ECLECTIC & VERSATILE
Natasha Deen writes for kids, teens, and adults, and believes the world is changed one story at a time. She has received
such accolades as being a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection, Starburst Award nominee, and Alberta Readers’ Choice. Natasha has been featured on the American Library Association YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers, Red Maple Teen Committee Summer Reading List, CCBC Best Pick for Kids & Teens and OLA White Pine Teen Committee Summer Reading List.
Q: When did you decide to become a writer?
When I was nine, I found out Gordon Korman had been published when he was thirteen. I loved books, so I asked teachers, parents, and librarians, but none of the adults in my life knew what a person needed to do to become a writer. So, I put that dream down and set my mind to becoming a psychologist.
While in university, I came across a terrible book—the kind you want to throw at a wall—and I thought, “Either writing is harder than I think or this author doesn’t respect their reader.” Then I thought, “Okay, Big Mouth. Put your money where your mouth is. It’s easy to judge this author. Get into the ring and see how you do.”
The lucky thing was that technology and information had advance from my childhood years. There were tons of books on the craft, writing associations, and loads of internet articles. Through the process of writing my first novel, I learned that, yes, that author whose book infuriated me didn’t respect their reader. I also learned that writing was much harder than I thought it could be.
Q: What inspired you to create your novel, "Spooky Sleuths: The Ghost Tree?"
A few things inspired me! I thought it would be a lot of fun to create a series that introduced young readers (aged 8-12) to the supernatural creatures of the Caribbean (specifically, Guyana) and pull science into the mix. I imagined the series as the kid version of X-Files meets Stranger Things with a West Indian twist.
In book one, The Ghost Tree, Asim moves to Lion’s Gate, Washington, where he encounters a host of creepy occurrences—hovering objects in the sky and people who disappear into the mist. When he notices a tree in the cemetery that seems to be taking control of the adults in the town, he enlists the help of his new friend, Rokshar, to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Like his mom, Asim is a lover of all things supernatural. Rokshar, on the other hand, is all about science. Together, they work to find out if the tree’s unusual growth and scary ability to influence the adults is supernatural or science gone wild.
There was a lot I loved about writing the series, from the healthy does of humour to offset the scare factor, the mixing of science and spooky, to the cast of supporting characters, who each bring a unique view to the story problem. Two of my favourite aspects of writing the series is that while Rokshar and Asim may not agree, they work to support each other and to find the true reason behind the creepy goings-on, even if it means their individual hypothesis may prove incorrect. The other fun thing is that the answer is never given. Like Asim and Rokshar, the reader is given the information, and at the end of the book, it’s left to them to decide if the tree was the result of a supernatural monster or science run wild.
A final thing that will delight readers is the inclusion of bonus materials at the back of the book and Lissy Marlin’s amazing illustrations throughout the book.
Q: How many books do plan for this series?
There are four books in the series, The Ghost Tree, Beware the Moonlight. Don’t Go in the Water!, and Fire in the Sky!
Q: How would describe your writing style?
Oh, that’s an intriguing question! I’d say a mix of eclectic and versatile. As well as this series, I’ve published over forty works for kids, teens, and adults. I have novels for varying age groups (ages 6-18+), for different reading groups (at-grade readers and striving readers), and works in a host of genres, from historical, contemporary, science-fiction, and non-fiction, as well as short stories, magazine articles, and even a play!
Q: What was the journey like for you as you were writing, editing, and publishing your works?
I began my career writing adult romance because it was the most open to writers looking to break into publishing. From there, I moved on to writing for kids and teens, as well as working as an editor. These days, I’m an agented author who writes, presents at festivals, schools, libraries, and other organizations, and I’m with the University of Toronto’s SCS, teaching Introduction to Children’s Writing.
I think of my career as a marathon. To get to point I’m at now, I waded through hundreds (over four hundred, but who’s counting?) rejections, close calls with contracts, and a lot of long nights and early mornings, wondering if I’d chosen the wrong career.
I still have obstacles and low points—every career does—but I feel lucky to be in a job I love, pursuing a childhood dream and turning that dream into reality.
Q: Can you tell us, readers, what your main characters are like?
What I love about Asim and Rokshar is how similar they are – they’re both curious, resourceful, protective of their town and the people in it, and driven to find the answers to the puzzles in front of them. They’re also different in complimentary ways. Rokshar is level-headed and not easily scared. Asim, though he’s not as brave as Rokshar, doesn’t allow his fears to stop him from finding the answers he seeks and uses his imagination to problem-solve. Together, they work well because they’re always looking to support the other person in their quest, even if they don’t necessarily agree. I love that they want the truth and the facts, even if it doesn’t align with their personal perspectives.
Q: What advice would you give to aspiring writers in your genre?
My top three tips for aspiring writers breaks down to three things: set attainable goals – ones that are a challenge but not so hard to achieve, they’ll leave you frustrated. Practice self-care. Not every day will be a day where you get a lot of writing done. Some days, you’ll put in a lot of hours for not a lot of return. This doesn’t mean you’re a terrible writer, it just means that some days will be a grind. Lastly, find a network of fellow writers who will support you and who you will support.
Q: Would you ever write books in any other genre?
Q: What were your favorite moments as a writer when working on your book?
I try to find favourite moments in every moment, to find joy in the challenge of accomplishment in a tough writing day, to celebrate the delight in achieving my goals, to the satisfaction when my agent, editors, and readers love the work as much as I do.
Q: Where can readers find you and your books?
My works can be found online—Amazon, Indigo, Barnes and Noble—and at your local, independent bookstore.
About Natasha Deen
NATASHA DEEN writes for kids, teens, and adults, and believes the world is changed one story at a time. As a Guyanese-Canadian and a child of immigrants, she’s seen first-hand how stories have the power to shape the world. Her works include the Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection Thicker than Water, Guardian which was a Sunburst Award nominee, and the Alberta Readers’ Choice nominated Gatekeeper. When she’s not writing, she teaches Introduction to Children’s Writing with the University of Toronto SCS and spends an inordinate amount of time trying to convince her pets that she’s the boss of the house. Visit Natasha at www.natashadeen.com and on Twitter/Instagram, @natasha_deen