Tell us a little bit about you, Natalie
I write the Serena Wilcox mystery series, and a few stand-alone books. I’m also an oil painter. I’m part Irish and I enjoy that culture – I want to visit Ireland in the near future. Faith and resilience are driving forces in my life, as I have suffered many losses. I was born in upstate New York, raised in Indiana, lived in Germany for the first three years of my married life, and now reside in the Twin Cities area with my husband and three children.
Tell us about your books
The Serena Wilcox Mysteries began in 1998 with a small red cheaply-printed paperback. I wrote three mysteries before taking a decade-long break from mystery writing. I wrote and directed plays and screenplays for local community theater. I sank myself into choreography, set design, and videography. When I moved on from my theater program I returned to writing mystery novels.
The early books, that I started when I was in my twenties, are so light on word count that they are novellas or short stories, not full length novels as I thought I was writing. Those first three books (Gene Play, 1998, Virtual Memories, 1999, and Camp Conviction, 2000) are now bundled into a 3-book e-book for 99 cents. There are few print copies floating around. I literally burned hundreds of them in a giant bonfire, thinking I had moved on to a career in theater anyway, so what’s the point of keeping those around? Now of course I’m kicking myself for not saving at least a few extra copies of the first book I wrote, the one that is laughably bad.
The series evolved from those early works (short stand-alone page-turners) into full length futuristic thrillers (storylines that are deeply connected and must be read in order). In 2011, the Serena Wilcox Mysteries “dystopian trilogy” was launched. The first book in the series, Angels Mark, 2011, was my break-through novel. It was followed by Covert Coffee, 2012. Bluebird Flown is in progress now, scheduled to be published September 2013. After the current political-thriller trilogy wraps up, the Serena Wilcox Mysteries will take off in a new direction. The theme for the next trilogy is a secret for now.
The Serena Wilcox Mysteries includes an interactive reading game. Choose Your Own Mystery: Agent Estep is available now, free, at www.nataliebuskethomas.com . Additional games will be added on a regular basis, featuring different characters from the series. The game is played from the POV of the female protagonist: You are Serena Wilcox, former private detective, hired by President Ann Kinji to flush out corrupt government insiders and politicians.
The series, beginning with Angels Mark in 2011, is hard-hitting and hardboiled, but clean. The series is set in the near future, with many of the plot lines turning up in the news after publication. The books are fast-paced and switch POV from chapter to chapter. They are quirky and unusual books, and are often categorized as “humorous” by readers. It is the kind of series that has attracted passionately loyal fans, and haters alike. It seems that readers either love it or hate it, there’s no “meh” option.
When did you start writing?
My first published work was a poem I wrote when I was eleven years old. My father sent it off to the local newspaper and we were all so proud when it was published. I haven’t stopped writing since.
Why do you write?
It’s how I’m wired.
What would be your choice for a superpower?
I get only one choice? Can I time travel? If not, then I’ll take flying, even if I have to wear a cape.
Who is your favorite author?
I can only choose one? This is an odd choice for me, given that I dislike animal stories and I’m usually bored by classic literature, but I’d have to say James Herriot. His writing style is an escape for me. I’ve read his books several times over and I've also watched the BBC television series based on his books. I’d love to take the tour of the areas he wrote about. It would mean traveling abroad though, and I hate to fly. If only I had the super powers you offered me earlier.
What are you reading now?
I’m reading an inspirational self-help book right now about healing. I was my mother’s caregiver and every now and then I feel a little blue. I lost Dad to cancer when he was thirty-seven years old, I had just turned sixteen. With no one else available, taking care of Mom fell heavily on me. That journey was fairly recent, two years ago. I’m still working through a few things.
Who is your favorite character to write?
I can only choose one? You've been rather stingy. I’d go with President Ann Kinji or The Beav, but I've turned things around with Serena Wilcox in this book (Bluebird Flown) and I like writing from her POV more. Usually my answer is nearly any other character but Serena, because she is too much like me and therefore I find her boring and even annoying. I've stepped up some though, I guess I like myself better.
Do you have a writing process?
Yes. I didn't use to; I always “winged it”. Thus the first three novellas-that-were-supposed-to-be-novels are an embarrassment to me. Nowadays I’ve matured. I've been forced to. I’m juggling family needs and other career projects. If I don’t have a system not much gets done. I spend the groggy first hour or two in the mornings catching up with social media and other promotional tasks, including writing guest blogs or any other writing that takes me away from writing books. Next, I work on my current book project. I keep at it until I reach a natural stopping point. I don’t usually write more than two hours on any given day. When I write, it’s fast and furious. When I find myself staring at the screen too much, it’s quitting time. Between writing sessions I jot down ideas, stray thoughts, and brilliant plans in one of my many journals lying around the house. I also do research and promotion between writing sessions. Some of my other projects relate to writing. So even though I only spend a good solid hour or two of actual in-the-zone writing, it is quality writing that has been well prepared for through research and notes ahead of time. I do give myself flexibility to free-write also. And, if I am in-the-zone past my usual time-frame I keep going. Sometimes I crank out a ridiculous amount of work in one day. I go with the flow, but I stay on a schedule. I am on a one-book-a-year schedule, with other book projects and other creative projects in between.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
As hard as it is to see the big picture, do your best to see your writing projects as only one rock in the career wall you are building. Someday your wall will be impressively high, but it must be built one rock at a time. Yes, some authors plop down a huge boulder, usually with the help from a whole team of people, from book one: Off they go – instant success! But the reality is that this scenario is like winning the lottery and it does rely more on luck than skill. If you are not exceptionally lucky, your realistic plan for success is to keep adding more rocks to your wall, no matter how small, and no matter how many years it takes you. Each promotional tool, each contact, each new reader, and especially each new book, is a rock. One day you will climb your wall to place a new rock on it and you’ll be nearly dizzy from the height! You’ll realize how far you've come. You’ll look down at where you used to be and you’ll be so proud of all you've accomplished. You will also have a paycheck.
What inspired you to pursue writing?
I needed no inspiration. It’s what I do. How fabulous to get paid for it, sort of. I have to do a lot of other work I don’t particularly enjoy to promote the books that I write. That’s why I add an element of fun to the (mostly unpaid) non-writing work that I do. For example, next weekend is an author event held at a local winery. Yeah, don’t feel too sorry for me.
What are your favorite TV shows/Movies to watch in between writing?
Finally you are letting me choose more than one! I love, love TV. I hate watching a show that I don’t like though, I can be intolerant. The TV is off all day because I can’t bear the noise. But in the evening when I’m ready to zombie out, I enjoy: Doc Martin, Doctor Who, NCIS, Covert Affairs, White Collar, The Office, and more. I’d love for my own books to be a TV series. I’d rather watch a book than read it, which is a totally uncool thing for an author to say, I know, but ooh the HD! The soundtrack! I just love doing book trailers. I’m an oil painter in my “other” job – I am a highly visual person. And well, I really like eating snacks and watching TV with my family, hard to share a book that way.
Natalie Buske Thomas, author of the Serena Wilcox Mysteries
Please join me and the other amazingly talented authors over @ Skulldust Circle where we have formed a Writer's Circle that must be seen--a collection of brilliant, up & coming independently published speculative fiction authors with much to give both now and in the future!
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