New York City-based author Nicole Lockhart felt misunderstood while growing up. She pulled from memories of being rejected by classmates and feelings of inadequacy for inspiration for her first novel, Unadequate.
Sitting down in front of her, it’s hard to believe that this brown-haired beauty with high raised cheekbones and flawless cocoa skin was once the target of teasing. However, she shows off a picture of herself as “proof”, in what she dubs her “early awkward stages” and giggles.
“I was really a funny looking kid. I was so skinny,” said Lockhart. “People thought I was malnourished.”
Lockhart’s father moved often because of his job so from a young age, Lockhart bounced from school to school. She was constantly forced to make new friends. In some schools, she was the only black girl and felt the sting of being a minority but she blames her braids, glasses and lanky figure for making her the butt of many jokes.
In some settings, she was a privileged black girl with supportive, well-established and educated parents who provided a great life for her. In others, she was an overly creative artistic child who didn’t follow the crowd. These qualities made her stand out among her peers and caused some of her fellow students to reject her.
Lockhart was confident Unadequate, a story of a teenage boy who is considered a misfit and struggles to fit in, would resonate with a large audience. It’s because she believes that as humans, we all go through the same obstacles in life.
“The title is a reflection of the story’s main theme of personal shortcomings and the inadequacy we all feel as human beings,” she said. “It’s something I relate to, even now, as an author.”
Even so, Lockhart was always a storyteller.
She recalls getting in trouble at story time because she always corrected her teacher, especially if she felt that the Big Bad Wolf wasn’t being impersonated properly. As soon as she learned to write, she started telling stories.
In her late teens, while at Elon University, what started as a short story soon blossomed into what is now, Unadequate.
“The story just kind of fell out of nowhere one summer when I was working in the admissions office of the school,” she said. “It was a short segment that turned out to be the end of the book.”
“Coming back to the story two years later, I knew exactly what would be on the last few pages,” she explains. “It was then a matter of working my way there from page one, earning every joke, every tear, every page along the way.”
When she began writing the story, Lockhart had recently graduated from college and had found success in the acting and modeling world. Despite this, she yearned to accomplish more.
“I think this book was born out of my desire for more and the need to create no matter what,” she said.
Her drive to create gave life to Jodie Pederson, Unadequate’s main character. Pederson is witty and smart but suffers because he’s misunderstood by his parents. Pederson’s parents expected to have a baby girl and when Perderson was born a boy they began to emotionally neglect him.
“All my characters sort of come to me,” said Lockhart. “It’s as if my mind is a cafe and they just sort of walk in, place their orders and we sit down and talk for a few chapters.”
Lockhart says it’s important for her to know her characters as well as she knows herself and claims that they each have individual fears, ideas and preferences making it so that no two are ever alike.
The book’s target audience is people 14 years old and up, since some mature themes are presented.
Lockhart’s goal however is to inspire all people to be comfortable in their own skin and to appreciate the beauty of who they were created to be.
“I want people to know that Unadequate is just an idea, the story makes many claims, hypotheses and propositions. As a lightweight philosopher, I believe in stirring the pot,” she said.
“There are things in the book that I believe to be true but also many things I don’t know to be certain or even agree with at all.”
Lockhart tells Press Pass Latino that such statements are intentionally included to inspire the reader to think for themselves.
“If you find yourself reacting strongly to an idea as it is presented in the book take a moment and have the invisible debate with it,” encourages the author.
If you’d like to read Unadequate or would like more information about Lockhart or the book you can visit www.unadequate.com.