Onirik : You are a New Zealander and I have noticed that recently, many of your compatriots have been publishing excellent books (Nalini Singh,…). It seems to me that they were less present before. Is it entirely coincidental or is New Zealand a favourable country for writers ?
Natalie Anderson : Actually New Zealand has a really strong history of romance writers – from right back when Mills & Boon really began concentrating on the romance genre. Essie Summers was probably the first ‘great’ – she wrote over 55 books – selling over 19 million copies. Her first book was published by Mills & Boon in 1957. Since then Daphne Clair, Robyn Donald, Susan Napier and Alison Roberts have written hundreds of Harlequin Mills & Boon titles between them and are still going – Robyn had her seventy-fifth title published last year ! There’s also a strong line-up of new(ish) authors writing for other Harlequin strands as well – Desire, Super Romance , Harlequin Historicals, the NASCAR series and so on. Writers include Fiona Brand, Jan Colley, Abby Gaines, Helen Kirkman, Yvonne Lindsay, Tessa Rallis… the list goes on ! We also have a number of authors successfully writing romance for other publishers. So we seem to have a wealth of romance writing talent in this one little country… now, I think the really interesting question is what does this tell us about New Zealand men ???!!! ;)
Onirik : I have also observed that, even if your works are very different, they have characteristics in common : modernity in the situations, simple and contemporary vocabulary… Has it got something to do with your nationality, or maybe a different way of life in Oceania ?
Natalie Anderson : I’m not sure ! I think many New Zealanders are very outward looking – maybe it comes from being stuck in a small place in the edge of the earth... Many of us spend several years travelling and working abroad (as I did) so perhaps we get more of a ‘universal’ style in our writing. Of course, like everywhere we are exposed to mass popular culture and seem to cross over between Britain and the States quite easily. Perhaps it’s our ‘down to earth’ nature that comes across in the vocabulary – I like simplicity in speech, and try to make my dialogue ‘snappy’. Of course, it can take me three days to think up the smart reply that my heroine gives to the hero on the spot !
Onirik : You’re only starting your career as a writer. Have you been writing for a long time ? How did you get this desire to write ?
Natalie Anderson : I started writing in 2005 – June 2005 to be precise ! That was when I ‘sat down’ to write a romance novel as a challenge to myself. I’ve always loved books – especially romance and crime stories. I studied English Lit as part of my degree, worked in libraries and read and read and read. I’d always harboured ambitions to write but had never really tried. I wasn’t until I had kids and needed something ‘to keep me sane’ that I gave it a go. I was very fortunate to sell my first submission – it has been something of a whirlwind and so wonderful. I have a lovely life and fantastic family and writing is the cherry on top. It’s that creative outlet and escape for me. I am a happier person for doing it.
Onirik : Who are the writers who influenced you or who still do ?
Natalie Anderson : Oh so many ! I am a hopeless critic when it comes to romance books – I love them all so narrowing down some names is pretty hard. I have some classics I always fall back on for a ‘comfort read’ – Georgette Heyer, Mary Stewart, Elizabeth Cadell. I love pretty much all Mills & Boon books (of course !) but also Ian Rankin’s Rebus series, Richard North Patterson’s legal thrillers, JK Rowling... I’ll read anything ! But the biggest problem I have these days is finding the time to read – so I have binge sessions now and then when I’ll read four in a night !
Onirik : My view is that the tone in the two novels that I have read is brand new. The stories you tell remain really intense but present very different relationships between the heroes : fewer misunderstandings and disagreements, less hatred but “normal” communication between men and women. Is this the only view you have of the heroes’ relations ? are you trying to stick to some sort of reality ?
Natalie Anderson : Firstly thank you for saying that, its lovely to think that people see something new in my writing. I like to think each book is still a romantic fantasy but one that is based in reality. So the situation and characters are believable, it could happen – you could know that girl, you could be that girl. But of course they are larger than life – I don’t want my characters to have to worry about the mortgage at the end of the book – so there is still that glamour factor ! In the Modern Heat series that I write for, the conflict really stems from within the characters. It is their personality, the past that has shaped them, their fears and their dreams that will make them act the way they do in the situations I put them in. I try to make their concerns contemporary and relevant to modern men and women of today – things like work/life balance and career change/direction as well as the universal, traditional themes – fear of loss, fear of rejection, fear of failure and so on.
Onirik : The heroes appear as very new. They are less domineering or arrogant and acknowledge their feelings easily. Don’t you think this view is very new in this type of literature ?
Natalie Anderson : I think they acknowledge their feelings to themselves (and thus the reader) easily but are perhaps less obvious to the heroines. I love reading the hero’s perspective in books because it helps me to understand his motivations and where he’s ‘coming from’ – so I tend to write like this as well. I think this trend has been around for some time. There’s a great variance within the lines in Harlequin and in some lines the hero is more ‘easily read’ than others. I do like to think my heroes have a good sense of humour – I love a man who can make me laugh. They do still have that arrogance, and heaven help you if you try to cross them, but they have a younger edge – slightly cocky perhaps, just as the heroines tend to be a little sassy.
Onirik : Your novels are based on a strong sexual attraction between the heroes. Is it an essential element in any romance or could you write less sensual stories ?
Natalie Anderson : My books are highly sensual but this stems from the characters I write about. They are young(ish), gorgeous city men and women – and in the early stages of their relationship. Of course the physical attraction is intense (and hopefully stays that way for the rest of their lives !). My story wouldn’t be true to the development of the relationship if I didn’t go into it – and I think it shows the reader the kind of relationship they’ll go on to have after the book ends. I love writing what the characters say to each other when intimate. I love showing their playful, tender sides as well as their deeply passionate – if they can’t have a laugh together in bed, what hope is there for them twenty years on ?! And I like to have a heroine who matches the hero – in all aspects and appetites ! I think it’s an integral part of these particular stories – the blossoming relationship between these gorgeous, glamorous characters. And its also part of the promise to the reader in these books – passion !
Onirik : Up to now you have been writing rather short contemporary novels. I am eager to read longer and more developed novels ! Is it one of your plans or do you intend to go on with this type of novel ?
Natalie Anderson : At the moment my life is very full – I juggle writing while caring for my five year old daughter, three year old son and one year old twin girls. I write at night and in the weekends. So I don’t have the time or ‘brain space’ to write ‘bigger’ at this stage. However, in a while I’ll be able to write during part of the day so writing longer stories may then become possible. Having said that though, I love writing short contemporaries – I love the tight focus on the central couple and the sweet satisfaction of completion and the happy ever after, so anything else I may do would be in conjunction with writing these stories – they’re too much fun to give up !
Onirik : Nalini Singh, your fellow country(wo)man ( ?) started by publishing short novels too, but today she is the author of a highly successful paranormal series. Could you follow her steps and write in other genres ?
Natalie Anderson : Nalini is fabulous isn’t she ! And currently on the New York Times bestseller list ! I’d like to hope that might be possible for me one day – but as I said before, right now my focus is on developing my writing within these books while caring for my young children. I can’t think beyond that at this point – but I can certainly dream…
Onirik : You are still unknown in France to people who don’t read in English. Are your books about to be translated into French ?
Natalie Anderson : I hope so ! But to be honest I’m not sure – I tend to get translations in the post after they’ve been released in each country. However, several of the ‘Modern Heat’ (the series I write for) titles have been translated into French. They are sold within the ‘Passions’ collections. In March there are two available - Le retour de l’Irlandais – Trish Wylie Les amants de Penang – Kelly Hunter -(http://www.harlequin.fr/livres/?collection=96) You can check the Modern Heat authors’ blog : www.sensationalromance.blogspot.com to get more info about the other authors within the line. Hopefully one of mine will be out in French soon – I’ll be sure to pop back and tell you as soon as I know ! Thanks so much for inviting me on your website !