When Nikki Katz sits down to write, she does so in a way to escape the current time. A young adult author, the Carmel Valley resident always focuses on the past and future, but never the present.
"I love reading contemporary, but I can't write it," she said. "I'll write two pages then be done."
In her first published novel, the 320-page "The Midnight Dance" released Oct. 17, Katz tells the story of 12 young dancers in an 1800s Italian boarding school who are being mind controlled.
"I was just thinking what would that look like, and what if the main character starts to realize this?" Katz explained.
The protagonist, Penny, begins recalling memories that she has not thought of in a long time and questions the motivations of the school's master. She plans to escape to live more freely, but the master has other plans.
Katz, admitting she has never attended a boarding school or danced, said she was inspired to write the story after reading a book of letters written by girls in an 1800s English boarding school and a memoir by Charles Dickens set in 1800s Italy.
"The Midnight Dance," she said, is also loosely inspired by the children’s story Pinocchio, which follows the story of a puppet longing to be a real boy. In Katz’s book, the girls, rather than a toy, are essentially the controlled objects. Pinocchio character names, like Cricket and Geppe (short for Geppetto), are also reminiscent of the beloved fairytale.
Katz, a mother of three who has written six manuscripts over nine years and also does freelance writing, said she began writing "The Midnight Dance" about five years ago. Over the years, the story has had several facelifts.
Katz said she has re-written the story from third person to first person and made it less dark.
After being rejected by several agents, Katz decided to upload the novel on Swoonreads, a public review website run by Macmillan Publishers, so her book could gain more exposure.
Within the first quarter, "The Midnight Dance" earned a positive reputation and Macmillan offered to publish it.
It has since been praised by noteworthy young adult authors.
Jay Asher, the No. 1 New York Times-bestselling author of Thirteen Reasons Why, said Katz's book is "a dark adventure, stunningly written."
For more information about "The Midnight Dance" and for locations where to purchase the book, visit bit.ly/2yFmteW