Looking through her email one day, Nancy Naigle finds one of those anonymous quotes people circulate on line. She chuckles as she reads, "Live your life in such a way that every single morning when your feet hit the floor, Satan shudders and says, ‘Oh s--t, she's awake!’"
She saves that quote, since it’s such a perfect reflection of her personality and outlook on life. Besides a successful banking career, Nancy fundraises for charities, supports a wide community of friends and provides a little escapism through her entertaining fiction. Years later, the quote becomes part of the opening line of her first published novel, Sweet Tea and Secrets.
Although she was always a voracious reader, Nancy didn’t turn to books for escapism until she found herself in a bad first marriage. She felt so mentally abused in that situation that she seemed to have agoraphobia, suffering anxiety attacks on the rare occasions when she left her house. Novels by Jayne Ann Krentz provided the escape she needed. “Those books got me from bad to good,” she says. “They inspired me to write something that could give another woman some strength, a break, or hope. I can’t solve world hunger, but maybe, just maybe, I can solve a bad day for someone else.”
Her own days begin to get better when she pulls her diesel-powered Cutlass into a service station in Virginia Beach. In a nice dress and heels, she’s struggling with the fuel pump when the owner, Mike Holland, races out to assist her. Every time she stops in, he seems to appear out of nowhere to help. And he drives a Corvette. Mike quickly becomes a friend and then her soul mate. They get married in a barn on Mike’s farm in 1994, with the bridal party wearing overalls and the newlyweds leaving the barbecue reception on a tractor. “The cake had little pigs crawling up the sides,” recalls Patty Ponton, a bridesmaid. “Nancy never does anything half-way.”
When Mike fulfills his dream of becoming a full-time farmer, they move to a 76-acre goat farm in Drewryville, Virginia. Nancy continues to work full-time as a senior vice president for Bank of America. Instead of driving 67 miles to the Norfolk office, however, she begins working from home. These days, when her feet hit the floor in the morning, she has about a 67-second commute to her laptop. Whether Nancy is physically present, her personality shines through in writing. “Just a quick email from her and I’m instantly smiling because I can so clearly hear her voice in her typed words,” says Kimberly Anderson, her direct manager at Bank of America. “When thanking someone, most people will say, ‘I appreciate it.’ Nancy always says, ‘I appreciate you.’ I picked up on that nuance the first time she did it.”
In 2003, Nancy begins to focus seriously on her dream of becoming a published author. “When I turned 40, I knew that if I really wanted to achieve that goal, I had to get busy,” she says. She joins the Romance Writers of America and finishes her first novel the following year.
Once in the loop of romance writers, Nancy meets authors who have become some of her dearest friends and/or collaborators. Kelsey Browning, Tonya Kappes, Tracy March and Jerry Hampton (her second cousin who writes under the pen name Shanon Grey) all marvel at Nancy’s generous support of their projects while juggling so many of her own.
In particular, author Brenda Novak holds an online auction every May to raise funds for diabetes research. Nancy has been a category captain for the past couple of years. This year, she reaches out to Bret Michaels, who contributes tickets and meet-and-greet passes to one of his concerts. He’s the inspiration behind one of her characters in Out of Focus, a novel for which she researched the music industry. Instead of following the conventional wisdom to write about what she knows, Nancy writes about what she loves.
Lucille Ball famously said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.” Nancy certainly proves that “the more things you do, the more you can do.” However, she doesn’t “multi-task,” where people do two things at once, neither of them well. She focuses on accomplishing a specific task in whatever time she has. “I can write two pages in a 20-minute sprint,” she says. The key is not to let those 20 minutes pass unproductively because it doesn’t seem time enough to get anything done.
“There rarely is a perfect block of time,” she says. “You have to make time for things that are important. I think it’s built into us as women to put everyone else first. That’s an awesome thing, but somewhere along the line we need to balance those teetering piles of responsibilities with our things, too.”
One of her favorite ways to “make time” is to shop at airports between flights. In particular, she frequently visits Brighton Collectibles at the Charlotte airport for her favorite accessories. On her way home from a Milwaukee event recently, her connecting flight in Charlotte is delayed. She happily takes the opportunity to buy a Mother’s Day gift for her mom, who is her best buddy and biggest fan.
Over the years, she’s learned to relax about life and the future, even trade-marking the phrase “Read. Relax. Repeat.” She sees that when life gave her lemons, she made lemonade with Sweet Tea and Secrets. When flights are delayed, she can go shopping. As her character Pearl Clemmons would say, “Here’s the good thing about the future. It comes one day at a time. Follow your heart each day. You’ll get where you’re supposed to go."