Natania Barron is a speculative fiction writer whose work has appeared in Weird Tales, EscapePod, Steampunk Tales, Crossed Genres, and Bull Spec. Her books include Pilgrim of the Sky, Rock Revival, and These Marvelous Beasts: The Complete Frost & Filigree Series. Here’s her website and Twitter stream. I appreciate the time she took answering these questions!
How long have you been a writer?
Natania Barron: I’ve been writing book-length objects since I was about twelve years old. My first official publication was in 2009, but I started taking fiction writing seriously right after my son was born in 2006. So, in short: I’ve been a fan of writing since I was twelve, but a recognized author of things published where others can read it for over ten years.
How did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Natania Barron: This question always perplexes me a little because books, and storytelling, have just always existed for me. I’ve always had a deep and abiding desire to write stories, to create worlds that weren’t there, and to, well, go on adventures. I was an avid reader as a child — yes, books were my friends — and it just felt like a natural evolution to start writing them. I’m a kid of the 80s, so fantasy was everywhere when I was a kid… and I wanted to write stories that made other people feel the way I did when I read things like A Wrinkle in Time or saw Labyrinth or The Last Unicorn.
Are you a full-time writer? If not, what’s your day job that helps pay the bills? If yes, how do you keep the process fun instead of feeling like it’s…ugh…work?
Natania Barron: I write full-time, but I’m not a full-time writer. My day job is in marketing, so communication is built into the work I do almost every minute I’m there. In fact, I was hired because of my dedication to storytelling. I’m very lucky in that respect.
I’ve learned to adapt, however, to blending writing and work. That means keeping realistic expectations on writing production (500 words a day is a big success for me) and being flexible. Also planning. I had to learn that the hard way. I tried for about three years after my second child was born to just… pants my way through things. But I realized that if I was going to write, I was going to have to think about it before I did. So now, depending on the project, I spend more time outlining. I mean, not to say that the outline remains intact. Back to that being flexible thing, right? I listen to audiobooks on my commute, when I run and hike, and try to surround myself in stories. It seems to have worked.
Do you have a family? How do you balance quality time with them and with your creative process?
Natania Barron: I do have a family! Two kids, two dogs, and a husband. Writing can be a challenge to fold into family time; it can feel selfish to whittle away at the keyboard while other things are happening. But my family also understands that writing is a form of therapy for me. A writing mommy is a happy, involved mommy. There are days that are truly terrible, but that’s part of life, right? I wrote before I had a family, before I was even a fully-functioning human… it won’t go away.
What’s your favorite genre to read – and why?
Natania Barron: I love fantasy. For a few years in my early 20s, I tried to be all… literary? And I don’t know. It was adjusting. I like stories with swords and magic and impossible odds, especially if it’s done smartly and beautifully.
Share some works that were influential for you – and why?
Natania Barron: L’Engle, Tolkien, Lewis, and Lloyd Alexander are probably the most influential of my childhood. Their work gave me a window into other worlds that remain with me still — not just worlds of the imagination, but worlds within the realm of possibility. And they gave me characters that feel like old friends. L’Engle showed me that girls could be odd and glorious and brilliant; Tolkien gave me hope in the darkness; Lewis showed me the power of the worlds just beyond our sight; and Alexander opened my love into mythology.
What drives you to write? What do you get out of it?
Natania Barron: It’s like a valve. I just make up stories. Characters, ideas, clothing, settings… these come naturally to me. I know it’s how I cope with difficulties, how I process the world. I think, at this point, it’s so ingrained in my personality and my own understanding of myself that I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
Are you powered more by character inspirations or plot ideas? Why is that?
Natania Barron: Characters power me. I will read a very mediocre book if I feel attached to even one of the characters. I love a good plot, of course. I love well-crafted stories, and try to add some good surprises in what I write. But ultimately I’m moved most by the heart, human or otherwise, of characters.
What do you do for fun? Interesting hobbies?
Natania Barron: I’m a child of the arts. I play multiple musical instruments, paint, and do audiobook recordings when I can. I knit and crochet, bake, garden. I love hiking and running and being outside whenever possible.
What advice do you have for would-be writers?
Natania Barron: I wrote a whole series on that!