Leila Mottley was born and raised in Oakland, California, where Nightcrawling is set. She’s lived there for her entire life: “The longest I have ever been away,” she said, “was about six months for my freshman year of college before we all got sent home because of Covid.”
She’s from a literary, creative family — her father is a playwright, and watching him write inspired her from an early age to pursue her artistic dreams. Their family dog is even named for famed jazz musician Charles Mingus.
At age sixteen, she was named Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, after two years as a runner-up. Her teachers had encouraged her to submit her work for the competition, which is run by Oakland’s library system and aims to celebrate literacy through poetry and connect young poets to a larger literary community.
Mottley began writing Nightcrawling just before her 17th birthday, wrote most of the manuscript in the summer after her early graduation from high school, and will turn 20 shortly after its publication. While Nightcrawling is her first published work, it’s not her first book — she wrote two early novels in high school, at age 14 and 15.
She has a tattoo in honor of her novel — a lavender sprig, featured on an early version of the cover.
You Might Also Like