My First Time with...Natasha Bell
Natasha Bell grew up in Somerset and studied English literature at the University of York. She holds an MA in humanities from the University of Chicago and an MA in creative writing from Goldsmiths. She lives in southeast London and will be reading at The Riff Raff on March 15th. Exhibit Alexandra is her first novel.
Here's the blurb for Exhibit Alexandra...
He thought he knew everything about her until she went missing.
Before she disappeared, Alexandra Southwood lived an average, happy life: devoted to her wonderful husband, Marc, and caring for her two beautiful daughters. But now, held in a room against her will, Alexandra is forced to think about all she’s lost, and imagine how Marc and her daughters are coping in the wake of her disappearance. She’s shown news clips of Marc, desperately appealing to the public for information on her whereabouts. She tortures herself with visions of her family’s devastated new reality. And as she envisions Marc’s distress, she can’t help but remember their courtship, their marriage—all that he saved her from and all that they’ve built together.
Marc’s pain is visceral. He thinks of nothing but her. Even when the police discover Alexandra’s bloody belongings by the river, turning their missing-persons case into a murder investigation, he cannot accept that she is lost to him. He shifts from total despair to frantic action, embarking on his own journey through the dark maze of secrets she kept and passions he never understood.
Following a trail that leads him to find answers to questions he never meant to ask, he’s forced to confront how frighteningly little he’s grasped about the woman he loves.
EXHIBIT ALEXANDRA is a shocking psychological portrait, an original and unrelenting thriller that ultimately proves how unknowable even those closest to us can be.
Describe the exact moment you decided to write your book?
I’d spent the weekend with a bunch of friends, talking about all of the disparate things that were on our minds and I think all of those different topics kind of glued themselves together in my head. On the Sunday evening I rang my mum on the way to the train station to ask if I could tell her a story I’d just come up with because I thought it might be a novel.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting to write your first book?
How long it takes. Although I might never have started if I had, so that’s a double-edged sword. I wish I could go back and tell myself to calm down a little, though; to have some patience, and not to panic at every rejection or failed experiment.
What’s your go-to procrastination method?
It’s a tie between Twitter and sitting in my kitchen with my housemate drinking tea and analysing our love lives.
What was the biggest tantrum you had while writing it?
I don’t know about tantrums, but certainly the least sane thing I did was to change the names of Alex and Marc to match mine and my partner’s and then send it to a number of friends and family to ask for feedback.
Best thing about writing your book?
When I started to have conversations with agents and editors who talked about the characters and the world I’d created as if they were real.
And the worst?
Can I say every day up until that point? Just kidding (mostly). I guess just the uneasiness of feeling so passionate about something that you devote years of your life to it, but never really knowing if you’re getting anywhere or if it will eventually be worth it.
Go-to writing snacks?
Who or what inspires you to write?
It sounds cheesy, but everyone I love and have loved and this deep desire I have to communicate with them. Which is another way of saying I write because I’m lonely. I spend all this time in my head and writing is the best way I’ve found to fight the feeling that I’ll never properly be able to express what’s going on in here… That’s normal, though, right?
The book that changed you?
Siri Hustvedt’s The Blindfold
Your pump up song?
Currently the whole of Kate Tempest’s Let Them Eat Chaos. (My friend Ali introduced me to how brilliant it is as a running album – you’re welcome.)
If you could share a bottle of wine with one writer dead or alive, who would it be?
Maggie Nelson. But if I pour really small glasses, could I invite some others too?
One piece of advice you’d give first time writers hoping to get a book published?
Just write. Keep writing. Then rewriting. Then do it all again. Dreaming of publication is great if it motivates you to write, but worrying about if, when and how should take up less than 1% of the total energy you devote to your book.