Monday, April 02, 2007

Interview with the excellent Brionie

Hi, My sincere apologies for the huge delay posting this year. So much for new year's resolutions...

I had a strange but wonderful new year so far. Just recently I got a copy of the latest 'Wet Ink' magazine, a great journal for new writing, (made slightly more exctiing - for me anyway - with an interview with me in it). It's a cool mag, mostly because the other writers in this magazine are wonderful and I was flattered to be included. 'Wet Ink' is avalable from good bookstores (I picked up mine from the beautiful Mary Martins on Rundle Street but they also kindly subscribed me for a year, something I recommend to anyone interested in reading new writing, but also wanting to become a writer. It's a really gorgeous magazine. Check out their website at

Each new day and year seems pretty amazing for me, someone who seems to stumble into danger with alarming speed - I had two (reasonably essential fingernails) removed on my left hand (they got smashed up on Chrstimas Eve trying to get the Mini Cooper out of a hotel carpark and when pulling the garage door back down - we could break into - and out of- the garage because the doors were exactly the same as the ones in my apartment - I smashed the tip of each finger and in a freak out of pain I ran out into the road, nearly got hit by a car, was saved by another car of very kind teenage boys who helped me back to the footpath - and then spent a while soaking my hands in the ocean.

I had what a friend kindly described as 'penis fingers' for a couple weeks before two dodgy ones grew disgustingly foul 'proud flesh' out the side of the nails and half covering the nail itself. This stuff was so gross that in the end I couldn't even move the fingers because the air waving past the lumpy red growth made me want to faint while screaming.

I have no idea why I'm looking so snooty in this photo. My apologies (also note the bird poo on my back. I have a mirror by my front door for just such moments but clearly I wasn't oprepared for a photo or I'd also have done something about my eyebrows.

I'm lucky my dad is a doctor and he got me an emergency appointment with plastic surgeon (and glass artist), Randal Sach who squeezed the operation in during his lunch hour. He was wonderful although I admit I didn't quite grasp what 'removing two nail plates' actually meant for a couple minutes and then sort of fell sideways and nearly smashed his excellent glass sculptures. So much for being as brave as Cassidy...

So, Yes, I'm left-handed, and being unable to type or write all day made me see how cranky I get when I can't translate ideas, images, conversations and characters elsewhere - onto paper. Also, my two fingers felt GROSS, just as you would expect them to feel without nails on them and they both bled so much I had to change these bandages, well, a LOT. And it HURT.

I have worked and written something every day since I left uni and, well, I couldn't quite adjustt to not being able to do so. My brain ran over with ideas abnd I quickly learned to type with two fingers, and found it easier than writing by hand, so even the shopping list was typed and bullet pointed... (Funny how staying at home for two weeks makes one very specific about things, such as sandwiches - "tomatoes - cherry ONLY" etc)

The good thing about this stumpy two weeks was that I got to watch a whole bunch of cool documentaries and then re-watch the first few seasons of 'Buffy', and 'Angel' So I was actually pretty happy despite the incredible grossness and pain - before the painkillers ran out and I was left with seven fingers and two flesh stumps - gross. These weeks provoked deep admiration for anyone with a handicap (I had to ask the girl at the local deli to do up my bra, etc...) and I knew I had it easy compared to a lot of people.

My pal (we met through my mailing list and book) Brionie, conducted the folloiwung interview with me for her English assignment. She asked good questions and I was painfully honest. Fingers crossed she gets a A++ but in the meantime, I thought it might be useful to readers not in her class.

In other news, I presented the year twelve students who received full marks in English with their certificates at Government House and then I nicked off with this huge novelty size biography they'd done for me in that sat in the background while I shook hands with loads of students and all their parents as each parent went from proud of their kids to being pissed off with their digital cameras.

A couple weeks ago I rescued a new, wonderful bird called Spencer, who is beautiful (see pictures) but has a typical 'caged bird' sadness which is feather plucking. He was miserable. Since I brought 'him' back from the pet store (we'll not know if he's a boy or a girl because of his stunning colouring - girl's are usually defined by the ladder effect of their lower feathers, but white feathers eliminates this opportunity) Lucy has fallen madly in love with him, and finally (thankfully) left Jones alone to complete his chores in peace (stroll the house, warn me of any 'danger' outside, check all the drains, and snooze) things are very peaceful again.

The only negative to this new love affair in the house is that if I walk off unwittingly with either of them on my shoulder there is sudden and deafening protest. Oh, and Lucy has decided the sideboard housing the TV is her love nest and sits in there all fluffed up and cooing to Spencer who jkust stares at her like she's nuts. Dr Anderson at out vet said that just because Lucy's all in love doesn't mean Spencer is a boy bird, they could be in a saucy alternative relationship, so it's going to be fun to watch. Also I spritz Spencer each day to get him preening again, as he is missing a lot of feathers. So far he seems pretty good, but it's a condition that's very hard to treat, and from what i read, the best medicine is happiness, so we're doing our best.

Interview for those interested in my writing now and my writing history and inspiration. Vote now and help Brionie get an A.

1. How long have you been writing for?

KB: I used to write poems on family holidays. Terrible rhyming poems about what we were doing (‘We’re driving on the Hay Plain, My sister is kicking me again,’ - stuff like that. Clearly, I held a lot of promise… (Joke). I wrote my first book in grade five (‘S.O.J – Son of Jaws’) and I wrote my first novel, (‘PINK’) when I was about sixteen. I never thought I could do it as a career though.

2. What influenced you to become a writer?

KB: Reading. I love reading and regularly reread a lot of favourite books. I am a pretty nosey person and am very interested in people – ordinary people, and what they do and think. So writing sort of sprang from there. Trying to turn that fairly unformed concept into a commercial novel of interest to others was a hard slog, however.

3. Before novels, did you write for a magazine?

KB: Yes, I did an internship (work experience within a Degree – I was studying Journalism at the Magill campus in South Australia) at a street magazine called OTS (On the Street) and did a lot of freelance (emphasis on ‘free’) work for various other start-up magazine and street mags.

I got a few short-lived gigs on various magazines but never liked it. I wanted to write about people who weren’t in the public eye, so journalism wasn’t really my gig, but you can only try. Doing everything you can think of within the realm of the source of your interest really helps narrow down the scope. A LOT. There was pretty much only one thing I really loved to do and that was sit at home and make up stories. I knew it was virtually impossible to make a living this way so for a few years I explored work I could do while also writing, but I found the other work just took over, and kind of made me depressed. The kind of work you can do when you’re only skill is in an area you don’t like, is pretty miserable. So it didn’t help me feel inspired to write and I dropped most of it, went on the dole for six months, did a small business course through them, and just started taking my writing more seriously on the whole. I also started liking it even more because I found what I wanted to write – comic screwball crime novels.

On the road to this point, I did a lot of other writing-related stuff in order to build up a decent CV. I worked a lot of jobs (both in writing and publishing, and in pubs, cafes and other totally dodgy work I won’t go into here for fear of freaking out my lovely readers) where the only thing I got out of it, besides a small wage (usually enough to buy a pint of beer) was the knowledge that this was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life so I’d have to keep trying other stuff.

I’m essentially kind of lazy and impatient, so if something doesn’t really excite me, I tend to stay under the covers and just distract myself from life that is rapidly going down the toilet by rereading books. I soon realised that if I was going to make any kind of living at anything it would have to be something that made me excited, happy, proud, or I’d just never get around to it (and I'd get hideous bed sores).

I’d lived on very little money for quite a while and knew I preferred that to work some shit job I hated just to have a place to sleep that wasn’t the home base for the local earwig community wasn’t worth it.

As a side-bar, I seriously hate those little buggers. I’m an animal and nature lover - see: nerdy tree hugger)and I take spiders and cockroaches and bees (even though I’m allergic to them) outside to safety, but If I see an earwig I stomp on the little buggers with my boots. They’re just…creepy. Far too sneaky looking to belong to the impressive world of bugs. I think it’s those mean little pincers they drag around behind them. However, I digress…

4. What do you love about your job?

KB: Being able to live several lives at once, and to have the one I’m writing be something under my control, because the other (the real life) certainly isn’t. I love being able to claim movies and books and travel as a tax deduction for research, I love meeting other writers and readers of my books, and I love being able to listen to music and the radio all day and work with one or more of my birds (two cockatiels, one honeyeater) on my shoulder. (Charlie, my honeyeater, is currently in love with my laptop, but luckily he’s so tiny and light he can hop all over the keyboard and never press a key and change anything when I’m not looking). I love being able to tell stories that matter to me, about things and people I enjoy spending time with, even if I have made them up…

There’s a whole hell of a lot to love about this job, not the least being working in my sweats in the middle of the night and being able to sleep in afterwards (I write better at night, I’m a huge fan of night-time and the strange stuff that goes on when people think no one is looking). Being nosy helps a lot in this business –my parrot, Jones, is the eyes and ears of my street, so he’ll call out too me if anything juicy is going on – and with a brothel across the road, a pub on the corner and a motor shop full of amazing hot roads and young mechanics just a few doors down, it’s a rare day when something good doesn’t happens. Jones is my sleuthing sidekick.

5. Is it hard to come up with ideas for your books?

KB: Not for the first few novels (THE VODKA DIALOGUE, THE HAPPINESS PUNCH, THE MILLIONAIRE FLOAT), I had ideas squirming out all over the place. For the last one (THE LADY SPLASH) I was more structured and able to plot better, it was less an accumulation of ideas from 30 years of life, and more organised in terms of what I wanted to say and have happen. With that said, my editor at Hachette worked with me for a while doing some strenuous structural editing because I’m still a character-based writer rather than someone who plans out plot within each chapter and novel to the end. Sometimes I have no idea how the characters will get out of things until they do.

The next books are crammed full of things I’ve been researching in the past year. It’s been fun. So the answer is no. I never have problem finding characters, they just sort of ‘appear’ and scenes play out in my mind and I write them down. Here's me in my nurse's uniform. I spent so much time at strip clubs, sex shops and stuff that I decided some training was in order. I admit I don't have a great bedside manner but I can do a great hospital corner.

On that topic, I have so many people trying to give me ideas for my books and people who spend any amount of time with me will usually say ‘I bet you could put that in a book’ but I can’t, it’s usually actually kind of a dull thing they remark on and I never know what to say. They might be talking about some incident in their family, some fairly tepid exchange, and I think, ‘Have you actually ever READ my books?’ because , well, the Cassidy and Phoebe novels pretty much thrive on saucy, outrageous adventure stuff…, and I love pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in my books. Also it just irks me that people seem to think writers needs ideas. What we really need is a couple extra versions of ourselves to write all the ideas and stories down. Now that’s what I need. Wow, that’s a great idea. I should totally get one of those. Kirsty # 2. She could do the dishes and stuff too.

My testy but honest answer to anyone who wants to share their great story idea with me (often for a ‘small fee’) is, “Write the story yourself. I triple dog dare you to do it. And then send it to Driftwood (a service I run for writers where industry professionals and published authors in a variety of genres give writers feedback on their manuscripts) for assessment so we can make it the best manuscript ever before you submit it to a literary agent.” It curious that a lot of people think writing a book just comes naturally and that once they have the time they’ll sit down and write a best-seller.

6. What influenced you to write ‘chick lit’?

KB: Ha! Good question. I kind of hated the genre at first, but there are so many prejudices and assumptions about genres like this (science fiction, crime, romance, etc) which have certain expectations. Readers have expectations and it’s up to the reader to meet those, but also break them if they can. I get a lot of manuscripts coming through Driftwood and so many people say, “It’s got romance in it, and it deals with women and their careers and troubles when they hit thirty but it’s way smarter than chick lit”, or “it’s set in the future and no one speaks English but it’s not science fiction, it’s too literary for that.” That’s really naive and annoying.

Many specific genres such as these have a huge range of styles and voices within them and also cater to a lot of different people, but there are some brilliant, very literary, smart and funny books in these genres and chick lit is not all dumb stuff about shoes and hairstyles. Most of the best ones are about a lot of issues in a woman’s life. Within this genre I’ve read about death and eating disorders and suicide and career issues and everything else that occurs in life.

It’s not enough to be funny and talk about ‘current’ fashions - the story and voice and characters have to be there or the book won’t sell. I work at trying to do that in my own books but I don’t think you ever really can see your own writing objectively. That’s where feedback from people (such as people who’ve subscribed to my mailing list) comes in very handy.

Reviews in magazines and newspapers are interesting, but they don’t sell books and they are not often a good indication of how the book is doing in the marketplace. Too often I’ve seen someone review a book of mine by saying how they hate romance, or that this isn’t their kind of book, so I’ve got to wonder why on earth they were asked to review it. I always give manuscripts to assessors in Driftwood to people who would choose to read that genre (travel, fantasy, Young Adult fiction, etc) otherwise the feedback doesn’t hold any weight.

I have a lot of respect for the chick lit tag now but at the time I wrote THE VODKA DIALOGUE I’d not read anything in this genre except for Jennifer Crusie, and Melissa Bank and mostly I liked Marian Keye’s books because despite the often drippy central character I realised her growth and maturity was the crux of the novel. At first these characters irritated me but now I see what she’s trying to do (and succeeding). In Jennifer Crusie’s books the blokes were very Alpha Male types and there were lots of dogs and creativity and crime in it. And often the ‘good’ guys (and girls) are on the ‘wrong’ side of the law which I really love.

Nothing says fun to me more than criminals as a central character. I love it in books and movies and every now and then in life. But that’s a secret. Anyway, I did a lot of research after I got the idea for the Cassidy books and found a lot of people trash the genre (but the sales are extraordinary, as are those for the much maligned Romance genre as well), and while there were loads of books I hated (mostly the ones involving shopping, shoes and high end clothing labels) there was also a bunch I liked. So I like chick lit now and I’m proud to be put in this genre but I’m also put into the romance genre, the humour genre, and the crime genre, so I can walk into a bookstore and have no idea where I might find my books. And believe me, I do look.

7. What is coming next for Phoebe Banks?

KB: Ah, travel, scary dudes, dopey dudes, love troubles, a couple of hair changes (which I’ve been experimenting with on my own hair, and having a great time), on the road adventures and some really dangerous shootouts. I have a thing for tension in enclosed places so when I was in Mildura researching her trip there I had a poke around a couple of great hotels and while there were some glamorous ones, I really loved the long, flat, kind of daggy Flag-style motels, so the book central action scenes are played out in a couple of motel rooms (the type with the hatch for the staff to slide your breakfast tray in and those tiny little bars of soap, and the triangle fold on the loo paper and ‘sanitary seal’ on the loo that tries to impress the discerning hotel guest with this kind of FBI crime scene tape business but the ‘sanitary seal’ could just as easy have been re-used dozens of times and just plonked on a loo that’s just been wiped over with a bit of spit and an old tissue). I’ve worked in a lot of crappy jobs and I see where the short cuts are made and it’s not pretty… You might notice I love weird details like this.

I travelled a lot with my family when I was a kid and so a lot of these Flag style motels have heaps of good and bad memories for me, so when I’m writing I can visualise a lot of details, which is handy.

9. What can we expect for Cassidy Blair to come up against?

KB: Ah, so many things. The following is a sneak peek into the book I’m currently writing. The blurb below will probably change somewhat before it goes to print (usually write these and my editor tweaks them – it’s one of the parts of writing I really love. Once I’ve got the ‘back of the book blurb’ style right, I’m good to go with the actual novel…)

There are a couple of guys in her life, one making trouble, the other, making a hell of a lot more trouble, but it‘s more of the nice kind. And now Cassidy’s seriously conflicted. She loves Sam, right? So why does this new guy keep striding about in her dreams without, well, his strides on…

Cassidy has to work out where her head is really at, and what she wants from the future beyond a triple scoop of meringue ice cream and a full-time ladies maid.

Cocktail Recipe

Chocolate liqueur
Chambord liqueur
Quarters of lemon
Two shot glasses and two small plates

Half fill one shot with Chambord, and then carefully fill with the chocolate liqueur so that it layers. Fill the other glass with tequila. Sprinkle sugar onto one plate and coffee onto the other and press the lemon slices onto the plates in turn, so one side is covered in coffee, the other in sugar. Take the shot of tequila, then press the lemon straight into your mouth and remove, and then sip the soothing chocolate/jam dessert shot

The Tequila Bikini

Someone is out to prove that the crappy bumper sticker 'Bad Girl' is really a tautology.

Cassidy's no good brother moves back to Adelaide and within days it's up to Cassidy to keep him from making a hopeless bid for one of her friends, and getting into a disastrous business deal in the process. A business run by her good friend, Mike.

So when Cassidy starts nosing around in everyone else’s business, she starts to smell something very funky indeed. Is her brother in more serious trouble, or is she playing into his rather clammy hands?

And so, on one sunny Adelaide day when she should be sharing some rather surprising information with the local police, and/or having another of the donuts that have already caused her to bust out of her once perfect pencil skirt, she finds herself standing on a building ledge ten stories up and she’s having a little trouble admiring the view.

In THE TEQUILA BIKINI, Cassidy discovers that her gene pool needs serious chlorination if she's ever going to convince Sam's parents she's a damn fine catch. The problem is, this time around, Sam has some pretty incredible competition. But after Cassidy’s latest adventure, does he still want to be in the game?

11. If you were a random object what would you be?

KB: Ahhh. I think either the pane of glass in a jumbo jet, the inside one, so I get to watch the fascinating activities of hundreds of strangers jammed in together for a very long period of time, but also get to be up high in the sky, flying and seeing the earth OR, a dollar coin. I’d have to pray someone didn’t chuck me in a vault where I’d die of boredom or madness (often the same thing) but rather I’d hope that I’d get to travel around and, well, eavesdrop on people.

I guess I’m just insufferably nosey, huh?

Thanks! Kiss someone you love today! Yes, right now! Go on, they'll love it.

Listening to: 'Twinlights' by The Cocteau Twins. It instantly calms me down.
Eating: Easter Eggs. I love the Red Tulip Elegant Rabbit and the Zoo Train. I've been trying to find the Dragon (which opens its mouth when you pull the carboard tag) but I think they've stopped making it. I have been eating ONLY easter eggs in the misguided impression that I will get less chubby this way...
Thinking about: The ocean. I have a DEEP yearning to go on holiday and read and write and listen to the waves and... just sit. I think I've been working nights for too long now.
Watching: Angel Season Five. Hating Cordelia's short hair.
Wearing: Blue Victoria Secret baby doll nightie under wrap dress. (Looking into all the great ranges of underwear as research for the Cassidy Blair was bloody inspired!
Reading: 'Going Wrong' by Ruth Rendell


Anonymous Anonymous said...

No Way,
You posted the interview! How Cool!

10:21 am, April 23, 2007  
Blogger Kate B said...

Hey Kirsty,

I read the blurb for Tequila Bikini in your blog... and the sentence below has put me on edge!

'she finds herself standing on a building ledge ten stories up and she’s having a little trouble admiring the view.'

Can't wait till the book comes out!

3:22 pm, April 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the pink Streaks by the way!!!!LOL

10:52 pm, April 24, 2007  
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