An Interview with Natalie Cannon

C: First things first: Where are you available on the internet so that readers can reach you/learn more about you?

N: The best way to contact me is by email (natalie.cannon13@gmail.com). I also have a blog http://nataliecannon.wordpress.com/ that you can contact me through the comments section on any post. If you are seized by the urge to suddenly be my friend, I have a facebook…but…um…I’m not telling you what my profile picture is. You’ll have to deduce it, you sexy things. ;D

C: Excellent! So, when did you start writing? What was your early work like?

N: Well, either the embarrassing or awesome part is I don’t remember. I remember being in first grade and learning to read/write. I was very excited about it because I would know what all the strange squiggles in books meant. I was excited to see what my penmanship would look like (very sloppy, generally sticky and terrible, especially if I’m in a rush or falling asleep). It was so amazing to be able to read! It was one of the most important skills ever and would transform my life! YAY six year old me! I already knew I wanted to be an author by the end of kindergarten. I wanted to create.

My “early work” consisted of book reports and school assignments. I didn’t really go out of my way to write things generally, unless it was somebody’s birthday or they needed a pick-me-up. I made a magazine for someone who was a bit down. It had an article in it about how awesome they were and that they had won a million dollars. Most of my story stories were oral: I would make up super elaborate romances for my Barbies (GI Joe and Anastasia are still happily married and living out of the Barbie RV, thank you very much). On the night of my thirteenth birthday I began a Legend of Zelda fanfiction in my head that went on and on for three years (it was ZeLink and there was a sequel and OCs and Ganon in the underworld and eventually a cat and a baby and all the things that are still in my head because I haven’t written it down) I’d lie in bed every night and imagine. I took a creative writing class in high school and that started me writing outside of school creative writing assignments. It cemented the my idea of wanting to be an author because not only did I have a tremendous amount of fun, but my teacher was very supportive of this career choice.
C: OMG that sounds like me, especially the Barbie bit. Is there an author or book you feel has fueled or inspired you as an author?
N: I definitely think the video game Legend of Zelda series were an inspiration. It got me thinking and dreaming and overall writing, even if it was in my own head. That’s not really a book or author though…I really love Old Magic by Marianne Curley. I checked it out from the library and devoured it while beach camping with my family. It’s not terribly long, but I read it so much during that week that the pages started smelling like the ocean. Afterwards, I decided that yes, this is my genre, the incorporation of fantasy and history. I really wish there was a sequel….My newest penchant for murder and mystery I blame entirely on a certain friend who introduced me to Sherlock Holmes and the utter amazingnes that is BBC Sherlock. The storytelling and characters are brilliant, fantastic, true, and endlessly, painfully real. For my latest project, my classes and time at the University of East Anglia (in Norwich, England) basically gave me all the material I’m using for it. The classes were Gender and Medicine (Medieval Times to Present) and Anglo-Saxon England. They were delightful and my senior thesis novel grew out of those classes and my travels abroad.
C: Tell us a bit about this senior thesis project and how you’re incorporating those classes.
N: Oh whoops, that might be something that requires explanation. At the college I attend, almost everyone has to write a thesis (hugerific paper) senior year, even the science majors. As a creative writing and medieval/renaissance history major, I’m going to write a historical fiction novel. I studied abroad for the purpose of being able to live in England and collect information and ideas for my thesis. Being England and therefore being in the place I was studying meant all the artifacts and history were out my window. Seriously. BEST. Plus, there are like…2ish medievalists where I normally go to college, so…not a whole lot of in-depth classes on my period of interest. Most Americans have never really heard of the historical Anglo-Saxons. When they hear the word “medieval” they mostly think of the High Medieval Period aka the Normans aka castles and knights and feudalism. I keep having to tell people that the Saxons are before that.
ANYWAY, my Anglo-Saxon class gave me a time period that I had studied in depth and was increasingly fascinated by. It had tons of dark spots where nobody knew what the hell happened and it hasn’t really been done too much. My Gender and Medicine class let me know about medical profession through time and medicine is going to be a theme running through my novel, and eventually the series. Because my plan is to make it into a series. Because yes.
My actual thesis plot line starts with these three Irish monks who leave their monastery in a small animal hide boat, bop about the Irish Sea for a week because they didn’t bring oars, and wash up in Cornwall. They then precede to find King Alfred the Great, tell him their monastery’s Head Scribe Suibhne is dead, and leave on pilgrimage to Rome. That is everything history knows about the real historical people named Dubslaine, Macbeth, and Maclinmun. I’m going to mess with them. That’s all I’ll say here, but for more details you can go to my blog as I’m liveblogging the thesis experience there.
C: I have to ask…. do we know if they ever made it to Rome? Or could this be like Arya Stark setting out for Winterfell with Yoren and then not really making it to Winterfell…? (Sorry, I’m in my A Song of Ice and Fire kick)
N: AHAHAHA, okay…I haven’t read A Song of Ice and Fire, but it’s on my list! I don’t know if they ever made it to Rome. I’m not really interested in what they do there so I’ve yet to look it up (and it might not be possible to look it up, old records and all that). I do know that once they’d done Rome they planned to go on to Jerusalem and one source conjectures that Maclinmun eventually returned to Ireland to become an anchorite at Glendaloch.
C: Hmm… the possibilities! Have you got anything else under your belt or in your future projects, or is it more your style to devote your entire attention to one project at a time?
N: Well, I’m definitely not like you where I have like 5 million ideas in my head all at once. That’s your gift. I do have one other idea for a supernatural short story collection of angsty goodness. The thesis story isn’t very fantastical (not yet anyway), so this collection would be stories featuring magical creatures and/or events. I have some stories for this already done and the ideas outlined for others. At least two of the stories will be re-worked fanfiction. I also write fanfiction under the name Missing Triforce, which is another project I suppose. I mostly write BBC Sherlock on my own (Sherwatsonlock, vague Mystrade, an OC), and I’ve received some requests for sequels….which I should probably do because reviewers are nicer than I am lazy…Right now I’m working with McBride, Little, and you on Love is a Battlefield, which has been fantastic. It’s my first time doing Harry Potter and it’s very fun!

But I guess generally I only focus on one or two creative projects at a time. Right now that’s Love is a Battlefield and thesis.
C: Good choices, dear! 😀 Is there some dream you have of a type of story or a genre of writing that you really want to do someday?
N: Hmmmmm……It’s not that I want to do a certain story or genre more than I want people to read my work. I want to be able to communicate with them, make them feel, make them think a little. Maybe see a little of what I see, have experienced, or have learned. I want to create something in them, something a tiny bit meaningful. I don’t have a particular moral or lesson I want to convey. I just want to tell fantastic stories because I want to tell fantastic stories. Does that make sense?
Admittedly though, I do skip about genres a lot (during one creative writing class I purposefully did so in order to confuse people). I really like fantasy/history and I think of it as my main genre. But I’ve also written sci-fi, present-day drama, tragedy, romance, murder mystery, surrealism, stream-of-consciousness, etc. Most of the beginning entries of my blog are poetry. I like to experiment, especially with fanfiction since my site is so po-dunk that no one really cares. Plus, with all the online hit monitoring it’s easy to see what worked and what didn’t.
C: That’s a good point. Evan also mentioned that fan fiction is a good place for practicing and experimenting. What was the biggest experiment/risk you’ve ever done?
N: YAY Fanfiction! My biggest experiments always end up as poetry. My poetry is very, very odd. I know this because when I give it to people like 90% of the time their response is “what even is this.” A lot of it is written emotion as opposed to a narrative. Not a lot is concrete. But hey, it’s poetry: there’s a constant battle between writing what you think as the poetic truth and understand-ability for others. Good poems walk that line very well, transmitting meaning to any audience. Not all my poems are good poems.

For prose, the weirdest things I’ve ever done are Howl and The TravelerHowl is me attempting stream-of-consciousness, which was delightful to do actually. It turned out pretty normal and I used parenthesis to indicate when John was thinking with memory or images instead of words. There probably should be more parenthesis. The Traveler is me doing crack and mindfuckery and ginormous plot twist right at the end! The premise is that Sherlock calls himself a traveler and all the rest of the characters are cities. So there’s Lestradeville, Andersonville, Donovanville, Watsonville, Moriarty City, etc. But then the world starts changing and falling apart and weirdness and suddenly John is actually there and Sherlock is like what, who are you, what are you doing, omg a real person. It’s weeeiiiirrrrddddd.
C: “Omg, a real person.” I love that. You’re graduating this year (hopefully, haha) and so you’re probably (hopefully) looking around at real life jobs. What sort of day jobs are you considering? Have you made any headway? What advice do you give to writers looking for day jobs in the real world while really wanting to write all the time (a.k.a. me, haha)?
N: I don’t feel entirely qualified to answer this, seeing as I lack a definite job lined up. But I’ll try. In general, writers do have day jobs until they can support themselves by just writing. Benedict Cumberbatch had a great quote about “the lemon rind years” i.e. the years when you’re just starting out and your paycheck is piddly so you’re hungry enough that you’d would eat the lemon rind if you could. If you have an iron will and refuse to distract yourself from writing, you can try surviving just on your art. But I’ve heard that’s kind of crazy. Then again, so are writers.

If you absolutely don’t want a day job, I’d say attach yourself to someone with a steadier paycheck, whether that be parents or a significant other. Contribute when you can, maybe do the cleaning or something, but make it clear that writing is your career and therefore important. This kind of situation would only really work if it’s with some very understanding people.
Mostly, however, beginning professional writers get day jobs. Some get jobs related to writing like in newspapers or Script Screening for producers/directions. Some do freelance work: editing, journalism, photography etc. There’s also the (traditional and digital) publishing industry, which I’m focusing a bit on. Other writers get non-writing jobs: they work at a National Park, or as a secretary, or in a neuroscience lab, or in the courtroom, or wherever. You mentioned going into communications/PR work. People tell me that 9-5s are draining, that it’s hard to write with those. Flexible hours sound better, or maybe just part-time work so you can chip in on the rent. Networking, stellar resumes, and interview skills are key in any job search.
There’s also the option of grad school. Scholarships are available and if you work it right you could be paid to travel the world and write a novel, or sit around and workshop with a bunch of other writers. If you have a special someone, some scholarships will raise the amount to accommodate. I’m tinkering with the notion of having part-time work and then getting a scholarship to get a master’s degree in library science online. Librarian jobs are hard to find, but once you’re there, you can stay for decades.
As for advice for day job versus writing….balance. You can’t write if you’re dead from starvation or frostbite or heat stroke. You have to make the job some sort of priority and set up checks and balances (timers, friends reminding you to eat/sleep etc). Part time work and a very understanding roommate. Knowing to get help when you need it. Most of all, talk to people, see what they’re doing, tell them what you’re doing and maybe they know someone who can help.
Sorry that answer is so ridiculously long…D:
C: No, no, it’s perfect! Lots of great advice! You’re always qualified because you do RESEARCH. 😀 It’s been a pleasure having this chat. We should do this again sometime.
N: Oh, thank you! It’s been a blast!
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About Charlotte Blackwood

Charlotte Blackwood is a self-employed aspiring author working on perfecting her first novella/ first novel. She is a current student at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, CA. If you're looking for a reading list (someday she'll add her own works to the list), she's currently supporting Anna Karenina, anything by Dickens, anything by Tolkien, anything by JK Rowling, A Song of Ice and Fire, and The Hunger Games.

One thought on “An Interview with Natalie Cannon

  1. […] It’s a great blog to follow if you want to see how the life of a working writer is. She also recently interviewed me about writing and being a student writer, which made me feel very important. No one’s asked […]

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