Author and Screenwriter Says DA Supported her Dream
From the time Nina Varela ’13 learned to read and write, she knew she wanted to be a writer. She is grateful to the Durham Academy teachers who “who encouraged me and took my writing seriously — even when I didn’t.” Her debut novel, Crier’s War, was released in the fall, and now she’s finishing up edits for the sequel and outlining her third book.
Q — What have you been up to since graduating from Durham Academy?
A — I went to the University of Southern California and got my BFA in Writing for Screen and Television, but I pretty much immediately pivoted from screenwriting back to my first love, novel writing! Now I’ve got one novel out, and at least three more currently in the works.
Q — What are you doing now?
A — My debut novel, Crier’s War, was released on Oct. 1. So I’m celebrating that, but also finishing up edits for the sequel, plus working with my editor to outline my third book, plus working with my agent to sell a couple different projects this winter. Whew. In the rare moments I am not doing any of that, I am sleeping.
Q — Why do you do what you do?
A — I think I’m a little weird in that I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer. Like, I learned to read and write and that was it, I was set, I never wanted to do anything else. Writing is how I make sense of myself, all the big clunky embarrassing emotions I don’t like talking about; it’s how I make sense of the people around me, the parts of the world that I find frightening or sad, the parts of the world that are frustratingly complex. It’s a job and a coping mechanism and an expression of self and a deeply ingrained habit. And I just love it. It’s the place I return to over and over. I love telling stories. I want to do it forever.
Q — What DA experiences influenced you or helped you get where you are today?
A — I had so many amazing teachers, especially English teachers, who encouraged me and took my writing seriously — even when I didn’t. I never got the whole “You want to be a writer? So what are you going to do for money?” spiel. I had teachers who read my creative writing outside of class, who gave me books of poetry and short stories just because, who told me about writing competitions and helped me prepare work to submit, who advocated for me to take AP Poetry even though it was a junior level class and I was a sophomore. In high school, I worked on the literary magazine Exurbia and was allowed to organize a couple different assemblies in which students shared and created poetry. I just always felt accepted, never condescended to or told I was being unrealistic and should pick a more practical dream. And here we are.
Q — What are your interests away from work?
A — I draw a lot! I also love baking and cooking huge Southern feasts for my friends out here in LA, many of whom hadn’t previously experienced a good biscuit. Aside from that, I’m training to eventually run a half marathon, and I love just hanging around being lazy with my dog.
Q — What’s on the horizon for you?
A — My next books! The sequel to Crier’s War comes out in fall 2020, my third book in fall 2021 and in the middle of that I’m aiming to publish a couple of children’s books. Just lots of writing, basically, which is how it’s always been. And hopefully always will be.