It’s not too late to start writing your first novel. By the time my debut novel will be published, I will be almost 43. If you have ever had that dream of writing a book, do it. Don’t put it aside. Start writing now.
Jordanian-American author Natasha Tynes worked as a journalist in the Middle East for over a decade before writing her first fiction novel. We chat to her about how she stopped thinking about writing and begun actually doing it, the unusual way she found her publisher and why she doesn’t believe in writers’ block.
Natasha Tynes is an award-winning Jordanian-American author and communications professional based in Washington, DC. Her debut novel They Called Me Wyatt will be published in June 2019 by California Coldblood Books, an imprint of Rare Bird Books. She is the recipient of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Literary Festival award for short fiction. She was born in Amman, Jordan and moved to the United States in her late twenties.
What made you want to be a writer?
I have always known that I was going to be a writer. As cliché at it may sound, writing was my true calling. I just knew it very early on, maybe when I was nine or ten years old. My elementary school teachers quickly noticed that I had a knack for words, and I always received compliments on my writing. That’s why I pursued journalism as a career, because I was attracted to the writing aspect. I only started writing fiction in my late twenties after I read a profile of the author Yiyun Li in the Washington Post. I was really impressed by the fact that when she moved to the US she hardly knew any English, and that she first majored in science, then later on switched her major, pursuing her love for writing.
How do you motivate yourself to write?
Having a daily rigid routine is how I motivate myself. I’m in writers’ block-denial. No offense to anyone who believes in it, but I think writers’ block is a cop-out, a way for us to get out of our daily writing commitment. I write. Every day. Rain or shine. Weekend or weekday. I think the only time I bail out is Christmas day.
Are you a plotter or pantser?
I’m definitely a pantser. I usually start a novel or a short story with a rough idea, then I let the characters guide me through the plot. I’m not one of those writers who plan everything on a vision board. I just write, and write, and things happen and develop, and eventually the plot comes to a conclusion as I type away.
Is there any particular incident that has happened along your writing journey that you’d like to share?
I think finding my publisher was the most important part of my writing journey. He believed in me after so many rejections and after I was really close to shredding my manuscript and throwing it in the Potomac River. I was really in a bad mental state after having received so many rejections from agents. He signed me on although I was un-agented. And the best part of the story is how I found him. It was on Twitter of all places that we first connected. I responded to his call for submission that he tagged with the hashtag #MSWL. Somehow, I had a good feeling about that particular submission. I had a gut feeling that he would respond and that he would at least ask for a few pages. He responded quickly, and the rest is history,
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
It’s not too late to start writing your first novel. By the time my debut novel will be published, I will be almost 43. If you have ever had that dream of writing a book, do it, don’t put it aside. Start writing now and stick to a routine. Don’t wait for inspiration. Writers’ block is a myth.
What do you think is the biggest challenge for new authors?
I think the biggest challenge for new authors is marketing their book. Even if you get published by one of the Big Fives there is a lot you need to do yourself. From connecting with influencers to being active on social media, to asking for blurbs, to booking events. It’s too much, it’s overwhelming and it can make your head spin. The best thing I have done in this regard was to join a debut authors group on Facebook. They have been instrumental in helping me figure out all the aspects of marketing my book. This is the first thing I recommend for debut authors.
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
I have been having a great time with Instagram. I connected with a number of Bookstagrammers who agreed to accept an advance review copy of my novel in exchange for an honest review. They have been extremely supportive and have spread the word about my book through the Instagram reading community. They created posts, Instagram stories and “Insta” author interviews. They reviewed the book on their blogs, and on Goodreads. I even had one blogger create a painting featuring the two main characters of my novel. How amazing is that?
What struggles did you face in the writing/ publishing process?
I think the biggest struggle for me personally was finding an agent. I tried and tired for over a year and nothing. Just one rejection after the other, and I was crushed. I was lucky that eventually my current publisher took me on without an agent. Now I’m determined to get an agent for my second novel. It will happen. I have to keep telling myself that.
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
Rejection is soul-crushing. That’s the hard truth. I keep telling myself that since I worked as a journalist in the Middle East for over a decade, I can handle anything, but then the rejection comes and it hits me hard. It never gets easy. The best way to handle it is to connect with the writing community and commiserate with them. Share your rejection stories, and then try to celebrate them if you can, because after rejections there were always be acceptance. It will happen. Just keep saying that.
What is the best writing advice you have received?
The best writing advice for me was to stop thinking about writing and actually do it by setting a rigid daily routine. I found my sweet spot during the day and committed to it. It’s early in the morning, at 6:00 am when everyone in my family is asleep, and right before I get ready for my day job.