Natalie C. Parker
When and how did you start writing?
My first serious attempts at writing started in high school, when I somehow conned my English teacher to let my novel (a contemporary retelling of the myth of Persephone and Hades) be my Senior Honors Project. This novel went on to be rejected by a handful of agents, which was perhaps an incredible blessing.
Can you remember the first book that made an impact on you? Who were your childhood storytelling heroes?
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald was the first book I remember wishing I could live inside. Later, I read The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander and The Dark is Rising Sequence by Susan Cooper and discovered what it was like to get detention for reading beneath my school desk. It was worth it.
Can you talk us through your career so far? What were the key moments?
The first key moment came before I found an agent. It was when I handed my first post-high school attempt at a novel to a small group of friends who are all published authors. They read it and told me it was good, but my next would be better and the biggest favor I could do for myself was to put it aside and write something new.
It was the “something new” that captured the attention of my agent, Sarah Davies. And that was the moment I realized that patience is key and there’s no substitute for hard work except more hard work.
Was it hard to get an agent? Can you talk us through the process?
It took me less than two weeks to find an agent, so in that respect, it was quite easy. However, I worked on my debut novel for nearly a year before deciding it was ready to query. Within hours of sending queries, I had requests for the full. Within days, I had scheduled phone calls. And within two weeks, I’d made my decision.
The hardest part was writing the book.
Describe your writing day. Where do you write? How do you organize your time? Where do you look for inspiration?
My ideal writing day begins with a cappuccino and an abundance of vision. But most of my writing days begin with regular black coffee and an abundance of cats. I write before and after my day job, and all through the weekends.
In terms of inspiration, I’m always on the lookout for music that sounds the way I want my books to feel. I keep collections of songs on various iPods and turn to them frequently. I also find adventures inspiring, but they’re more fussy about being kept in boxes.
Are there any tips you could give aspiring writers who are looking to get published?
I think it’s important to remember that going fast isn’t always preferable. The slow path may be frustrating, but it creates incredible opportunities. Mostly revision. And opportunities for revision are always a positive thing.
Can you describe three aspects of writing craft that have been most important as you’ve developed as an author?
Can I say critique partners, critique partners, and critique partners? No? Alright, then I will say reduction, firm mythologies, and active characters. I’ve recently discovered that keeping my prose concise doesn’t necessitate killing the poetry (and I think the modernist poets would agree!), establishing firm rules for the way a story-world works will leave me with fewer headaches, and stories are far more interesting with they happen outside of the protagonists’ head.
Which favorite authors would you invite to a dinner party? Which fictional character do you wish you’d invented?
Ursula K. LeGuin, Susan Cooper, and Tony Morrison.
And I wish I’d invented Princess Eilonwy from Lloyd Alexander’s The Chronicles of Prydain. She’s proud, resourceful, and carries the physical manifestation of her will with her at all times. I am a sucker for a beautiful metaphor.