Interview with Natalie Bina

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I have always been a storyteller and, when I was very young, I would dictate stories to my babysitter while she wrote them down for me. I vividly remember lying on the floor of my living room tracing pictures in the air with my toes as I told her a story about three mermaids who jumped from pool to pool in search of their princes. In the process they battled killer deer, poisonous frogs, and spear-shooting fishermen.
What is your writing process?
I obsess over detailed outlines, either based on a character’s arc or a series of plot events I want to happen. My brainstorming process for these outlines often consists of writing down random excerpts of dialogue as they come to mind. The dialogue of a scene normally comes to me before anything else. Then, I try to frame it into a coherent scene. If I’m lucky, the ideas will really be flowing by this point and I will write for hours – I call it “binge writing.”
Describe your desk.
My college dorm room has a light-stained wood desk. The front two-thirds are cleared so I can work with my laptop and a notebook, but the back third is a collection of study aids. On the left are four mason jars: two devoted to candy corn, gummy bears, and peanut butter cups, one where I place pencils and pens, and one that holds bookmarks. On the right side of the desk sits a box stuffed full of notebooks, boxes of tea, and my thermos. I bet you now have a pretty clear idea of what I eat and drink while working at said desk.
What's the story behind your latest book?
I lived in Singapore during my freshman and sophomore years of high school. The educational system there continually bombards students with exhortations to sacrifice every other aspect of life for the sake of good grades. I was overwhelmed by the pressure to succeed, and it was far worse for those who were getting the same message at home. It started to affect me in a very negative way. I find it very frustrating when fourteen and fifteen year olds are told that every little decision we make at this age will affect our future, that one ‘B’ will follow us for the rest of our lives and make it impossible even to get jobs. I don’t think this is how education should be, and I wrote Never Trust a Happy Song to highlight the negative effects that this sort of schooling can have on a teenager.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read all the YA novels that I can. There are so many eye-opening stories told by amazing authors in this genre. When I need to decompress, I love reading a good memoir that makes me cry tears of laughter. Educational non-fiction is also great! I am a big fan of Malcom Gladwell and Michael Pollan.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I will talk about these in no particular order, because ranking them would be so hard.

The Catcher in the Rye stole my heart when I first read it in high school. It taught me that you can feel sad and anxious as a teenager, and that’s okay.

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson is my favorite YA novel ever. It revolutionized my view on what kind of stories can be told through the genre.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was also a game-changer for me both as a reader and writer.

I always have In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan on my bookshelf, because it changed the way I think about food.

Listing this final book might be cheating, because I just finished reading it, but Vivian Apple at the End of the World is so great. It’s a unique story with an amazing female protagonist, written by the awesome Katie Coyle!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I get to explore different kinds of people and try to understand why they do the things they do. I can delicately pull them apart and see what makes them tick. I can put them into different scenarios with other kinds of people and see how they interact. I see writing as a kind of creative surgery, where I explore every facet of my characters, both emotional and physical, without ever seeing any actual blood.
Published 2017-01-13.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Never Trust a Happy Song
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 61,550. Language: English. Published: March 14, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Literary
Cassidy attends a high-stakes academic summer camp and is astonished by her host family's laid-back attitude toward intellectual achievement. She must reconcile the single-minded focus that she's been taught to have with the possibility that there is more to life than academic perfection.