This month, I am lucky to have the lovely and talented Natasha McLear here with me. When she’s not cooking up stories, Tasha is cooking up delicious food. She was generous enough to share a recipe for Italian Tzatziki today! Recipe at the bottom. Without further ado, on to the interview.
When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?
Oh, gosh, I can never write a word until I have a clear picture of my characters.
I start with one serious strength, and fill in smaller features around it.
In my last novel, my leading lady is a fast learner – and believe me, I’ve given her more than her fair share of pain and failure – she finds a way to learn from her mistakes and turns disaster to triumph. She also has a gentle touch and a charming dimpled smile which wins over the grumpiest angriest people. To go with the smile, I gave her sparkling eyes and golden highlights in her hair. I gave her shoulder length hair so it bounces and dances when she tilts her head and grins. When she’s thoughtful she looks down and her hair falls in a shiny curtain over one side of her face which she unconsciously tucks back behind her ear.
Now I can see how the leading man sees her and what attracts him. Which means the man had to be the opposite, he is visibly strong but when things don’t go his way he has no idea how to deal and only her gentle strength can take him out of his funk.
And that’s the basis of my story arc.
Do you ever get Writer’s Block, and do you have any tips for getting through it?
Oh yes. My Lord, yes.
The easiest is a burn-out block when I’ve been running the engine too long and too hard and I have nothing left in the tank. I take a nice long break and wait until I want to write again. I actually wait and wait until the desire to go back is irresistible and has me by the throat, then I go back to my waiting WiP.
Then there is the pushing a car up the hill block. This is when I’ve done something wrong and the characters are confused and don’t know where to go or how. I have to get out of the car and push from one plot point to the next. I hate that, of how I hate that because it feels like the novel just isn’t working anymore, I’m bored, my characters are bored and even my laptop keyboard is bored until everything grinds down to a standstill. This block is caused by the writing, normally I’ve missed something, the conflict isn’t active or I’ve betrayed my characters, frog marched them somewhere they wouldn’t normally go.
Solution: Stop, breath, check what’s missing. Rewrite and the block dissolves.
The worst block of all is the emotional one. Something has gone wrong in my heart and I need to heal before I can write again. I call this The Terror.
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
If I know and love the writer, then I barely look at the cover. If I don’t know the writer, then it’s like ordering food in an Ethiopian restaurant where the menu is written in Ethiopian and the ingredients are injera, wat and tibs. Then I need the pictures to tempt me. I want the picture to inspire me and promise me a magical journey but also to show
me what the ingredients are so I know if I want to order the dish or not.
Any tips on what to do and what not to do when writing?
Surround yourself with the best writers you can find. Yes it’s nice to have cheerleaders who say nice things, but are they helping me improve or are they more concerned about seeming nice? I say ‘seeming’ because there’s nothing nice about letting a fellow writer go out into the wolf-eat-wolf market place armed with a less than perfect novel.
Nothing wrong with putting out a 3-star novel if I happen to be a 3-star writer. But there’s no excuse for a 5-star book when you’re capable of a 7-star novel.
In an ideal world you would find talented writers, intelligent critiquers who also happen to love your work. But if I couldn’t, and I had to choose, I’d take a talented writer and a plain-speaking critic any day. I want my friends to push me when I’m being lazy, careless or wrong.
Does honest feedback hurt sometimes? Sure it does. But if you want a gentle soft life, don’t be a novelist.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special?
She’s a 29 year old artist who loves the colour green. In all its hues and shades. She started out in fine art, painting lush spring landscapes. Then a traumatic experience ruined her confidence, and she never picked up a paintbrush again.
But the human spirit is not easily killed. As she healed she started designing jewellery, mostly using green gems. Very soon, she was asked to create individual engagement rings, bespoke piec
es and by the point the novel opens, she’s very successful and her creations are considered works of art.
Then she gets a strange invitation to paint again and the door to the past opens unto a guilty secret, a long buried pain and a forgotten love.
Where is your favorite place to write?
Anywhere with plenty of this.
Although Tasha did go to a good university, she now spends far too much time in the kitchen inventing recipes. Last month she discovered the wonderful world of Twitter and shared her favourite recipes with her followers.
Her latest novel is about heartbreak, so she tweets a lot about that, too.
Connect with Natasha on Twitter.
As promised, that heavenly recipe:
the kind that smell divine.
500ml (2 cups) Greek yogurt
Slice the tomatoes. Put into a large bowl and season with salt. Leave for 10-15 minutes to let the tomato juices collect in the bottom of the bowl. Stir in the yogurt.
Meanwhile, slice the garlic very thin into a small non-stick frying pan. Add cold olive oil. Place over the lowest heat setting to allow the garlic and oil to infuse gently. When the garlic starts to turn dark gold, remove from heat and pour over the yogurt and tomato mixture. Stir gently to allow the flavours to mix.