Welcome to July 2015’s edition of #SciFi Women Interviews! Today’s guest is Natalie McKay. I met her thanks to roleplaying in a galaxy far, far away in 2008 (her Jedi was the one to accept my very first character in the Order!) and have been following her other writing endeavors since then. I am glad that she acccepted to participate to this project!
I’ll let Natalie introduce herself:
My name is Natalie McKay. By day I am a graphic designer at a local paper, by night I am hunched over a laptop writing something, either on my roleplay boards, or original fiction. I currently have two short stories published on Amazon Kindle, Red Haven and Gem-Oh Line, and constantly working on other stories and novels that may one day find themselves on the internet in some form or another. When not writing, I have a number of other hobbies that keep me busy, mostly crafts and quilting. I’m working on a Doctor Who quilt and plan to create other science fiction theme quilts in the future.
To see other bits of my writing, reviews and random thoughts, please visit my blog.
NG: What place does Science Fiction have in your life?
NATALIE: Science Fiction has always been one of my favourite genres. Books, movies, TV shows, games – you can find at least one example of the genre in each of those categories at my place. I love the futuristic worlds, the alternate universes and the theme “what could be possible” that Science Fiction has to offer. It makes my imagination wander, causes me to create my own characters, worlds, alien spices and just create period.
Because of that, Science Fiction has a large place in my life. It always will, wether it be the new season of Doctor Who, the next sci-fi themed novel I want to write or new movie being released at the theatre. It will always have a special place in my heart, my passion and in my inspiration.
NG: How were you first introduced to Science Fiction?
NATALIE: My parents have to be the ones to thank in this situation. They were great at introducing movies and TV shows in our lives when they thought we were ready. I must have been close to 8 or 9 when I watched Star Wars for the first time, there was also Back to the Future movies they rented for us, and E.T. – okay bad example, E.T scares me!
With only one TV in the house growing up, there was a lot of family TV time, and I have fond memories of watching Star Trek (both the Original and Next Generation) with my parents. Not to mention old Spider Man and the 90’s X-Men cartoon.
As much as the genre has always been around me in one form or another, I don’t think I took an active role in the genre until I read Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game. Somehow at that time – maybe around 14 or so – the book had a real influence on me and I began to set my sights on writing science fiction and getting more involved in the genre as a whole.
NG: How did you start writing Science Fiction?
NATALIE: From an early age, I had this fascination with writing, several times during grade school I began to write some form of novel, of course back then I was reading more ‘coming of age’ books and Nancy Drew Mysteries, so that was my basics in writing. Which I’ll admit didn’t lead to anything and I barely wrote three chapters before I gave up.
By my third year of College, my friend invited me to a Star Wars RPG site. He wanted someone to write with and was having a hard time getting some of his stories going. In college I was starting to pick up on the writing again and decided to give it a try.
Since then, i’ve been amazed at how much I accomplished on the site. It not only helped me come out of my shell and actually display my writing on the internet for everyone to see, but I was able to gain a lot of confidence and learn a lot of lessons. I’ve taken what i’ve learned from my years on the Star Wars RPG and apply to my writing, inspiring me to continue on in the Science Fiction Genre with my own worlds, planets, aliens and technology.
NG: What influence do fanfiction and roleplaying have on your original writing?
NATALIE: HUGE! As mentioned above, I’m part of an online rpg that centers around the Star Wars universe. When I first started writing there, around my third year of college – so (dating myself here) 2004/5 – it was my first attempt at writing anywhere online where I know others were reading it. It was nerve wrecking at first, I mean… people were reading my stuff! But, I got into a groove and I learned a lot about writing in general; character creation, scene setting, combat, and working with others to create an overall story arch.
These elements are the building blocks of writing anything, and I was able to learn from everything I posted on the site. People there were/are so helpful, and I was able to test myself, without fear of rejection. My confidence grew on the site, I began to see what made a good character – actually I owe the site a huge thanks for I’m sure everything I learned about character creation. I started with a character that closely resembled my personality, and watched her grow over ten years on the board, she is now an amazing role model for me and not at all how I expected her to become. Starting with a basic idea, I was able to go through the trials and tribulations of how a character becomes remembered, the good and bad. To this day I aim to create another character like my first, it hasn’t happened yet, but I’m trying and learning and growing.
Fanfiction and roleplaying are great starter points. They are practice grounds in my eyes, where you can do everything wrong and still have fun at it, learn from your mistakes and take your lessons either into a new character or for your original writing.
NG: What are some reccuring themes and patterns in your Science Fiction stories?
NATALIE: I will have to say that many of my stories center around strong female leads – mostly teenagers or early adulthood. Part of this is done on purpose while the other part just feels natural.
For me, entering adulthood was scary, even though I had always been told I acted mature for my age. Going away to college at age 18 was a turning point in my life. With no adults to supervise me, I was on my own in life. I have taken those experiences and feelings into my stories and have my characters experience them in one way or another. Wether it be loosing a parent or being sent across the galaxy, the fact that they are young and thrusted into a new world is a theme/pattern I use a lot.
NG: What are you top 3 favorites for Science Fiction books, TV shows and movies?
NATALIE: Why must you make me choose??? There are so many of each that I value equally.
Books: Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card, 1984 by George Orwell, Dragons of Pern By Anne McCaffrey – I’m not sure which category these books are as I’ve read many and seem to float between Science Fiction and Fantasy – which I LOVE!
TV: Firefly, Doctor Who, Cowboy Bebop – I wanted to add at least one anime, even though there are several series I could use in it’s place Cowboy Bepop has been the most inspirational.
Movies: Star Wars, Guardians of the Galaxy, Back to the Future.
There are so many others I want to put down, it’s hard to narrow it down to three, and even worse to pick a top favourite.
NG: Which Science Fiction characters have had the greatest influence on you?
NATALIE: Personally in my life, I’ve always been a bit practical – a trait I owe to my parents. They were pretty clear in defining what was fiction and reality growing up. Because of that, there aren’t any Science Fiction Characters that I remember being an influence on me or in my life. Inspired, yes, but I seemed to be able to recognize the creators behind such characters and focused my interests on them, and aiming to be like them – thus my writing.
Then again, I have fond memories of She-Ra: Princess of Power and Rainbow Brite. Who knows, they may have had a larger influence on me than I know of. Subconsciously I’m sure many shows had an impact on the way I am.
But… If i’m to answer the question, I’ll have to say Doctor Who. There’s something about the show, the characters and the Doctor that has lured me back to watching re-runs over and over and over. How to face problems, be a kid at heart, and humanizing the galaxy, with all it’s aliens and villains. Doctor Who does have some amazing qualities and lessons in it that… if I was younger… would have been drawn into much more deeper than I have been. Donna Noble is hands down my favourite companion. A true friend, she stands side by side with the Doctor on a number of occasions. She is not overly pretty, or smart, which makes me love her all the more as I finally saw a companion that I could personally relate to. And look what happens to Donna, she becomes the most important character, Doctor Donna.
It is my goal – one day – to create a similar platonic friendship between man and woman as the Doctor had with Donna. 😉
NG: Do you believe that Science Fiction is a genre welcoming to complex female characters?
I know the history of Science Fiction and woman is not that great, if non existent. But, that’s the past, and I am an optimist when it comes to Female Characters in today’s Science Fiction. I really believe things are changing. Today, it’s not hard to find a movie, book or TV show that depict a strong and complex Female character, we’ve got the Hunger Games, Divergent, even Orphan Black who has made great strides towards females in the Science Fiction genre.
Do any search online and I’m sure you’ll find something to fit what your looking for. I know for myself, it has not daunted me away from NOT writing a strong female character. The market is opening up for them, there is a desire these days to read and watch those stories.
Could there be more of them? Of course, and I’m sure there will be. It gives me the inspiration to keep writing the characters and stories that I love. These stories will help and inspire an entire new generation of young women and continue to pave the way for better representation in the Science Ficiton genre.
NG: What is Science Fiction’s responsibility in diverse and inclusive representation?
NATALIE: Science Fiction can cross so many area’s, not just futuristic societies and alien races. I have to keep reminding myself of this when i create stories. There is such a freedom to represent diversity and inclusiveness it allows us the opportunity to showcase our problems, or issues in a fictional setting, giving us distance and scope, to see ourselves through a different lens. Both the good and the bad.
Nobody likes being told what to do, but through Science Fiction (and other fiction genres) we can create an awareness in ourselves, what we lack and what we could become. In the past, Science Fiction has already broken barriers and foretold future technology, basically changed the way our lives are. Think of what else we could change, just through the idea’s presented to us through Science Fiction.
I remember watching District 9 with one of those dreadful feelings as I saw how humans/politics would react with a group of aliens and their broken ship. It is nothing new, we treat our own people in such ways in the past, but to see it repeated in a modern age made me sick. These sort of reactions are important to recognize when watching/reading sci-fi, it shows there is something still wrong with our motives, our views and state of mind.
Science Fiction challenges us to find new solutions to our problems, better ones and how in the end, we are all the same. And that is our responsibility.
NG: What are you most looking forward in the new Star Wars movies?
NATALIE: I’m not sure what to think about the new Star Wars movies, I don’t want to get hyped about it and be let down when I finally see them. However, the cast list is just amazing and I feel that Disney will do the franchise well, seeing their past success with Marvel’s Avengers.
I’ve always been more interested in the next generation of the original trilogy, on the Solo kids and the reintroduction of the Jedi back into the galaxy. Sith vs Jedi fighting would be great, but I don’t want just a special effects show, what I’m looking forward to is a story, a epic story as the original series, Episode 4 had. I want complex characters, and to see Gwendoline Christie kick some butt away from Game of Thrones.
NG: Thank you very much for this discussion, Natalie! I am certain my readers will check your blog out and find more about your writing projects!