Natalie Buske Thomas is an author and an artist who is fairly new to me, but I’m thoroughly impressed with what I’ve seen so far and hope to see a lot more of her work in the future. Enjoy!
PJ: Natalie, how long have you been writing?
Natalie: How far back are we going? My first published piece was a poem I wrote at age 11. My father sent it into the local newspaper. I wrote for the school newspaper, magazine, then the college newspaper (my first year at Purdue University). After that it was magazine articles, a local newspaper column, then books. I have “always” been a writer — getting paid for it is another story.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
Natalie: The defining point for me was when I attended my 20th high school reunion and spent the first couple of hours signing books.
PJ: Oh wow! I bet that was fun! Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
Natalie: Well, when I first started out I was doing things “old school” and collecting paper rejection letters. A memorable one was a slip with the word “Authorgram” on the top, with a convenient checkbox for selecting -with an actual pen, on real paper- if the editor wanted to see the rest of the manuscript or not. These days rejections come much faster, digitally, and with the probability of a much longer critique than a checked box. Submissions also often require much more material since it’s so “easy” to submit references via links, photographs via digital files, samples via .doc uploads, etc. If you ask me, we’ve not really saved anyone more time, we’ve simply restructured how the time is spent. The good news? There are many more opportunities to enter writing contests, gain worldwide exposure, and even get books into the hands of thousands of readers instantly — all over the globe!
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
Natalie: While not wealthy, my income has exceeded my expectations because I feared I would never earn money as an author! I was accepted for publication and put on hold after years of trying to get in. The on-hold status held for almost two years, before I finally gave up on that publisher. I didn’t have the heart to start all over again, so I formed my own publishing company (Independent Spirit Publishing) and financed my first print run with a credit card. Back then, 1998, there was no such thing as e-books or on-demand. Publishing was expensive! I took quite a risk with that first book, and it would be another dozen years or so, and five books later, before my investment would start paying off.
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
Natalie: I’ve swapped “seeking publication” for “spending time on promotion”. A big part of the writing career is marketing. A *big* part! I am grateful I studied marketing in college (purely by accident – had no intention for actually using it for anything!).
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
Natalie: I wish I could go back in time and tell my younger self the following:
1. Be careful with that first book. What if it becomes a series and you are stuck with that book forEVER? Please, oh please, find a good editor before you put that thing out there!
2. Following your heart – good! Second guessing yourself – not! Confidence girl, confidence!
3. Get braces on your teeth. Trust me, you will think about that every time you get a new author photo taken.
4. Enjoy the ride. You can ask every two seconds, “When will we get there?” or you can choose to take in the view. Either way you’ll get to your destination, but the latter makes for a happier experience.
PJ: Good advice! Experience is a great teacher. Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
Natalie: Multi-tasking! I tackle writing/publishing/promotional tasks the same way I do everything else I juggle. I unload the dishwasher, get on Twitter. I fix the kids’ lunch, work on the next chapter of my book. I transplant some tomatoes, update my Facebook author page. Rinse, repeat.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
Natalie: This is kind of silly, but… I was star-struck when I met then-Governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura. The press mobbed us as I signed a book for his wife. He was much bigger than he looks on TV. Of course I’m the size of a child (under 5″2) so that’s probably mostly my own perspective.
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
Natalie: I was offered a tentative publishing contract, with a catch: I had to commit to 52 author events a year. I asked – it was not negotiable. I was raising small children at the time. I did the math, and no matter how many times I tried to rework the numbers, I knew that 52 events meant a lot of time away from home. I turned the offer down.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
Natalie: I was attending an author event at a winery. My jacket sleeve caught the edge of my full wine glass – down it went. I was wine-soaked, several of my books were wine-soaked, and I was awarded a yellow “Caution Wet Floor” sign at my table. (No, I wasn’t drunk. Sadly, that’s just how I roll. I could never be a waitress!)
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
Natalie: I have a unique voice. It’s not intentional – I make people laugh without trying to be funny. I’m incapable of being less than genuine – which has gotten me into trouble. I’ve suffered a lot of losses and had a difficult childhood. I think that’s why I have such a free spirit. I have been at the bedside of both of my parents when they were dying (25 years apart from each other), and that takes courage that I wasn’t sure I had. Not much scares me, and that comes through in my writing. Although, oddly, I cannot drive a car. Seriously phobic.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
Natalie: Being an all-around artist and entertainer. Because I also paint (two of my oil paintings have been on exhibit), dance, choreograph, sing, play instruments, perform in public, and more — I am putting myself out there all the time. Once my readers buy all of my books, they are impatient for the next one. I can’t write nearly as fast as I wish I could. Meanwhile, I do have other artistic projects I can put out there. That helps!
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Natalie: I hate the thought that I could be annoying people with my self-promotional announcements. Sure, I always blaze my own trail, but I am incredibly insecure! Selling myself and my stuff – I absolutely hate it. I wish I could say, “This is what I do, take it or leave it,” but the truth is, I need supporters. I have to suck it up and sell myself. I’ve always hated selling things, and worst of all, I’m now selling myself. It’s part of the job though. Take it or leave it. So, I’m all in, even though I find book promotion challenging.
Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
GENE PLAY, Serena Wilcox Mysteries, book 1
VIRTUAL MEMORIES, Serena Wilcox Mysteries, book 2
CAMP CONVICTION, Serena Wilcox Mysteries, book 3
THE MAGIC CAMERA (for kids ages 8-14)
Contributing author to “Confessions of Shameless” series, “Self-Promoters”
Contributing author to “Confessions of Shameless” series, “Internet Promoters”
Contributing author to “A Second Helping of Murder”
ANGELS MARK, Serena Wilcox Mysteries, book 4
THE SERENA WILCOX MYSTERIES: Books 1, 2 & 3 (revised collection plus commentaries, back-story)
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:
What readers have said about ANGELS MARK: “It’s a real page-turner!” “It scared me because I could so see these things happening!” “It made me look at our nation in a different way.” “I dig these kind of characters” “I like the strong female characters – Serena Wilcox of course, but also President Ann Kinji”. “It was so clever – had no idea where the book was going!” And most often: “WHEN’S THE NEXT ONE COMING OUT?”
Where can we buy it?
Amazon or directly from my website (if wanting a signed paperback copy).
What are you currently working on?
I am working on book #5 of The Serena Wilcox Mysteries, COVERT COFFEE. I’m also working on a children’s book project, the Irish Stew Adventures, that has evolved into a collaborative effort with my three children.
Natalie, it’s obvious to me you’re incredibly talented (as are your children) and I hope you I can continue to enjoy each other’s efforts and exploits for a long time to come. Thank you for taking time to talk with us here!