The planned return of the X-Files has nothing on Tucson’s Natalie Wright, author of H.A.L.F: The Deep Beneath. She gave up law to write adventurous young-adult fantasy and sci-fi fiction. Here she tells why you should never let her near your latte. By Joan Calcagno. All photos courtesy of Natalie Wright.
Early bird or night owl? “Night owl. I can be logical and productive in the morning. I’m more creative when the sun goes down. There’s something about the dark or moonlight when people are asleep that allows our imagination to be more free. We’re not embroiled in the daytime issues. So in terms of my writing life, I’m much more creative between the hours of 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. I write longhand in the evening and then the next day, in the morning, I’m typing that in, editing as I go.”
Favorite accessory? “My cat. I enjoy having a furry friend with me at all times. Things are just better when I have my baby near me.”
Favorite faux pas? “Oh my gosh, there are so many! Here’s a socially inept thing I did. We’d just moved to Tucson, twenty years ago, and we were at the symphony. We hadn’t been there before. I saw all these coffees on this table and they had labels on them – latte, whatever. I picked one up and started drinking it. I’m walking away and this lady is complaining that she has been waiting for her latte forever and looks at me. And I realize my cup has a name on it. I don’t know what I was thinking – ‘Tucson is great! This is wonderful! There are coffees just sitting out!’ And now I’m drinking this woman’s latte. What do I do? I run with this latte as far as I can. My husband was mortified.”
Who is your dream reader? “I have readers from five years old to 90. But they have to be people who enjoy going along for a ride that’s probably not going to be quite like anything they have done before. Curious readers who enjoy an adventure, wondering ‘What is she going to do next?’ Readers who think young adult [fiction] means Twilight redux, they are not going to like my books.”
If I weren’t a young adult fiction writer I would… “I would own a taco bar on a beach in Hawaii. That’s one thing I think is necessary and doesn’t exist yet. Every time I’m there I think ‘I could really go for a fish taco and a Corona or something’. They are missing the boat.”
If I could change one thing I would… “I’m in the middle of a very poignant time in my life and the observation I have at this moment, based on caring for my ailing parents, is that kindness is very important – human beings being kind to one another. I mean every day, day-by-day kindness. If I could change one thing, I would be more kind and I would be in a kinder world.”
What was the biggest surprise in leaving the practice of law for writing? “I disliked law school and I disliked being a lawyer, but I did it for twenty years. So I was more than ready to end my practice and had been moving in that direction anyway. My husband, who is my biggest cheerleader, said: ‘You need to give yourself six months to a year. You’re not going to leave this and turn around and write ten novels in a year.’ So when I moped around the house and couldn’t seem to get anything to happen for about six months, he said ‘I told you’. So that was a big surprise – that I would mourn the loss of something I didn’t even think I wanted.”
How did the idea for the H.A.L.F. story come to you? “I was driving along Sunrise Drive in Tucson. It was a really hot summer day and I had this song playing called Cowboys and Aliens by the band Gram Rabbit from the Joshua Tree area of California. And I’m looking down at the valley out across the mountains toward the south and I had this vision pop in my head. I went home and just wrote out an outline. The basic story line was there of an underground lab in Arizona where they were breeding alien-human hybrids and hybrids escape. I have this girl character and she meets up with one of them in the desert.
“I decided Ajo would be a perfect place for my teen protagonist to live because it’s out there by a missile range – miles upon miles of sort of nothing out there. And I thought that would be a really cool thing – what if there was something going on under the ground as well as above the ground?
“I love all the X-Files stuff. I’m not creating new theories, I’m playing into all the conspiracy theories that are out there – you know, the 1947 Roswell crash, that there is this big underground facility in New Mexico where the alien-human hybrids are. I’m just saying ‘all this alien mythology already exists, let’s just assume that it is all true’.”
* The X-Files returns to TV screens in January 2016. For a preview, click here.