. Each has similar elements: balance, movement, dimension, texture, color, unity, harmony. You can make each up out of your imagination, or you can use observation to get all the details right. Each makes the viewer experience something new. I pray before both writing and painting because my art is only good, in my opinion, when my Creator works through me. I can get in the “zone” for both art forms.
- What other authors have inspired you and your writing?
I’ve been inspired by Sue Monk Kidd. She and I lived in the same neighborhood (though had never met) when The Secret Life of Bees came out. This was long before I thought of writing. Years later, I attended a talk of hers…just before I sold my first book. I remember I rolled down the window in the parking lot and thanked her, and she blessed my writing. As a reader, I’ve admired Amy Tan, Khaled Hosseini, Elizabeth Kostova, Audrey Niffenegger, Pat Conroy, C.S. Lewis, and others. Each book I read becomes part of my fabric and inspires me to write.
- How has your spirituality shaped your style as a writer over the years?
I always have hope in some form at the end of a book because this is my view on life. Jesus is my hope. However, my style has always been to write what is on my heart, not something to fit a genre. The same is true now. I write what I need to write. If that will suit the Christian market, fine. If it’s better for mainstream, also fine. I believe if we focus on our relationship with Christ, the words will come as they should. We don’t have to force spirituality into our works.
- The Bible states that everyone has a path that’s chosen for them. When did you know that this life was yours?
As soon as the first book came out and I began to enjoy speaking with readers, encouraging them, and also enjoying the writing myself, I remember thinking, wow, I’ve finally found my calling. I’ve tried to set it down over the years, asking God always that, if this is not what I should be doing, to let me know. The publishing world, the business end of things, will mess with your mind and your understanding of the “call.” You may start to think, well, no one wants this book. Maybe it’s not my calling. But the publishing world doesn’t do the calling. God does. I try not to get that confused anymore.
- Do you have a favorite piece of your own work – novel or art. If so, why?
My painting for the cover of The Spirit of Sweetgrass, “Wade in the Water,” is my favorite, I think. I barely remember painting it, and it was the first time I approached a blank canvas and prayed to see what to paint. My publisher saw it on my website and asked to use it for the cover. I doubt I would be teaching art today if it was not for that painting. It allowed my career as an artist to flourish.
- What has been your personal shining moment as an artist since you began this journey?
As an artist, it’s every time I see a child smile because of their artwork or overcome some obstacle with art. Teaching students what I am passionate about is quite wonderful.
- Can you share with our readers what your newest/next work of fiction involves?
I am currently working on selling two very different works. One is Southern Gothic historical geared for mainstream adult readers. It’s loosely based on a fascinating story I discovered when researching my own ancestry from New Orleans. The other book is geared for the Christian YA market. We shall see if/when/where they land!
- Social media is such a powerful outlet for connecting with and bringing in new readers these days. What is your preferred outlet(s) for social media?
Personally, I like Facebook. I like to see people’s faces and get to know them a little. But I have to be ready to adapt to whatever comes and replaces it one day!
- Finally, what advice would you give to rising and aspiring artist/writers?
Love the writing first and foremost. If you don’t love it, you won’t be able to persist when the business end of things gets nasty. Love what you write so much that you tell yourself the act of writing it is worth it, even if it doesn’t see the light of day in a bookstore!
What or who inspires you to sit down at your laptop (or pick up a pencil) and write? Does your motivation for writing novels come from within, or from somewhere (or someone) else?