UPDATE: You can read the first chapter of Bargaining Power here for free!
Every time we release a book, we’ll post an interview with its author during the week the book becomes available for preorder. Today is the preorder launch of Bargaining Power, our thrilling first book, and we are interviewing Deborah Natelson (who also happens to be our CEO).
When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
I never didn't want to be a writer in the same way that I never didn't want to be able to breathe; I simply did. Always. I have found books my mom transcribed because I was too young to have legible handwriting. I wrote my first full-length novel at age twelve and have written, on average, a novel every other year since. I have always written, and I will continue to write until I die.
Where did you get the inspiration for Bargaining Power?
Bargaining Power began when I wrote a short story called “Zero Potential Bargaining” for the writing group I was in at the time. The story still exists within the novel—as the bargaining scene in Chapter 4: Extortion—but does not end the same way. This short story is available on my website, deborahjnatelson.com.
Anyway, a writer I deeply respected told me it was “possibly one of my most favorite things … you have written,” both in content and “from a sheer technical standpoint.” Amazing, what encouragement can do.
There’s more to it than that, of course. I had been thinking about power dynamics for a long time—about real and perceived power and about how real power is often only the perception of power; about the duties of the powerful and about the powerlessness that is in actuality mere willful ignorance or purposeful self-subjugation. And here I had this marvelous protagonist, at once powerful and vulnerable, tricky and honorable, deeply honest and a perpetual liar. Not the protagonist I would have chosen, but a protagonist that, once I had her, I refused to let go.
What have been your main obstacles to getting published?
Honestly? I have no idea. On paper, Bargaining Power has the things that agents and publishers claim they’re looking for, and yet I got fewer responses to my queries than with previous books.
Who is your biggest writing inspiration?
I don’t have one. I mean, I really don’t. I can see some authors who contributed to the sort of book this turned out to be—such as Alistair MacLean—but I read a lot. So my inspiration comes not from a particular source but from everywhere simultaneously.
Tell us one weird, interesting tidbit about yourself.
I was a puppeteer for several years as part of a puppetry group that did performances at schools and churches. I also studied ventriloquism.
What does your writing space look like?
I don’t have one single space at the moment. I like working at cafés, or I’ll find a spot in my home—where depends on whether I’m using a notebook or my computer. For me, my writing space looks like headphones to close out the world plus the inside of my head.
How long did it take you to write this book?
“Zero Potential Bargaining” was written May 11, 2012. Bargaining Power will be released on December 1, 2019. That makes it almost exactly seven-and-a-half years. To be fair, in that time I’ve also done significant work on books 2 and 3 in the series.
Which character in your book do you identify most with?
I don’t precisely identify with any of them, but Mercedes has taught me a lot. There have even been a couple of times, since beginning to write her, that I have stood up to unjust situations because I thought about what she would have done. But there is a piece of me in every character, and/or a piece of someone I love or once loved.
I never write actual people or myself in books, not exactly. But sometimes I capture people unintentionally. Luc states some of the philosophies of a woman I once knew; and that woman, long after I’d finished the scene, said to me some of the things that Luc says to Mercedes. Likewise, there is a character in book 2 who has a reveal that I wrote years before someone in my actual life revealed her true nature in a parallel way. In both cases, I apparently understood the deep nature of these people and wrote it accurately without consciously understanding the ultimate truth. But when that truth became inescapable, the fact that I had already written it made it easier to withstand.
I don’t have all of Mercedes’s strengths, weaknesses, virtues, or vices. She has bravery, power, and momentum that I can learn from; and her vulnerabilities can expose my own. So although she is not me and I don’t precisely identify with her, she is of all characters the one from whom I can learn the most. And I have.