Interview: Natalie King, finalist for the Children’s Choice Young Adult Fiction Award

Natalie King answers our questions about her YA book, Awakening:

Natalie King has been voted for by hundreds of teenagers all over New Zealand as a finalist in the Children’s Choice Young Adult Fiction category, for her first YA book Awakening (Vote for her here!). According to our reviewer, 15-year-old Tierney Reardon, “Awakening by Christchurch author Natalie King is a novel for young adults that will thrill and inspire, intrigue and mystify.”

So how did this idea come to fruition? And what inspired the change from adult fiction to Young Adult fiction for Natalie? Here are the answers:

  1. As an author, you must have a lot of ideas floating around. How did you decide to write this book?
    You’re right, there are so many ideas, but this was one of the ones that came to me and just wouldn’t let me go. Every time I closed my eyes to go to sleep I’d see the lake in my mind and I’d hear the voices (okay, I know that sounds crazy, but there you go), and in the end I found I couldn’t sleep for thinking about it and the only way to get some rest was to write it out which was tough because there were other books I was meant to be writing! It was so intense writing that first draft, but because it was gripping for me, I loved it.Those are the best moments for a writer I think: when you’re so hooked into getting that story down and you can’t type fast enough and it’s absolutely consuming. I wrote that entire draft over a school summer holiday period, I couldn’t wait to get dinner out of the way, so I could get back to it.2. Tell us a bit about the journey from manuscript to published work. What was the biggest challenge you faced in publishing this book?Well, because I write for other publishers, I was very busy meeting deadlines for them. Plus I have four kids (who are awesome, but even busier than me)–so getting Awakening written was all about time management. Even though I wrote that first draft fairly quickly, revising and editing and rewriting took a whole lot longer!! For a while I was so busy with my other commitments I put the manuscript away for almost a year before looking at it again, which was actually really good because then I spotted a tonne of things to fix. :)My biggest challenge in writing is always, always time management. Things always take me longer than I think they will, and I am a bit prone to procrastination and then resort to a series of ‘all-nighters’ before that deadline hits! I don’t advise it: get on with those assignments sooner rather than later guys!3. Did you tailor this book to a particular audience – or did you find it found its own audience as it was written?When that idea first came to me I knew that Zelie was at high school so I guess it was always for High School/ upper Intermediate readers… and all those adults who like reading YA and younger kids who read ‘up’. 🙂4. Can you recommend any books for children/young adults who love this book? You’ve all read all the other books in the YA finalist lists – both judge-selected and Children’s Choice lists – right? If not, definitely read ALL of those to start. 🙂 And then… then you go to the library.To be honest I always find this a hard question because reading is soooo subjective and while two of you might love one book, the same two of you might have totally opposite opinions of another! Personally I love reading across all genres, from the classics, to crime, to romance, to sci-fi to dystopian, to historical and I’d encourage everyone to do the same because (usually) the common element in all those kinds of books is the characters – and if I care about a character, be they ordinary or evil, old or young, then I’m going to read on. Because as a reader I start to empathise with them and care about what choices they’re making and what’s going on in their world and oooh I want to know what’s going to happen! That’s what’s so great about reading fiction. Books are amazing because through reading we can step into other people’s experiences, they take us to places we can only dream of, and okay it might be all made up but hey, they sure can entertain us 🙂

    5.      What do you want to tell the young people that voted to bring your book into the children’s choice finalist list?

    Oh a huge, huge, HUGE thank you! I am so chuffed to be on that list, I’ve been grinning about it since I found out. I’m so pleased you guys read and responded to Zelie’s story 🙂 It really is such a thrill so thank you again – YAY!

    6.      Awakening is set in New Zealand, but it’s New Zealand-ness is woven in subtly, creating a setting that feels familiar no matter where you are from. Was this intentional?

    I guess I’m used to writing for an international audience in my adult fiction, as that’s published off-shore, so perhaps I self-edit some elements of my ‘New Zealandness’ out automatically now – mainly just word choices, such as ‘jandals’ or something, because not every one knows what they are. Conversely though, sometimes I put those things in deliberately!

    Also, I know my writing tends to be fast-paced: you’re never really going to get a full page of description from me, my characters usually have too much to say! Most of us know what a classroom looks like, right? Unless there’s something really unusual or important or funny about that, then I’m not going to bore you with a description of the desks and chairs, I’m going to get on with the action. 🙂

    Having said that though, for me Lake Tekapo is such an utterly magical part of New Zealand – and I think if you’ve ever seen it, or been there, you can never forget it. It is so beautiful and unique and mysterious. I did hope to convey that element. I was living in Timaru at the time that I wrote the first draft of the book, and took several trips to Tekapo just to soak up that atmosphere, it’s just a fascinating, beautiful place.

    7.      You’ve written a number of books for adults. How was writing a book for teens a different experience?

    For me it was liberating because it was so different – I have always loved reading books with paranormal elements and it was so great getting the chance to create a little of that in a book of my own. I spent ages on Tamas’ backstory as well –most of it isn’t actually in the book, but his childhood in France and the lead-up to World War One was intriguing for me. It’s always weird how characters just become so very real to you and tell you all this stuff about themselves you had no idea about until you’re almost finished the book, and while you go back and weave some things in, so much is left out.

    8.      Can we expect any more young adult novels from you in the future?

    I certainly hope so but at the moment I’m back meeting deadlines for my other publishers and trying to get my four kids from A-Z and everywhere in between after school, so finding those spare moments to write another story is tricky. I would love to finish part two of Zelie’s story though, it is all there in my head and whispering to me at quiet moments. 🙂


Awakening VoteIf you want to know more about Natalie, check out her website. For reviews of her books, check out the Booksellers NZ review, and NZ Booklovers’ review. And to be in to win a copy of Awakening, head over to our competition.

This is day two of the blog tour featuring each of the finalists in the Children’s Choice category of the awards. Next Monday’s feature will be The Red Suitcase, which will be covered on Booknotes Unbound, the NZ Book Council blog.

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JJ is a writer by night, & a Product Manager by day. She loves young adult and children’s fiction and is the co-founder of NZ Booklovers. She has a Masters in Creative Writing, and is an ex-English tutor. She lives in Auckland with her husband, daughter, and two chihuahuas.

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