Good Morning Everyone and happy Friday once again. This week on Inside A Beautiful Mind I am going to be chatting with a talented writer Natasha Jackson Arnautu.
KADE: Good morning Natasha, Thank you for being here today. So let’s get right to it and tell the readers a little bit about yourself ?
NATASHA: I’m N.D. Jackson but you can call me Natasha or Tasha. I am from Chicago, born and raised, but I call Germany home for now. Right now my life is writing and traveling, two of my favorite things to do. I like being in different places and learning about different cultures, meeting new people and seeing their history. It’s what allows me to give my characters depth and makes their stories so interesting. I love politics, romance and true crime and if I could figure out a way to incorporate them all into every novel I’d be over joyed. People interest me in a hands-off kind of way. I prefer to watch and see how and why people do what they do.
KADE: I love that. I have to admit I like to people watch as well. I find it fascinating. So with that said would you mind telling us a bit about your upcoming book?
NATASHA: My upcoming novella, Mint Juleps & Moonlight Melodies is the 2nd book in the Rebel Girlz series. This is Marilyn’s story. She’s a budding romance writer using her summer in New Orleans to live life passionately. She meets Zack (Taz from book #1’s roommate) a musician who shows her what she’s missing. It’s music, fun, steam and yes, romance.
KADE: What more could a girl ask for, you have my attention. So tell us, what inspired you to write your first book?
NATASHA: The first book I wrote is still sitting unpublished and needs to be edited in a bad way. The first book I wrote that was published was Cordially Invited and I was inspired because I am a total political junkie. One day I was digitizing my old paperwork and I came across this final paper I wrote on death penalty my freshman year of college and there was yet another news story on a botched execution. From there, the story was born. A party planner gets a job creating lavish Gatsby style parties for each execution…makes sense, right?
KADE: Oh wow, not that does sound like a perfect set up for a wonderful story. Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
NATASHA: Not really and yes. Let’s say Cordially Invited is how I sometimes picture things working when I’m at my most cynical.
KADE: Ha ha, yes I am sure it is. We all have a bit of darkness within us that rises to the surface once in a while. What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write and why?
NATASHA: I liked coming up with the different methods of killing them. I wanted a way that was grotesque and deplorable enough to be ridiculous against the designer clothes, jewelry and gourmet food being served.
KADE: Hahaha I totally get it. I like how you think. How did you come up with the title?
NATASHA: After I had the character of Lucky all fleshed out and wrote the scene on her choosing invitations it was clear…Cordially Invited.
KADE: Very cool. It is nice when things fall into place. What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
NATASHA: The toughest criticism is something you can’t explain without seeming petty. They feel a part of the story wasn’t fleshed out as they would have liked and bash you for it. You want to say “if you’d read page 246 closer you’d know!” But you can’t do that so…it sucks. The best compliment is when a reviewer says “I want to live in Mustang Prairie,” that’s nice.
KADE: Yes, one of the unfortunate truths of being a writer is that you can’t please everyone but luckily, the compliments far outweigh the bashers especially that one. That is wicked. So tell me, do you have any unique or quirky writing habits?
NATASHA: I don’t know if their unique or quirky, but I like to do my dialogue aloud sometimes…using voices. Only because I despise wooden dialogue and I write day and night so sometimes I just need a back up. My husband sometimes thinks I’m crazy but I get pretty good feedback on my dialogue so it’s a win.
KADE: Too funny. I think voicing it out loud is only proper. How else are you going to know if it sounds right unless you hear it? And I find it helps with the flow as well. Now I have to ask, since you mentioned about your interest in different killing tactics of your characters, what is the strangest thing you have ever had to research online for your book?
NATASHA: For Cordially Invited I looked up all the ways the state has killed people throughout history, even the botched ones. Most of the ones in the book were my own twisted creation but I’d definitely be in trouble if someone peeped my search history during that time! I even spoke to a few corrections officers who worked on death row in my home state, Illinois.
KADE: Ha ha I bet but it must have been pretty interesting to talk to a live person about those kind of things. The officers must have been able to give you some incredible insight as well. Can you give us an interesting fun fact about your book.
NATASHA: Madison Madigan is based on a woman who was quite a well-known politician when I was growing up. They even have similar names and…mannerisms. But I’m not telling!
KADE: haha Ok, I won’t ask which ones. J Now when you sit down to create your stories do you work with an outline, or just write?
NATASHA: Yes. I do both because an outline is my good intentions of being a good girl and following the story as I envisioned it, but the characters get involved and the story unfolds on its own and the outline becomes a pretty distant memory. I love to have it anyway because sometimes you get stuck and your outline buddy is right there to remind you.
KADE: Yes, the characters do seem to do that to a perfectly fine outline. But sometimes it is best just to let them have their way. It definitely makes the story come to life the way it is supposed to be. You mentioned that your first book is not published. Can you tell us about your experiences in trying to get your first book published?
NATASHA: I went the whole traditional route for years. My very first novel is still unpublished but I tried for 2 years to get someone to look at it and nothing happened. Once I moved to Europe my husband and one of my clients convinced me self-publishing was the way to go. There are more expenses involved and it all falls to you, the author. But plenty of people have read my books who might not have otherwise.
KADE: Well I think you made the right choice for your book. It is a shame to make a story sit on a shelf when so many readers would love to dive in and bring it to life. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
NATASHA: Like most authors, I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I’ve been working as a writer since my college days when I did book, movie and album reviews for magazines. My first book was finished in 2008 and I sent it to agents and publishers alike. I decided to explore other avenues than political satire and wrote my first romance in 2013.
KADE: Sounds like you have had quite an intriguing beginning to your career. How did you choose the genre you write in?
NATASHA: That was easy. Politics was and is my first love, although these days it’s more of a love-hate thing. So my first two books I wrote were political satire, which even in the best of times isn’t really going to make a career. After digitizing all of my writing from childhood in preparation for my move to Europe I found a few early romances, I decided to put my new Kindle to use. I started to read more romance books and fell in love with the genre all over again. Now you can find me writing political satire as well as romance with some politics.
KADE: That is wonderful. I am sure there is probably a lot of stories floating around in your mind. Where do you get your ideas?
NATASHA: Everywhere! For Feels Like Love all I had to start was Sadie. Her history and her life all came together before I had a partner for her or anything. I had to build the story around her. But Cordially Invited came about due to my passion about and frustration with how the death penalty is applied in the US. The places I’ve been, people I’ve met or even a short phrase will spark an idea.
KADE: Sounds like you are just brimming with passion. What an amazing world you must live in, no wonder you are a writer. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
NATASHA: My biggest influence is probably Jane Austen because she’s amazing. Unlike many of her contemporaries she had this fast paced wit that was centuries ahead. Like Shakespeare, Austen gave him a great appreciation for words and how a phrase said one way is totally hilarious but another way is just…blah. But when I decided I was going to write instead of staying in politics, I found a kindred spirit in Christopher Buckley. No one does political satire quite like him.
KADE: Excellent point! Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
NATASHA: It sounds trite, but don’t give up. The truth is that not giving up was what made all the difference. It took me months to get the first few reviews for Conflict of Interest and I wanted to cry. But I was already working on A Little Bit In Love and I’d met other authors who encouraged me, sent me to bloggers and Facebookers who reviewed my work and gave me a spotlight to interact with readers. It’s hard and hellish at times, but I write all day for work and it’s great to know I have my own writing waiting for me at the end of the day.
KADE: I think your words are wonderful bits of advice. So many people ‘give up’ before the incredible feeling of finishing. Yes writing is hard and painstakingly long but it is worth it in the end. You must have a favorite quote or saying…any chance you want to spill?
NATASHA: That’s easy, Ralph Waldo Emerson. “What you do speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you say.”
KADE: I love it. This is such a true statement and I guess this would be why you and I are such fans of people watching. Alright I have to know, Tea or coffee?
NATASHA: Yes! But I have coffee almost everyday so…fresh ground coffee, please and thanks.
KADE: I am in one hundred percent agreement with you on that. Good answer ha ha. Sweet or salty?
NATASHA: Salty, for sure.
KADE: Good stuff. Ok, so we are nearing the end of our lovely chat, would you mind sharing with us a passage that will give us a glimpse into the world you built?
NATASHA: Sure! Here’s an excerpt from Cordially Invited
Taryn sat in her broom closet of an office staring at the blank computer screen, the only thing new in her office by the way, trying in vain to write a job description for Post Conviction Event Coordinator without saying what the chosen candidate would be expected to coordinate. She had no idea what this person would do let alone what qualifications they should possess. Unable to come up with anything, Taryn lifted herself up and marched to the Warden’s office. “Mr. Templeton, what exactly will this new Coordinator do?”
Warden Templeton looked up, annoyed. “They will do exactly that, coordinate events that happen after their convictions, Taryn. But we need someone with real experience or the Governor will have all of our asses.” He raked his hands through his slightly wavy hair and looked at what he thought was a mighty fine ass, if she would remove the stick from it.
Taryn, used to his histrionics, shrugged. “Fine. I’ll send you the final copy for approval. Whenever it’s ready.”
“No need to do that Taryn. You’re capable of doing this without me aren’t you?” He gave her that phony manipulative smile she’d caught him practicing in the mirror and that’s when she knew the Warden wouldn’t hesitate to use her body as a shield if this thing went to hell.
“Very well, sir.” She turned and walked through a doorway about six months past due for a paint job. She felt his eyes on her backside—they were perpetually glued to it—and slowed down allowing him a satisfyingly long gaze. When Taryn wanted something, she wasn’t above a low-cut top or a snug dress to do the trick. She was beautiful and she knew it. Being both smart and beautiful, thank you very much, Taryn had no problem using her beauty if results would be produced quicker than using her brain.
Back at her desk in the pitifully small office supplied by the Warden Taryn finally got to the business of writing the ad.
Lincoln County Bureau of Prisons seeks superbly organized event planner comfortable with dangerous felons and death. Must be ready to dive right in and put on post conviction events for the whole family. Bring own splatter guards. Send cover letter, resume and recommendations to Taryn.Micklesby@lcbop.gov.
Upon a closer glance, Taryn decided to go with a job ad slightly less…straightforward.
Lincoln County Bureau of Prisons seeks highly qualified and experienced event coordinator for full-time position. Must be results oriented, efficient, and understand the true value of confidentiality. Seeking a star among stars. Send cover letter and resume to Taryn.Mickelsby@lcbop.gov.
Taryn sent the posting to online job boards and the Classifieds section of local newspapers. The Warden’s father was a crime reporter for The Lincoln Courier Gazette, and he insisted the Bureau did their part to keep the newspaper industry alive by placing job ads. Although she never received any qualified applicants from the newspaper, Taryn placed ads just as he’d asked. This time however, she’d use what little power he’d given her, to help a friend.
KADE: Oh that does sound like she is going to stir up some trouble, I love it. So let the awesome readers out there know what is the best way to stay in touch with you and where to learn more about your books.
NATASHA: Blog: https://ndjacksonwritinstuff.com/
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/MustangPrairieBooks
Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8574243.N_D_Jackson
Other: Pinterest: https://de.pinterest.com/objection21/mustang-prairie-girls-cocktails/
KADE: Just want to say a HUGE thank you to Natasha for taking the time to hang out with me today. And a big thank you to all of you readers out there for taking a moment to support your Authors.
If you or any of you know of someone who would like a few minutes of limelight on Inside A Beautiful Mind with me, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and place Author Interview in the topic space.
Enjoy your Friday folks, you are awesome and please be kind to your Authors, leave a review. See you next week, Peace!