Author Carol Van Natta On Fan Fic, Kindle Worlds and Magic

Carol Van Natta is mostly known for her scifi space opera but this month, coming back down to earth with a paranormal romance based around Native American magic. While she was on planet, she took time to answer my burning questions about how she got her start and where she's going from here. Can i just say that her answer to my second question made me squee like a crazy fangirl. I do love a kindred spirit. Cyn: Tell me everything I need to know about you in two sentences. Carol: I'm an award-winning science fiction and fantasy author in the middle of a space opera series (3½ books and counting), and with IN GRAVES BELOW, a new paranormal romance (with ghosts!), out on May 5. When I'm not writing, editing, or plotting, I work at a day job to support my habits of eating regularly, sleeping indoors, and buying reference books and test tubes for the resident mad scientist.   Go back in time and tell me about the first time (s) you put a story on paper. Carol: In high school, several of my friends and I wrote fan fiction in the Star Trek universe. I read some of it later, and it was as bad as you might imagine, but we had a lot of fun sharing our stories with one another and writing each other's characters into our scenes. I'm not sure Paramount had any idea how much fan fiction was being written about their intellectual property, or their lawyers might have tried to stop it. I'm glad they didn't, because I think there's nothing like fan fiction to inspire young writers to actually write. If I ever taught a fiction writing seminar, that would be one of my first assignments to my students (with caveats about intellectual property, of course). In Graves Below Final - 350x525Your new book is a Kindle Worlds project. Can you explain that for those who aren't familiar? Carol: The folks at Amazon saw the phenomenal success of Fifty Shades of Gray, which started out as fan faction based on the Twilight series. Clearly, there's a market for fan fiction, so Amazon set up a program wherein they license a series and invite authors to play in that universe. S.E. Smith, best-selling science fiction romance and fantasy romance author, wrote a two-book warm-hearted paranormal romance series set in Magic, New Mexico, which she licensed to Amazon. As part of the deal, she got to invite nine "seed" authors to write novellas in her universe, and I was lucky enough to be on her invitation list. Susan gets a cut of the royalties for book sales, and becomes the owner of our intellectual property. Susan was kind enough to explicitly exclude any characters we create from the deal, so I could write other adventures for my characters in my own books (as long as I don't mention Magic, New Mexico). By the way, for those of you who are writers, or want to be, anyone is allowed to submit a manuscript for consideration for a Kindle Worlds project. It might be a fun way to dip your toe into a new venture, if you're of a mind.   Native American magic sounds like a great concept. Tell me more. Carol: When Susan invited me to play in her world, I quickly read both her books, and discovered that the town of "Magic, New Mexico" was founded in the 18th century as a sanctuary for magical people of the world. My first thought was to wonder what the Native Americans of the day thought about this, which led me to research (one of my favorite things to do) the history of the various tribes and cultural traditions in the area. I love imagining cultures and traditions, and the story, In Graves Below, grew from there. I also knew I wanted to portray Native Americans as normal people with real-world problems, beyond the mystical stereotypes. Idrián, the male lead character, served in the military and paid a harsh price for it. Dancing is a southwestern native tradition, so I balanced him with a dancer, Riya, who has a knack for opening doors. Throw in a cranky ghost, a prophecy or two, and some demons, and there's the story. After all, who doesn't love a good demon horde wanting to eat a city?   Why do you think paranormal stories are so popular with readers and writers? Carol: Paranormal stories apply the "what if" of our dreams and wishful thinking to the mundane world. They're catnip to writers because we can explore the extraordinary through the lens of the ordinary, and reflect images that inspire us. Putting on my reader hat, I love learning about the alternate universe, and seeing how talented, flawed, fated, and strong people struggle to find their place in the world.   Any “real life” paranormal experiences you’d care to share? Local ghost stories? Carol: Fort Collins, Colorado, is a fairly young town, but there are reportedly a number of ghosts around. The most "haunted" building came down last year. It had once been the carriage house of a wealthy couple, and the husband got drunk and slit the wife's throat in the front yard. Angry townspeople broke the man out of jail and lynched him, and the property was said to be haunted by their ghosts, as well as the ghost of a later suicide, and possibly those of the victims of an airplane accident, because the wreckage was stored in the building for a while. For ghost afficionados, Fort Collins has an evening ghost tour available in the summer months.   What’s something you’ve kept since you were a kid? Carol: When my mother was six or seven, her mother had a portrait done of her, vaguely in the style of one of Victorian family paintings, but with 20th-Century sensibilities. When I was about that age, I looked enough like that portrait that my grandmother had a similar dress made for me and curled my hair in Shirley Temple ringlets, then invited all her friends over to see the "new" portrait. I inherited that portrait, but no one thinks it's me any more. 😉   Feel free to add anything else you’d like to share with my readers. Carol: As I mentioned earlier, I'm one of nine authors, so if you like In Graves Below, check out the offerings by the others — here's the list on S.E. Smith's website. Oh, and you should totally read S.E. Smith's Touch of Frost and Taking of Tory. All our books are standalone, so you won't need to have read any of the others, but trust me, you'll want to. Several of us write space opera and science fiction romance, too, if that's also your cup of tea, Earl Grey, hot. 😉  
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