Take 5 with Natasha Lester
We chat with Natasha Lester, former Marketing Consultant of KPMG, on becoming a New York Times Bestselling Author.
We chat with Natasha Lester, KPMG alumnus and New York Times Bestselling Author.
|Last role at KPMG||Marketing Consultant|
|Time with KPMG||1994 – 1996|
|KPMG office||Perth, WA|
|Current role (as of March 2020)||New York Times Bestselling Author|
Natasha Lester is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of The Paris Orphan/The French Photographer and The Paris Seamstress, as well as Her Mother’s Secret and A Kiss from Mr Fitzgerald. Later this year, Natasha will launch her fifth novel, The Paris Secret.
Prior to writing, Natasha worked as a marketing executive before returning to University to study Creative Writing. Natasha lives in Perth with her three children and enjoys travelling, Paris, vintage fashion and of course, books. Natasha’s novels are predominately historical fiction, based on brave women doing remarkable things.
Describe your career journey in 3 words
An unbelievable roller coaster.
What led you to transition from a marketing executive to writing?
I always wanted to be a writer. When I was young, I wrote books and stories and poems all the time. But when I left high school, creative writing degrees didn’t exist. So I didn’t know how to become a writer. Instead, I completed a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Marketing and Public Relations. I chose marketing because it had a writing component to it.
Then I worked in marketing for about ten years, including my time at KPMG. My last job in marketing was at L’Oreal over in Melbourne where I was the Marketing Manager for Maybelline cosmetics. My husband had come with me to Melbourne for my work so, when he had to return to Perth for his job, it seemed only fair that I went with him!
It meant quitting my fabulous job and I knew I wouldn’t find a marketing job of quite that calibre in Perth at that time so I decided to take advantage of my unemployment to do something I’d always wanted to do—write. By then, writing degrees were established, so I went back to uni and studied a Master of Creative Arts and wrote my first book as my Master’s thesis. That nook won the TAG Hungerford Award for fiction and my writing career went on from there.
I was very lucky that, in 2018, The Paris Seamstress was published in the US and went on to become a bestseller over there. Then, last year, The French Photographer became a Top 10 bestseller here in Australia and a New York Times bestseller in America, which was absolutely incredible. Now my books are published in many different languages all around the world—so I’m very happy that I followed my dream!
What was one of the most valuable things you learnt during your time at KPMG?
Writers have to drive some of their own marketing. For example, I run a very busy social media footprint because readers like to be in touch with me. So all of the marketing skills I learned at all of my jobs, including KPMG, have proven to be very useful. I also did a lot of strategic marketing work at KPMG and that was invaluable – authors are like CEOs of their own small business. We make the product, market the product, manage our finances, decide on strategy – everything! So learning to think strategically over the long term, as I did at KPMG, has been incredibly helpful.
The manuscript of your first book was rejected many times. How did you manage this rejection and the self-belief to keep pushing?
I kept going because I loved writing. I think that’s what it comes down to – you have to love it to stick with it, despite the rejection and the ups and downs and the fact that it takes a long time to really make a decent income and to build a readership. It’s easy to quit; it’s much harder to stick with something that seems like it isn’t working. But you never know when success is coming so I believe in continuing to work hard, constantly trying to improve, and then the luck will come.
Where do you get the inspiration to write your books, which are predominately historical fiction?
I usually find the inspiration in the research I’m doing for a different book. For example, when I was writing The French Photographer, I came across the name Catherine Dior. She was Christian Dior’s sister. I had never heard of her, despite the fact that she worked with the French Resistance during WWII, was captured by the Nazis and then deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp, from which she emerged, barely alive, at the end of the war. Her work with the Resistance was so heroic and so important that Catherine was awarded a Croix de guerre and the Légion d’honneur by the French, and the King’s Medal for Courage in the Cause of Freedom by the British.
The terrible injustice of what and who the world remembers struck me immediately: the man who once made dresses is so famous that most people, if asked to name a couturier, would mention Christian Dior. But his sister, who fought for freedom for her country and who nearly lost her life in that struggle, had been forgotten. I knew immediately that I had to write about Catherine and so that was the beginning of The Paris Secret, my forthcoming novel.
That’s how it usually happens – I find a story about a woman forgotten by history, a woman who deserves to be known by all, and I try to bring her to life in a novel.
What book do you think everyone should read and why?
I’ve just finished Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow. Everyone should read this book so that, finally, the long-standing acceptance of a culture in which women can be sexually harassed and then silenced will end, and perpetrators will no longer be protected by that culture simply because they are wealthy and powerful.
Do you have any advice for our readers who may be thinking of switching careers?
Switching careers can mean a lot of hard work and a long wait for reward. But passion and a genuine love of what you’re doing can get you through that difficult time. There is nothing better than waking up every morning knowing that you’re living your dream and that the rewards have finally come! I don’t think you ever look back and regret trying something new; but you will regret never trying at all.
What is the best part of your job now?
Travelling all over the world for research. Last year, I went to the French Riviera and Paris for research. The year before that I was in northern France and Cornwall to research The Paris Secret. This year, I’m going to Norway for book publicity, and then I’ll be staying at the Ritz in Paris as the hotel features in the book I’m writing now!
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