Carol van Natta
‘My muse thinks in series.’
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In the beginning…tell me what made you decide to start writing?
In high school, I wrote fan fiction with my friends, primarily in the Star Trek universe. Mine was wretchedly bad, full of every angsty teenage trope you can think of, but it cemented my love of writing and storytelling. Fast forward past other creative endeavors to 2009, when a co-author and I self-published a retro science fiction comedy we’d written years before but publishers passed on. Then in summer of 2013, this big damn space opera story arc burst into my brain, and I knew I had to write it. I published Overload Flux, book 1 in the Central Galactic Concordance series, a year later. There are now six books in the series, plus a novella in the Embrace the Romance: Pets in Space 2 anthology. I just released a prequel novella in the series called Last Ship Off Polaris-G.
Tell me about your book.
A bureaucrat and an interstellar trader must overcome treachery and their broken past to save the last inhabitants of a dying planet.Tweet This
Frontier planet Polaris-Gamma is dying, afflicted by a suspiciously-timed blight that destroys all crops. Worse, the whole system is now under military quarantine by the Central Galactic Concordance to prevent the catastrophic blight from spreading. The settlers must escape–or perish.
Caught behind the blockade, independent trader Gavril Danilovich finds his interstellar trading ship commandeered in the desperate plan to escape. He tells himself that’s the only reason he stays, and not because he’s worried about the woman he walked out on two years ago–who still lives on Pol-G.
Government supply depot manager Anitra Helden races to gather the last of Pol-G’s assets. Her plan to launch a mothballed freighter off Pol-G may be crazy–but it can work, if she can talk Gavril into helping. Their precious cargo? Four thousand stranded colonists.
Can Anitra and Gavril, and their ragtag crew get past the deadly military blockade?
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have one finished but unpublished paranormal romance novel waiting in my virtual drawer until I can write two more in that series, which I plan to publish next summer. I don’t have any half-finished books (other than my current works in progress), but I have plot bunnies galore and an outline or two. My muse loves to tackle me when I’m someplace where I can’t write things down, such as when I’m driving, or in the shower. My muse also thinks in series, so even if I fondly imagine I’m writing a standalone book, my crafty muse is in the background, busily plotting another big damn story arc.
Tell me about a principal character in your book(s). What makes them memorable?
Mairwen Morganthur in Overload Flux is a reader favorite, and mine, too, although I love all my characters. She was made into a killing machine at a young age, and escaped, only to find she has zero skills and experience in living as a normal person. She’s bad with words, and doesn’t have much in common with people, so she takes a job as night-shift security guard. Her life changes forever when she’s thrust into a murder investigation with a brilliant but damaged forensic detective named Luka Foxe.
Indie, or traditionally published – and why?
Indie, all the way. When I was in the early stages of writing Overload Flux, I went to a writer’s conference. At a Q&A panel with literary agents and traditional publisher editors, one of the attendees asked them about the market for science fiction romance. My space opera series can also fall under that genre, so I was dismayed when they all sneered and said it doesn’t sell, and the questioner would be better off writing something to compete with Hunger Games. I’d already been leaning toward indie publishing because I wanted good book covers, and had heard too many horror stories about publisher contracts, but that panel was the deciding factor. While I’d be absolutely thrilled to talk to Trantor about audio versions of my books, a traditional print publisher would have to come up with a pretty sweet deal in exchange for the poor pay, slow and sloppy reporting, cookie-cutter marketing, and the loss of rights.
Are you a plotter, or a pantser? What do you think of the opposite approach?
On the plotter (outliner) versus pantser (writing by the seat of your pants) continuum, I fall somewhere in the middle, leaning toward the plotter side. I don’t even know where to start if I don’t have an outline, but it’s loose enough that I can discover new things about the characters and plot as I go along. The finished book rarely resembles the details in that initial outline. I admire extreme pantsers from afar, because it seems like magic.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
They’re not really secrets, they’re passing references to people and events in previous books, and hints of things to come. A character might benefit from a technology that was discovered by a character in a previous book, or a character might have heard about about events that were detailed in a previous story. A military ship captain who has a cameo in Last Ship Off Polaris-G and Overload Flux will be the main character in book 6. I love it when readers write and talk to me about the little breadcrumbs I’ve left for them.
Tell me about one favourite hobby or pastime that isn’t writing or reading.
I am a professional actor, singer, and voiceover talent. I’m semi-retired from performing, because it takes a lot of time and doesn’t pay well if you don’t work at it (sort of like the author business, actually), but I still do local musical theatre and concerts from time to time. I also love creating graphics, but I’m more of a hobbyist than a professional. I hire professional cover artists for my novels, but I do the covers for the shorter works.
What are you writing at the moment?
I’m currently working on Spark Transform, book 5 in the Central Galactic Concordance series. Things are getting more exciting and more dangerous for the people who live in the galaxy, and ugly truths are revealed. I anticipate needing to write three or four more novels and two or three more novellas to do justice to the big damn story arc. I’m also working on two secret projects I can’t talk about until next year, and plotting a short story for that PNR series I expect to publish next summer.
What’s your opinion on the belief that indie books are badly edited and lower quality than traditionally published?
Humans are fond of making sweeping generalizations, and that’s one of them. You can find bad examples of art everywhere, because the creative impulse doesn’t always come with creative talent or experience, and everyone has to start somewhere. There will always be lazy people out to make a buck. I’ve read my share of not-ready-for-publication indie books, but I’ve also read execrably bad books put out by traditional publishers. And by the way, most readers don’t care who published the book. “Oh, look, another book published by Hachette!” said no reader, ever.
What is your favourite genre to write, and why?
My muse’s home base is science fiction, but it has vacation homes in fantasy, paranormal, action-adventure, and mystery. Science fiction is inherently hopeful because it assumes we make it past all the present drama, unrest, and stupid behavior to explore the stars. I’m a big fan of science. Most of my stories also have romance, because characters we care about deserve love, even if they have to find it on far-flung planets or with aliens.
If you could, would you live in the world you’ve created? Why / why not?
I’d love to live in my far future universe, where we have faster-than-light travel and have all sorts of fun technology, including flying cars, glass roads, and auto-tailors. However, there’s deep trouble brewing that will likely engulf all 500+ settled planets of the Concordance, so perhaps I’ll stay home here in the twenty-first century with the resident mad scientist, and my tea and my cats.
Tell me three unique things about you.
(1) I used to deliver singing telegrams.
(2) I know the value of pi to 10 decimal places.
(3) I was born without the capacity to grow wisdom teeth. Fascinating, I know.
Carol, thank you for participating in Galaxy of Authors!