Five Questions: Robert Wilder

Nickel by Robert Wilder

Nickel by Robert Wilder

I met Robert Wilder at the Sanibel Island Writers Conference last November. If you remember I volunteered for the event and was the lucky person who ran trips to and from the airport. Rob was one of the folks I carted around, and he was great to talk to.  I look forward to seeing him again someday.

Rob has previously written several books of humorous essays, but Nickel is his first foray into Young Adult literature. Coy is an adorkable teenage boy with a mother in rehab and a slightly inept stepfather. His lifeline is his best friend, the 80’s obsessed Monroe. But when she comes down with a serious and indefinable illness Coy is left to fend for himself in the cruel high school landscape.

Wilder really hit the awkward, nerdy teenager on the spot. Coy digs right into your heart and won’t let go. Nickel is both painful and ultimately hopeful as we follow his lows (a surprise birthday party with almost no attendees) and highs (meeting Avree, a girl he thinks is out of his league). Told with a keen understanding of the teenage mind, Nickel is a funny and authentic read from an author to watch.


1. What was the original seed idea for your book? Did it start with a character, a situation, or an idea?

NICKEL is a tribute to the quiet, odd kids I’ve enjoyed teaching over my twenty-five years in the classroom. My inspiration for the novel began with all the essays, stories, poems and journal entries I’ve read by the quirky kids, a series of interior voices few others had access to. I then combined those voices with a dash of my son London and my younger self to form Coy, the narrator.

2. What is your writing process? Are you an outliner or a pantser?

My early drafts are purely exploratory. I start with a voice or idea or event and then follow it, not worrying about anything (or showing anyone) until I have a full draft. Then I start again since I hopefully know what the novel’s intentions are. Somewhere along the line, I’ll tape butcher paper up on my kitchen walls and sketch the overall plot, scenes, or character arcs, but not until I have at least two full drafts under my belt.

3. Who are the writers which most influence your writing style?

Style? I’m not sure but for NICKEL, I read Lorrie Moore, Antonya Nelson, JD Salinger, Sarah Shun Lien-Bynum, Augusten Burroughs and others.

4. Do you listen to music when you write?

Nothing with lyrics. Mostly jazz while I’m writing, but when I’m in the car or taking a break I listen to all different types of music. The characters of Coy and Monroe in NICKEL are obsessed with the 1980s, so I reacquainted myself (rather loudly) with Foreigner, Bad Company, AC/DC, The Smiths.

5. What are you reading right now?

I just finished Nicholson Baker’s Substitute and Anne Valente’s Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down; I’m in the middle of Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton; and The Odd Woman and The City by Vivian Gornick is up next.

Robert Wilder

Robert Wilder

Robert Wilder is the author of a novel, NICKEL (Leaf Storm Press), and two critically acclaimed essay collections, Tales From The Teachers’ Lounge and Daddy Needs A Drink, both published by Delacorte Press.

A teacher for twenty-five years, Wilder has earned numerous awards and fellowships, including the inaugural Innovations in Reading Prize by the National Book Foundation. He has published essays in NewsweekDetails, SalonParentingCreative Nonfiction, plus numerous anthologies and has been a commentator for NPR’s Morning Edition. 

Thanks for playing along Rob! Go get this book, you’re going to love it.

Get your copy of Nickel here:

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