Monday, June 16, 2014

FEATURED AUTHOR: Natalie Baszile

Natalie has a M.A. in Afro-American Studies from UCLA, and is a graduate of Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program for Writers where she was a Holden Minority Scholar. An early version of Queen Sugar won the Hurston Wright College Writer’s Award, was a co-runner up in the Faulkner Pirate’s Alley Novel-in-Progress competition, and excerpts were published in Cairn and ZYZZYVA. She has had residencies at the Ragdale Foundation where she was awarded the Sylvia Clare Brown fellowship, Virginia Center for the Arts, and Hedgebrook. Her non-fiction work has appeared in The, Mission at Tenth, and in The Best Women’s Travel Writing Volume 9. She is a former fiction editor at The Cortland Review, and is a member of the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. Natalie grew up in Southern California and lives in San Francisco with her family.

What would you like readers to take away from your book? 

I’d love for readers to feel that they’ve been transported. That’s what I like to feel when I read; that the rest of the world just falls away. I’d also like them to feel that they’ve learned something. And third, I really hope they love the story.  I hope that when they turn the last page, they’re really sorry to have reached the end, but that they feel satisfied.

Which character did you have the most fun writing about?

 I’d have to say I enjoyed writing all the characters.  Charley, Miss Honey, Hollywood, Denton and Alison -- they are all so different; each one brings a different element to the story.  But if I had to choose, I’d say I loved writing Aunt Violet. She has such a vibrant personality; and I love that she’s a straight shooter.  Her voice came easily and I just sort of knew her from the first time she entered a scene.

What was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?

I faced a number of challenges along the way, but it’s hard for me to think of them as roadblocks. When I encountered an obstacle, I just had to figure out another solution. Take the timing of this novel, for instance. Once I surrendered to the amount of time the book took to craft, the writing was pleasurable—even when it was difficult and the words weren’t flowing easily, I found the process to be (mostly) deeply satisfying.  I’m not saying every moment was blissful.  But to the best of my ability, I tried to focus on the writing and the story, and that always kept me afloat.

Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a writer?

Do:  Find the people who share your vision for you work. That’s hugely important.  You’ll get lots of advice from well-intentioned people, but if you follow all of it, your work will feel scattered.  Try to find a few trusted readers; people who will tell you honestly when you’re going astray.

Don’t: Focus on what anyone else is doing.  It’s easy to put pressure on yourself because you feel as though you should have written or published by a certain age. That’s why I hate those lists with titles like “30 under 30.” It suggests that if you haven’t done something by a certain time in your life, you’re finished. Just write your book. Make it the best book you can possibly make it before you send out. Take your time.

What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand? 

I guess I’d like non-writers to understand that writing takes time.  A long time.  Sometimes, when it looks like we’re just staring at the wall, we’re actually working.
What was the last book to keep you up at night reading it?   

Right now I’m reading Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch.  So far, it has my full attention.  I read it ever chance I get.

What do you do to make time for yourself? 

I try to read.  Lately, I haven’t had much time, so stealing time to read feels particularly indulgent. I also go to the gym. I’m not a gym rat by any means; one hour and I’m out of there, but exercise, not surprisingly, help me keep my mind clear. I’m more focused and relaxed when I get to my desk.

How can readers get in contact with you? 

Readers can contact me on twitter (@NatalieBaszile), through my Facebook page, or through my website:

A mother-daughter story of reinvention—about an African American woman who unexpectedly inherits a sugarcane farm in Louisiana.

Why exactly her late father left her eight hundred acres of prime sugarcane land in Louisiana is as mysterious as it is generous. But for Charley Bordelon, it’s also an opportunity start over: to get away from the smog and sprawl of Los Angeles, and to grow a new life in the coffee-dark soil of the Gulf coast. Accompanied by her eleven-year-old daughter Micah, Charley arrives with high hopes and just in time for growing season.

Charley is as unfamiliar with Southern customs as she is with cane farming—which poses serious challenges both on and off the farm, especially when her farm manager leaves without warning. But, rolling up her sleeves and swallowing her pride, Charley finds the help of a colorful cast of characters—blood relatives and townspeople alike—who all become a family to her and Micah.

As the cane grows, Charley is tested by a brother who is quickly using up her patience, and it will take all of her heart to keep the sugar growing and her family intact. Queen Sugar is a story of Southern wisdom, unexpected love, and one family flourishing against all odds.

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