Whether you hung up your pointe shoes for good in kindergarten or your entire wardrobe pays homage to Misty Copeland’s ballet style, it’s hard not to be entranced by the fiercely competitive and wildly talented world of dance. Nikki Katz’s The Midnight Dance ($18) takes readers straight into the ballet universe and then adds a mysterious Italian boarding school, a creepy headmaster, and a dreamy love interest. For lead dancer Penny, uncovering the secrets of her boarding school — and her strange and disconcerting memories — might just be the only way she can save herself. All we can say is that tutus and psychological thrillers are an irresistible combination! We caught up with Katz and chatted Instagram obsessions, creativity advice, and lady heroes. Scroll on for more from this dazzling author.

Brit + Co: Describe your book in six words or less.

Nikki Katz: Finding yourself when all seems lost.

B+C: Where/when do you do your best writing?

NK: I do my best writing under deadline (even if it’s self-imposed) and typically at my house. I do like to get out and write at other venues, but I tend to get distracted by noise and prefer to work in silence when I know I have a concentrated amount of time. I do brainstorm in the car when driving though. All of my best plot breakthroughs come then!

B+C: What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done for book research?

NK: Honestly, it’s mostly my Google searches. If anyone kept track of them they’d probably be a little suspicious. Everything from mind control to kidnapping, ways to poison to layouts of catacombs, historical references to post-apocalyptic landscapes! Of course, I also research yummy food recipes, so there’s that.

B+C: What’s your go-to cure for when you’re stuck in a creativity rut?

NK: Food. Actually, I take that back. I go to food when I’m in a rut but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a cure! It’s more of a distraction, along with cleaning, laundry, and social media. My biggest cure is driving, like I mentioned above. Any time I need to figure out a scene I hop in the car and hit the road.

NK: What two lady heroes do you turn to for inspiration, and why?

NK: JK Rowling has to be one, because I’m an author and am forever inspired by her path to publication, her world and character building, and her insane ability to weave storylines together over the course of a series.

A probably more unexpected choice would be Christa McAuliffe. My teacher at the time of the shuttle disaster was one of the finalists and there was a vast amount of attention from our school on the event. Even after that horrible day, [McAuliffe] lived on as an idol and inspiration for chasing your dreams and always trying. I never wavered in my desire to want to be an astronaut and continued that path through college.

B+C: What’s your latest Instagram obsession?

NK:@edgar_artis on Instagram. I’m obsessed with people who can turn everyday objects into art. I’m not creative at all artistically outside of writing. I think it’s that massive part of me that still loves math and science! I also get sucked into looking at fashion accounts, although that can be depressing at times.

B+C: Can you name a book (by another author) that you think deserves a little more love + recognition?

NK: The Count of Monte Cristo ($11)? Seriously, when did people stop reading this book? It’s my favorite of all time. In fact, it’s time for another reread! But if we want to talk more modern books, I really do love Christa Desir’s novels. Her characters and plots are raw and real, timely, and really make you think long after you finish the books.

B+C: What’s next on your to-read pile?

NK: On my nightstand is Stephanie Perkins’ There’s Someone Inside Your House ($18).

B+C: What advice do you have for aspiring creative ladies?

NK: Never stop. Creative inspiration comes from so very many different places, but you have to continue to master your craft. The Midnight Dance is my first published novel but the sixth one I wrote. Sixth. Not first. Yes, there are stories of instant success, but more often than not success is something that comes on slowly and with hard work. Creative pursuits also come with a host of harsh critics. You have to be able to take criticism, decide if it is constructive and applicable, and grow from it.

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(Photo of Nikki Katz via Danielle Lucia Shaffer; photo of J.K. Rowling via Ian Gavan/Getty)