Monday, April 2, 2007

Interview with Natalie R. Collins

Our very own (and American Title III finalist) Kim Howe recently interviewed author Natalie R. Collins on her writing processes, inspirations, and other interesting stuff! Read on for Kim's interview with Natalie!

Natalie R. Collins is a master at different voices. She writes mainstream fiction for St. Martin’s and writes a hilarious dance teacher series for Berkley under Natalie M. Roberts. I appreciate her stopping by to answer a few questions for us!

KH: WIVES AND SISTERS captured my attention from page one. The insightful view into the Mormon culture was enlightening. I understand that you touched on issues very close to readers’ hearts. How did writing the book change you?

NRC: Well, it was definitely cathartic. I know that is SO clich├ęd but it’s really the only way to describe it. It’s like picking up the pieces of your past and putting them together, puzzle form, and then looking at the end result and saying, “Wow, so that’s how I got here. Now I get it.” And that’s what WIVES AND SISTERS was really all about. But it isn’t just my story. It’s the story of many, many people. I still get emails weekly from people who pick up a copy, and find something in the book to relate to, whether it’s a religious background, or a traumatic childhood. It’s sad to me that so many people just saw this book as an indictment. It’s not that, but rather a call to change. Does this happen? Yes? Should it happen? No. Anytime you are operating inside a closed, patriarchal society, there are going to be abuses. Unfortunately, people are people. And so it happens. As long as this society stays closed, it will continue to happen.

KH: Your book trailers are fantastic, especially the one for BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. Do you believe that visual media is the way of the future for promoting books?

NRC: Honestly, I don’t know. I know that a lot of authors are doing them, and my Web guru, Justin at Stonecreek Media ( is FABULOUS at putting these together. I just don’t know if they are the wave of future for authors. I’ve seen a lot of authors doing them, and I think they probably HELP, like any form of promotion, but I doubt that ANYTHING is ever going to top word of mouth, or Oprah Winfrey’s seal of approval. Someone saying to another person, “Wow, you have got to read this book,” is going to win hands down every time. I still think visual media works best to promote other visual media (i.e. a film trailer promoting a film).

KH: In your new release, TUTU DEADLY, you nail the setting perfectly, creating a world where moms push their daughters to become the next famous dancer. Are you using real life experiences, because it sure feels that you’ve lived this life?

NRC: Oh, absolutely. My youngest daughter is a dancer with pointe shoes in her eyes. LOL. She dances competitively with one of the best teams here in Utah (Don’t get pissy people. I said ONE of the best. I didn’t say the best.) and she competes in the professional and advanced divisions with solos.

I’m amazed at the talent that is out there, and it seems that Utah produces an extraordinary amount of it. The better you get, though, the more intense the competition. You would think some of these parents would realize that at this level, ALL of these girls are good, and so it’s just going to be a judge’s choice kind of thing. But they usually don’t. And the better the child gets, the weirder the parents get (although not always). I have seen perfectly nice, balanced people turn into raving lunatics when their child becomes a little bit good.

It’s hard for people to realize that, like with writing, judging of dance is subjective. What one person likes, another might not. I have seen fights at dance competitions, totally psychotic behavior in grown adults, said “grown adults” saying despicable things about children, etc. If you DON’T adopt a stance of humor, it will eat you alive. I’ve worked at our dance studio for about six years now, and so I see the good, the bad and the ugly, and am privy to a lot that others don’t see. It’s a good thing they don’t see it!

KH: You have an incredible talent with voice. The novels you write under Natalie R. Collins are very different from those under Natalie M. Roberts, but every lead character has a strong, unique voice. Can you expand on why you chose to write in first person (or did it choose you?) and whether you would consider writing a novel in third person.

NRC: My first novel, SISTERWIFE, was written in third. Oddly enough, it did not sell to a big publisher, although it has a very timely theme (polygamy in Utah). Is it the voice? (Incidentally, this book is now available as a free download from my Web site, I don’t know. I like third, because it is not as limiting as first. But when I wrote WIVES AND SISTERS, I was toying with writing my own story, until my parents had a nervous breakdown about the idea. At that point, I realized that it would be unfair to them to do it, so I put that aside, but I had written some pieces and parts of it and I discovered that I was VERY strong in first person.

After I wrote the first chapter of W&S, I knew that it really WORKED for the book. I would still like to write more novels in third, and I think I will in the future, but the reason I stick to first for my St. Martin’s books is that I am telling these stories for these women. It makes it more personal, and the characters more believable and it gives the reader a connection that they need to get vested in a character from such an interesting and sometimes odd background. It also gives ME a connection that makes the stories more real. That’s just my personal opinion, of course.

And Jenny T. Partridge, well, I seem to channel her. Maybe I was a dance teacher in another life. My daughter’s dance teacher—who is a friend--read an ARC of TUTU DEADLY, and she said to me one day, “Uh, this isn’t supposed to be ME, is it?” I was amused. It isn’t her, but it’s a combination of a lot of dance teachers I have met. They are creative, and flighty, and eccentric—and often pure genius. And Misty has a great sense of humor, so I wanted to portray that in Jenny, as well as give her characteristics of other dancers I have seen. It worked really well.

KH: You have a fascinating background. One of the items in your bio that caught my eye is your editing role at the prestigious Sundance Festival. How did that experience influence your writing?

NRC: Well, I’m not sure it did influence my writing. How’s that for an answer? What it DID do was introduce me to the film world, and that was a fascinating experience. I met a lot of great people, and spent a few weeks operating on lots of caffeine and very little sleep, and I saw the workings of making films from the inside. It was wonderful to be in this creative stew with people who were so different from the usual Utah mold, and I know I’ll never forget it. But I’ve still never written a screenplay, and I’m not sure I ever will. It’s a very different form of writing, and I love creating my worlds and my stories in novels.

KH: Time for a little fun. What actress would you choose to play the Jenny Partridge role in TUTU DEADLY?

NRC: Hello? Like there’s a choice! Reese Witherspoon, of course. She would be PERFECT. (She’d have to dye her hair red, though. Think she’d go for it?)

KH: Definitely! The role would probably win her another Oscar! Thanks for stopping by and chatting with me about your work. Good luck with your new release, TUTU DEADLY!

Anyone who would like to learn more about Natalie can stop by her website at


Kate Carlisle said...

Fabulous interview, Kim! I'm really looking forward to reading Natalie's TUTU DEADLY!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Great interview, Kim. Natalie sounds like a very interesting person and writer. I just downloaded SISTERWIFE. Thanks for bringing her to our blog.

Caren Crane said...

Wow, great interview! I'm going to hunt up "Wives and Sisters". It sounds fascinating!