Saturday, July 25, 2020

Mental Health Author Interviews - #2 - Featuring Natalie Rodriguez

Tell me your name and a little bit about you.

Hello! My name is Natalie Rodriguez. I am a writer and filmmaker from Los Angeles, CA. Growing up, I was OBSESSED with the film and television industry. Watching films and TV was part of my day-to-day tasks, which only intensified my passion to work in the industry. The one movie that I watched religiously growing up were “Father of the Bride,” “Misery,” “West Side Story,” and “The Sound of Music.” Those are to only name a few – my list could go on.

Over time, my passion for books developed when my mother purchased my first young adult book. The book was a YA thriller called “The Séance,” written by Joan Lowery Nixon. It was the first book that both intrigued and terrified me!

Did you always have a passion for writing?

Actually, growing up, I HATED writing and reading. A lot of that ‘dislike’ came from the fact that I attended a reading speech vocabulary program in the first grade. I struggled with reading and writing so, the idea of ever wanting to become a writer and storyteller was out of the picture. Originally, I wanted to become an actress which I pursued as a child and earlier adolescent and college days. But storytelling always felt more like home to me, something that I started doing on a day-to-day basis after being assigned a school assignment in the fifth grade. The project was to create and write a short story which was one of the many earlier drafts of my new young adult thriller fiction, “Elephant.”

What was the catalyst for your first book? Have you or will you write more books in the future?

The catalyst for my first novel, being “Elephant,” was the themes and message in the story. Growing up, mental health and dysfunctional families was not talked about; let alone, if an individual came from a toxic family, it was that ‘elephant in the room.’ For years, that drive and energy of wanting to let others know that it IS possible to defeat the stigmas and break the cycle was my passion.

Right now, I am currently looking at the first round of edits on book two of the “Elephant” series. The book is called “Skeletons,” hint ‘the skeletons in the closet’ which is set for an early 2021 release date. In the meantime, I am shopping around both books, as well as my first New Adult novel which I adapted from a feature film of mine, to literary agents. Fingers crossed because in the world of being an indie filmmaker and author, it IS tough because you are your own creator, marketer, and publicist.

Give me a brief description of your book.

When was the last time you were shut down for experiencing a mental health struggle or feeling unheard by others, including those closest to you?

Summer of 2006. Four childhood best friends. A family secret.

After a strange encounter leaves him hospitalized, a timid teenage boy named Matt “Matty” Smith comes home to a continuous series of events met with anxiety, depression, and PTSD.

Under the guardianship of his grandma, Lucia, Matt lives with unspoken questions about his grandfather and parents. The elephant in the room. As Matt develops over the summer, the secrets only grow more profound and complex. Will the answers ever come? While searching for answers, Matt and his three childhood best friends encounter the meanings of love, forgiveness, and fate.

This story is for those who feel their voice is unheard and for children, teenagers, and the adult who never had the chance to heal from their pain.

If you would like to tell us your story, be sure to message us at @elephant_bookya on Instagram or tweet us at @Ebookya, using the hashtag #TheElephantInMyRoom

Who would you say your book with resonate the most with? Who did you have in mind when you wrote it?

Definitely writing the earlier drafts of “Elephant” was coming from some personal matters in my life that dealt with my own mental health and thoughts and worries on family members. Over time, especially when editing the novel for its most recent publication, I realized the story was truly for anyone who could relate to mental health and the themes of the elephant in the room. Before approving the final draft of the novel, I wanted to dedicate the book to not just my Grandma Connie, whom I was close with, but to those who are going through a difficult time or feel that their voice is unheard. In the end, there truly are people who are out there, wanting to hear your story. I think that is why holding onto hope is key when it comes to both personal, work, health, friendship, and family life.

Where can it be purchased?

You can purchase book one, “Elephant,” on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Do you ever experience writer’s block? How do you deal with that?

Oh yes! Writer’s block is always an ongoing battle, especially right now during a pandemic and quarantine, it is a hit or miss when it comes to staying creative. One week, I am super amped and unable to NOT work; whereas other weeks such as this, I just want to stay in bed all day and watch TV and not look at my computer or phone.

Usually, I would just power through and write or edit, especially if there are deadline; but with everything going on in the world today, I am trying to self-care and sleep more. Lately, I was feeling exhausted and burned out and was advised by my doctors to take it easy. Definitely – take your health into consideration FIRST.

Did you find telling your story cathartic?

Oh definitely! Telling the story of the protagonist, Matthew “Matty/Matt” Smith was TOUGH but therapeutic on so many levels. What has been amazing so far is seeing the positive reactions by different bloggers, reviewers, and readers who like the book or even dislike it. I feel as an author and storyteller, you need to see both parties point of views. Just because someone might not like a story, often they might just have questions on the themes and social issues being discussed.

What was the publication process like for you? What, if anything, would you change in that process?

On and off for around ten to eleven years, I pitched the earlier drafts of “Elephant” to various literary agents and publishing houses. There were a few individuals who requested pages or the full manuscript, meaning the book advanced to the next round or review. So, of course, it was frustrating (like any other storyteller would feel) after years of rejection and not understanding why. Later, I realized often that most “no’s” coming from agents or publishing houses means that they are unsure on how to market the book; it does not always mean they dislike it.

Regarding the process, I think there is a level of peace of where I am currently at because of my filmmaking background. In the film and TV world, it is almost expected for a writer/director to self-finance their entire first feature film or close to it. I see the same with the book industry of authors going more the self-financed and independent route prior to getting representation or that publishing deal. To me, I see it as paying your dues – again, it is a dog eat dog world sometimes but that does not mean one should stop pursuing the dream.

Do you have any advice for someone attempting to get their story published?


Seriously, part of the journey is getting rejected, whether that be by a publishing house, literary agent, manager, your friends, your family, and so forth. If you cannot stop thinking about those characters and story, then you NEED to pursue and finish it.

Do you personally experience any mental health issues? How has this impacted your mental health?

Mental health has been a battle for myself over the years. It was until my junior year in college when my anxiety and depression got out of control. I literally thought my anxiety and panic attacks would kill me because of the severe physical symptoms. Thankfully, I was able to find solace by going to counseling. I continue to go weekly as I feel it continues to help me better understand on why I feel a certain way or react to something, especially during this pandemic. Personally, I feel more people should give therapy a try before cutting it out completely; sometimes talking to a stranger is easier.

What are your goals for the future?

My goals have always been to continue with storytelling, whether that be writing an article, short story, book, screenplay, or directing. I love both the film, TV and book world. Nothing is impossible – no one should put restrictions on their goals. I cannot see my life without storytelling; it is TRULY something that I see as part of my blood.

What are your social media links?

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