Natalia Sheppard recently released her debut novel, The Little White House. But it's not her only claim to fame! So we wanted to sit down and have a chat with the author about her life now and how things have changed since she became a published author.
Did you always dream of becoming an author?
Since I was a child, I have always had a real passion for words and writing - particularly descriptive writing. I was enamoured by the short stories of New Zealand authors, Witi Ihimaera and Katherine Mansfield, who gave the reader a glimpse into the simplicities of NZ life and culture but through the eyes of colourful and complex characters. I later became obsessed with the writing of Janet Frame, whose works were often autobiographical. I loved that her writing was full of beautiful imagery but tinged with an edge of sadness and darkness - something that really resonated with me. Though I wrote many poems and creative essays, my forays into actual stories were always failures as I grew bored and never finished them!
What was your first job?
Babysitting the neighbour’s children while the parents milked their cows.
How did you come about writing your book? Was that your intention or did you start writing for fun?
I recently started writing a blog about my experiences as a musician in the Electronic Music Industry and my mum said to me: 'Why don't you try writing a book - your writing is really good!'
I lamented that I wasn't really sure what to write about and we began talking about different things that I could maybe try and tackle. My first instinct was that I wanted to set it in New Zealand and it was actually my mum who came up with the idea of writing about the little white cottage that used to reside down the road from our home.
Because I love books with elements of fantasy, I latched onto the idea that the story could be told from the perspective of the house.
As I began writing it, I didn't have a real clear perspective of what was going to happen, just that there were certain stories I wanted to tell within the book and that I knew how I wanted the book to end.
What was your life like before you became an author?
Considering my book only came out recently, my life was pretty much the same as it is now. I make music, play shows, teach, occasionally marry people (I am also a registered celebrant) and enjoy time with my husband and friends.
I am yet to see any real change in my life since I wrote my book - perhaps nothing will change, perhaps everything will change - only time will tell!
Did you face any struggles before becoming an author? If so, how did you overcome them?
I certainly had some challenges in terms of wanting to write the book in what I consider my true voice. I wanted my writing to sound authentic but balanced, with a certain naivety due to the perspective I was writing from (the house itself). I constantly struggled with thinking - does this sound corny? Is this a bit twee? But there are definitely moments where I think I found my feet and the writing flows; it was usually when I was writing day after day for a good few hours. Towards the end, the book seemed to write itself! There were certain moments where I was typing away, thinking to myself 'I didn't even plan this moment - this is just a conscious flow of thought happening here and its really working!' - which was often quite overwhelming and even emotional at times.
Now that you are a published author, how has your life changed, if at all?
My life hasn't changed much at the moment other than I am able to say 'Hey, I wrote a book!’
Can you please describe a typical day in your life now?
I take ages to fall asleep at night and often have quite a restless sleep, so I often need to sleep a bit later than normal. I get up around 9.am, have breakfast, do some yoga or go for a work out, shower, answer emails and do other admin work involving my music.
Some days, I will go into my studio and begin work on song writing or recording if I have a project on the go. Two days a week, I teach at a primary/intermediate as the music specialist, then come home and give private singing lessons. I always try and get some house hold chores done as well before my husband comes home and cooks us dinner.
Some days, I am packing my bag and jetting off to a different city or country to play a music gig or go to a festival. Those are my favourite days! No day is really 'typical' for me.
What is your most memorable moment of your life as an author?
At this stage, it’s a couple of moments. The day I received the email from Pegasus saying they would like to publish my book. I rang my parents and husband in tears! Then it has to be when a box of books turned up on my doorstep from Pegasus and I opened it and held my book in my hands. Such a surreal feeling.
How would you best sum up your experience with Pegasus Publishers?
I would say overall the communication element has been really great. I have felt supported and guided throughout this whole process, had my ideas listened to and followed through with, and the end result is one I am very happy with!
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