Questions with Laura Theis

Laura Theis is an award-winning musician and writer.
Her short stories, songs, radio plays, and poetry have been broadcast and published in the UK, Germany, and the U.S.
Her new work appears or is forthcoming in Strange Horizons, The London Reader, Manawaker Studio’s Flash Fiction Podcast, About Place Journal, Rise Up Review, Enchanted Conversations, Briars Lit and in print anthologies from Live Canon, Curtis Bausse, Allitera, and Three Drops Press. 
Laura has gained a Distinction in the Mst Creative Writing at Oxford University (Keble College) as well as an MA in Theatre Studies, German and American Literature from LMU Munich. She is the recipient of the 2017 AM Heath Prize and the 2018 Short Story Prize by Curtis Bausse and has been shortlisted for the 2018 Yeovil Prize for Poetry,
the 2018 Live Canon International Poetry Award, and the 2018 Frome Festival Short Story Competition.

Find her online here: http://lauratheis.weebly.com/

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I am LOVING reading Laura’s work, and listening to her beautiful music. I’m so thrilled that this blog series is giving me new discoveries and future favourites. I highly recommend exploring her work. And I hope you enjoy her answers!

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Tell us a bit about your latest book.

What was the inspiration for the story?

I have two books out at the moment and they are both anthologies so I feel very excited about telling people about them and promoting them because my own writing makes up just a small part of them and I am honoured to have it published alongside so many other wonderful writers that I admire!

The first book is called Second Taste, it is an anthology of delicious (in every sense of the word!) short stories on the theme of nourishment published by Curtis Bausse. http://mybook.to/secondtaste

My own story is called “The Sad Tagine” and has been chosen as the winner of the 2018 Book A Break Short Story Prize. It’s the story of a daughter grieving her mother who had been a passionate cook and decides to try and apply for elite cookery school. The inspiration for that story was the idea of how grief can affect our senses in a very physical way.

The other book that I am excited about is the 2018 Live Canon Poetry Anthology.

http://www.livecanon.co.uk/publications

All the poems in this book have been selected by Liz Berry, one of my all-time favourite poets who was the judge for this year’s Live Canon International Poetry award. My poem is called “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” and also tells the story of a mother-daughter relationship, however, in this poem the mother is a student at a clock-making school and the daughter is the device she is furbishing in her workshop. My inspiration for the unusual setting was a very good friend who recently decided to quit his job, uproot his life and go back to university to learn how to become a watchmaker. And my inspiration for the title was the fact that when we hear a phrase like that we often automatically assume that this refers to a father, rather than a mother, so I wanted to subvert that expectation in the very first line.

 

Tell us about your main character.

Why should we fall in love with them?

The protagonist in “The Sad Tagine” starts out very lost and vulnerable, and very lonely. She has never learned to cook or inherited any recipes, and now it is too late to ask her mother (who had been a gifted cook) how to do it. She is working purely from memory, specifically the memory of certain scents. And still she has this childlike hopefulness about her. I think that’s what I love about her. She hopes that she can get into a very exclusive cookery school even though that is rather unlikely. She hopes she can find love even though she keeps having terrible experiences with online dating. She is on her own, moving through grief, and still never gives up.

What I love about the narrator of “The Clockmaker’s Daughter” is her ambiguity. Is she really a clock? Or a person? Or a hybrid, both at the same time? It’s up to the reader to interpret.

 

Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?

When I was 4 years old, I got a tape recorder with a little red microphone for my birthday and immediately started composing poems and inventing stories for an imaginary audience, and really I have been writing and performing ever since! This spring I graduated from the Oxford University Mst in Creative Writing which has helped me take myself more seriously as a writer and be less shy about telling people what I do, though I still often struggle with confidence.

 

What was your favourite book as a child?

I really, really loved the stories of Astrid Lindgren, I think they are so wonderful – especially Pipi Longstocking, such an amazing role model for how a girl can be (wild and impossibly strong and independent and self-sufficient and generous, with her own horse and pet monkey…) I’ve always secretly wished I could be more like her…And Astrid Lindgren’s sad books still make me cry without fail.

I also really loved the stories by Michael Ende, a German fantasy writer who wrote Momo and The Neverending Story, I’ve re-read them countless times.

 

 Can you recommend another female author we should read?

I love this question! Yes yes yes! There are so many amazing women writing out there and I find it mindboggling that there is still such a gender divide, that male authors are so much more present in the media (there are lots of studies that show this is true year after year) and therefore I love recommending female authors. I know you asked for only one, but I hope you can forgive me if I list at least ten…

There are some women writers who also happen to be my favourite people such as Lucy Duggan (she is equally amazing at writing sprawling 600 page novels like her debut Tendrils and tiny one-or-two sentence flash fiction stories that are funny and poignant and really well-observed), or Daisy Johnson, the youngest person in history to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize with her debut Everything Under who also wrote a breathtakingly good short story collection called Fen. And Kiran Milwood Hargrave who writes amazing adventure stories with strong female leads. I also tell everyone I know to read Lucy Ayrton’s heartbreaking One More Chance and Sarvat Hasin’s beautiful This Wide Night.

Some exciting names to watch out for once they’ve published their debuts are Clare Coggins, Leonie Caldecott and Sophia Heyland.

I also love all the endlessly playful books by Ali Smith, Kelly Link (I think she’s my favourite short story writer!) Helen Oyeyemi, Laini Taylor, Carmen Maria Machado, Naomi Aldermann’s The Power and Eleanor Catton’s The Rehearsal.

Oh and last but not least Meg Rosoff, who is supposedly a YA author but I think her writing is for all ages…

My favourite German-language writer is the poet Mascha Kaléko and my favourite book about witches is Circe by Madeline Miller.

 

What was the last book you read and loved?

I have just finished Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik. I love fairy tale retellings, and this one is loosely based on Rumpelstiltskin, but she has completely made it her own. And right now I’m about to start My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh, the premise of it sounds very intriguing…

 

Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?

This one is framed by my writing desk:

“I am not at all in a humour for writing. I must write on until I am.” – Jane Austen

 

Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?

I grew up in Germany, in an area where all the streets and roads had names from mythology or fairy tales.  On my way to school I would pass Snow White Road, Sleeping Beauty Road and so on, and even my school was named after the Tale of the Goose Girl.

My childhood house was on a road called “Asenweg”, which translates to “Æsir Way”. The Æsir are gods from Norse mythology. I’ve actually written a whole lovesong about that house: badasssnowhite.bandcamp.com

Which leads me to my second fact: I am also a singer and songwriter. I play solo music as well as in the Oxford-based duo Robot Swans and an experimental German duo called beißpony.

My third fact is that I am an animal lover. I have spent my whole life wishing for a puppy and now my childhood dreams have become a reality and I have a very cute 2-year old dog who is called Wodehouse after the writer PG Wodehouse. She is female, so the name often confuses people. You can follow us on Instagram @wodehouse_and_i

 

Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Why?

Freya Hartas. She has such an amazing style and I love her imagination and dark humour.

And my mum, Banu Theis-Baydur, because she has created really lovely books
in three different languages especially for her grandchildren.

 

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

I love this quote by Nick Cave:

“Ideas are timid things, in my experience. They come as whispers and you need to hold them in honest regard in order to receive them. Perhaps the idea is as scared as you. Perhaps the idea is as invisible as you may sometimes feel. It may be that the idea is simply mirroring your internal self and is reluctant to settle in a mind that is heavy with uncertainty, and that is repeating ancient mantras of self-doubt. These voices can best be banished by a spirited disobedience, a playful defiance. Disobey the voices by continuing to write. They are a lot less robust than they appear. The idea is closing in.”

Advice I don’t think is particularly helpful, at least to me, is when people tell you to gear your writing towards a specific market / audience. I especially love reading things that defy categorisation in regards to genre or the age group they are aimed at, and I don’t think it’s a writer’s duty to think about marketing in this way while they are writing. I try to ignore the question of “who is this aimed at?” and just write something I might like to read myself.

 

What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?

I am going to cheat again and list more than one, I have so many favourites!

Two songs that immediately spring to mind are Ditte Elly’s Winter and Rosie Caldecott’s The Swell (though it’s impossible to pick just one, I love all their songs and Rosie has also just released her incredible Lost Gardens EP). I met both Ditte and Rosie at Catweazle, a magical Open Mic night in Oxford and am in love with their voices and their songwiting. Other songs that make me happy are Fiona Apple’s Paperbag (again, impossible to pick just one – she is the reason I started writing songs in the first place) Laura Marling’s Soothing, Regina Spektor’s the first two albums, Cat Power’s Covers Record, Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, Tori Amos’ Horses and the songs by Jenny Lewis, Bettye Swann, Alev Lenz and Scout Niblett.

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Questions with Lora Inak

Lora began her writing journey aged ten – with a short story featuring an evil eyeball named Optic. Not her finest work but fortunately she kept on writing (Mills and Boon style short stories in her teens).

Lora is married with a son, a daughter, a rescue dog called Chloe and a possum that won’t go away (Chloe and the possum are often at war). She lives in the burbs of Melbourne, has a full time corporate job in Marketing, a passion for food, Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, coloured pencils, books books and more books, and an obsession with neatness (which is hard to come by with two kids, a dog, and a possum).

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I really adored Lora’s book, Unspoken Rules. I hope you love reading her answers!

  1. ‘Unspoken  Rules’ is basically about cultural differences. Why did you choose this topic?  Is it semi-autobiographical?

Unspoken Rules is only autobiographical in its cultural setting. My objective was always to write a story with characters placed in the same cultural background I myself grew up, and to then share the richness, the restrictiveness and the beauty of it all juxtaposed against an Australian backdrop.

Due to civil unrest in Turkey in the 1980s, my family immigrated to Australia to find a safer, better life. I was still a very young child at the time and suddenly found myself in a new and exciting world. There were difficulties at school, both linguistically, culturally, and socially, and in my teens I found myself walking a swaying tightrope between the culture of my birthplace, and that of modern Australia.

Given my own background and conflicts, the topic of culture and identity and belonging is very close and personal for me.

  1. What is your writing process like? Do you write consistently or only when inspired?

I have a full time job in the corporate world and two young children, so sadly at the moment my writing process is more of a ‘write when I can find the time’ rather than when I’m inspired. However, there are pockets of time when I’m driving, or in the shower, or lying in bed waiting for sleep to claim me that I think about my characters, their motivations, behaviours, backgrounds and this eventually ends up in my stories.

  1. Can you tell me a bit about what drew you to writing in the first place?

I’m not really sure, but I do remember being quite solitary as a young child, surrounded by paper and pencils, inventing stories and characters. I have two elder sisters, both in highschool by the time I was wanting playmates, so I often found myself alone with only my imagination to keep my company. It wasn’t long before I discovered the friends I could invent myself.

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  1. Where there any specific points at which you struggled within this novel?

 The story itself came to me quite easily, but before Unspoken Rules, I’d only ever written picture book and junior fiction text, so finding my voice in the Young Adult space was new and challenging. I guess I eventually fumbled my way through and created something that I’m really proud of. I wrote this book in honour of my mother who passed away recently. A part of me believes she helped guide me through the tough parts.

  1. As this is your first novel, how much help did you seek or get from others?

I have a wonderfully supportive writing group with three ladies I couldn’t do without. They have helped me through every chapter, through every character arc, through every plot direction. I was also lucky enough to have an editor give me wonderful feedback which really helped hone the work, and before sending it out into the world, I approached a manuscript assessor whose advice was pivotal to the final success of this novel being picked up by Rhiza Press for publication.

  1. Imagining you could travel back in time and give advice to your teenaged self about writing and life, what would you tell her? And would she listen.

She’d definitely listen, so I’d tell her that to be a good writer, you have to live life, experience the world and the people in it, and practise, practise, practise and when you think you’ve finally mastered the art of writing, think again, because you haven’t. Writing is an art form that can always be honed and improved.

  1. Can you recommend a female author?

I love Rosalie Ham, author of The Dressmakers, Summer at Mount Hope and The Year of the Farmer. She has such a brilliant way of painting flawed, interesting, comical characters that leaves me hooked, unsure of whether I want the characters to win in the end, or lose. She’s also a master as building plot, and constructing the setting of a story, whether it be set in modern times or back in the late 1800s.

  1. Do you have a favourite illustrator of Children’s Books? Why?

Aleck Morton. I love his Tim Burtonesque illustrative style. Also he’s a wonderful friend of mine and about to have his first picture book publish with Yellow Brick Books.

  1. Can you give us a small blurb about your  book, where to buy it?

NATALIE balances two lives. It’s a tenuous tightrope.

At home, her life is governed by the unspoken rules and expectations of her Christian Orthodox background. Women are expected to go to their marital beds as virgins, men aren’t. Women are homemakers and caregivers; men can run businesses, companies, and empires. His decision is final; she’s expected to comply.

Her entire school life, Natalie has walked the tightrope without tipping over, that is, until now. Until a fall out with her best friend Katelyn leaves her confused and lonely. Until her devout sister, Misha learns of her incurable illness and doubts her faith and future. Until she discovers her Mother’s terrible secret which threatens to tear their entire family apart.

And… until she meets the new boy, Chris.

ISBN: 9781925563146

Unspoken Rules is available through all online retailers including Amazon, Booktopia, Rhiza Press, Ebay, Angus & Robertson Online, Book Depository and more.

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Questions with Penni Russon

Penni Russon was born in Hobart, and spent her childhood roaming around on a small mountain. Eventually she had to grow up, and she moved from Tasmania to Melbourne to study classics, archaeology, women’s studies and contemporary literature. She writes, edits and teaches creative writing, and lives in outer Melbourne with her husband and three children.

Find out more about Penni at pennirusson.com, or her blog eglantinescake.blogspot.com

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It should also be said about Penni that she is one of the most incredible writers in Australia. She doesn’t say that in her bio but I am not exaggerating. I loved The Endsister so hard I cried when it was over. And Only, Ever, Always is a goddamn masterpiece and I won’t hear otherwise. She is also a fierce mama, a tremendous wit (just read her answers – she’s hilarious), and she is FROM TASMANIA. Woot! I hope you enjoy her beautiful answers.

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Tell us a bit about your latest book.

The Endsister is inspired by those classic novels that predate categories like middle grade and young adult, when kids fiction could be ambitious and literary while also being gentle and soothing, it seems to appeal to quite young kids, teenagers and even parents. The Endsister is for anyone who likes to curl up and get lost in a book. In other words hashtag mood.

What was the inspiration for the story?

One day at the dinner table, my middle child said ‘I know what an endsister is’ – the word gave me chills, as did the conversation that followed. And then later when big sister said ‘It’s not an endsister, it’s a [REDACTED]’, it formed the shape of the novel in my head – the best inspirations are the ones where they come with a middle and an ending!

Tell us about your main character. Why should we fall in love with them?

The main character is actually a whole family but the main main characters are probably Sibbi and Else. Sibbi is four and she is the small child in all of us, subject to the whim of others, subject even to her own feelings but also powerful in her own way. Else is sixteen and suffering mostly at her own hands, not sure if she is the talented violin player she’s always been told she is, but not sure who she will be if she stops playing. In many ways it’s a novel about the consequences of not naming your feelings – we see that in Sibbi and Else and also their mum who really struggles with loneliness, homesickness and depression.

Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?

I always read and I always played, writing is an extension of that. I did write poetry as a kid but I’d never have progressed past the first paragraph of a novel. I used to sit down all full of feelings but I couldn’t get the feelings to come to life on the page. It wasn’t until after I finished my uni degree that I took a professional writing course and accepted my fate.

What was your favourite book as a child?

So many. Today I am going to say Charley by Joan G. Robinson about a little girl who reads the torn-off scrap from a letter and as a result runs away from home, all due to a terrible misunderstanding – leaping to conclusions. It’s structurally elegant and really takes as its story momentum the fear we have as humans of being not just disliked but unlikeable.

Can you recommend another female author we should read?

I love Simmone Howell’s YA novels. She captures something about my own feelings of being a teenager that I don’t always see in YA fiction. The sort of joy and cleverness and excess of feeling, and how quickly joy can give way to sadness or self-doubt.

What was the last book you read and loved?

Inga Simpson’s The Nest, and because this is a writerly blog, I’ll tell you why. I really loved that if you had to identify “a goal” for the protagonist (the internet is very bossy about characters having goals) it’s that she wants to live (A) a quiet life and be left more-or-less alone. But in tension with that goal is another goal: she wants to (B) alleviate her loneliness and move on from grief. The novel is about the disruptions and interruptions of daily life and how they rub up against A and gently move her towards B. The transition from A to B being her primary goal happens so subtly that I didn’t notice it. The novel moves towards hope in such a quiet way, I really loved it. The language of birds throughout the novel helps you to see the consolations of nature with an artist’s eye and made me remember how much I value the process of art-making in interpreting the environment around us in order to live a meaningful life.

Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?

…Movies should be five minutes long. You should go in, see a couple of shots, maybe a room with orange draperies and a rug. A voice-over would say, “I’m having a hard time getting Raoul from the hotel room into the elevator.” And, bang, that’s the end. The lights come on, everybody walks out full of sympathy because this is a shared experience. Everybody in that theater knows how hard it is to get Raoul from the hotel room into the elevator. Everyone has had to do boring, dogged work…

From ‘The Politics of Narrative” by Lynn Emmanuel.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?

Penni: What’s three fun facts about me?

Martin: Fun facts?

Penni: I’m being interviewed for the internet and this is one of the questions.

Avery: I know three fun facts about you!

Penni: Oh, what?

Avery: Funny. Smart. Kind.

Penni: I am just going to write down this conversation.

Martin: You should totally do that.

Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Why?

Ron Brooks. I always loved John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat because it has such a Tasmanian quality to it, it’s very Huonville in the sense of place and light. Then there’s Fox which is a book that is impossibly beautiful and savage and fierce and ultimately forgiving of those qualities of the human heart that we most despise in ourselves, our weakness, our avarice, and our jealousy.

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

The best was probably from Kirsty Murray which boiled down to “They’re waiting for you to write a book for them” (about the publisher I was doing freelance editing and a bit of reception work for). It really spurred me on to write Undine.

The worst advice I receive is the advice in my head ‘This is crap, why would you write this, who’s going to want to read this, this will never make you any money, what’s the point of writing if you aren’t going to make money BLAH BLAH BLAH’

What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?
Some Days by The Waifs, because I feel like I’m rereading a favourite novel (or a letter from an old friend) every time I’ve read it. And it got me through some dark parenting days, feeling like I’m not alone in the wilderness: it’s a song about a mother doing it tough who loves her kids, but doesn’t love her life.

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Questions with Yael Maree

Yael Maree has had the privilege of living in numerous countries before settling in beautiful Melbourne.  Mother to three, she loves reading, writing and learning about language and culture. Yael enjoys reading the classics with The Count of Monte Cristo and A Tale of Two Cities amongst her favourites. She reads across most genres and enjoys works by R.E Fiest, Gabriel García Márquez, Khaled Hosseini and Markus Zusak.

Yael’s debut novel When We Vanish is a delightful tale of a relationship tested by fear, love, rejection, and the desire of two individuals to be seen for who they truly are.

When We Vanish was launched in August 2018 during the Canberra Writer’s Festival.

She’s been kind enough to answer a few questions for me, and her answers are really honest and wonderful. Enjoy!

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Tell us a bit about your latest book.

My debut Book When we Vanish was published in August 2018.  It follows a man so mundane and lost within his own life that unbeknownst to him, he becomes invisible and is one day seen by a girl so lonely that her emptiness within, mirrors his emptiness without.

When their paths cross they go on a journey of self-discovery and what they find is so much more.

The story deals with themes of our desire to be seen in this word as who we really are, and our need to be acknowledged and loved.

What was the inspiration for the story?

When I wrote this story, I had just had my third child in five years. We had just moved cross country again and I was yet to meet many new friends. With my husband working six days a week and me being nothing but mom 24 hours a day I began to feel diminished as a person, as me. And I felt like I was disappearing within my own life. I also felt lonely having no friends or adults to really be around and with the tiredness and constant feel of being drained it all felt bigger and heavier and harder. And so, I sat and wrote this story and poured out of me.

Tell us about your main character. Why should we fall in love with them?

My main Characters are Alexander and Sophie. They each struggle with their own battles. And each is trying to find meaning within their own lives. I think they are relatable and real but have been thrown into a bizarre situation where their paths align and they both suddenly need the other.

Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?

I have always written. I have notebooks upon notebooks with small snippets of work, short stories, quotes and words that I love that I have collected over many years.

What was your favourite book as a child?

As a child and even as an adult the Count of Monte Cristo

Can you recommend another female author we should read?

Margaret Atwood and Anne Rice

What was the last book you read and loved?

I have just finished Crossing the Lines by Sulari Gentill it was beautifully written, thought-provoking and wonderful, and that ending…

Do you have a favourite quote by a female author?

“I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.” – Joan Didion

Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?

I have lived on four continents and speak four languages – three of them fluently

In my past life, I have been a hotel manager, restaurant manager, waitress, pub manager, English teacher, PT and Massage therapist with a great love for anatomy and physiology. (I’m very nomadic and can’t sit still).

I write under a pen name and have been doing so for a few years.

Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Why?

N/A – although I love the illustrations in the Grumpy bear series!

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

Best piece: always keep learning.

Worst piece: follow a certain writing rule or structure. For me, literature is art, you are given a canvass to create a masterpiece. Imagine a world where all the art is closed in by a perfect white border, where would all the great artists of our time be? You need to break the rules and explore the world beyond the canvass, splash on the floor and break the mould for only when you challenge yourself and find a way to be brave can you really create art.

What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?

The genre I listen to is not dominated by females and although I do enjoy Arch Enemy whose vocalist is female they are not my favourite band.

Amazon book link: https://www.amazon.com.au/When-We-Vanish-Yael-Maree-ebook/dp/B07HFJGMBC/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8

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Questions with Emily Conolan

Emily Conolan is a writer and teacher, who is also known for her humanitarian work. For her role in establishing a volunteer support network for asylum seekers in Tasmania, she has been awarded Tasmanian of the Year, Hobart Citizen of the Year, and the Tasmanian Human Rights Award. The stories of courage and resilience she has heard in the course of her work with refugees, combined with tales from her own family history, inspired her to write the Freedom Finders series. Emily has never had smallpox or helped a horse give birth, but in the early 1800s, her family was bush-ranged and did help smuggle an Irish political prisoner out of Van Diemen’s Land.

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She is also (her bio doesn’t mention this), a beautiful, kind, welcoming person, who makes you feel happy just being in her presence. She even forgave me for being completely loopy on cold meds the first time we met. She is an incredible writer and a wonderful human and her answers to my questions are just lovely. Enjoy!

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Tell us a bit about your latest book. What was the inspiration for the story?

My latest two books (which came out together in April this year) are ‘Break Your Chains’ and ‘Touch the Sun’.  They are interactive fiction (they have a maze-like plot where you make the choices as you read).  They are both immigration stories: the first is a convict’s story in 1825, the second an asylum seeker’s story in 2011.  They are part of The Freedom Finders series: I’ve just finished the first draft of the third one, set in the 1950s, from Italy to the Snowy Hydro.  They’re suitable for ages 8 to 14.  My inspiration was my work with migrants as a teacher and human rights advocate.

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Tell us about your main character. Why should we fall in love with them?

It’s funny, my main characters don’t have names, because they are YOU!  The books are written in the second person, and I always am very careful not to name them.  Interactive fiction usually doesn’t assign a name or even a gender to ‘you’, but I couldn’t avoid gendering each main character because the life of, say, a boy convict was so different from that of a girl.  So, you should fall in love with them because they are YOU, and you are courageous, strong, kind, and tenacious.

Have you always written, or is writing something you’ve come to in adulthood?

Yes, I’ve always loved writing – I wrote my first book when I was four, about a cat with an electric sting in its tail who defended the home from a burglar.  Yay!

What was your favourite book as a child?

Definitely the BFG – it’s still a favourite.  When I was a teenager, I loved ‘A Cage of Butterflies’ by Brian Caswell.

Can you recommend another female author we should read?

I’ve read so many great female authors this year: the two that I will mention (because they’re also emerging and Australian!) are Margaret Morgan’s ‘The Second Cure’, a gripping and tantalising piece of speculative fiction; and Sarah Krasnostein’s ‘The Trauma Cleaner’, which is the best piece of non-fiction I’ve ever read – in fact it’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, full stop.  It’s gritty and dark, but radiates compassion.

What was the last book you read and loved?

‘Life After Life’, by Kate Atkinson.  My publisher recommended it to me, she said it’s a bit like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ for grown-ups.  She was sort of right – in that the main character keeps dying and starting her life again from the beginning, so it has a very unusual structure… but you don’t actually get to make the choices yourself, sadly.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself, that other people might not know?

  1. Last week I made a rhubarb and raspberry sorbet, and it was AWESOME.
  2. I used to keep spiny leaf insects as pets – they look like aliens, they are so cool.
  3. I love to do Playback Theatre – it’s a type of improvised acting where audience members tell true stories from their lives, which are re-created as theatre on the spot.

Do you have a favourite illustrator of children’s books? Why?

When I was a kid, I loved Graham Base, because I could spend hours searching for clues in his drawings.  I never admired Quentin Blake as a kid because I thought his drawings were ‘scribbly’, but now I adore their vibrancy.  I also love Polly Dunbar, her style is so colourful and playful.

What are the best and worst pieces of writing advice you’ve received?

Hmm. The best can’t be boiled down to a single quote, but is contained in a book called ‘The Writer’s Journey’: it’s about mythic structure and archetypes, and it never fails to get me out of a stuck spot.  Sometimes the best advice is actually a pertinent question, like ‘what does your character want most of all?’ or ‘how can you raise the stakes in this situation?’, that provokes you to look deeper.

The worst is something along the lines of ‘keep this bit, this bit, and that bit, chuck out the rest, and re-work it into an entirely new story.’  Thanks, but I’d rather just bin the whole thing than try and do that kind of surgery.  Or any sentence that begins with, ‘I think you should write about…’

What is your favourite song by a female singer, and why?

Natalie Merchant: Which Side Are You On? It’s a song with a powerful history, written in 1931 by the wife of a union organiser who was being targeted by those in power.  It gives me shivers every time.

If you’d like to be featured in this space, send me an email at kate[at]kategordon[dot]com[dot]au 🙂

I Could Write A Blog …

julieandjulia

Whenever I think about blogs and blogging, I remember the quote from “Julie and Julia”.

Julie:

I could write a blog.

  
I have thoughts.

For a while there, in the 2000s and early 2010s, it felt like *everybody* had a blog. And thoughts. So. Many. Thoughts.

I even gave it a go, myself. A few times.

Because I’m a writer and *I have thoughts*. Thoughts about all sorts of things, from books to politics; from which is the best Josh Ritter song (answer: all of them, but in particular Monster Ballads), to which is the worst Megadeth song (answer: all of them. No, that’s it. Just all of them); from feminism to which gluten-free bread tastes the most like actual bread.

All the thoughts.

And yet …

And yet, when it came to putting those thoughts into blogs, I came up short, always. Whether it was impostor syndrome (“Nobody cares about your thoughts, Kate”), or the fact that, well, I’d just rather be writing my books, I just couldn’t seem to make blogging stick.

And so I quit. Not long after my daughter was born and my time-deprivation was only second to my sleep-deprivation. I just … couldn’t be arsed any more.

And, to be honest, I still can’t. Because there are enough people who can and who love it and who will do it a million times better than I ever will.

BUT I have been wanting, for a while, to find a way to help promote my fellow writers. In particular, lady writers (trans lady writers of course and always included – which should go without saying but, you know, this is the time we live in) and gender non-binary writers. Something more than just retweeting or sharing.

So … here’s my thought.

It’s a good thought, I think.

I’m going to make this space (which, to be honest, I’m not even going to call a blog. It’s just a space where there are thoughts that will mostly not be mine) a place for other people, with interesting thoughts to share.

I’m going to start off by interviewing a bunch of my friends at Wombat Books, and another bunch in the brilliant Ladybirds group. They are all incredible writers, working in a multitude of genres and media and you will love their thoughts.

I’m going to post the first one later this week. And I’m going to keep posting for as long as people want to give me the gift of their thoughts.

It’s not a blog.

It’s not my thoughts.

But I hope this will be a good place.

If you’d like to be involved and you are a lady writer or a non-binary writer, please get in touch with me at kate[at]kategordon[dot]com[dot]au.

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