Saturday, July 16, 2005

Future Article in Entertainment Weekly

When EW first contacted Natalie J. Damschroder to do this interview, she laughed at us.

"You don't want to interview me," she said. "EW ignores the kind of writing I do. You know, the kind that celebrates happy things?"

Damschroder doesn't apologize for writing what she calls "indulgent fiction," books and stories she wants people to read when they're taking a break from a tough day at work or a tough part of life. This theme permeates everything she does, from the truffles she gives out at booksignings to the title of her website and blog, Indulge Yourself.

When Damschroder's most recent book became her third to hit the NYT top ten, she celebrated with ice cream and an evening of reading Suzanne Brockmann, one of her influences. Her publisher celebrated by giving her a new three-book, high six-figure contract.

"I'm blessed," she says simply, explaining that the three books will continue her contemporary goddess series that has brought her such acclaim.

A quick look would have one agreeing, but Damschroder is no overnight success. She started writing romance in the early 90s, taking six years to work up to a three-book-a-year pace that she now finds easier to sustain without a day job. She found early success with traditional romance--the kind EW never reviews--sold to then-upstart e-publishers Echelon Press and Amber Quill Press. Damschroder's early genre work received critical acclaim and decent sales, but it wasn't enough for her to live on. Soon, that wasn't a problem.

"Soon?" She laughs. "I was writing for nearly 15 years and published for eight before I had enough income to quit the day job."

Where does Damschroder get the theme of Indulgence?

"I never had anything bad happen to me," she says. "But the little everyday things can really wear you down. I come from one of those guilt-ridden Catholic legacies, and had to work hard to overcome the belief that anything I did for myself was selfish and a waste of time. I want to help others overcome that, as well."

She never had anything bad happen to her?

"I don't belittle anyone's history. I've been incredibly lucky. But I don't think the only valuable fiction is fiction inspired by trauma."

What about her parents' divorce when she was nine? Or her mother's death from recurrent breast cancer in 2003?

"Divorce is always perceived as bad," she explains, "but my family did a decent job of making it positive. The Christmas after my husband and kids and I moved into our first house, we had the whole family staying with us--my mother, brother, father, stepmother, and half-brother and half-sister. Everyone got along great.

"My mom's death was harder, of course, and there are still times when I feel the loss. But her illness progressed extremely quickly. It was a horrible time that I never want to endure again, but it didn't change me or how I look at life. Or my writing."

Writing that touches on painful topics, but never leaves her characters in pain for long. She chose romance because of the core element of hope, and because whatever else the story is, the stakes are higher, the motivations purer, if love is a factor. Damschroder prefers to write stories with paranormal elements, partly because they're fun and stretch the imagination, partly because, she claims, she hates research. "Fiction is about making things up. Making things happen the way you want them to happen. And always, always--for me--having a happy ending."

Readers seem to agree. Her sales numbers have reached the millions, and web forums glow with the heat of passionate discussion that she eagerly joins. A movie deal is pending, with Orlando Bloom attached to star, a dream come true for the author. When asked if she ever thought she'd get this far, she doesn't hesitate.

"Hell, yeah. In fact, I wrote this article for you."


MaryF said...

I love it, Natalie!

Natalie Damschroder said...

Thank you! :) Shower inspiration this morning. LOL