Interview: Natasha Deen

Today we’re pleased to have Natasha Deen appear on our pages. Ms. Deen is author of True Grime, a comedic fantasy mystery.

Rhodes Review: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? 

Natasha Deen: In university, after trying to read a poli-sci article where the first sentence (I’m so not kidding you) was half-a-page.  I realized as much fun as it was reading about animal experiments, Freudian theory, city bylaws, and the importance of the “sliding slope,” I really needed to do something else with my life…

Rhodes Review: How long does it take you to write a book?

Natasha Deen: I try to write a book in three months, but the editing takes another six—sometimes longer.

Rhodes Review: What is your work schedule like when you’re writing? 

Natasha Deen: I wake up anywhere from 5 or 6 in the morning, and stumble into the study, cup of tea in hand. Check emails, look at last night’s writing and wonder what made me think the pages were any good.

Keep writing.

Have breakfast.  Try not to look at the pages I’ve just written.

Keep writing.

Have second breakfast—try to convince pets that they’ve already eaten and it’s not fair to come after my food.

Check emails. Give into urge to re-read pages.   Weep at how horrendous it all is. Email writing friends. Ask them what made me think I could do this.

Have snack.

Get emails from writing friends threatening me with horrible fate if I stop working on my manuscript.

Keep writing.

Have lunch.  Take a break.

Keep writing.  Realize it’s not going well at all.  Email writing friends.  Resist urge to burn pages.

Have snack.

Feel despondent.

Have another snack.

Get emails back.  They’re going to take my chocolate if I don’t reach my day’s goal.

Keep writing.

Wonder what made me think I could do this.  Check job sites to see if MacDonald’s is hiring.

Get emails from friends. They’re on to the MacDonald’s plan and threaten to take away my Columbo DVDs if I stop writing.

Keep writing.

Eat enough chocolate to induce diabetic coma.

Wait for husband to come home and make dinner.  Keep writing.

Husband comes home. 

Shut down computer for the night.  Tell husband about trials of the day. Let him convince me that tomorrow, the pages will be better, and I really can write this book…

(I’m exaggerating, of course.   I never shut down my computer.).

 Rhodes Review: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk? 

Natasha Deen: My inability to work unless there’s a cup of tea and mounds of chocolate/chips/popcorn surrounding me, and having to have at least one of my four pets (two dogs, two cats) in the study with me.

Rhodes Review: Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they? 

Natasha Deen: I’ve gotten a lot of great advice, but during my numerous conversations with Agatha Christie and Calvin Coolidge, I got the most lasting advice. (Doesn’t matter that they’re dead. Here’s a piece of advice for you, the dead give the best advice. Honest).  And of course, it’s always best to hear it from the advice givers, themselves, so Agatha, why don’t I hold your cup of tea and you go ahead and tell them what you told me.

Agatha: Oh, yes, thank you.  I said that there was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you’re writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.

Thank you. Here’s your tea.  Calvin, dear heart, do you remember what you told me?

Calvin: Yes.  Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Brilliant.  With wisdom like that, is it any wonder that I talk to them all the time?

Rhodes Review: What inspired you to write True Grime?

Natasha Deen: The answer is simple but multi-faceted: I wrote the book because the BP Oil scandal made me wonder if we’d ever stop destroying the environment. I wrote it because I remembered the Exon Valdez oil spill and realized that we were getting better at dealing with global catastrophes. And I wrote it because I work in the schools and I had something to say about bullying, and I wanted to talk of the things we tell kids (and ourselves) about what it means to be a boy or a girl.

Rhodes Review: How did you start writing?

Natasha Deen: Honestly, I took a breath, opened a Word file and just started typing.

Rhodes Review: What are some of your favorite authors/books?

Natasha Deen: Ohh, too many to mention, but Dean Koontz always tops the list because 1) he can make me laugh at the same time he’s scaring the pants off me (2) I love his ability to describe.

Rhodes Review: What was the hardest part to write in True Grime?

Natasha Deen: Ha ha. No word of a lie: every part in between the covers. From the description to the plot to the characters, there were a lot of sleepless nights and very long days.

 Rhodes Review: How did you come up with the decision to make Pepper an amputee?

Natasha Deen: Because I didn’t see a lot of stories featuring amputees…also, from a metaphorical point, I like the fact that she’s missing part of her…for most of us, we’ve had our psychic explosions that have robbed us of a piece of ourselves…I liked that Pepper continued on despite the injury because it gave me inspiration to continue on, too.

 Rhodes Review: The book seems to look at some of the worst aspects of humanity.  Did you draw this from your own life?

Natasha Deen: Yes—I was bullied in junior high and the incident with Aponi and Malcolm was a diluted version of what transpired between a girl and one of the bullies in my school…bullying is such a big topic right now, and I wanted to say to the kids who’re going through it, “Me too. I had the same experience, but there’s light on the other side of that very long, very dark tunnel.”

Even though the story deals with heavy topics, I really wanted a message of hope and joy—that yes, things are terrible, but every day, we have a chance to become the people we really want to be.

Once again we’d like to thank Ms. Deen for taking the time to talk with us.

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