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June 10, 2015

Author Natasha Preston has a few words to the wise for wannabe writers --- don’t write something unless your heart’s in it, and pay attention to your dreams…and nightmares! Yup, you read the second one right --- according to Natasha, your unconscious mind comes up with some great material. That’s how she thought up her latest novel, AWAKE, which follows a teen girl who lived with a cult as a young child and doesn’t remember…but now her birth parents want her back.

Read our interview with Natasha below to learn more about this romantic thriller, as well as get some behind-the-scenes glimpses into her writing regimen, thoughts on WattPad and more!

Natasha Preston: I was inspired to write AWAKE after dreaming about a cult standing around me in a circle. I don’t remember much of the dream but I knew instantly I wanted to write a book involving a cult. Dreams are actually where I get a lot of my book ideas!

TRC: AWAKE is told from the perspectives of the two main characters --- Scarlett and Noah. Why did you decide to write from dual perspectives, and how did this affect your writing process? Was it easier to write one character or the other? 

NP: I always prefer dual perspectives. I think it’s because I have to know everything. It’s much easier for me to plan and write a book if I’m getting in the head of more than one character. Scarlett was easier to write but Noah was more fun. 

TRC: You include both light and dark elements in AWAKE. Did you find it difficult to achieve that balance?

NP: I love light and dark elements in books. I think if you’re writing something dark you need those lighter moments. To be honest, I don’t overthink balance. I write what needs to be written and unless I want to curl up in a dark room, I feel like I’ve achieved the right balance. If I do want to curl up, I’ll look for somewhere to add something fluffier, and vice versa. 

TRC: One of the main characters, Noah, grew up in a cult called Eternal Light. What kind of research did you do to explore cults?

NP: Oh I love thriller research. CSI network is on as soon as my son is in bed (sometimes my husband worries!) so I’m constantly watching shows about true crime. I also Googled. A lot.

TRC: There are some traumatic moments in AWAKE. Were those emotionally draining to write? If so, how did you overcome that and reward yourself when you were done?

NP: No I LOVE those! Promise I’m not crazy. Every time I sit down to write a book I tell myself I’ll write it in order. Literally days later I’ve skipped ahead to the juicy parts. Some of the cult scenes in AWAKE were written before Scarlett and Noah actually met. But no matter what I’ve written, how dark or fluffy, I always reward myself with chocolate and/or ice cream. 

TRC: Can you tell us a bit about your creative process? Do you use outlines at all? Do you always write a certain amount of words a day?

NP: LOL, the certain amount of words I set myself a day never happens! I have to write around raising my three-year-old son, so while he’s at pre-school and in bed I’ll open my word document (after about an hour procrastinating on the net) and make myself write at least 1,000 words. If I’m lucky I’ll get 2,000-3,000. I’m not often lucky.

TRC: You got your start writing on Wattpad. What is the difference between writing on that platform and being published by a traditional book publisher?

NP: Publishers give you deadlines. That’s pretty much it. No, not really. I love the process of publishing. I love the input my publisher has (shh, they have some awesome ideas). Wattpad is great when you’re learning and even if you just want to share your work with a larger audience. Oh, and I love that I can have a closer relationship with my readers on Wattpad. I’ve met some people on there that are now close friends.  

TRC: Who are some of your favorite young adult authors?

NP: The very beautiful Ali Novak. I recently read an ARC of MY SECRET TO TELL by Natalie D. Richards and really enjoyed that. I met G.J. Walker-Smith at a signing in Australia and I love her work. Also Jay McLean is just incredible. I love that lady!

TRC: Are you working on a new book right now? Can you tell us about it?

NP: Ah, you would ask that! My next new adult is top secret and only a handful of people know what it is. I can tell you it’s dark, funny, mysterious and my two characters have the best chemistry. My next YA thriller is now with my editor and it’s a 'whodunit' murder mystery! 

TRC: Do you have any advice for teens who want to be writers?

NP: Write what YOU want to write. I see so many people ask what readers want next. While it’s always smart to acknowledge your readership I literally could not write a book my heart wasn’t in. Have fun because it’s really not a ‘job’ for someone who doesn’t enjoy it. Read as much as you can. It’s fun living in fantasy world 90% of the time so don’t ever let anyone tell you it’s weird. It’s cool.