Inspiration is a funny thing. It can come to us like a lightning bolt, through the lyrics of a song, or in the fog of a dream. Ask any writer where their stories come from and you’ll get a myriad of answers, and in that vein I created the WHAT (What the Hell Are you Thinking?) interview. Always including in the WHAT is one random question to really dig down into the interviewees mind, and probably supply some illumination into my own as well.
Today’s guest for the WHAT is Natasha Tynes, an award-winning Jordanian-American author and communications professional based in Washington, DC. Her byline has appeared in the Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Huffington Post, and the Jordan Times, among many other outlets. Her short stories have been published in Geometry, The Timerbline Review and Fjords. Her debut novel They Called Me Wyatt will be published in June 2019 by California Coldblood Books, an imprint of Rare Bird Books. Tynes is the recipient of F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival award for short fiction.
Ideas for our books can come from just about anywhere, and sometimes even we can’t pinpoint exactly how or why. Did you have a specific origin point for your book?
As cliché as it might sound, the idea for my book came to me in a dream. When I woke up the next day, I wrote it down as a short story, then when I shared it with my writers group they suggested I turn it into a novel, and the rest is history. So glad I listened to them!
Once the original concept existed, how did you build a plot around it?
I didn’t have the entire plot mapped out when I first started writing. I never do. It’s not really my style to have everything planned ahead of time. For my current novel They Called Me Wyatt, I started with the original idea and then I let the characters guide me. It took me almost two years to fully finalize the plot, and I’m happy I took my time to understand the characters and where they were heading.
Have you ever had the plot firmly in place, only to find it changing as the story moved from your mind to paper?
Oh yeah. On a number of occasions. What I usually have in mind changes as I write it and as I said earlier, the characters themselves guide me through the plot. In fact, I had a completely different ending in mind for They Called Me Wyatt and I altered it almost at the very last minute. I’m so happy I changed the ending as it made the novel much stronger.
Do story ideas come to you often, or is fresh material hard to come by?
They do, for sure, and I sometimes struggle to shut them out. My background as an immigrant to the US gives me a lot of ideas as I see life here from a different perspective. I also lived in different parts of the world, and have been through many experiences that stayed with me. I’m always itching to tell stories, my story, other people’s stories. That’s why I became a writer. I couldn’t stop that voice in my head that propelled me to tell tales.
How do you choose which story to write next, if you’ve got more than one percolating?
Most of the time deadlines run my life! For example if I see a deadline coming up for a short story contest, I would drop everything I’m working on at that moment and try to write a new short story or rework an old one. I’m now working on a collection of stories and also a new novel. Sometimes I switch between projects to give myself a change of scenery. Nowadays, I’m trying to finalize the collection, but I might jump into the novel to give myself a “break”.
I have lots of cats (seriously, check my Instagram feed) and I usually have at least one or two snuggling with me when I write. Do you have a writing buddy, or do you find it distracting?
I had two cats (Frida and Diego) who used to wake up early in the morning with me and settle down next to me as I wrote my novel. Sometimes they would jump on the dining table and get comfortable next to my computer screen. Unfortunately, both of them passed away in the span of six months. Both from cancer. It was really sad. I miss my writing buddies.