Interview With Natalie
Hello everyone, I have Natalie Rodriguez the author of the book " Elephant" Answering some interesting questions.
Sonam: Hello Natalie! So, When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Natalie: Growing up, I used to struggle with writing and reading and actually attended a program called RSVP, which stood for the 'Reading Speech Vocabulary Program.' I attended the program every day before lunch in the first grade. So the idea of writing and reading was out of the question. That changed in the fifth grade, where I and the entire student body at school were required to write and create a short story. My project was the earlier draft of "Elephant," which was originally titled "The Strange Wind of Skully Hollow." Writing the project was fun for me and that was the start of revisiting the then children's book every few months to edit it. Ultimately, it became the young-adult fiction crossover it is today.
Sonam: Thats great! So, As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Natalie: Growing up, I was always head over heels in love with motion pictures. My grandmother and mother watched a lot of movies, so I was introduced to a lot of their favorite films that they watched solo or together. Watching films like "The Lion King," "The Sound of Music," and "Misery" as a child sort of awakened that desire of 'what if' I was able to create these types of projects. When I was around four or five years old, I divulged to my biological parents of wanting to become a film director and actress. Throughout my childhood and earlier college days, I was heavily involved with acting and was part of different theatre/plays. In my latter years, I decided to stick with directing and writing.
Sonam:I'm very curious to ask, what made you write this book?
Natalie: "Elephant" was that story that started off as a fifth-grade school project. What motivated me to tell a story about family, friendships, and the unspoken in a household (aka the elephant in the room) was coming from my own thoughts and worries. Growing up, my biological father was a heavy drinker, and his toxic, abusive, and often, dangerous behavior was exposed to a lot of the people around him. His intermediate family was also recovering addicts and usually, they played a game of who was the biggest failure or the better parent and such forth. But a lot of the adults did not want to address the behavior of the adults, like my father and some of his toxic intermediate family members, therefore, a lot of the children, including myself, sort of carried that fear of 'what if I am next and destined to repeat the cycle' for years. My own personal upbringing and background are certainly seen in a lot of the characters of "Elephant," especially the lead, Matty Smith. While I was writing the later drafts of the book, I realized that Matty Smith was always the male version of me.
Sonam: you know Natalie people never talk about there failures and I think it's very important to talk about it, so I want to ask you what were the failures you faces on this journey?
Natalie: For about fifteen years, I was submitting the manuscript to literary agents and publishing companies. The first rejection letters I received were actually from the author, Nicholas Sparks', agency team. It was a week before I graduated high school and I cried my eyes out. Of course, I was first unaware that in the book world, like film and TV, you will hear more 'no's' than 'yes's' but you cannot take it personally. Often, I would get stuck in the pity mindset of 'what if my writing sucks/what if I wasted this time working on the book,' etc. I was VERY stubborn and throughout the earlier days of editing the book, especially in college, I did not feel like I had 'earned' to do what the average twenty-something year old would do like hanging out with friends, dating, or going to kickbacks and parties. I was very hard on myself and it was a toxic self-hate I had towards myself for not having the book published and out there. The reality is the more rejections you get, the closer you are getting that first YES. Also, everyone NEEDS to celebrate those steps along the way; I was guilty of focusing on the bigger picture for too long.
Sonam:Lastly, I want to ask you -do you wanna say something to your audience?
Natalie: For me, it's always important to know that there are people out there who are WILLING to listen to your story. There are great counselors and crisis coaches who are there to help guide you through a difficult time. Also, anyone who has worries and fears, as we do see as a running theme throughout "Elephant," it IS possible to get help and it IS possible to break the family cycle.