My Interview with Natalie J. Case!
Welcome! I appreciate you sharing your time and talents with me and my readers. I am excited to interview you, learning about your writing experiences and sharing time with a fellow cat lady!
1. I always begin my interviews with the same question because it’s actually very revealing. That being said, would you please start by describing yourself to us?
I always fail at this. I am always more comfortable describing others. There are a handful of labels that generally apply to me, I suppose. Writer. Photographer. Short. Music lover. Single. Complicated. Spiritual. Kindness Distributer. Champion of various causes. Firm believer in Equality and the First Amendment. I'm a fan of kickass female characters, kickass music played loudly, and exploring the limits of my abilities.
2. I know you’ve been writing pretty much your whole life, but you are new to publishing. What finally inspired you to publish and why did you opt to sign on with Creativia?
I originally opted to self-publish "Forever" because I've always been a loud proponent of shaking up the traditional publishing paradigm. Writers have been forced for a long time to fit whatever niche the traditional publishing world wanted filled. I'm not good at fitting in holes made by other people.
So, I self-published. The problem with that is I'm not overly good at self-promotion and I'm an insanely busy person (working a full time job, writing, part time professional photographer, family commitments, volunteer commitments), so when a friend of mine published with Creativia I asked her about the company, thinking of submitting a novel I'm currently working on. Then I wondered if re-releasing "Forever" through Creativia might be a good foot in the door… and here we are.
· What led you to Creativia? Do you notice a difference in having a publisher compared to self-pubbing? How has Creativia impacted your writing career?
o My friend, Susan Alia Terry, published her first novel "Coming Darkness" through Creativia earlier this year. I was approaching the end of my first draft on a new novel and thinking about looking for a publisher. Creativia ended up on my short list, largely because I'm still not a fan of traditional publishing, and I'm leery about the whole agent relationship.
o After a conversation with Susan, I decided to give it a go and submit "Forever" for consideration.
o The immediate difference is the fact that there is a built in sort of community to help with the leg work. Having the other authors and the street team willing to lend a hand with promo work has already proven to be good for the book.
· What advice would you give to someone looking at publishing a novel?
o Take the time and spend a little money to get an objective editor to give it a thorough once over before you start shopping it around. The best writer in the world can be made better with a good editor.
· What advice was given to you?
o The best writing advice I've ever been given was to write the story that mattered to me. Writing for myself makes me happy, so if anyone else ever likes what I write, that's just extra happiness.
3. You’ve been an avid reader your entire life. You’ve mentioned being moved by authors such as Tolkien, Heinlein, and Asimov. Do you think you became a writer as a by-product of reading, like a natural progression in your love for the written word, or was it directly inspired by the vivid worlds these other authors created?
To be honest, I think the reverse is true. I've been telling stories since before I could read. When I discovered that other people told stories too, I was in love.
My mother instilled a love of words in me very young, so I was always hungry for more. I read books well above my age level, often with a dictionary beside me so I could look up words I didn't know.
I was reading Tolkien at 9, Heinlein by 11, and Asimov shortly after that. I was in my teens before I realized that everyone didn't have stories unrolling in their heads all the time.
· Being both an avid reader and author myself, I would guess it’s a combination. I feel like reading books feeds my writing, getting the creative juices flowing. What or who do you think is your muse?
o I joke that my muse is named Brain. She wears combat boots and a pink tutu, smokes cigars and she can world build faster than a bullet train and collects people everywhere we go.
o I think that honestly, my inspiration comes from everything around me. I observe, even unconsciously, and store minutia away for later use. Brain rummages through the collection and pulls out whatever is needed for a character, scene, world building, etc.
· Do you get writer’s block and if so, how do you deal with it? If you don’t experience it, why do think that is, and what do you think causes it in others?
o I have experienced it in the past. Usually due to stress. Which is funny because I deal with stress by writing. Any day I don't write is a day when stress wins. Too many of those in a row and I can have a dry spell. But I usually have at least two stories in progress, and when I stall out on one, I can switch to the other and find words. Or I give poetry a go.
o Sometimes I have to switch creative gears all together and grab my camera and head out.
· What is your favorite genre? Do you give the same answer for favorite reading genre as you do for favorite writing genre? Why or why not?
o I'm not very good at "favorites" I'll admit. I'm kind of an omnivore when it comes to reading. I tend toward fantasy and sci-fi, but a good mystery or thriller is good too. I love a well written biography and I have hunger for non-fiction books on interesting topics.
o I'm currently reading a book on re-writing Celtic history by my friend Michael Gorman, and I recently finished a book about the way LGBT authors wrote and communicated during a time when being gay would get you killed.
o About the only thing I don't really read is romance. I don't mind romance in what I'm reading, as long as romance isn't the point of the book.
o Writing on the other hand…I do tend to a specific sort of story. "Forever", obviously is a vampire story. The trilogy I'm working on now is set in the modern US, and deals with paranormal beings. I'm sketching out the outline of a sci-fi novel with genetically modified characters and a fantasy novel/series with magic of a sort.
o I probably write in those areas because they were among my first loves in the larger world of fiction when I escaped the young adult section of the library and I'm comfortable there. I do try to stretch my muscles and write in other genres, but so far none of them have gone beyond a short story.
4. I know you love vampires, the paranormal, magic, and mythology. How were you first exposed to these topics and what do you think encouraged your intrigue?
Obviously, reading Tolkien at such a young age got the whole thing started. And for a time it was the lure of the forbidden. I was involved in a very strict religious situation as a young teenager. At about the same time, I discovered Katherine Kurtz and fell in love with the amazing medieval world she painted and the very structured magic system that existed in it. I'm not really sure where my love of vampires came from… but I found Steven King around 14, read "Salem's Lot" and never looked back.
· Do you have a favorite era for mythology? For example, I prefer the Norse Mythology to Greek Mythology.
o As a Pagan, I study a lot of mythology. I probably know Greek/Roman best, but am most drawn to Celtic mythology and Native American mythology. It is an interesting thing, to look at the similarities between myths of very different cultures.
o Creation myths are among my favorites.
· Do you think supernatural creatures are the same as mythological ones? I can see how some can cross over, over-lapping into both sub-groups, but ultimately, I see them as different entities. Thinking about it, I feel like mythology is more in-line with pagan religions and gods/goddesses, whereas supernatural creatures are like separate entities, beings with powers, like shape-shifters. How do you think about them and how does that play into your ideas about magic?
o This can get complicated. *grin*
o As a Pagan, again, I don't necessarily feel that anything is really *super* or *para* normal. There is only what we consider normal and the things we don't understand yet. That said, I think our basic ideas of paranormal creatures come from our base human fears.
o The psychology around what a vampire represents, for example, really goes to some of our basest fears and taboos. The overt sexuality, the perversion of drinking blood and taking a life to survive, the fear of being buried alive. Even the traditional method of attacking a vampire hearkens to our need to have our god protect us from that fear.
o Gods and Goddesses on the other hand come from the world around us. They help us grasp the things we cannot control or understand. They explain the storms, the sun, the moon, war, famine, disease, and the seasons. They bless us and we continue living.
o So, I guess what I'm saying is that the paranormal/supernatural comes from inside us while the Gods and Goddesses come from without.
· How do you define magic? Do you think magic is a religion, found in chants and potions, or is it something completely supernatural? Is magic the ability to learn how to manipulate the energies and natural resources around you or is it a special power or ability?
o So many answers to this question. I think I'll stick to the fictional to keep it simple. That answer is this: it depends.
o When I write magic into a world, I have to make those decisions. In the trilogy I'm working on now, it is something inborn to certain species, but they still have to learn how it works, and it doesn't necessarily work the same for each of them, but there is also a more… hmm… natural maybe, magic as well that anyone can learn… the magic of using the gifts of the earth and the personal will to mix teas and potions and bless talismans and the like.
o In one of the other things I'm working on, it is very tied up with the religion of the world and the dedication to the study of that religion and the rituals of that magic.
· Why are you so drawn to vampires? What fed your interest?
o The psychology of it fascinates me.
o The first vampire book I actually recall reading was "Salem's Lot" and it was the beginning of my obsession.
o I devoured a lot of books, watched a lot of movies. I'm a big fan of an author who can hold to the "traditional" idea of the vampire and still make changes to make them their own (without crossing the line into ridiculous).
· There are different views of vampires, just as there are many versions of Sasquatch. I am curious to learn how you define them – are they cruel, hell-bound, soulless creatures or are they victims of a blood condition, spread like an untreatable virus that curses them? Are they horrifying and gruesome or they charismatic and attractive?
o Once again, I have to go with: it depends.
o In "Forever", making a vampire requires a force of will. The act of turning them often bleeds away the best parts of the people they once were and leaves them with only the darker aspects of their human nature, but a few, who are stronger of character, can retain some of their better selves.
o Crenoral, the Father of Amara's "Family" was cruel and dark and gruesome, yet Leonard and Moira retain some of their elegance and grace.
· When you write about vampires, do you go with the traditional blood drinkers or do you prefer the psychic vampires, feeding on energies?
o I've never written the psychic sort, though they fascinate me too. I've read some good short fiction with psychic vampires and I may play in that pool at some point. In "Forever" though, the vampires drink blood.
5. When I read your bio on your Creativia Author Page, it said you enjoy exploring “the sometimes vanishing line between good and evil.” That concept fascinates me. Do you think good and evil exists as something black and white, in gradating colors of grey, or as something in between the two?
Good and evil are, at the base, societal constructs. Sure, we have some that we think are universal. Murder is evil. Charity is good. But it gets complicated when you dig down from the simple statement. You have to define murder, and many of us would define it differently. For example, some say that abortion is murder. Many others say that it isn't. Some believe that any forcible death is murder. But, if you are forced to kill someone to prevent your own death, is that necessarily evil?
That gets even more complicated when you move away from simple absolutes.
Is lying evil? Is sacrifice of self good? The answers vary based on the details and your location. Many things we once thought were good we now consider evil. I think there is a line, but I don't think it's set in concrete. I think it moves and it changes, and all we can do is do the best we know how with the information we are given at any given time. That line runs from absolute evil to absolute good. But the definitions of those are liable to change.
· How does your ideas about good and evil interplay with concepts such as magic and religion? Furthermore, how does it affect the way you view various creatures? Do you think a vampire is an evil parasite for its blood-lust or a blameless creature doing what they must to survive, like a lion killing a Giselle?
o I like to play with the concept. I'm interested in exploring the aspects of both good and evil, in turning our perceptions of them on their head as a means of self-examination. I want to challenge the traditional view and make people think about what they know to be true, what they believe.
o I think I approach this based on my own sense of morality. I'm very interested in personal responsibility, on self-knowledge and self-awareness, so the characters who exhibit these things are my heroes. Those who are self-centered, who take what they desire and drop bodies in their wake are my villains.
o I think in my world, a vampire is an exaggerated version of the human being they come from. A person who is a cruel and angry man will make a cruel and angry vampire.
· What are your vampires like? Are they evil, like the traditional view of Dracula, or are they noble and innately good, like the version we see in Dracula Untold?
o It's a good mix. There are certainly traditional Dracula types, particularly in Crenoral and Bestin, two of the three brothers who were the first vampires. I think it's also true that the longer a vampire lives, the less of their human self remains, so even those who are "good" will eventually lose sight of what it is to be human, grow indifferent to the short lives and pull back from living in the world, letting them let go even more.
o We do see some of the more noble sorts, in Moira and Leonard, in Joy. And in Rebeka we see a sort of combination of the two. She loves the hunt, but she hunts men who hurt others. She revels in the taking of blood, but gives with a child-like innocence to Amara when she is done.
6. Your book, FOREVER has a protagonist that is neither vampire nor human, but a blend of the two. I know she has starred in many of your short stories before she emerged into the Amara we know in the novel. Why do you think she has stayed with you for so long and what makes her so special to you?
I was 16 when I wrote the first short story that would become "Forever". It's actually the asylum scene, or part of it. It's changed a lot since that first short story. When I started she had no name, her voice was a vast departure from anything I had ever written. Every year for the next four or five, I wrote at least one more short story in the series. They all started with Amara telling a story, that then led to a flashback, and came back to wrap up the story. By the time I was 21, I had the building blocks of a vast portion of her life. That was when a friend suggested it would make a good novel.
"Forever" was not my first novel, but it was the first one I thought could actually become something. I could hear her voice in my head. She was a part of me. I had never felt like that before.
· Why did you create her as a hybrid instead of making her a full vampire or a human with some supernatural power(s)?
o The easy answer here is that I didn't create her at all, she just existed and told me her story. I know, it sounds corny, but I often felt like I was just the scribe. I don't think I knew exactly what she was until about the third short story and I was 2/3rds of the way through writing it before I realized exactly who she was (don't want to spoil anyone).
o But, more practically, there's an ability to explore the psychology of both human beings and vampires when your primary character lives in both worlds. We see evil in both vampires and humans. We see love in both as well. And with Amara bridging the gap between them, yet existing outside of both, we get to look at them from her point of view.
· Are you trying to make a statement with Amara or just entertain readers? Expanding on that question, what do you hope readers find when they discover her?
o I think I set out to entertain myself. Amara is a part of me, so I guess I'm hoping readers find something about her that they like. Maybe let their ideas of good and evil be challenged a little, maybe look at things from a different perspective.
o Mostly, though, I hope that readers can fall into the world of "Forever" for a few hours and forget the dishes in the sink and the spreadsheet that needs formatting and the rest of their everyday lives.
· Is FOREVER a stand-alone novel or is it the first book in a planned series?
o It is meant to be a stand-alone.
o There is a nagging idea in the back of my mind though about a second book, one that can explore the darkness of a good man being turned and how he justifies the life he lives after. But seeing as I have six books I have currently sketched out and started writing, it will be a while.
7. As we near the conclusion of our interview, I’d like to ask if there’s anything you’d like readers to know about you or your work?
*laughs* Like any other writer, I'm a little bit nuts? I have a billion voices in my head and they all have a story. I need a USB port into my brain! And I'm hungry for feedback, so if you read "Forever" please, please leave a review.
I really enjoyed probing your mind and discussing such fascinating subjects! Thank you for sharing your time and I am sure we all look forward to reading FOREVER, as well as your upcoming works!