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A Conversation with Natalie, a Lizard is Writing Contributor

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On Lizard is Writing, I have a few writer friends help me with Q&A from time to time and Natalie has been there since the beginning, or before the beginning actually – she’s my cousin. 

She has been writing for as long as I can remember and we grew up collaborating on novellas all the time. I’ve seen her grow as a writer through the years and she’s ridiculously talented. So, when I began looking for potential interview subjects, I could not miss the chance to chat with her about her new still-in-the-works novel, Earth Walkers. 

Outside of Natalie’s own novel Earth Walkers, she and I have are regular collaborators and have a few projects in the works that are all in various stages of writing and editing, including one project I love to talk about that I’ve just been calling “Ghost Story.” More on that as it develops. We’re also sitting on a mess of a first draft for another recent project that we’re still trying to figure out what to do with. Another story for another time. 

But back to Earth Walkers. This is a novel that I’m super excited about. The two of us binge-watched Pushing Daisies together this summer and that has only made me more eager for this fantastical, dark, whimsically romantic, (but seriously dark) novel. 

Q: What led you to start writing? 

I’m pretty sure you did. We were really young when I started. I was influenced. 

Q: So flattered. Wow. What are you working on now? I mean, I know, but let’s hear it from you.

Earth Walkers. How would I…? It’s a novel about grim reaper-ish dark angels who work for a personification of Death. Their jobs are to go to Earth and collect the souls just before a person dies. Azar – my main character – was once alive and is haunted by the memory of her own violent death. At the start of the novel, she’s assigned a target that hits a little close to home, a girl that reminds her of herself and in ten days will meet the man who killed her. She’s faced with a dilemma, save the girl and take revenge, or let the situation play out like fate intended.

Q: So, I’m cheating a little, I’ve already gotten a glimpse or two of Earth Walkers and loving it. What do you think inspired the concept behind this novel?

I don’t plan novels, but I decided that I was going to do something different with this one. I just woke up one morning and said I’m going to try planning out the plot of a novel. So for the first time ever, that’s what I did. I actually planned it in a notebook gifted to me *cough* *cough* by you.

Q: One thing I know that you’re really interested in with Earth Walkers are characters with shades-of-gray morals. How have you gotten to explore that so far?

I’m trying to bring the characters into strange issues of morality. When they make a decision, there isn’t a lack of morals, but well, decisions that fall within human standards.

Q: Human standards? Are your characters even human?

Yes and no. The dark angels that take up a lot of the novel were once human, dying in various different ways and now are angels of death, so I guess they technically aren’t anymore? But yeah, they still think and feel like humans, though their day-jobs can make them a little numb to some things that maybe they shouldn’t be so numb to. 

Q: So, horrors kind of a big influence in your work, what’s your thoughts on character death?

It’s my favorite. I love to explore death through my writing. 

Q: Ummm…

No one expects the main character to die!

Q: Okay, maybe, but it’s not even always the main character. What about everyone else?

Yeah, you know my writing too well. I’d say collateral damage? But really, character death raises the stakes. It makes the world of the story exciting and it angers readers a little, but you’ve got to know, when I kill off a character, it’s not as though they’re always gone. Within the style we write with, anything can happen, including characters coming back from the dead.

Q: So, in Earth Walkers is anyone coming back from the dead?

If I say anymore it’ll spoil some surprises! 

Q: Ugh… Fair enough.  Switching gears a bit, what’s more important to you while writing: characters or plot? And why?

Characters! Without them there’s no life to the stories. The characters have to be well-defined and dynamic and interesting. No one likes a story where the character is awful.

Q: Do you have any pre-writing rituals? Candles you need to light, drinks you need to concoct, and so on before you start writing?

Depends on the morning. Sometimes I’ll light a literary candle before sitting down to write. My favorite one is Alice in Wonderland-themed. It smells like a tea party. 

Q: What about music? Any go-to writing music playlists?

I like to listen to either “coffee house” mixes on Spotify or I listen to the “Discover” playlist because usually they do a good job of choosing songs I love. (Most of the time my songs are old school).

Q: Heh, heh, I’m going to assume you still listen to my coffee house mix. I love to be loved. How do you go about starting a new project? Do you sit down and plan or just start writing?

Normally, I just start writing and wish for the best, but with Earth Walkers I wanted to try something new by planning beforehand. 

Q:  What kind of things make you excited to sit down and start writing?

I do not know to be honest… just the rush of being creative and feeling what I’m writing. I get an idea and I’ve got to go put it into words. 

Q: So, since we talk a lot about advice, what advice do you have for someone who is just starting out and trying to learn more about the craft?

My advice: actually sit down and write no matter how awful it seems at first. It’s a matter of getting in that habit of actually sitting down to do it. You have to get the bad out before you can get to the good a lot of the time so don’t get discouraged. It’ll come. 

Q: I’m a big reader so I can’t help but ask, what books or authors have had an impact on you as a writer?

Hmmm… That’s a hard one. I really enjoy fantasy novels so I feel like that really shaped what I write. My all-time favorite will always be Percy Jackson because of the mythology mixed in with modern day. It’s just such a fun book. 

Q: What’s the book you’ve hated most?

Bleed Like Me. I’m not going to ruin it for anyone, but the ending angered me. I actually ripped out the last few pages. 

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