Student Writer Nessa Cannon
By graduating high school early, the University of Colorado, Denver, student was able to self-publish her novel ‘And Then There’s You.’
By Miguel Robles, University of Colorado Denver
Many high schoolers, particularly millennials, begin with slightly delusional dreams.
Most of these dreams are suffocated from birth, either from a lack of sincere effort or basic roadblocks, i.e. being a teenager. It’s why 14 through 17-year-olds rarely make much noise and are generally seen for their immature antics.
Such was not the case for budding author Nessa Cannon. She’s heard it all before: “You’re too young” and “You’re still in high school” were common refrains from her doubters, but never for a second did their lack of faith threaten her resolve to write. As a junior in high school, she published her first novel “And Then There’s You.” Today she’s beginning to see some of the fruits of that labor with the book sales on Amazon, Goodreads and BarnesandNoble.com.
Miguel Robles: Could you tell me about the inspiration behind “And Then There’s You”?
Nessa Cannon: I wrote “And Then There’s You” when I was a junior in high school. It was part of a challenge for National Novel Writing Month, which is a nationwide thing where people try to write 50,000 words in 30 days. The challenge gave me the sort of motivation I needed to start the first draft of my first novel. I don’t remember where the idea came from, but a lot of it was driven by a breakup I had gone through a year before. It was my first, very brief relationship, when I was fifteen, and it gave me the emotional push I needed to find my voice.
The book has nothing to do with the relationship except for the sort of bittersweet emotion that drives it. I ended up graduating high school a year early. With the year I had off I spent the entire time rewriting, editing and eventually publishing it after realizing writing was what I wanted to do with my life.
MR: How long did it end up taking you to get published?
NC: I was looking for an agent or a publisher for about two months, but I received a lot of rejections because of my age. A lot of agents told me that no one wanted to represent a 17-year-old, so I decided to self-publish. I ended up proofreading and editing the whole thing myself, which took about three months. Formatting took another month. It was a lot to do on my own, but I learned a lot.
The process from having my draft to holding my book was about six months.
MG: Do you have a specific author or set of authors that you base some of your writing on?
MG: What was the ultimate goal when writing this book?
NC: Besides just telling the story and the experience I wanted from publishing the novel, I wanted to show the effect of cancer. I have seen more than one important person in my life go through cancer treatments, and it wasn’t this quirky, romantic thing that John Green made it out to be with “The Fault in Our Stars.”
That book bothered me so much that I decided to write my own take on cancer. I was so irritated with young adult books in general. They didn’t feel real. I really take pride in how I portray both family and romantic relationships in this book.
I guess another weird reason I wanted to publish this story in particular was sort of due to a coincidence. I gave the protagonist, Brooke, Ewing sarcoma. When I told my mom about it, her eyes widened, as she told me that’s why my Aunt Nessa died ten years before I was born. She never told me that, and it was a weird coincidence that connected me a lot to the story.
MG: What style would you consider your writing?
NC: My style is bittersweet. I’ve always written about life, sad experiences and the way that people deal with them. When I was in eighth grade, I ended up writing this little story about this kid’s house burning down. It ended up being okay because his family and dog survived, showing him what mattered. I don’t remember where it came from, but I wanted to write it. This book and most other things I write are sad, but have a subtle air of understanding and a kind of sweetness.
MR: Is this your first piece you’ve attempted to get published?
NC: Yeah, it’s actually the first of four novels I’ve completed so far. I’ve written a lot of online articles, but this is definitely the biggest piece of mine to be published.
MR: How would you describe yourself as a writer?
NC: I would say I’m a versatile writer. I like writing anything and everything. I’m writing a horror short and I just finished a little nonfiction article, which rants about the differences of roles with men and women in movies. I write anything that comes to mind and I’m passionate about, because that’s the only way I know how to write!
MR: Do you see your work as having any underlying message?
NC: I don’t know if there’s any underlying message necessarily, but I always write with a sense of belief in people. I show characters who put up with others when they’re going through change, showing that there’s always a little good in people.
MR: You’re a freshman currently; do you see yourself as a writer first, student second, or how does that work?
NC: This might sound terrible, but I’m definitely a writer first. Writing is my passion and, while that’s what I’m going to school for, it’s the biggest part of my life. I’m writing all the time: at work, at school and quickly scratching down things I have in my head when I get home. Writing is the most definitive part of me.
MR: Is writing you future? What do you envision making up your future?
NC: I’ve always wanted to write as part of a career. When I was a kid, I wanted to write movies and write for big film and television companies; that’s still the goal for me. Writing is all I’ve ever really wanted to do, and I can’t picture myself doing anything else with my life.
MR: What’s the next step for Nessa Cannon?
NC: I’m planning on publishing my next novel by the end of the year. I’m looking for a professional agent for this book about Irish mythology. Ideally, it’ll be bigger and actually be in bookstores.
I’ve always dreamed of seeing my book in Barnes and Noble store.