Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Author Spotlight - Natasha Tate

We're honoured today to welcome Natasha Tate, one of the newly acquired Harlequin Presents authors.

Welcome, Natasha! Take it away...

What is your writing process?
My writing process varies, depending on how close I am to my deadline. When I’m in first draft mode, I tend to write at a more leisurely pace. I find I spend time writing a lot of narrative and dialogue, trying to figure out what resonates, what feels awkward, and who my characters want to be. I typically write this part of the book while walking on my treadmill, and can log as much as 10 miles in a day. After I’ve written about half the book, it either takes off or I have to go back to the drawing board because I haven’t settled on my characters’ inner conflicts yet. If my characters are muddled, I have a really hard time moving forward. But once I’ve written enough to settle on a theme and my characters’ inner conflicts, then the writing really starts to gel. I abandon my treadmill and commit to having my butt in the chair because multitasking too much slows my pace. Sometimes, when the inner conflicts come to me early on, I can write a book in less than a month. But at other times, when I’ve danced around the theme for what feels like forever, it can take up to three months. My hope is that one of these days, I’ll be able to figure out the inner conflicts and theme before I’ve written 25K words!

Everyone who writes knows it's not easy - what methods do you use to keep at it on days when it would be so much easier to go shoe shopping?

I am pretty type A in just about every area of my life. I set goals, have spreadsheets that track my word count, and would rather lose an arm than miss a deadline. I’m also a people pleaser, so I tend to be one of those annoying “turn-it-in-early” types. If I’ve got a four month contract, I set my weekly goals based on a three month schedule. That way, if something unexpected comes up (like that can’t-miss-it shoe sale), I can take a day off with upping my stress level too much. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that I grew up with a military father and suffered through a regimen of white glove inspections and demerits. I wake up at 4:30 AM in the morning at least five days a week to keep all my various plates spinning, and since I also have a full time day job, slacking off when I have time to write is just not an option.

Keeping fit: Do you have an exercise regime to counterbalance all those hours sitting at a computer?
I work out at a local gym in the mornings and I walk on the treadmill while I’m writing. I used to walk at the gym, but fitting writing into the day has meant that I can’t waste too much time on an activity that only works my body. So I’ve started running, just so I can burn the same number of calories in less time.

Do you believe in writer's block?

I believe that my writing only gets blocked when the story or the characters are blocked. If characters aren’t behaving in a way that is properly motivated, the writing stalls. I can still produce pages and word count, but the story doesn’t work and I don’t really move forward until I have a handle on how the characters need to change. So if by writer’s block you mean staring at a screen and producing nothing, then no, I do not believe in it. But if it means that you’ve hit a wall and you have to burrow through it through sheer force of will, then yes. It’s alive and thriving.

Have you ever used an incident from real life in a book? If so, did it get you into trouble?
Fortunately, I haven’t had to rely on real life incidents yet. I’m still relatively new and I have enough fantasy incidents that have been living in my head to populate stories for a while yet. But when those run out, I may have to start digging a little deeper for inspiration. I suppose in a pinch, my in-laws could supply a lot of fodder for my writing. They’re good natured enough that they probably wouldn’t punish me too harshly for exploiting them!

In what way is being a published writer different to how you thought it would be?

Since I have so many friends who’ve entered the published ranks ahead of me, I think my expectations have been more realistic than those who plunge into the publishing world with little ramp up time. I will say, however, that I’ve had to adjust my time management a bit more than I expected, simply because there are other tasks writers must do in addition to writing. Now, I find I need to allocate time to updating my website, responding to fans (the best part of my new writing life yet!), mailing out books for reviews, and juggling all the various components of promotion. Before I was published, I had far more flexibility with my timelines. Now that I’m on a three books per year schedule, I can’t take a month off to focus on the day job. Things are a lot tighter than I expected them to be.

Promotion is no longer a dirty word. In what ways do you strive to reach more readers?
I’m really, really fortunate to write for Harlequin Presents, which takes a lot of promotional pressure off of me. The brand itself sells better than anything I could singlehandedly do to promote myself, so it grants me a bit of breathing room to learn as I go. My first priority was to have a website built, and that took a while to find a designer (Rae Monet did an awesome job for me!), settle on a website that matched my vision and voice, and get it populated with content. Keeping that up to date requires a bit of time, so that’s always the first item on my promotional to-do list. I also have a blog and a twitter account, though those have taken the back seat until I finish this current book. I’m also presenting a workshop at the Emerald City Writers’ Conference this year with my good friend Candis Terry, so hopefully, that will help to get some name recognition for me and help me give back a little to the writing community who has helped me so much over the years. I’ve also created author pages on the amazon.com websites, Harlequin offers an author bio on their site, and I participate in various blogs as an invited guest. (Yeah Minxes!)

What is your top promo tip for other authors?
Definitely have a professional website built, and have it up and running before your first book hits the shelves. I believe that this is where readers will go first to find information about you and your books. Its value cannot be underplayed.

What did you learn while writing this book?
I learned that my voice actually works better with contemporaries than with historicals! For years, I’d focused on historicals to no avail. Discovering that I had the ability to write a book set in the here and now was a real eye opener for me.

What was the most fun part of writing this book?

The best part of writing this book was how escapist it felt. I love the whole Presents promise, and diving into a story that fit the line felt like I was playing instead of working! I loved layering in the drama, the glamour, the emotion, and the heightened sensual tension into my story. It felt like I was creating a wonderful dessert and a guilty pleasure all at once. Writing a story where two wounded characters find their way to love and forgiveness is a catharsis all its own, and I loved every minute of it!

And just for fun: what would your hero’s honeymoon destination of choice be?
Ethan’s honeymoon destination of choice would be the idyllic Caribbean island he purchased from Cate, of course! What better place to seduce his lovely new bride than the birthplace of their love?

Blurb from An Inconvenient Obsession:

The Carrington family's island is up for auction…

Now, that's an invitation Ethan Hardesty just can't refuse. This groundskeeper's son turned global entrepreneur has it all. All, that is, except a piece of the Carrington estate—the island that holds all his most pleasurable and painful memories.

Ethan doesn't count on the beautiful Cate Carrington handling the transaction—and providing him with the perfect opportunity to take her into the bargain. But toying with the woman who was once the girl he loved and lost soon turns from a game into an all-out obsession…


Natasha is giving away a copy of An Inconvenient Obsession to one lucky non-Minx reader, so don't forget to leave a comment!

Links to purchase:

Amazon.com
Barnes & Noble

Thanks so much for being here today, Natasha! It's been great getting to know you :)

12 comments:

Lacey Devlin said...

Fabulous interview, Natasha. I'm really intrigued by how you write on the treadmill. Do you write long hand or have some sort of stand for your computer?

P.S. I think your website is absolutely gorgeous.

Sonali said...

Hi Natasha,

The covers for 'An Inconvenient Obsession' and 'Once Touched, Never Forgotten' are brilliant as are the story lines. I am hopelessly hooked onto your books just by reading the blurbs. Wishing you and your upcoming releases every success. And i will most definitely be on the lookout for your books at the local bookshops.

Romy said...

Aah ... I love Ethan's choice of honeymoon venue and his reason for it. Now I'm just going to have to move this book up the TBR pile.

I think I'm going to use your words as my new mantra: Slacking off is just not an option.

Maya said...

I’m with Lacey on the dying to know how on earth you write on a treadmill, Natasha! That’s some high-end multi-tasking there, lol. So lovely to “meet” you. Looking forward to a lot more books from you.

Natasha Tate said...

Lacey and Maya,

To answer your question about the treadmill, I write on a keyboard, as opposed to longhand. I read a wonderful book called "Brain Rules" that really changed how I think about my brain's productivity. According to the author and the research he referenced, active brains work better. He advocates having a treadmill desk and swears by his own. I got really excited about the idea and talked my sons into jerry-rigging a "desk" out of the arms of my treadmill, a tabletop ironing board, and some bungee cords. I use the magazine rack to hold my laptop and then the "tray" for my keyboard and mouse. It's not pretty, but it works beautifully. The goal isn't to walk fast. It's just to move. It doesn't hurt that I'm burning calories while I work. And this way, when I take a break to dive into a bowl of popcorn, I don't feel too guilty!

Apparently, the idea of treadmill desks is catching on. At about the same time that I was rigging mine up, two fellow Golden Heart finalist friends of mine were as well. Kris Kennedy and Courtney Milan co-wrote an article in the RWR about treadmill desks, and there was a great spot done on television that covered the same topic. I've heard that entire businesses are now outfitting their offices with treadmill desks, and I've even read about a few schools who are providing the same for their students.

Pretty revolutionary, huh?

Natasha Tate said...

Sonali,

Yes, I *really* lucked out with my covers. I think the UK version of "An Inconvenient Obsession" is one of my all-time favorites, and the fact that it's being used for *my* book is such a thrill I can't quite believe it's real!

I certainly like hearing that the story lines and covers have hooked you into reading my books! As I said, working with Presents takes a lot of the guess work out of promotion. I love having so many amazing professionals working to get my books into the hands of readers! And hopefully, what's *inside* the cover will keep you coming back for more!

Natasha Tate said...

Lacey,

Thanks for the kudos on my website! I'll be sure to send Rae your congrats on a job well done. She's definitely done a great job for me, and she was FAST, too! If you know anyone who's looking to get a website built, I recommend Rae wholeheartedly. She's awesome!

Natasha Tate said...

Romy,

One of the best parts of writing romance novels is that we get to select settings from our own fantasies. I *love* islands and the sea; there's just something about secluded beaches, warm water, tropical flowers, and the smell of coconut sunscreen that is so romantic. I suppose I might be a little biased, but I can't think of a better honeymoon than one spent near the ocean!

Sometimes, I wish slacking off *were* an option! There are days when I fall asleep at my keyboard because there just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done. You can imagine how disgruntled I was when I awoke one night, only to discover that I'd typed half a page about my boys' school project while I slept...WHY couldn't I have written a really good love scene instead?? That's what I want for my new mantra: "Multitask to the limit and write novels while you're asleep!"

Natasha Tate said...

Maya,

Thank you so much for hosting me as an honorary minx today! I'm heading back to work, but I will definitely check back before I turn in for the night!

Catherine Coles said...

Wow, a treadmill workstation. I think that's awesome. And my avoidance of getting on the scales tells me that it's something I could really do with!

Thanks so much for sharing your process :-]

Natasha Tate said...

You're welcome, Catherine! I, too, tend to avoid the scale! But it's nice to know that with all the walking I'm doing, at least when I *do* muster the courage, the number's not moving in the wrong direction!

Ju Dimello said...

Hi Natasha,

It's great to "meet" you :) I guess the fun part of you writing the book is the same for whoever reads it too - the escapism! I love Presents for the very same reason :)

Great to know the story behind the story!