Natasja is a librarian and the self-published author of My Best Friend’s Brother/The Summer I Turned Into a Girl (2012), a 2011 National Novel Writing Month winner. She is an avid fan and participant of NaNoWriMo and has completed several novels over the past few Novembers. Knockout Girl is her newest novel, published in October 2018. When she’s not working on her many unfinished novels, she can be found playing video games with her husband and two kids, singing, or curled up with a good book.
Natasja lives just outside of Toronto – close enough for good shopping and far enough to avoid the traffic.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I was little, my sister and I used to make up a lot of stories together. Some of them we would write down. I still have stories that I wrote back in grade 1. Basically, I can’t remember not writing, but I’ve been serious about it for about the last 10 years.
How long does it take you to write a book?
Boy, that’s a loaded question! I’ve won several Nanowrimos and I’ve also taken several years to finish one novel. So let’s say anywhere from 1 month to 5 years.
Where do you tend to write the most?
I write at my dining room table or in bed.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I always start with my characters. If I’ve got a compelling, fully-fleshed character in my head, I follow his or her lead and a plotline just kind of naturally follows.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
The ideas for my books always start with the characters and I go from there. When I need info, I Google.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I finished my first book I think when I was around 19 or 20. I was in university at the time and I can’t remember exactly when I finished it. However, right after graduation, I wrote another book in about 5 weeks.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I read a lot! But I like video games, too. I also have two little kids and they fill up a lot of my free time.
What does your family think of your writing?
They’re very supportive! The ones that have read my books like my writing a lot (or so they say). The ones that haven’t read them are still supportive nonetheless.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I think the most surprising thing I’ve learned is how deeply you can fall in love with your own characters. I mean, we’ve all fallen in love with other people’s characters, but when you created them, there’s this whole other level of bonding. It’s very strange.
How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I’ve written close to a dozen books (and that’s not counting the dozen or so unfinished ones). And It’s so hard to choose a favourite! I really love Knockout Girl. I think the one book I love just as much is the second book in an SFR series that I’m working on getting ready for publication.
What do you think makes a good story?
I’m all about the characters! If I read a story about a flawed person who learns and grows and changes, I probably won’t even care much what the plot is. I just like watching people learn things and do good things (and maybe fall in love along the way).
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
An actress! But I’m happy as a librarian-writer now.
What is the most rewarding part of being a published author?
Holding your book in your hands for the first time. But also, it doesn’t hurt to have people say, “I just read your book and I loved it!”
What do you wish you had known before you decided to write your first book?
I wish I’d known how much better I would get. I mean, that should be obvious, as the old adage says “practice makes perfect.” But sometimes I look back on my earlier writing and just…cringe.
What advice would you give a novice writer who wants to take on the task of writing their first book?
Just write and get those words out! It’s very tempting and easy to want to keep reading back and editing, but that might get you stuck in a loop of reading then rereading. Just…write!
What advice would you give a novice writer who is about to edit their first draft?
Take courses. Ask people for help. Read your book out loud. Take criticism with a thick skin and a grain of salt. Breathe.
What advice would you give a novice writer who is having a difficult time finding beta readers?
Reach out to strangers where you can find them. And maybe work on the pitch of your book. That could make a big difference.
What advice would you give a novice writer who wants to publish their book for the first time?
First, make sure your book is as perfect as it could possibly be. Yes, you can always edit it and release it again, but first impressions are important. Secondly, it’s scary and nerve-wracking and totally worth it! Just don’t expect to become a best-seller overnight.
When Elli is forced to move from Hawaii to Toronto in the dead of winter, she resists with all the saltiness of the ocean she left behind. She befriends a studious boy named Julian and discovers he’s being used as a punching bag for the school’s boxing champion. She quickly realizes the only way to get this guy off her friend’s back is to beat him at his own game. With the help of a cute jock, a sweet tattooed loner, and a burnt out boxing has-been, she and Julian enter a boxing tournament where Julian will have to face his bully in the ultimate showdown.
- Genre: YA contemporary
- Number of Pages: 211
- Print Format: Paperback and Ebook
Is your book a part of a series? If yes, how many books are going to be included in the series? And where does this book stand (what number)?
It is the first. I am almost done writing a sequel to it and planning another sequel to write during NaNoWriMo this year.
Who are your favorite character(s) and why?
Elli (my first-person narrator) is my favourite by far. She starts off a bit sulky but turns into this totally sassy, best friend with a heart of gold. She takes all that life throws at her and tosses it back in life’s face. To me, she embodies the strong female lead (even if she does fall all over herself for a great smile).
“That was the old Elli. The new Elli is a fighter. And if my parents won’t fight for each other, for their marriage, then I guess I’ll have to do it for them.”
“Butterflies swarm through my stomach and race up into my heart, clogging my throat until I can barely breathe.”
“There’s a fire in his eyes now that’s undeniable, and suddenly I feel like that’s all he might need.”
Any other tidbits you would like to share?
Yes – if you’re not Canadian, please enjoy all the things you’ll learn about Canada through Elli’s eyes.
Where can your book be purchased?
Is your book listed on Goodreads?
What makes your book stand out among the other books in the genre?
Elli is an extremely relatable, compelling, break-the-fourth-wall kind of character. You’ll get annoyed at her, and with her, feel her pain, rejoice in her successes. And with the supporting cast of Julian, Adrian, Cherry, Uncle Dan, and bully Red, you won’t be able to put this book down.
What would you tell a potential reader (teetering on the fence) to sway them to read your book?
Give Elli one page to convince you to read her whole story.