I Get Speculative and Rejecty With Ross Willard

bloody rossRoss Willard, a Colorado resident, has been writing speculative fiction in one form or another for as long as he can remember. A longtime member of the Penpointers critique group, Ross can often be found reading or writing at his local independent coffee shop, or working on his website, www.rosswriter.com.


Ross Willard. I met Ross way back in 2009 at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference along with a ton of super cool people like Aaron Spriggs. Ross had just come out of a pitch session and he looked devastated. What happened? I’ll get there, I’ll get there.

I then saw Ross at the 2009 RMFW Gold Conference where he was a finalist for his novel, Sparrow and the Toad. It was a super hero novel like no other.

And I didn’t see Ross for a long time. I suffered for it because Ross is an amazing bloke. So when it came around that he was getting his first book published, I jumped at the chance to interview him. And so, here is the interview.

But first, a little about his debut novel, System Purge:

SYSTEM Purge - 1400A 14-year-old prodigy with a mysterious past. A genetically-engineered soldier with a deadly present. A sentient machine fighting for his future. They come from different worlds, but they’ll have to trust each other if they want to survive.

Aaron: Okay, Ross, I tried to throw out a hook in the first paragraph about your first pitch session, and here is where we fulfill the promise. Or should we wait? Let’s wait. I can feel the tension building. Okay, when was the first time you ever dreamed up a story? Give us a little pitchy poo.

Ross: Ah, my very first story! I remember it well. Okay, that’s a lie, I remember it vaguely, partly because it was a very, very long time ago, and partly because I try to block my memory of stories that bad. The first story I ever remember writing was about one of the characters from He-Man. I don’t remember what his name was, but he was the guy with wings. Anyway, long story short, it was a very short story, and while it had no character development, or arc, and was, I think, one paragraph long, it did one very important thing, it made me realize that the stories I loved so much on Saturday morning did not drift down from on high—they were created. And that people created them. That I could create them. I know that if I ever found that story that I scrawled in a notebook way back when I was . . . I don’t know, five? Four? Six? Whenever I would blush at just how horrible it is, but I’m glad I wrote it. It was the first step on the journey to becoming a writer.

Aaron: What was the first thing you ever queried to an agent or publisher? How was the experience?

Ross: Oh no! Dredging up that? It was terrible! Basically, it went like this: after years (and years) of wanting to be a writer, and scrawling down anything that popped into my head, I finally finished my first ‘novel.’ In retrospect, it was awful. I mean, really bad. But it was done, and I, after years and years of trying and trying to actually FINISH a story, was finally ‘ready’ to publish it. But how? I’d never finished anything before, so I hadn’t needed to figure out what to do. Not an insurmountable obstacle, after all, my parents had the internet, and everything is on the internet. So I got online and started plugging in various combinations of ‘book’ ‘finished’ and ‘published.’ It didn’t take long to strike gold! A publishing company! It took a bit of scrolling around and digging, but eventually I found their submission guidelines. Uh oh. They wanted stories that were at least seventy-thousand words long? Let’s check that . . . I’m only at forty-seven? Uh oh. I can’t possibly add thirteen thousand words to this story. Oh! I know! I’ll add a subplot that barely relates to the main storyline, that’ll work. (time passes) Okay, that’s done, now where do I send my manuscript . . . But wait! A query letter? What the hell is a query letter? I mean, I know what a query is, it’s a question. A question letter? I’d better look that up! Another internet search in another window brought me information about these mysterious beasts. Apparently, I was supposed to write them a letter asking if they wanted to read my book. But that didn’t make ANY sense. How would they know that they wanted to read my book from what I wrote in a letter? I’d spent so much time and energy on the book, how was I going to express all of that in a single page? Still, it was what they wanted. I did more research into these ‘query letter’ thingies, and realized I needed some kind of hook. Oh, but I knew that! They wanted to know why they should read my book, I should tell them what was wrong with other, really popular books, that way they’d know how good I was!

Allow me to sum up: it went poorly!

Aaron: You said you submitted something to a publisher and their turnaround was a year. Tell us that story.

Ross: No-no. I submitted to a publisher who CLAIMED their turnaround time was a year. The upside was that they just want you to send them your entire book, which is already done. No query letters, no synopses (yes, that is the proper plural for synopsis), just the book itself! If you’ve ever had to wait four months for an answer to a query letter, then four more months for the reply to the partial and synopsis, only to get rejected anyway, then you know that waiting a year for a simple ‘no’ isn’t a terrible thing. The problem was, it didn’t take a year. I sent in a full manuscript and, after about thirteen months received a rejection from them . . . but not for the book I’d sent in a year before. I received a rejection for a manuscript I’d sent in so long before that, that I’d forgotten I sent it in at all! The manuscript I was waiting for took a full TWO years to get rejected.


Aaron: Okay, I think we’ve left everyone in suspense long enough. What happened at your first pitch session?

Ross: Exactly what I expected. It was a disaster. First, you have to realize that I have an anxiety disorder, social anxiety. Second, I was unmedicated at the time. I talked to people about what to expect, practiced my pitch, and proceeded upstairs where a very nice, very pleasant woman listened to my mumbly, awkward elevator pitch, asked a few questions, and basically told me that it didn’t sound like something she’d be interested in. I think she phrased it in a way that included letting me send her a partial if I wanted, but basically it was a ‘no thank you.’ But that wasn’t why I was so upset. I was upset because all of the planning and practice meant absolutely nothing. I’d gone in, started talking and suddenly all of my ideas sounded stupid. Everything I said was more idiotic than what I’d said before, and I felt like a fool. I knew that becoming an author was what I wanted to do with my life, it was more than a career for me, it was a calling, but I couldn’t talk about what I’d written without feeling like a fool. And when I feel foolish, I get upset. Okay, fine, I cried, I can admit it!

Aaron: So after all the trauma, where do you think you’ve grown the most in your writing life over the years?

Ross: Well, having joined a writers’ group when I moved to Colorado, my writing has grown a great deal over the past few years, but if I had to pick one area . . . I’d have to say focus. Early on in my writing I had a tendency to meander in the storytelling. I was a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants writer, to such a degree that I often didn’t know where my story would be ending. I had sub-plots that didn’t go anywhere, backstories that didn’t matter, but that I had to share . . . these days I’ve cut that to a minimum, and, while not every single word on the page is absolutely crucial to the plot, the story continues forward, instead of taking a brief tangent to Australia, every couple of pages.

Aaron: When we talked, you said self-publishing was the next logical step. What did you mean by that?

Ross: For most of my life, I held self-publishing in low regard. After all, anyone can self-publish, there are no gatekeepers, so there’s no guarantee of quality when it comes to the writing. But over the years I’ve become bewildered at the state of the publishing industry as well. I’ve read amazing books that suffered rejection after rejection, and I’ve picked up books in bookstores, published by major publishers, that were, in my opinion, a waste of paper. Publishers seem to be more interested in picking up books that fit a certain type, than books that measure up to a certain quality. The problems with traditional publishers combined with advances in technology (thus lowering of prices and raising of quality in self-published books) have started a shift in the paradigm of publishing. I don’t know where that shift is going, but I do know this: in the end, books are judged by the readers. But to be judged, they have to be available. In order to find out where my writing stands, I need it to be judged by readers, and instead of submitting the same manuscript time after time after time to publisher after publisher after publisher, I’ve decided to present my work directly to the people whose opinions actually matter. Maybe nobody will like it. Maybe everyone will love it. I can wish and hope and dream all day, or I can take a step forward, and find out.

Aaron: So the book you just published, System Purge, what drew you to write it?

Ross: I wrote System Purge several years ago (the first couple of drafts). Specifically, I wrote it around the time that I moved, for the first time, out of the town, and the state, where my parents lived. I’d lived away from home before, of course, but never farther than a quick drive away. I was in my late twenties, but it was still a sort of coming of age experience for me. A second coming of age. The themes in the book revolve largely around self-reliance, figuring out who you are apart from your parents, and connecting with people who seem, in many ways, to be quite different from you.

Aaron: I was reading back through some old interviews, and I asked Kate Evangelista this question. It’s the best question ever! If your novel System Purge was turned into a religion, what would be the tenets of the religion? And could I join?

Ross: That is a good question, and a tricky one. I’d say:

  1. There’s more to everyone than what you see on the surface.
  2. The choices we make are what define us, not where we come from.
  3. It doesn’t matter how much technology advances, it is human nature that prevents us from advancing as a species.

Aaron: As the captain of your writing career, what is on the horizon? Where are you going to steer your ship?

Ross: As the captain of my writing career, it’s hard to know exactly what the future will bring, but as I am enjoying some of the benefits of self-publishing, specifically the control I retain, I would kind of like to set up my own small press someday.

captain of my soul.php


More on System Purge:

compass ross willardFourteen-year-old Tommy Philips doesn’t know where he comes from.  He has questions that his foster parents can’t answer, questions about who he is and what makes him so different from everyone around him.  When he stumbles across evidence that one of his teachers has been guarding him for years, Tommy begins an investigation that will uncover a history he never could have guessed.

Rowan Darren wasn’t just born to be a soldier, he was made to be one.  The Nospious, a collection of twelve Houses of genetically-engineered humans, live in silent conflict, fighting quiet political wars against each other and the outside world, constantly trying to advance their interests to the detriment of anyone who gets in their way, while concealing their existence.  Rowan, of the House of Aries, is no exception.  After years overseas, expanding his House’s influence, Rowan is coming home, but the home waiting for him is anything but simple, and survival will require more than a few modified genomes.

Though he goes by Samuel, his name is ‘Three,’ and ever since The War claimed the lives of his siblings, he has been the oldest living synthetic lifeform on Earth.  Maintaining control over the increasingly restless Society of Machines has always been difficult, but a second war has been brewing for years, and if Samuel doesn’t get in front of it in time, it will cost the Society both lives and the secrecy that they’ve cultivated for years.

Three lives moving in very different directions will all meet at a crossroads, and all three will be forever changed.

I Get Blue and Gray With Historical Fiction Writer Quinn Kayser-Cochran Part 1

theNeverPrayer_young_adult_snippet_webby So, I’m finally off the road. My book has been out about nine months and I’ve been pounding the pavement, harassing people of all socio-economic classes. Those with tattoos and those without. Please, my friend, buy my book. Why you no buy my book? Is good book for you!

So, since my life has calmed down, now it’s time to get back to what I really love: harassing authors—those with tattoos and those without.

I wanted to kick off the next round of interviews with a bang, like in the American Civil War, and not just the Civil War—the Civil War in the American West. No, seriously, the Confeds and the Unies also fought where the air is dry and the rain is drier.

quinn k 9863dd3Confeds. Unies. I made those up. Hmm, maybe I can write a dystopian novel using those names. Anyway, I first met Quinn Kayser-Cochran at a writers’ conference and we talked fiction and the horrendous uphill battle it takes to write it. Like Pickett’s Charge. He was working on a Civil War book and we totally agreed to do an interview. Then it all fell apart back in June. But he did agree that once his book got published, he would interview and provide me with cautionary tales.

So, I have to warn you, this is going to get gritty. And crappy. Did you know more people died in the Civil War from dysentery than they did from guns? Yeah, this interview is going to be just like that.

But first, his bio!

Quinn Kayser-Cochran lives in Colorado with his wife and two children. He earned a degree in English from Columbia University. Based on actual events, his first novel, GLORIETA, is an historic fiction about the Civil War as it unfolded on the Western Frontier. Mr. Kayser-Cochran has researched the Confederates’ 1862 invasion of New Mexico—and the Union’s subsequent response—for almost twenty years, including time on the battlefields and trails depicted in Glorieta. Currently, he is working on a political drama set in an early 20th Century Nevada mining boomtown.

Now, grab your bullets, grab your muskets, polish that sabre, here is the interview!

Aaron: Do you have a tattoo? I know, weird, but this might be the best question in the interview.

Quinn: Right out of the chute, I hate to disappoint, but no. Never even wanted one. Like buttermilk or mushrooms, I don’t object if other people prefer these things for themselves, but I never have. Honestly, I look at photos of the clothes I wore twenty years ago and cringe—why would I want to make a potential mistake permanent? I do carry some scars (surgical—the best of which runs from just over my left ear to midway down the back of my neck [brain tumor, 2002]—and non-surgical, such as a small furrow on my left thumb where I sunk a coping saw halfway into the nail, age eight, trying to build a balsa wood airplane in my Dad’s workshop), but since no thought was given to their design or placement, they have no decorative value.

AARON: So when we talked in June, you said you’d give me the real story about self-publishing. Your book is now out there. What 2.5 things would you do exactly the same? What 2.5 things would you do completely differently? I know—half an answer for half a question. Weird.

confederate-ironclad-merrimacQuinn: I will list the differences first. 1) Next time, I will submit an ironclad manuscript. Amazon.com’s CreateSpace platform allows authors to make revisions as they go (however, fees are charged after the first couple uploads), which, for me, is like providing additional rope with which to hang myself. I’ve never read anything, anything I’ve written without wanting to make changes, so this got me into trouble—probably added three months to the process. 2) Next time from the start, I will have a fully developed marketing plan. Hard to believe that I was caught off guard at the end of an eight-year process, but it’s true. For a long time, publication was just a concept—something that might happen on some unspecified date way in the future—and I confess that I didn’t draft a proper business plan in advance. Now I’m flying by the seat of my pants and, I would guess, achieving half as much for twice the work. Had to scramble to build a website, launch a Twitter account, etc. It’s all rather exhilarating, but that’s one of the tradeoffs with self-publication: more of the reward for all the risk (and work). Best advice I would have for other DIY’ers is to network like crazy. Find others who have gone before you and are willing to offer advice, friendly criticism, etc. Think of your book as a small business and remember that just like a business, those without goals and plans usually fail to achieve them. And finally, 2.5) I will have more focus. I took about eight or nine years to write Glorieta, in part because I occasionally set it aside for no particular reason. Not for work, my children, or life events, though at various points I did set writing it aside for those reasons, but because I lacked the discipline to stick with it. The book I’m working on now—a political drama set in an early-twentieth century company-mining town—has its own peculiar challenges, but at least I’m getting better about routinely appearing in front of the keyboard.

The two-point-five things I would do the same include: 1) obsessing over historical details. As in science fiction, part of the fun of historic fiction is world building, though unlike sci-fi, where so long as one is consistent, one may invent whatever one wishes, one must get historic fiction just right—there are scholars and purists ready to criticize any inaccuracy or anachronism, however slight. I believe in sacrificing one hundred-percent accuracy for the sake of storytelling, but not everyone sees it that way. 2) I will travel to research the places I write about; there is no substitute for “plein air” writing. And 2.5) I will seek criticism and commentary early and often. Writers’ groups, workshops, trusted friends—the more feedback, the better. Also, I will read aloud what I have written—if it doesn’t sound right aloud, often it isn’t.

AARON: Glorieta started out as a screenplay. How was it turning a lean screenplay into a long novel? The real question is, why isn’t your book 120 pages long?

Glorieta_Front_Book_Cover_medQuinn: Glorieta really began as a college paper. Years later, it became a screenplay when a friend in TV production suggested I write one. Screenplays are peculiar things with lots of formatting quirks and industry-specific rules, and I tried really hard to make mine conform to those standards (as best I understood them, anyway, given that I was teaching myself as I went, far removed from the filmmaking capitals of New York and California). An agent I worked with said that she liked it, but also that it was too literary and therefore needed changes. Well, I thought that already the story had changed to conform to rules I did not fully understand, so I decided instead to turn Glorieta into the book it wanted to be. As for the 120-page question (there’s one of those rules: one page of script equals one minute of film—120 pages/minutes is the standard. Well-knowns can break this rule; unknowns cannot), within my 120-page screenplay was 90 pages of story, and I was simply unable to say what I really wanted to in so limited a space.

AARON: Okay, lots of people have written about and explored the Civil War. So here are a few, and if you aren’t familiar with them, just put in NA. Okay, ready? And make sure you explain your answers.

Ken Burns, awesome, or iffy?

Quinn: Pretty awesome. I really like Ken Burns’ Civil War series—I think it covered more of the human side of the war than anything before, and frankly, that’s what I find interesting. A lot of Civil War writing over-emphasizes troop movements and battlefield heroics, resulting in a Marvel Comics-esque tone—triumphalism that robs the work of emotional depth. You must have those things, too, but there has to be more. Burns properly spent time recounting the human costs of the war: the soldiers’ physical and mental wounds, the widows and orphans, the sense of loss that permeated public life for decades after—even some veterans’ reconciliations in their final years. Our culture trivializes violence in sneaky ways: movies, music, and talk-radio exalt it, and games allow regular people to kill indiscriminately 24/7, so that we think we’re immune to its corrosive effects, but we are not. Consider even one notorious school shooting: after murdering classmates at Columbine High School, security videos show Klebold and Harris dejectedly stalking the halls, weapons still loaded, aware that other students remained in the building, yet unwilling or unable to continue with something they had conditioned themselves to believe would be easy and satisfying. Once the initial rush wore off, though, even these pitifully fucked-up kids sagged under the weight of killing their fellow humans. It is wretched work, no matter if one is fueled by rage or righteousness.

Some wonder why interest in the Civil War persists, but I think that’s because most people focus on the word “war” rather than “civil.” The last few election cycles and all the recent political brinksmanship have been awful. Don’t like your neighbor’s politics? Fine—that’s as American as apple pie and a semi-automatic weapon in the coat-closet. But imagine killing your neighbor, his wife, his kids, because you think the name on the yard-sign stuck in his lawn is ungodly. If that isn’t hard to do, if that thought doesn’t make you terribly uncomfortable, then go get counseling. Seriously. Go. But that’s what the Civil War was—citizens killing citizens, neighbors killing neighbors, over fucking politics. We must study this stuff to try to understand it—it cannot be forgotten so that it is never repeated. Before people sign secession petitions, they need to read Drew Gilpin Faust’s
This Republic of Suffering, about the Civil War’s wretched aftermath—see how well that went last time. The famous Clausewitz quote holds that “war is the continuation of politics by other means,” but really, war is the breakdown of politics—like secession, it is extra-political, and one rarely goes without the other. Secession isn’t just a parliamentary procedure like pigeonholing a noxious bill–thinking otherwise is dangerously foolish.

Aaron: Killer Angels, awesome or iffy?

Quinn: Iffy, and I know that’s semi-heretical—sorry. Read it once more than a decade ago, so my recollection is vague, but I remember struggling to finish it. Picked it up and put it down several times. I recall a description of one Southern commander (Stonewall Jackson?) habitually chewing on lemons, but that’s about all. Generals moving regiments around battlefields can be interesting (Noah Andre Trudeau’s Gettysburg, A Testing of Courage is a non-fiction favorite), but that usually takes an historian with a novelist’s soul. There aren’t too many of those, but discovering one can be thrilling.

Aaron: Cold Mountain, awesome or iffy?

Quinn: Staggeringly awesome. I deliberately stayed away from Cold Mountain until Glorieta was done, because I’d seen part of the movie-version on TV and liked it so much that I was afraid I would unconsciously pull parts of it into my own work. Having since read it, I concede that nothing I have ever written is in the same league as Charles Frazier’s towering work, but at least now I know what’s possible. Cold Mountain and Glorieta both follow couples in wartime—Ada and Inman, Jacob and Adria—though their circumstances, challenges, and resolutions are vastly different. There is one vague similarity (and I wrote this into my first draft years ago; I did not lift it from Mr. Frazier’s book—it is a far older cliché than that): both couples have “one last night together” in cabins with fireplaces (In my story, it’s a barn rather than a cabin, and the wood in the fireplace will not light). In the book version of Cold Mountain, though Ada and Inman’s night together is of great consequence, the episode itself is subtle and brief (of course, in the movie version, this scene gets the deluxe, soft-core treatment: gentle firelight, beautiful bodies entwined—the works). In Glorieta, Jacob and Adria’s interlude is taken from personal experience: decades ago, my girlfriend at the time and I decided to sneak away on a freezing night. Every minute under that blanket was awkward, uncomfortable, and cold, but did we stop? Of course not—not even frostbite can keep smitten young’uns from rounding second base—but thinking about this years later, I was reminded of the persistence of emotion in the face of intense discomfort. Write what you know.


The epic battle continues tomorrow!  Once more into the jaws of death with writer Quinn Kayser-Cochran.  See you there!  If you dare!

I Talk Heart of Darkness and Fledgling Shapeshifters With YA Author Natasha Brown

Writers can pop up literally anywhere. In your shower, late at night. Hotel rooms in bad parts of town. Kathmandu, Nepal. We are an elusive breed, shadowy, here one minute, gone the next. So was I surprised to find that a writer was haunting the halls of the Montessori school where my children go? Not in a horribly-scarred-phantom-of-the-opera type of way. Natasha Brown was just a parent, but so much more. I wasn’t surprised that Natasha had written a book, but I was impressed by her really good Amazon ranking. And the fact she finaled in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Gold contest. And that she had gone rogue, e-pubbed, and was doing well.

A little about her book, Fledgling (The Shapeshifter Chronicles):

Set apart from other eighteen-year-olds, Ana Hughes knows she is different. A life-threatening heart condition smothers her future and she yearns to feel normal. Her hopes are pinned on a fresh start in a remote town far from her native Colorado. Among the locker-filled hallways in Clark Bend High, Ana keeps to the shadows, not wanting to draw attention to her violet-tinged lips and wilted silhouette. And she almost succeeds, until she meets Chance Morgan.
Struggling to keep up appearances, she soon suspects Chance is hiding something as well. His animal-like senses, miraculous healing ability and peculiar reaction to her Thunderbird necklace compel Ana to question if there’s more to the stories about his Navajo ancestry. Without any other explanation, she fears he is playing tricks on her. But the truth may prove too much for Ana’s delicate heart…

We talked, and this is a little of what we talked about.

AARON: Okay, Natasha, at what point in your life did you want to write a novel? Where were you, what were you drinking, and were olives involved?

Natasha: It was the perfect storm – inspiration, courage and my family left me alone for a whole glorious weekend. I do love olives, but alas, they weren’t involved.

AARON: When we talked, you said you were inspired by J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer. What about them inspired you? Haircuts? Choice of shoes? Mormonism? Britishism?

Natasha: They inspired me because they, like me, were mothers with an idea. An idea that they wrote down and had the tenacity to persist with. I thought if they could do it, then I would try as well.

AARON: Let me talk about myself for a minute, because, well, I am so very fascinating. I’m a big fan of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, which inspired the movie Apocalypse Now. Kurtz, in the jungle, going mad, worshiped by the natives. He went rogue, just like you. What made you throw off the shackles of traditional publishing to set yourself up in your jungle paradise on Amazon?

Natasha: Let me smear some war paint on my face first before I answer…
Like you mentioned earlier I finaled in the RMFW contest, which was fantastic. It gave me the confidence to start querying agents. I had a few nibbles, but ultimately it led to a dead-end. And then life happened. When you are busy with kids and work, those other things fall away, and that is what happened to FLEDGLING. Until an acquaintance found out I had a finished novel collecting dust. He had self-published and found great success. I decided, what with the state of the evolving book world, I would go ahead and give it a try myself. I am a web developer and designer so I designed my own cover. I set the hook and waited for a nibble.

AARON: Kurtz summarized his experience in the jungle with four words, well, two words repeated twice: the horror, the horror. What two words, repeated twice, summarize your experience as an independent publisher?

Natasha: Two words is all? Yeesh. Take courage, take courage.

AARON: Why do you think your Amazon ranking is so good? My ranking is like three million and fluctuates as low as eight billion, but you, you have a ranking, a steady ranking, in the thousands, which is awesome. Did I just use way too many commas? Maybe. I’m a little nervous asking this question. I’m pausing a lot.

Natasha: I stole some fairy dust and sprinkled my computer with it. Does wonders, although whenever I click my mouse, it giggles. No, seriously. I am lucky. There are SO many elements that contribute to a book doing well. Past the obvious, that the book has to be somewhat interesting and in a genre that sells, there is a lot to marketing a book. A good cover and book blurb are very important – they are the first impression. You need to be present in social media like, facebook, twitter and your own author blog. I am part of a great author group named the World Literary Café (WLC- www.worldliterarycafe.com) which provides many resources to indie and traditional authors. I couldn’t have made it this far without my new group of friends.

AARON: One of your inspirations for Fledgling was your daughter’s heart condition. What kind of heart condition does she have, and how does that play into the novel?

Natasha: The heart issues are a huge issue in the story and everything revolves around it, much like in real life. My daughter was born with multiple heart defects. She had transposition of the great arteries, hypoplastic-left heart syndrome, and a large ventricular septal defect. That might sound like a lot of gibberish to most people, but all of those conditions caused enough trouble for my daughter to have two open-heart surgeries. Heart defects make up about a third of all children born with birth defects. My daughter is not alone. The personality and specific circumstances of my daughter are not the same as the lead character in my book, but they do share many of the same experiences. I wanted to create a female lead who could be a heroine for my daughter to look up to. For anyone who was born with heart defects.

AARON: We talked about how hard the writer’s journey is. What themes in Fledgling could inspire a struggling writer to keep on keeping on?

Natasha: A writer’s journey can be tortured to be sure, but it is so much broader than that. Being a teenager has its challenges as well, and I think they are much the same. Will they like me? Will I fit in? Stand out? I’m not good enough.

Self-doubt and insecurities plague everyone. Especially writers. FLEDGLING, I hope, will leave the reader uplifted and hopeful. My own story, and even my daughter’s story, I hope, will inspire as well. You CAN do it if you persevere.

AARON: Natasha, if you had to exchange your writer’s life for another artistic passion, what would you choose? For example, if I had to give up writing for some other type of creative art, I wouldn’t choose rockstar or famous Parisian painter, I’d choose quilting. Dudes who quilt are dead sexy. What about you?

Natasha: Dead sexy to be sure…I think you even have another book idea in there.
My father is a fine art photographer (and in another life, a graphic artist) and my mother does poetry. Artistry is in my blood. I have dabbled with quilting, stained glass, painting, photography, jewelry making and graphic design. I’m not sure what else I could try, but I’m only happy when I am creating something. I wouldn’t mind hanging in Italy, the country where I got engaged, and just ‘go with the flow’.

AARON: Thanks Natasha!

Natasha: And thank you, Aaron!

Website for the book
Natasha on twitter
Fledgling on Amazon