Happy Monday Friday!
Due to amazing reception, I’m delighted to begin publishing posts from my Inkling Interview series on Fridays as well as Mondays! These interviews are an opportunity to read about the experiences of some of the amazing writers I’ve met through the world-famous #writerscommunity. I especially love interviewing writers who come from underrepresented backgrounds and/or have faced personal obstacles in their journey. Today, I’m delighted to interview my writer friend/real friend/amazing critique partner (more on that later)…the brilliant and charming Natalie Crown.
Okay, first question Nat: where are you at in your writing journey, and how did you get there?
Oof. Well, with my current MS I’m gearing up to query. I’m just making final edits, and looking for some final feedback before I take the plunge. How did I get here? Well, I’m that cliché person that has been writing forever.
I don’t remember ever not wanting to write, or a moment when I suddenly thought ‘ah, this is my dream’. It has just always been.
I’ve self-pubbed (not trying to push a self promo here – don’t read them) and I’ve queried before. My last queried [manuscript] got some full requests, and the feedback I received has helped me improve further. Hopefully, I’ve improved enough!
I really admire how far you’ve come and congratulations on that feedback! That’s so encouraging, Now comes the part where I pretend I’m not your critique partner/know nothing about your current manuscript and ask you to pitch it!
Fun fact about me: Pitching is my greatest weakness. I’m working on it though.
My nearly ready [manuscript], WIND WALKER, is a YA fantasy about two sisters. Tannis Till is a thief, but she’s also a Bleeder hunted by the Bloodhound. Kianna Till is trapped at home by her disability. When the mysterious Lord Olinger offers Tannis big money if she’ll take on a near impossible job, Tannis turns it down. But Kianna sees an opportunity for freedom and inadvertently leads the Bloodhound to Tannis’ door. The sisters are forced to accept Lord Olinger’s help in escaping the city, and Tannis agrees to take on the job and all the danger it entails.
I also have another MS that I work on when I hate Wind Walker, with the working title The Dark of Hearts. It was actually inspired by a video game series called Dark Souls, a book I read about the history of the Popes, and also the general state of the world we currently live in. I call it my angry book.
Major kudos for being able to write more than one thing at once. (I definitely couldn’t do it because… I’d get distracted.) What do you catch yourself doing most when you’re writing that you wish you didn’t do?
Tweeting. You can always tell if I’m writing, because I’m actually tweeting.
This is my #gospel, haha. Obviously, we all tweet when we’re supposed to be writing because we’ve hit a difficult path. So what’s your least favorite (and actual favorite) part of your writing process?
My immediate thought is querying, just because it makes me feel sick. I’m not good at it. I’m not good at forcing myself to do it. It’s easier to sit back and tell yourself tomorrow, I’ll do it tomorrow.
With writing itself, I struggle with big edits. Meaning, I can edit lines and improve them, but when it comes to stepping back and looking at the big picture I struggle to see what needs significant changes or what needs to be moved, or even what needs to be cut entirely.
Over the last few months I’ve picked up a couple of BETA readers and an awesome CP (hi, Ayana) so my hope is this will become easier for me going forwards!
Oh hi there! I think that’s interesting because I feel in many ways the opposite. Something I feel we’re very much alike in is our sources of inspiration. I’ve read bits of Wind Walker and fallen in love with its rich setting, where do you get inspiration for it?
Looking at Wind Walker specifically, it was inspired by three probably random sounding things. First, I’d had a bit of an awakening with regards to representing disabled characters in my work thanks to the character Raven Reyes in the show The 100 (I have fully fallen out of love with that show now, but whatever). She had this incredible arc in Season 3 and I wrote all about the impact it had on me here. Because of that, I vowed to start writing stories that reflected the struggle of living with a physical disability or a chronic illness, but also to write about the simple joy of it. We are not your inspiration, we are not superhuman. We are living, and we deserve to be seen.
I had recently come through my worst ever flare up of my own illness as well, and had spent the summer glued to my brand new PS4 playing The Witcher 3. There is a location in that game called Skellige and it was just SO beautiful. My inspiration for the setting of Celestia and Krystnos came from Skellige for sure.
Pause, I love The Witcher 3!
And finally, I was mulling over ideas for Wind Walker during the hype and run up to The Force Awakens. There isn’t necessarily an obvious connection here, but Star Wars and my love for everything that series stands for definitely had an influence. Plucky heroes from disparate backgrounds banding together to take on evil with powers from the vast universe and flashy cool weapons? Yum.
Generally, I’m inspired by video games, history, and! Video games these days are so beautiful and there are so many sweeping open worlds that I often find myself spending hours just exploring them. I pull more inspiration from video games due to the immense immersion than books or film these days if I’m honest (currently playing Red Dead Redemption 2 and for the first time ever in my life I want to write a Wild West novel). Possibly because your mind can drift, so I’m playing but daydreaming at the same time.
I also pull a ton from my passion for history. The Dark of Hearts in particular is a big messy mix of all my favourite bits of history thrown together. I’ve read books about Templars, about the Popes, about Norse mythology, and one of my locations is based on Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. It’s a lot of fun to play around with!
And of course, I draw so much from the real world.
Travelling, experiencing new cultures, and seeing different landscapes is always inspiring. I currently have a mountain view from my writing room. It really helps.
I definitely feel traveling is the medicine to all ailments. But, traveling takes up time. So how do you manage life and other responsibilities alongside your writing?
If you’d asked me this a year ago, my answer would have been ‘not very well.’ Living in London, working full time, and having a strong circle of friends around meant it was really difficult.
It is for that reason (mostly) that I am now based in the south of Italy. I’m lucky enough to have family here, so it’s not AS dramatic a move as it might sound. I got myself a job teaching English, but the hours are much less and the lifestyle is significantly calmer. I also have no hint of a social life, so I’m able to dedicate a lot more time to my writing. I’m incredibly lucky to be in this situation and I just hope I can make it work out. I’ve taken a big financial cut be here, but it’s worth it to follow my dream.
I think we so often hear the nice parts about following your dreams, but we don’t talk about the hard parts of it. So, how do you combat things like writer’s block, or tough critiques of your writing?
Honestly, tough critiques of my writing are welcome. That doesn’t mean they are fun, but I’d rather tough critiques over anything else. In fact, a few months back one of my BETA readers gave me some feedback that really impacted me. I couldn’t look at Wind Walker for a couple of months because what she suggested was going to take so much work and I’d thought I was pretty much ready.
But, after a little break working on my other WIP, I started to see all the ways in which her suggestions would make Wind Walker a better book. And now I’ve made the changes, it’s honestly miles ahead of what it was.
I deal with tough critiques by listening, taking a break, and getting to work again when I feel ready.
Writer’s block is harder, but ever since I’ve committed to having two projects on the go at once it’s not been so much of an issue for me. More often than not, writer’s block comes from hitting a wall with a project. Freeing yourself to have fun with something else while that happens means you are still being productive, and eventually the inspiration will kick back in for the previous WIP.
Alright, let’s get a bit Game of Thrones-y. Would you rather have infinite wealth or infinite power—and why?
Infinite money. Because money is power. Mwahahahaha.
I won’t lie, this is normally my answer too but I still love the question. Now, what advice do you have for aspiring writers, particularly those from underrepresented backgrounds?
Write a book.
I know that’s cliché and obvious, but it’s the first step. Finish the book. It doesn’t matter if the first draft is bad, just get it done. Do that, and you’ve got a chance. Of course nothing is perfect, but the industry is actively seeking your voice right now. Find it, write it, share it.
A follow up piece of advice that is equally unhelpful is to try and find a [critique partner]. I’ve been writing forever and I’ve only just done it, but it has already made such a difference. There is no perfect way to do this, but get involved on Twitter and in forums. You might try to connect with some people that aren’t on your wavelength at first, but in the end you’ll find someone. Not only will a good CP help improve your writing, but you’ll also be able to scream all your anxieties and frustrations at them.
(Ahem, I try not to scream most days). Anyway….what’s your “anthem,” the song that would play if your life was a music video?
I’M TERRIBLE AT THESE KINDS OF QUESTIONS.
I have two songs that I listen to before any big writing session. One is ‘Non Stop’ from the Hamilton soundtrack, because the how do you write like you need it to survive section always pumps me up. That being said, I don’t think it really encapsulates me at all. So the other song, which is maybe a bit more embarrassing, is ‘Touch the Sky’ from the Brave soundtrack. Something about it is so uplifting to me, and I also think it captures my dreamer self pretty well.
You’ve just chosen a musical and Disney song as your life soundtracks…thisis why we’re real friends. Now for a bonus Question! You have an all-expenses paid trip wherever you want with one of your characters–where do you go, who do you bring, and why, why, why?
I’d take Kianna. Poor girl barely leaves her house, let alone her city. She’s always dreamed of going on adventures and seeing more of the world, but her disability (particularly in a world without advanced medicine) means that it’s impossible. Or at least, it seems impossible.
If only the Witches were still alive, and able to heal her with their blood…
Hmm. If only.
Anyway, I’d take Kianna on a round the world trip. We’d both be agape at all the wonders we’d see, and we’d understand the need for multiple rest stops and hot baths as we both suffer from arthritis.