Interview with Kate Kelly

It’s cli-fi week over at Guardian’s Childrens Books, so to celebrate I’m posting up an interview I did with cli-fi author and Storyslinger friend, Kate Kelly. The interview was part of a series over at the Dorset Writers Network website, go check it out!

Kate is the author of Red Rock, a Cli-Fi book for young people (10+) published by Curious Fox. She is involved in literature development, having judged story slams and competitions, she leads workshops for children, gives author talks, and publishes a brilliant blog all about writing at The Scribbling Sea Serpent.

DWN: Hi Kate! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.

KK: Hi Jen, thank you for the warm welcome.

DWN: What do you write? Please tell us about your book, Red Rock.

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KK: Red Rock is a children’s adventure story for the 10+ age group. The ice is melting and, as the Greenland ice cap retreats, something has been revealed. Fourteen year old Danni s world is turned upside down when her aunt is assassinated. With her dying breath, she entrusts Danni with a strange, small rock. Danni must not tell a soul that she has it. But what is the rock for, and to what lengths must Danni go to keep it safe?

DWN:  Please describe your journey to becoming a published writer.

KK: I’ve been writing all my life but about ten years ago I started taking it a bit more seriously, joined a writing group and started sending stuff out into the world. My first successes were with the Yeovil Prize where I was highly commended several years running, and with short fiction in the sci-fi and horror genres which I managed to get published across a variety of small press magazines and anthologies. Red Rock was the first longer work to find a home and also my first children’s book. It was also Highly Commended in the Yeovil Prize and I was lucky enough to find an agent as a result. She managed to place Red Rock with Curious Fox. But it has not been an easy journey, with lots up ups and downs along the way.

DWN: Red Rock has been described as a Cli-Fi book. Can you explain what this means and how the label has impacted the book, and you as a writer.

KK: Cli-Fi is short for climate fiction and is a term coined by climate activist Daniel Bloom to describe the sub-genre, primarily of science fiction, which explores the effects of global warming. I didn’t set out to write a Cli-Fi novel but the recent interest in Cli-Fi and in climate change itself has been quite timely.
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DWN: As a writer for young people, what are your thoughts on children’s publishing and the importance of children’s literature?

KK: The children’s book market is one of the healthiest parts of the publishing business, I guess because children are always going to be looking for new stories and adventures to inspire them. I’m always amazed when I go into schools at what avid readers the kids can be, and how sophisticated their tastes often are.

DWN: What’s your process? Do you plot everything out before starting, or does it come out in a more organic fashion?

KK: Because most of my stories are thrillers of some form or other I find a bit of planning goes a long way. If I know what clues I’m seeding and what my villain’s evil plan is right from the start then I find this cuts down on a lot of the later rewriting.

DWN: Have you been given any brilliant writing tips that transformed your writing?

KK: Two bits really. The first is know what your character’s motivation is right from the start, and the second is try to make your reader feel something, whether good or bad.

DWN: Do you have any advice or encouragement for aspiring writers, particularly young writers who might still be in school or right at the start of their career?

KK: Quite simply write. The more your write the better a writer you will become. Write from your heart and above all enjoy it. Writing should be fun.

DWN: Was there anything you found particularly difficult when writing Red Rock? If so, how did you overcome those difficulties?

KK: I think the hardest thing for me was plotting. I hadn’t really planned the novel out properly and as a result there were an awful lot of plot holes that I had to go back and fill in. Spotting all the plot holes was tricky.

DWN: How important are writing groups to you? Do you have any advice for young writers, or writers for young people, who are looking for a group to join, or even starting their own?

KK: Writing can be a very lonely business and so building up a network of fellow writers is, I believe, essential. Writing groups can vary a lot. It’s always best to go along see if you’re a good fit. There are also online communities of writers these days which can be useful if you live somewhere where it’s difficult to get to a real life group.

DWN: Finally, are you working on a new novel? If so, can you tell us a bit about it? How does writing the second book compare with writing the first?

KK: In a way I’m not too badly affected by ‘Second Novel Syndrome’ because I only had a one book contract, so I have no deadlines and there are no expectations or pressures being put on me. That means I’m still free to write what I want. The disadvantage is that I’m back at square one looking for a new deal with a new publisher. I have a couple of things on the go but I don’t want to say too much about them at this stage.

DWN:  Thanks very much!

KK: My pleasure.

Red Rock is available to buy at all good book shops, or online

Check out Kate’s wonderful blog

and follow her on twitter and facebook.


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