Author Spotlight – Carol Van Natta
I am thrilled this month to shine my author spotlight on Carol Van Natta. Carol is a real sweetheart and I love her. I hope you enjoy discovering more about Carol.
- Tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been writing? What genre do you write?
I’m an independent science fiction author and playwright. My muse’s home base is science fiction, but has vacation timeshare condos in romance, action-adventure, mystery, paranormal, and fantasy. Like most authors, I’ve been writing since I was old enough to put pen to paper and not scribble refrigerator art. I’m an independent author because my current Central Galactic Concordance series is science fiction romance (SFR), and that genre, while growing, is too small for traditional publishers. I’m also a playwright and screenwriter, mostly of comedic pieces, and have had several short plays produced.
- What inspired you to write your first book?
When I was in high school, my friends and I wrote fan fiction for Star Trek. It was really dreadful, but we had fun, and the experience firmly fixed the writing bug in my brain. Fast forward a dozen years, and I co-authored a retro science fiction comedy called Hooray for Holopticon because we had a nifty idea and a free summer to write it. My first solo book, Overload Flux, came about from a Big Damn Story Arc that took over my brain one summer and wouldn’t let go. The resident Mad Scientist, my significant other, was convinced my computer had enslaved me, but he was kind enough to feed me regularly anyway. I wrote the story arc and the universe to go with it. If I’m calculating correctly, it’ll need 9 books to complete, which should keep me off the streets and out of the karaoke bars for a few years.
- Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere. I’m a big fan of science, so I read a lot of science articles. A comparative mythology article I read spawned an idea for an urban fantasy series, and a TV special on the Pacific Northwest rainforest in the U.S. and Canada spawned an idea for a fantasy romance series. I saw a gorgeous digital painting of an artist’s re-imagining the battle of Fort Sumpter (which started the American Civil War) in the steampunk style, which gave me the idea for a steampunk trilogy set in what the U.S. would be like 25 years after that. Little things inspire me, too, from the power source for interstellar spaceships to how you buy clothes in the 34th Century.
- Where/When do you do the most of your writing?
On an ideal day, I’d get up really early (I’m a morning person) and write, then check in with friends on Facebook, take care of business, such as writing blurbs (a task I hate), or working with a cover artist (a task I love), then write some more. I don’t get very many ideal days, though, because I have a full-time job and life happens. I end up writing whenever and wherever I can—coffee shops, dentist’s waiting room, my car, hotel rooms, etc.
- What do you think has been your biggest accomplishment?
Creating what I hope is a repeatable process for writing more books. It sounds prosaic, I know, but I really want to share the Big Damn Story Arc with readers, and to do that, I need to write a lot of books.
- What series/book did you write that has the biggest following.
Readers who like action and adventure like my first book, Overload Flux, and demanded to know more, so I wrote a sequel novella, Zero Flux. Readers who like mysteries and character-driven SF respond to my second book, Minder Rising. The first book won a 2015 SFR Galaxy Award, which was a delightful surprise.
- Who has influenced your writing the most?
I’m undoubtedly the product of a dozen influences, but I’ll name two. Lindsay Buroker’s Emperor’s Edge fantasy series showed me how to handle a recurring cast of characters and make them fun and interesting, while tracking a bigger plot. Nalini Singh’s Psy-Changeling series showed me the power of romance in giving added emotional weight to an overarching plot. Both series deal with major societal change, which is what my aforementioned Big Damn Story Arc is all about.
- Do you have a favorite author?
I’m fickle, I’m afraid. I have dozens of favorite authors, and because I read fast, it varies from week to week. I’ve already mentioned Buroker and Singh, so I’ll also mention S.E. Smith’s Cosmos’ Gateway series, and not because she’s having me over for virtual tea and crumpets. I’m a sucker for feisty, competent women, geeky beta males, and balanced relationships.
- Is there anything that you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Not getting distracted by outside… look, a new cat video!
- Are the experiences of your characters based on any of your own or people that you know?
Yes, of course. I tell my friends they’re all in my books, but they have to guess where. 😉 Honestly, I steal, uh, become inspired by bits and pieces everywhere to develop my characters, from the restaurant server with that amazingly annoying voice to the brilliant analyst I work with who can’t figure out make a pot of coffee. I love languages, so my series has a lot of multicultural characters and references.
- Do you have any advice for other authors?
Write. You can’t edit what you don’t write; you can’t sell what you don’t write. Will all of it be useful, marketable, or even readable? No, but how can you get better if you don’t practice? Free bonus advice: Do your homework, and treat writing as a business. You’ll be a lot happier if you do.
- Is there a particular niche or direction you would like to expand your writing portfolio into?
After I have a few more books in my current series, I’d like to start a new one, so I can be working on two series at the same time. Which of my various idea seeds will sprout when the time comes is anyone’s guess.
- Describe your latest WIP.
I’m currently working on the third book in the Central Galactic Concordance series. Pico’s Crush has new lead characters and cameos by characters in the first two books, plus urban assaults by mercenaries and jack crews, a hunt for a killer, and lots of explosions. It both finishes a mini-plot arc begun in books 1 and 2, and launches the events in upcoming book 4.
- How can readers reach you?
I usually check in on Facebook a couple of times a day, and I love hearing from readers there or from my website or email. People who sign up for my newsletter (http://bit.ly/CVN-news) get exclusive advance notice of new releases and sales.
Carol’s social media links:
Website & blog: http://author.carolvannatta.com/
Carol Van Natta is an independent author of science fiction, including Overload Flux, Minder Rising, and Zero Flux in the Central Galactic Concordance series, and Hooray for Holopticon, a retro science fiction comedy. She has been a swing-shift guard, secretary, actor, voiceover talent, singing telegram performer, non-profit director, business continuity specialist, and of course, an author. She still does some of those things so she can eat regularly and sleep indoors. She shares her Fort Collins, Colorado, home with a sometime mad scientist and various cats. Any violations of the laws of physics in her books are the fault of the cats, not the mad scientist.