Tag Archives: author interview

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

Check out Kate’s wonderful blog scribblingseaserpent.blogspot.co.uk

and follow her on twitter and facebook.

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Author Interview: CJ Flood

Over the summer I was shortlisted for a competition. As a result I was given the opportunity to attend a workshop in Bristol, headed by Chelsey Flood, author of the Branford Boase winning novel Infinite Sky.

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The workshop was excellent. I learned a lot in a short space of time. It’s rare for me to find workshops aimed at the intermediate-advanced level – they tend to get drowned in a sea of beginners classes. So perhaps I will write up some of the intermediate-advanced tips that Chelsey imparted, and post them here.

In the meantime, Chelsey has very kindly offered to answer some questions.

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Hi Chelsey. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
Thanks for having me, I’m very happy to be talking to you.

I read Infinite Sky very quickly, it was a gripping story. For those who haven’t read it, can you tell us a little about it?

The story opens with a funeral. Iris, the protagonist, is mourning the body of the boy inside. The question hangs over the novel, of which boy she is mourning; is it Sam, her tearaway brother, or Trick, her tentative boyfriend.

Then the story flashes back, to before the tragedy when a family of Irish Travellers set up camp in one of Iris’ family’s fields. So begins Iris’s journey of discovery as she makes friends with Trick, the eldest of Traveller children, discovers secrets about her brother, and begins to understand her mum’s absence.

It is a story very close to my heart as it is set in a fictionalised version of my childhood home (well, one of them, as I lived half the week with my mum, half with my dad). Iris Dancy, the protagonist, is an idealised version of me, and her family (especially her father) have lots of the same traits that my family do. I’m very proud of the book.

Writing is hard! Was there anything you found particularly difficult when writing Infinite Sky? If so, how did you overcome those difficulties?

I found writing it very difficult! It’s hard to say no to invitations and TV and naps when you aren’t even sure that anybody will want to read the novel when you’ve finished. Also, it’s difficult to keep a novel under control. There are so many directions the story can take, and that is overwhelming at the start.

I was lucky because I was doing an MA in Creative Writing, and so was surrounded by intelligent, sensitive readers who helped me get the story right. I was also being mentored by Bernardine Evaristo as part of the Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Scheme, so I had lots of support. Being part of a good critique group is a huge help when writing a novel.

Who or what are your biggest influences?

In my YA writing, I’m influenced a lot by classic English writers, such as Dodie Smith and Barry Hines, and also contemporary writers such as Meg Rosoff and David Almond. I’m also influenced by Shane Meadows, who is one of my favourite writers. He put the Midlands on the map with his films set in the area, and I really love his work. Another big influence is my childhood and adolescence. I remember this time very vividly, and draw a lot from it.

You studied for an MA at UEA, some of us at Storyslingers have done BAs or MAs, others opted for self-led study and some are still deciding what route to take. How important was your MA to your career, and do you have any advice for writers considering whether to take the leap onto academia? Also, do you have any thoughts about PhDs in Creative Writing?

My MA came at just the right time. I had gotten quite far by myself – I’d learnt lots about the different craft elements and had some short stories published, I was critiquing other writer’s work and offering mine up for criticism – but I still had a lot to learn. I’d begun the novel that would be Infinite Sky, and that was what I worked on throughout the MA.

It’s a very personal choice, and an expensive one, so I wouldn’t really want to advise anybody if it was right for them or not, but I was absolutely sure it was right for me, and I had a mostly wonderful experience. As for PhDs in Creative Writing, I don’t really have a stance on them. What’s yours?

Personally I don’t see the point of doing a PhD in Creative Writing – unless you’re researching something about the craft of writing and how it relates to academia or society. If I were to do a PhD, it would not be creative – it would be academic, moistly academic, but academic nonetheless. How about other members of Storyslingers and guests to this blog? Comment if you have an opinion, we’d love to hear. – Jennifer B

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

Lots! The one I’m always banging on about, is: be specific. The specific becomes poetic. It can make your writing lively, make the reader trust you know what you are talking about, and also bring original detail into your prose, which makes your writing stand out.

And have you ever received any tough criticism that has helped (or hindered) you in the long-run?

Oh, I’ve received a lot of criticism. My first few workshops at UEA were pretty tough in that respect. Public humiliation is a great way to learn fast, it turns out… A writing colleague suggested I might love my characters too much to make bad things happen to them (a prerequisite for story, generally) and that helped me to break out of that pattern (read Infinite Sky and you’ll see how far I’ve come from there). I’ve been accused of soppiness and cheesiness. Sentimentality. Lately, I most often get accused of bleakness, which is a bit of a turnaround. Perhaps I’ve taken the soppy accusations too much to heart…

Can you share your writing process with us? (like, do you plot everything out before starting, or does it come out in more organic fashion?)

I try to plot, and when that fails, or dries up, I go back to writing. I move back and forth between the two arenas. With my second novel, I have been doing a lot more planning in the hope of writing faster, though that hasn’t been entirely successful. I always think of myself as a ‘pantser’ as the Americans say (as opposed to a plotter), but actually, I have always worked from a plan. I abandon it very easily when the writing is going well, that’s all.

Lastly, what are you working on at the moment? How does writing the second book compare with writing the first?

I’m working on a follow up to Infinite Sky, and have found writing the second book fairly hard going. Writing under contract is very different to writing for yourself, and it brings a different set of anxieties. Rather than worrying if a publisher will ever buy the book, you worry that your publisher will regret buying it.

It can be difficult to remember that your polished, published book was ever a confused, uncertain mess stored in your laptop. I think it’s like you say though: writing is just hard. Maybe the book you are currently writing always seems like the most difficult book.

Anyhow, I don’t know how to do anything else either, so I’ll keep plodding away at it…

Thanks very much!
Thanks for having me!

Liked this? Check out Chelsey’s blog for more: http://cjflood.blogspot.co.uk/ and follow her on twitter @cjflood_author

Storyslingers is also on twitter, sort of, when we remember to tweet, every other month or so 😀 @Storyslingers