1). As a child, my dad’s idea of a family vacation was a trip to Vegas. I never went camping or slept in a tent, but I did get to see Liberace in person, and even swam with Diane Carroll (at the Sands Hotel).
2). My dad was the president of the University of Houston Cougar Cagers Club, so my birthdays, holidays, etc. were spent at basketball games. Our family traveled to Mexico with the U of H Cougars to watch them compete, which was great fun. When I was eleven, I got to play (for fun, of course) with the Harlem Globetrotters, who came to Houston for a visit. To this day, I love a good basketball game.
3). I wrote my first book when I was twelve. I’d read every Bobbsey Twins book on the shelf and wanted more, so I wrote one! I knew nothing about plagurism at the time, mind you. Just knew that I needed more to read. My mom was (and is) an avid reader, and has passed that “reader gene” to me!
4). I once lied to a fellow camper at church camp, telling her that my dad (Billy Hanna) was William Hanna of Hanna/Barbara (Flintstones) fame. That lie still haunts me, though, to his credit, my dad did eventually work as a movie producer on our co-authored movie, Liar’s Moon. (Yes, it’s true. I got to meet and work with Matt Dillon. Eat your heart out, girls!)
5). I grew up on the stage, (both at church and at school) playing nearly every role imaginable. In 1977 I was named Memorial High School’s “Best Thespian.” Try explaining that one to your kids.
6). I became a member of the Screenwriter’s Guild at the age of eighteen, when my dad moved our family to L.A. so that he could get into the movie biz. That same summer, my dad put my younger sister and I on a Hughes Air West plane to make an impromptu flight from L.A. to Vegas. Why? To pay off a gambling debt. His, not mine. My sister and I didn’t mind. We stayed in a fabulous room at the Hilton and ate a free steak dinner.
7). I come from a family of writers/readers. My dad wrote screenplays and country-western songs. My mom wrote poetry and is a voracious reader. My uncle wrote a college textbook. My sister Karen wrote hundreds of poems and even a few songs. My oldest daughter has co-authored several books with me, and she also writes and performs worship songs. My second-oldest daughter has published devotions and my two youngest have both written various pieces, as well.
8). I have two daughters named Courtney. One, I gave birth to. The other came to live with us when she was in her early teens. (Want to guess what happened when I said, “Courtney, do the dishes!”) Yep. They would point to each other. We started calling them “Courtney A” and “Courtney B,” then eventually “Courtney Rae” and “Courtney Elizabeth.” Poor girls, having to go by multiple names. Still, it was a lovely chaos!
9). I’ve spent most of my adult life keeping the arts alive/active in various churches. I’ve worked as everything from a drama director to a worship leader to a creative writing teacher. I even directed a drama team that did missions work in third-world countries.
10). All four of my daughters got married within four years of each other. Afterwards, I started writing wedding-themed books. (Hey, they tell you to write what you know!)
11). I occasionally bake wedding cakes. In 2009 I baked a lovely four-tiered white cake with strawberry filling and cream cheese frosting that toppled less than an hour before the wedding. I managed to piece together two very messy/ugly layers. Thankfully, the bride did not murder me. It made for a great scene in a later book. (Nothing ever gets wasted.)
12). My children and grandchildren are the loves of my life and I would do anything for them. I want to be remembered as the “Nina” who loved them more than life, itself. Funny side note: I wore the brightest blouse I own the day my granddaughter (Brooke Ryleigh) was born. Why? So that I would stand out in the crowd, of course. I wanted to make a lasting impression on her. Seriously…when this life is behind me, I hope to leave a legacy—not just of books, or acting or singing—but of loving God and overcoming obstacles. May this be the theme of my life.