Del Mar Highlands Town Center bookstore Diesel will host author Nikki Katz for a talk and book-signing Jan. 16
Nikki Katz went to the University of Arizona to study architecture, wound up getting a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering, gave up her dream of becoming an astronaut and launched a career in management consulting.
Throughout that “pivoting” as the Carmel Valley resident describes it, there was one constant that sprang from childhood — writing.
“I wrote a play when I was in the fourth grade; I wrote poetry when I was 4 years old,” she said in a recent interview at a Carmel Valley coffee shop. “It’s probably the only artistic outlet I’m going into. I can’t draw. I can’t sing. I can write.”
While producing a series of nonfiction books over the last 15 years, Katz also began composing fiction, resulting in the publication of her first novel, “The Midnight Dance,” in October 2017.
A second novel is scheduled for widespread public release Jan. 14. Like her first novel, “The King’s Questioner,” it is being distributed through Swoon Reads, a young adult fiction imprint of the internationally-renowned MacMillan Publishing Group.
To celebrate the release, Katz is scheduled to appear at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 16, for a publication party hosted by Diesel, a bookstore located at 12843 El Camino Real, Suite 104, in Del Mar Highlands Town Center.
Katz also is looking forward to appearances at other bookstores and local schools to discuss her latest work and sign her volumes. Information on Katz, her books and events can be found at nikkikatz.com.
“The King’s Questioner” is an entertaining tale that intertwines fantasy, supernatural powers and swashbuckling adventure.
The central character is employed by the monarch of Mureau because of the young man’s ability to see into people’s memories and secrets by physically touching them.
Through a string of circumstances, he teams up with the King’s son and a brothel operator’s daughter who is a pickpocket, card cheat and herbologist with her own set of extra-sensory powers.
In their quest to save the kingdom from a prophesied catastrophe, the trio bears similarities to the triumvirate of leading characters in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, of which Katz is a fervent admirer.
Katz’s prose in “The King’s Questioner” delivers a brisk narrative that reads as if it could be the script for an animated Disney film.
“I write as if I’m watching a movie,” Katz said. “I tend to be very action and very dialogue heavy, versus description. ... It reads sometimes like a screen play.”
Before “The Midnight Dance,” she said, she had written several other full-length novels that failed to attract a publisher.
“I literally could have wallpapered my wall with rejection letters,” said Katz.
When she was notified that “The Midnight Dance” had been accepted for publication, she was thrilled, yet apprehensive.
“It was a little bit surreal to know that, yeah, this is actually going to happen,” she said. “When you put yourself out there, it’s daunting, just knowing it’s not going to be mine anymore. It’s going to be my readers.”
She already has been signed by Swoon Reads to write a third novel, in which she is drawing upon her aerospace background.
“It’s about kids who are kidnapped and taken to the dark side of the moon,” she said. “I’m about halfway through it.”
While pursuing her goal of being a full-time creative writer, Katz, a mother of three, makes a living as a professional nonfiction writer and editor.
She said she has ghost-written as many as 15 books. Four of her own nonfiction titles have been published: “The Book of Card Games,” “The Everything Lateral Thinking Puzzles Book,” “The Everything Cryptograms Book,” and “Zen and the Art of Puzzles: A Journey Down and Across.”
“Those were all sort of work for hire ... based on my background. I was doing some nonfiction blogging mostly for children’s education,” said Katz, who likes to describe herself as a “failed rocket scientist” because of her aerospace background.
Her fascination with the written word, she says, comes from her love of reading from an early age.
“I learned how to write by reading,” she said. “I read obsessively when I was little. I would ride home from the elementary school on my bike and I would read a book while I was riding my bike — the precursor to texting and driving.”
Her fixation with reading evolved into a predilection for fantasy and science fiction, which became her focus as a fiction writer.
“I used to go to the library and choose as many books as I could and I’d always go to fantasy because those were the largest books, so I could read more,” she said.
“I was always sort of drawn to fantastical elements, and so, of all of the (fiction) I’ve written, none take place in a traditional school setting. They all have magic, mythology or take place in a different time period.”
At this point in her career, she said, she is striving to make a living out of fiction, but has no interest in orienting it to mature adults.
“I like telling stories of growth. ... Teens are about finding themselves and their independence, with a little bit of romance,” she said. “I don’t want to write adult (fiction) because, to me, (being) adult is living life with all of your obligations and children and work.
“I already have to do that, so I don’t want to write about it. All of my books have to do with finding yourself. That’s the message I keep coming back to.”