Have you ever looked around your friends and realized that you know some pretty amazing people? I have. There are the usual people- old friends and new, full of amazing stories and skills. There are those that come into our lives for brief moments, and others we can’t seem to get rid of. And there are those people who we peg as being one way- rocker chick, for example- but have this hidden gift that you have to get to know them in order to learn about. My friend Tash is like that.
I met Natasha Rhodes through mutual friends only a year or so ago but we quickly became good friends. She’s the rocker chick with the bassist boyfriend, the girl who you know could clean up and be presentable if you had to introduce her to your mom (wait… we’re over 30 now, we don’t have to worry about introducing our friends to our parents, right? Right? Oh crap). Underneath that, though, is someone who giggles with an English accent, smiles at the simplest things, and writes horror novels. Wait… what? I hadn’t mentioned that yet? Yeah, Natasha writes horror. Oh, and she loves Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But you didn’t hear that from me.
Somehow or other, I was able to con Natasha into sitting down with me to discuss some of her thoughts about books and writing, as well as touch on the female representation in the media.
NERDLUSH: Before we dig in, what do you read? What draws you to pick up a book?
NR: They say the first bite of any good meal is always taken by the eye – so I’d have to say the cover. I’m a huge science fiction fan, so the cover artwork of any newly-released book has got to draw you in and make you want to pick it up.
I wanted my first original book ‘Dante’s Girl’ to have great visual appeal, so we went for a very simple yet classy cover – a cut-off shot of a pale model with blood on her lips, and a matching blood-red title. A lot of people told me they started reading my book series after being drawn in by that cover.
NERDLUSH: Describe the books you write.
NR: Growing up, I loved horror novels but the heroes were always male. I thought, “If I was the star of this book, I wouldn’t make the same dumb mistakes this idiot guy just did.” I longed to write a fun horror novel with an intelligent heroine whose first reaction to seeing an eight foot tall flesh-eating zombie-bat wasn’t to run away screaming, trip over her own feet and get eaten, but to get back in her car, lock the doors, engage the turbo drive and run the damn monster over at least 6 times (6 times is the charm with flesh-eating zombie-bats, I’m told).
NERDLUSH: Who is your target audience? How do you draw them in?
NR: I wrote my first book series in my mid-twenties and pictured readers close to my own age reading the books, but I’ve since been surprised (and delighted!) to find that I get the most fan letters from younger girls in their early to mid teens. My books are about werewolves and vampires, but also contains a lot of my own real-world dating advice – from unrequited love to dealing with the fact that you’re dating a jerk. I think a lot of younger girls appreciate that advice.
NERDLUSH: What first drew you to writing? What keeps it interesting for you?
NR: When I was a kid I loved to keep journals. I was fascinated by the way that writing a problem down immediately cut it down to size and made it seem manageable. It’s fascinating today to look back and realize that the big ‘monster’ problems I thought I had really weren’t that big at all. In a way, my original books are each a kind of journal of whatever I was going through at the time – a heartbreak, a romance, a challenging friendship – always wrestling with myself as I attempt to choose between right and wrong… and hopefully making the right decision.
NERDLUSH: How do you write your female characters? Do you find it easier to write women as a woman or more difficult?
NR: My favorite character to write in the series is a villain – a female vampire called Cyan X. She has been heartbroken and betrayed by the man she still loves, but she does not have any of what society calls female ‘weaknesses’ – compassion, sympathy, or the willingness to excuse her man’s behavior and blame any of his wrongdoing on herself. Readers seem to love that she is able to do what any woman who has been betrayed wants to do – and get away with it.
NERDLUSH: Let’s examine other aspects- when you go to the movies, what genre is your #1 choice to see? Favorite movie? What do you have to watch every time it’s on?
NR: It’s not so much the genre but the characters that make a movie for me. I love movies that show the characters not as traditionally good or bad but as human – heroes who are less than saintly, and villains who are unexpectedly compassionate. Nobody is perfect, and I’m sure it’s exhausting to try and be good or evil constantly. Ten bucks says that even Doctor Evil has days where he just wants to relax in front of The Sopranos in his slippers and comfy Fat-Pants, and I’m absolutely positive that Mother Teresa has littered in public at least once.
NERDLUSH: How do you feel about the portrayal of women in movies and TV?
NR: The only TV show that had a real effect on me (and I think on a whole generation of female writers) was Buffy the vampire Slayer. Once you get past the cartoonish name and watch a few episodes, you’ll find an intelligently-written heroine who is anything but the traditional screaming dumb blonde. Buffy is a strong, witty and very human character who inspired maybe thousands of young women out there to get up off their asses, take control of their lives and to realize that finding a man who loves and respects them should be the icing on the cake, not the whole cake.
NERDLUSH: How do you feel about the marketing of movies and other entertainment towards women? Think about that recent Dr. Pepper ad with the tagline, “it’s not for women”, that showed action movie type background… funny or offensive? Or both?
NR:I think those Dr. Pepper adverts were written by men for men. They are funny to women because we get a laugh out of men’s reaction to them, which is usually, “Yes! The Advert is right! Women should not have tasty or nice things, those are ours!” There were a lot of male sulky faces and pouty lips when women’s rights came in and became the norm rather than the exception, and advertisers know it makes men feel good to occasionally pout and growl and guard that they see as their turf. Women find it amusing because men get sucked in by this kind of advertising, but would much rather their men pay $7:66 for 6 cans of sugar-water rather than have them pee on their one good couch.
NERDLUSH: Many thanks to Natasha for taking the time to speak to me… Maybe we can con her out of her Orange County hideout in the future.
Natasha Rhodes is a British-born writer who is currently living in Orange County to recover from 5 years of living in Los Angeles. Her 3-book series ‘Dante’s Girl,’ ‘The Last Angel’ and ‘Circus of Sins’ is available on Amazon.com and in most good-quality airport bargain-bins. You can learn more about her latest book releases at http://www.natasharhodes.com.