Our guest today is Natasha Tate. A three-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart finalist, Natasha has sold her first book, An Inconvenient Obsession, to Harlequin Presents. An Inconvenient Obsession comes out in May in England and in October in the United States. Natasha has completed two books for Harlequin and is busily working on book three for her second two-book contract.
Natasha, thanks so much for coming to Gem State Writers.
My pleasure, Janis. Thanks for having me!
How long have you been writing?
I’ve always been an avid reader and writer. In fact, I’d have most likely majored in English, had scholarship money not pointed me in another direction. I didn’t think about trying my hand at writing novel-length fiction, however, until I was on a leave of absence after the birth of my third child. He’s fourteen now, so it’s been a bit of a long haul!
Can you tell us how your voice has developed?
When I first decided to start writing fiction, I suffered from a delusional blend of cockiness and certainty. I thought writing books would be easy and that penning a novel would consist of me simply sitting down at my computer and typing it up. I had confidence in spades, and no one to tell me any different. I’d always earned A+’s on every paper I’d ever written, and was often the editor for my friends’ and family’s papers as well. I was the go-to girl for grammar, and I could craft a beautiful, lyrical paragraph like nobody’s business. Toss in a brainiac’s vocabulary, and I thought I’d be working my way up the NTY lists within a few months. (Major clearing of my throat here…)
I was wrong. Dead, dead wrong. And it only took me one failed, half-finished manuscript to figure it out. Writing a cohesive story is so much more challenging than a mere demonstration of proficiency with the mechanics of writing. Being able to craft an engaging tale, peopled with characters that readers will care about is hard, hard work. I was woefully unprepared to do any of it. I didn’t understand story, character arcs, plot structure, point of view, you name it. I was ignorant of it ALL.
Thankfully, I stumbled upon RWA, with all its lovely mentors, friends, resources, and networking opportunities, and I began my intimate relationship with romance novel writing’s steep learning curve. I began by attending every writing conference I could afford, devouring craft books until I dreamed in author-speak, and studying the books and writers I loved the most. I spent a lot of time dissecting best-selling books and then trying to break them down into their components. It took me a long, long time to understand story structure, despite all the workshops on the hero’s journey I attended. And for a long time, I tried to mimic other authors’ voices within the construct of my own stories. That, too, didn’t work. But I felt like I was getting closer. I tried multiple time periods, multiple subgenres, and wrote multiple novels from beginning to end and things still weren’t working. I was honing in on my voice, but it turned out I needed a new direction. It wasn’t until I had a smack-down, “Come to Jesus” conversations with Susan Mallery and her editor about publishing careers and the marketability of certain subgenres before I threw in the towel on my historicals and tried my hand at a shorter, sexy contemporary. Apparently, it was the right niche for my voice, because I wrote the book in a little over a month, sent it off, and had an agent within 24 hours! It’s been a crazy whirlwind ever since, with no signs of slowing down!
You have a family and other commitments. How do you find time to fit writing into your busy schedule?
When my deadlines are looming, I try to write every night, no matter how tired I am. I get up at 4:30 every morning and usually don’t go to bed until about 10. I take care of my day job and motherhood duties until 8 or 8:30 pm, and then I head into my “cave” for some serious writing time. On the weekends, I again rise very early and then write for at least eight hours. Most weekend days, I write while I’m on the treadmill. I discovered that working full time, parenting three kids, and trying to keep on track with my writing career didn’t leave any time for exercising! Consequently, I’ve become the queen of multitasking. I average between eight and ten miles on the weekend days if I walk at a slow enough pace, so I feel no guilt whatsoever when I take a break after meeting my writing goal for the week and eat something that isn’t good for me!
I’ve also discovered what doesn’t work for me. I wrote my second book in one month over the Christmas holidays by not allowing myself to go to bed until I’d written 1200 new words. Of course, one night, I fell asleep at the computer, only to awaken and see that I’d written several paragraphs about my day job. If only it had been a decent sex scene instead! 🙂 As for that marathon month, I don’t recommend the schedule for anyone; it was crazy! However, I’m on a schedule now that has me writing a book every 4 months, and it feels much more doable. At that pace, I can write a lot on the weekends and during holidays, while freeing up my weeknights for other job and family tasks. Tabling bills, housecleaning, cooking, and ignoring the family for too long of a stretch of time is not the best way to facilitate happiness on the home front!
Tell us where you were when you got the call. What was your first reaction?
I actually missed the call, if you can believe it. My agent called my house while I was at work, and I had my cell phone turned off so she couldn’t get through that way either. It wasn’t until I was on my way to meet a writing girlfriend after work that I turned on my phone and saw that I’d missed her call! I’d heard for so long that things move at a glacier’s pace in the publishing world that it never occurred to me that my agent would turn things around as fast as she did with the London editors! I did a quick mental conversion of the time, figured I’d catch her in New York if I called right away, and then called her back while I was in my car. Let me tell you, State Street has never been so beautiful as it was that day. I’d been offered a two book contract with Presents and Desire was interested in my story as well. After a quick discussion of the pros and cons, we decided to go with Presents. The best part is that I was able to immediately celebrate with a fellow writing friend in person! Nobody understands the importance of “the call” like another writer, and it was fabulous to share the moment over a margarita!
Can you give us some insight into the revision process as directed by the acquiring editor?
As I said before, it has taken me a long time to understand story structure, and sometimes, we as writers are so immersed in the words themselves that it’s difficult to take a step back and assess the big picture. I’m really lucky to be paired with a fabulous editor whose suggestions are spot on. She really makes me dig deep into my characters’ motivations and emotions, tells me when my hero is too remote, points out when my heroine needs to stick up for herself more, and asks me to add more dialogue and less internalization. I have a tendency to wax lyrical and to spend too much time inside my characters’ heads, so having an editor who forces me to up the tension through dialogue has really made my books stronger.
Can you tell us a little about An Inconvenient Obsession?
Ethan Hardesty, a global entrepreneur, has everything a successful alpha male could want. Everything, that is, except the woman he once loved and lost, and the Carrington family’s Caribbean island where their relationship first bloomed. Now that the island is up for auction, and Cate’s the one handling the transaction, he decides he wants more than just the island. He wants her. But he soon finds himself in over his head as the attraction between them flares once again. Can he maintain his control and enact his plan for revenge, or will he lose it all again to his inconvenient obsession?
An Inconvenient Obsession combines many of my favorite themes. We as writers are often told to write the book of our hearts, and Ethan and Cate’s story is definitely one that resonates with my own beliefs regarding love, forgiveness, and redemption. I adore reunion romances, revenge motives, sexy rags-to-riches alpha heroes, strong heroines with wounded hearts, family conflicts, and glamorous settings. An Inconvenient Obsession integrates all of these, along with some steamy love scenes and a happily ever after ending that will hopefully tug on readers’ emotional heartstrings.
What is your next book about?
My next book, Once Touched, Never Forgotten, features a sexy English hotelier and the American pastry chef who falls in love with him against her better judgment. Five years after their no-strings affair, Stephen and Colette’s paths intersect again and he discovers he has a daughter he never even knew existed! Sparks fly when he demands that Colette marry him. She, unwilling to subject their child to the damage a loveless union between her parents will cause, refuses his proposal. Convincing Colette to change her mind proves to be a challenge Stephen is willing to undertake, even if it means he has to dismantle some of his own walls against intimacy and love in order to win her hand!
Finally, do you have any advice for those of us who are still waiting for the call?
Write and read, read and write, and then do it all over again. And again. Don’t just talk about writing. Actually write. Consider joining a local romance writers’ organization, as the friends, colleagues, and mentorship you will gain will prove invaluable. Were it not for Romance Writers of America, I’d have never met my brilliant critique partner. Nor would I have developed the network of friends and contacts who have helped me become the published author I am today. Develop faith in the fact that you have a unique story to tell and then fine tune your craft until it shines. Editors want to discover new voices and they love to help develop new talent. So study the stories you love best, practice until you find your voice, and never, ever give up hope.