Natalie: I won’t start a book until I know the main plot and the ending. I’m flexible about chucking the original plan, but I must have a plan. These rules are to protect myself from aimless writing that ends up deleted. Besides, I'm more excited about a project when I can see the end of it before I even begin.
Paul: If someone had the power to step into your creative mind what would they see?
Natalie: Inside my mind are many floating images. Inside those images are even more images, that may or may not connect with any of the others. Sometimes the images collide and a creative project is born. The ideas that never make it float around endlessly until they either fade away or turn up again as part of something new. The only time these ideas stop spinning is when I’m asleep, assuming I’m not dreaming.
Paul: Do you have a favorite character in each of your series, aside from the lead? If so, which one and why?
Natalie: I like President Ann Kinji. When I write her speeches I am a speech writer for the President of the United States. Pure awesome! I also enjoy imagining her as a real person. I’ll never be president but it is fun to pretend I am.
Paul: How do you find the time to write?
Natalie: How do I find time to brush my teeth or cook dinner? I have to do it or it won't get done. There’s always time for something I consider important, but maybe not every day. Do I cook dinner every day? No, sometimes I eat out, eat leftovers, or eat something easy like a sandwich. I do brush my teeth every day, so that was a poor example.
Paul: What is one thing you hope I do not tell the readers?
Natalie: You’re going to tell them, so I’m not going to spill anything really juicy, but I’ll give you an honest answer. I prefer that readers think of me as confident. The truth is that no matter how much experience I have with theater and public speaking, I always get nervous before I have to speak in public. Every time, without fail. I wish I’d had my teeth fixed way back when. I worry about what I should wear. I make myself nearly sick when I have to attend an author event or give a radio interview. I’m more relaxed while delivering a speech in person, or even while performing on stage, than I am during radio interviews. I prefer to make eye contact with my audience. Something about speaking to someone “blind” terrifies me, and I hate not knowing the questions ahead of time. I feel like I’m on a horrible game show in which all the questions are about me and I might actually not know the answer.
Paul: If you are self-published, what led to you going your own way?
Natalie: I tried to negotiate a publishing contract that was more flexible with travel but I was told that the requirement to attend 50 author events/signings a year was not negotiable. 50! I did the math and realized I’d be gone nearly every week! As much as it pained me to do it, I turned the offer down. With a different book and a different publisher, I was accepted but put “on hold.” I was excited, so excited! When weeks turned into months my excitement waned. I contacted the publisher to get an update. Weeks later, I called again. Weeks later, I called again. Months later, I called again. I was always told the same: you are in the accepted, waiting to be published pile. Finally, two years after acceptance I asked if I should be looking for another publishing house. The answer? I was free to do what I wanted. I could go on with this, but I think I’ve made my case. I found the whole process frustrating and I hated the lack of control. On the other hand, I love being an entrepreneur and it fits my lifestyle. I also realize now that I would have missed out on some of my favorite things, like creating book covers. By now I have put my marketing business minor into practice for so long that I’m not willing to give up being self-employed, having full creative freedom, and keeping all the royalties for myself!
Paul: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Natalie: I get an idea and run with it. I do keep a journal for jotting down things I need to remember to do, such as closing gaps in the plot or tying up loose ends of a character’s back-story. I don’t make outlines or any other detailed notes. When I start a book I know the basic beginning, middle and end in my head. I research things as I go and usually make notes directly in my Word document so that I can work directly with those notes to fictionalize the material. My hard-copy journal, with real paper, contains words or phrases that are often written with such emphasis that my heavy pen creates an imprint on the following page. Apparently I don’t trust myself to discern the value of an idea unless I circle it with great flourish.
Natalie: My most recent book in the Serena Wilcox Mysteries is Covert Coffee (2012):- Dystopian, eerie, and intense, Covert Coffee is a fast-paced hard-hitting thriller that casts a gloom over futuristic America. Is there hope for this divided nation riddled with conspiracies, power-hungry government and criminal politicians? Can Serena save the day with her unlikely cast of vigilante and rogue agent heroes?
An asset to President Ann Kinji in the past, Serena is snatched in Germany and brought back to the United States for a covert mission run by former government agents. Realizing that her participation is not entirely voluntary, she is desperate to complete the mission so that she can be reunited with her family. As the case draws her ever closer to the conspiracy to kill the president, she reaches out to the criminally insane for help, sinking deeper and deeper into a rabbit hole where the bodies are piling up and nothing is as it seems.
Paul: Do you also write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Natalie: Yes. I have two non-fiction titles: The Miracle Dulcimer: 27 Easy-to-play Songs for the Mountain Dulcimer & So Much More! and Fred Born Gifted. I’m in the planning stages for a book about the creative process behind oil painting. I also have one juvenile fiction book The Magic Camera.
Paul: Do you have any pieces of work that will never see the light of day?
Natalie: I wish. I published an amateur short novel when I was in my twenties. It is Serena Wilcox Mystery #1 Gene Play. I literally burned hundreds of copies of that book in my backyard give-up-on-the-fool’s-dream bonfire, but Gene Play lives on forever in e-book form as part of a three book set of the first three Serena Wilcox Mysteries. Now I have just one Gene Play paperback left, wine-stained (with my typical social grace I knocked over a full glass of wine at a book signing and earned a “Caution Wet Floor” sign for my table). I regret burning all those copies because that wretched book will never die and one day it will be worth something, potentially.
Wouldn’t that be a hideous kick if that original 500-print-run book sells for big money on eBay one day and I have to live with knowing that I burned about 400 copies?
Paul: What’s your favorite / least favorite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Natalie: These days I’ve been having a ball with promotional work for the series. I spent an entire day creating a Serena Wilcox Choose Your Own Mystery interactive game. I completely lost track of time. I’ll be adding more segments and stories for the game, free to play on my website. I’m thrilled to have the excuse to make games. I also run contests like “Who’s Gonna Die?” Readers vote for one character to receive immunity from getting bumped off in the next book Bluebird Flown. I enjoy these lively, fun, interactive side jobs. I’m doing BlogTalk radio, which is a bit nerve-wracking, but since I’m hosting my own show I have freedom to do what I want with it. It’s been a successful adventure and the surprise is how enjoyable it is to connect with guests of the show, many of whom are old friends who I didn’t know as well as I thought I did. My least favorite part of writing is formatting documents for publication, worrying about the sales performance of the books, and the ugly side of desperate authors. I don’t want to join the club of Self-Promoters who never turn off, and yet self-promotion is a big part of being an author.
Paul: What do you do when you’re not writing? Do you have any hobbies or party tricks?
Natalie: I’m an oil painter. I’ve had several paintings on exhibit in public galleries and juried shows. I also tap dance, play instruments, write songs, and sing. Most of these things don’t have anything to do with writing, but I did paint the Covert Coffee book cover. The entertainment things that I do are usually with my family. We sometimes perform at nursing homes or community events. I started doing these things to support my kids when they caught the music bug. We had our own family band for a while. With our oldest in college, the band has lost a member. We hope to get the band together for the holidays. I’m the drummer and I love my cowbell!
Paul: Thanks Natalie for that fascinating interview. I wish you every success for the future.
The Serena Wilcox Mysteries is a series Natalie Buske Thomas first published when she was in her 20's. The early books are sold as a three volume set in "The Serena Wilcox Mysteries: Books 1, 2 & 3". Natalie returned to the Serena Wilcox mystery series over a decade after book #3 "Camp Conviction" was published. Her return to the publishing scene was with the debut of "Angels Mark", which hit the bestselling lists on Amazon. The newest Serena Wilcox mystery is "Covert Coffee", book #5 in the series, and will be continued with "Bluebird Flown", book #6 in progress.
Natalie is also the author of the juvenile fantasy book "The Magic Camera" and the nonfiction book "Fred: Born Gifted". Natalie's oil paintings have been in juried exhibits. Her current paintings are displayed on Pinterest. To learn more about Natalie Buske Thomas, please visit her website: www.nataliebuskethomas.com
Natalie's Blog: Natalie Buske Thomas
Natalie on Twitter: @writernbt
Natalie on Facebook: Natalie Buske Thomas
Natalie's latest book: Serena Wilcox Mysteries: Angels Mark and Covert Coffee (Amazon)