Two Natalies = One Talented Author

Posted on November 5, 2007

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It should not surprise anyone that an author with two names is the voice of so many interesting characters. And she’s not even a Gemini!

As Natalie R. Collins, she penned the Mormon suspense thrillers, Wives and Sisters and Behind Closed Doors.

As Natalie M. Roberts, she’s the creator of the Jenny T. Partridge Dance Mystery Series, and author of the brand new thriller, Twisted Sister.

Born in Utah and raised as a Mormon (she has since left the church), she rewards her readers with captivating stories and an insider’s views of the cloistered world of Mormonism.

I’ve known Natalie for almost 8 years – though we’ve never met in the flesh – and I’m a big fan of her work and green with envy at her success. But enough about me, let’s go pry into Natalie’s world.

Me: The Jenny T. Partridge Dance Mystery series is laugh out loud reading for romance and mystery lovers alike. Jenny owns a dance academy, which makes for a unique new twist to the cozy mystery genre, with a dash of romance. How did you come up with this winning combination?

Natalie: My daughter dances. A LOT. She is at our studio four to six days a week, which naturally means I am the studio, and for the past six years or so, I have worked for the studio. In this role, I get to see behind the scenes, and BOY is it a crazy world. After watching this for a few years, I decided this character, an eccentric dance teacher with a great sense of humor, was a natural for a mystery. I tied it in with elements that everyone can relate to (if you HAVE children, YOU’VE done a cookie dough fundraiser of some form or another), and voila, the Jenny T. Partridge Dance Mystery Series was born. And let me tell you, I never run out of material. All the dance moms at our studio ask me who the characters portray. I just laugh. I’m not telling!

Me: You also write books under the name of Natalie R. Collins Wives and Sisters and Behind Closed Doors are page-turning thrillers which have received rave reviews. So what gives with the two pen names? And who are you really?

Natalie: I’ll start with the last question, and then work my way back. I’m a little bit of BOTH. The Natalie R. Collins books are controversial, and set in a culture that does NOT like to be spotlighted, unless you are singing praises about them. Mormonism is big news right now, and being born and raised in this religion, I know all about it. That said, I knew when I tackled the subjects in Wives and Sisters
and Behind Closed Doors, that I would really get some anger directed at me. I have not been disappointed. But it taught me something. I really honed my humorous voice, in responding to these angry Mormons. I was determined not to get mad, nasty, and yet to get my point across. I’ve said before that I think all authors should receive hate mail. It really builds character, and you learn to appreciate the good things that are said.

The Natalie R. Collins books came first, and when I sold the Jenny series, my publisher for those did not want me using the name, so I decided to write them under Natalie M. Roberts. Who am I, really? Both!

Me: There’s definitely no dust on your keyboard. You have another book which is not in the Jenny T. Partridge series. Tell us about your latest release, Twisted Sister.

Natalie: This book was actually written right after the very first book I ever wrote, Sisterwife (which, by the way, is available as a free download from my Web site). [click on the title] I wrote Twisted Sister featuring the same characters as SW, but moved it away from Utah, and gave it an entirely different theme. I also tackled a very interesting and controversial subject–are women serial killers?–in what I think is a very unique way. For me, this book has never been about the “who” but is more about the “why?”

It’s getting good reviews, including one from Publisher’s Weekly. So I think that overall it stands up, even though I was a rather novice writer when I tackled it.

Me: Hey, tell your publisher to send me a copy and I’ll review that one, too! Your books are set in Utah and the Mormon religion is like a character — at times comical, and other times infuriating — in all your books. How has this “attitude” of yours been viewed upon by the faithful?

Natalie: Well, like I noted above, often not very well. At this point, that really just refers to the St. Martin’s books Wives and Sisters and Behind Closed Doors. In the Jenny books, Mormonism is really just a backdrop, mentioned in passing, explored lightly but humorously. But in the dark suspense thrillers I write, Mormonism has a much more complicated role. I’ve said for years that there are good Mormons and there are bad Mormons, and I believe I spotlight both. In writing about the religion, however, I have managed to anger many people who don’t believe the bad Mormons are “real Mormons.” Even when many of them do bad things IN THE NAME of that religion. There are certain aspects of Mormonism, and certain beliefs, that just SPEAK to a depraved mind. One only has to look at the history books to know this. The belief in blood atonement alone could spin off hundreds of books. It’s a very colorful religion, with a dark and troubled past, and even now those dark moments keep popping up to haunt the members. This rich culture is my heritage. I was born in Utah, raised as a faithful Mormon, and I will continue to explore it. One side of ANY story is not healthy, and everyone should know that. Unfortunately, the angry Mormons who write me often don’t. But I just laugh it off and move on.

Me: What’s coming up next for our new BFF, Jenny Partridge the wacky dance detective? And when for god’s sake?

Natalie: He he. Pointe and Shoot  is coming out in May 2008. In my opinion, this is the best of the three books, and I was thrilled to learn that my editor agrees! You watch Jenny mature a bit, and address her budding relationship with hunky Detective Tate Wilson, but the quirky characters keep popping up and trouble is never far away when Jenny is around. In the third book, you get to know more about Jenny’s sidekick and dance mom Marlys, and also visit some more great places in Utah you might never have known about.

Me: Thank you for gracing these lovely Caterpillar pages and sharing a glimpse into the real Natalie. You are a joy to know and to read.

Natalie: Thanks for having me, Peggy! And thanks for all those kind words.

Read my reviews of Tutu Deadly and Tapped Out right here at Advice from a Caterpillar.

Natalie’s websites —

Natalie R. Collins

Natalie M. Roberts

Jenny T. Partridge 

Natalie’s blogs —

Trapped by Mormons

Murder She Writes 

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