Write On! interviews author Natasha Pulley
Natasha says: Hi, I’m Natasha. I write historical fiction; normally there’s some magic in there too, but my most recent book, The Half Life Of Valery K, is different: it’s about a real nuclear disaster. It’s been shortlisted for the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize, which is amazing, because I always thought I was a bit dusty and librarian-y, but adventure writing makes me sound like Indiana Jones. Still librarian-y, but cool.
WO: How would you describe your writing to someone new to it?
NP: Usually, I write historical fiction with a magical twist. My first book is about a watchmaker who remembers the future. There’s another one about a priest who turns to stone, and a bananas time-travel story set in the Napoleonic Wars, mostly on a ship. There’s always a love story, there’s always a setting that’s away from England (I think you should write what you can find out, not what you’re born to) and it’s always based on real research. I’ve lived in Japan, Peru and China (I’m in Shanghai right now) and I’ve sailed around the UK on a tall ship. My mum calls it Method Writing!
WO: Can you tell us a bit about your latest project?
NP: The Half Life Of Valery K follows a Russian biochemist in the 1960s. When he’s rescued from prison by his old university mentor, he’s sent to a secret city far in the east of the Soviet Union, where everything is brand new and far too good to be true. The institute he’s working for is monitoring radiation levels from what they say was a controlled, experimental contamination of the local woodlands…but he quickly realises there was nothing controlled about it, and everything is much more frightening than anyone thinks. While he investigates, he befriends the unexpectedly nice commander of the local KGB unit, along with an opinionated octopus. Together, they start trying to understand what can possibly be going on.
WO: What inspired you to write in the first place, and what inspires you now?
NP: Inspiration is a funny word. In-spiro, to breathe in; it makes it sound like there’s a special sort of pollen that gives you amazing creative abilities. I don’t feel like it works like that; inspiration isn’t a word I ever use, because I never feel like something’s arrived in my head from the ether. Usually, I just come across a thing that seems funny or interesting, and then I think of another thing because of the first thing, and then usually a third thing comes along and sets up camp close by. If you get together enough things, you have a book. I’ve been thing-collecting since I was little. It’s really straightforward, very unmystical, and mostly just a function of walking around in the world. Anyone can do it.
WO: The current issue of Write On! explores the theme of ‘Literary Passions And Guilty Pleasures’. With that in mind, what would you say fuels your literary passion in terms of reading and creating? Do you have a bookish guilty pleasure you’re happy to share?
NP: I’ll read anything that’s funny. If there’s a joke of any kind in the first paragraph, I’m hooked. I grew up on Terry Pratchett. Nothing puts me off faster than something that’s too serious – except Greek tragedy, which I wildly love. Either extreme is good!
WO: What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring writer?
NP: Just write. Write loads, write all the time, and eventually, as with anything else you practise a lot, you’ll be great at it.
WO: Can you tell us anything about future projects?
NP: The next book will be set in ancient Greece. It’s about Dionysus, the god of wine and madness.
WO: Lastly, if you could choose one fictional animal/creature to be a pet or companion, who would it be and why?
NP: Moana’s pig. I think a friendly pig could probably solve most of the problems in my life. He’s only little, so he would fit in my flat, and I could make him a special pig-cosy for when it’s cold.
Connect with Natasha on X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram: @natasha_pulley
The Half Life Of Valery K is available at Amazon and all good booksellers.
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Just write. Write loads, write all the time, and eventually, as with anything else you practise a lot, you’ll be great at it.