AUTHOR INSIGHT: MEET NATASHA LESTER

Natasha LesterWHEN one of her poems was accepted by the first journal she sent it to, writer Natasha Lester (What is Left Over, After and If I Should Lose You) thought writing was a “really cool” gig.
“It was the best $100 I’d ever earned,” she said, adding that she remembers thinking “This is easy.”But the former brand manager for Maybelline Cosmetics, who quit her job to study creative writing at university and is now an award-winning author with two books published, admits writing isn’t always easy.Her corporate days long behind her, Natasha now fits in writing with motherhood and teaching creative writing at Curtin University.“I write when my children are asleep,” she said. “I got into the habit when my first child was born. I thought, as much as I would like to rest, if I don’t start writing at that time then I’m never going to be able to write again. Now, if I don’t, I feel like I haven’t done something I needed to do – I don’t feel as satisfied or fulfilled.”

Natasha says keeping focused is the key to switching between roles; she’s fortunate in the sense that she is not easily distracted.

Aside from her juggling act, she says she can be prone to confidence crises at times, despite winning the prestigious TAG Hungerford Award for Fiction in 2008.

“When I’m writing I go through a phase when I hate what I’m writing. I think, ‘No one will ever want to publish this’. It’s a difficult place to be in – it’s hard to get out of that mindset. With If I Should Lose You I was awarded a residency and I thought, ‘Everything can’t be that bad’. I started to believe in the book again. I walked away from the residency with the first draft locked away.

“I’ve recognised it’s a pattern. I tell myself, ‘You know this happens every time, you just have to get through it.’ I’m more self-aware now.”

Natasha says she writes her first draft without worrying about too much research, preferring to rely on her imagination to get her through.

“This way, my imagination is not limited from the outset,” she said. “If I do too much research early on I get constrained. But the second draft, that’s where research comes in. I want it to be authentic.”

Authenticity is important to Natasha because her books are heavily issues-based.

“My first book, What is Left Over, After is about how we react to mothers who lose a child that is stillborn; the second, If I Should Lose You is about organ donation, and my third book will be about the sexualisation of young girls.

“I write about the kinds of issues that interest me. I read books like that too.”

If motherhood has affected when and where Natasha writes, it has also become a key inspiration – exploring mother-daughter bonds is a common theme in Natasha’s novels.

“With If I Should Lose You, I could not have written that without being a mother. My daughter had hip dysplasia and spent a lot of time in hospital. I wanted to explore in this book the experience I’d had of having a child totally dependent on me … it can be all consuming.”