Kate Belle, author of Being Jade, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Kate Belle

author of Being Jade and The Yearning

Ten Terrifying Questions
____________

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Kerang, Victoria, to a band of wild gypsies who taught me to embrace change and adventure. By the time I was seven we’d moved six times (my dad worked for the State Electricity Commission in the days when governments still owned utilities). I spent my primary school years in very gorgeous Benalla where I spent summers challenging myself to billy-goat hop across the rocks of the breakwater without stopping or slipping. At fourteen we moved to Geelong. I was grumpy about it for years. When I arrived in Melbourne to study I followed the whispering of my gypsy blood and moved every six months – mostly because what we learn in childhood we can’t help but repeat as adults.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At twelve I wanted to be an amazing, famous, loved writer. I used to mock up my own magazines, including the ads.
At eighteen I wanted to study journalism at RMIT but ended up studying Applied Chemistry instead. Because it was expected of me. Because I was smart enough to do it. It made me utterly miserable.
At thirty I wanted to be free of the nine to five grind so I decided to become an astrologer. It never took off. It was about then I started secretly writing again.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

That all of us are meant to find a soul mate and once we do our lives will be perfect. Soul mates are not necessarily destined to be in our lives forever. And if they arrive, they are not there to make us happy. They are there to help us learn and grow. The only person responsible for your happiness is you.

Author: Kate Belle

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

The central Australian desert, while not a human made work of art, is a natural work of art that had an incredibly powerful effect on me. I lived in Alice Springs for three months in the late eighties. The light, the colours, the acres of sky and the deep, ancient thrum of the land has stayed with me. The stories of our First People, I could feel them in the landscape, running like rivers beneath my feet. Whenever I hit a tough spot in my life I long to go back.

Oddly, a profound work of literary non-fiction by Rian Milan, My Traitor’s Heart, had a big impact. He is an Afrikaner who returns to South Africa after eight years of exile. The sharp edged honesty of the writing, the depth to which he was willing to explore his own innate racism, struck me to the core. It made me realise the power of the word, its ability to bear witness to things that can’t otherwise be named.
All music inspires me as a writer. All my novels have a soundtrack. The music and the writing are intrinsically linked. Melodies carry words on their backs.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

Writing is like breathing to me, I can’t not do it. From the moment I discovered crayons I’ve been writing. I have written a diary since I was eight (yes, I still have them all).

I also have a tendency to catastrophise. I discovered pouring my personal melodrama into stories was a far healthier way to express it. I no longer think I’m going to walk into a public toilet and discover a blood-smeared body in the cubicle (you can’t imagine the relief). Besides, I can’t draw.

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Being Jade was frightening and tough to write. Not just because it’s written from the point of view of Banjo in death, watching his family fall apart after his untimely demise and wondering if his wife, Jade, ever really loved him, but because of its big themes. It’s about unconditional love and the internal sacrifices we are willing to make to so we can keep our relationships going. It questions the restrictions and expectations we place on women as mothers, lovers and wives. It explores how much of ourselves we chose to hide in order to be accepted, why we make those choices and what they cost us personally.

Being Jade
is part mystery, part love story, part family drama. It begs the question, if you were to die today, what would you leave behind?

Grab a copy of Being Jade here

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

Something to talk about. Some new ideas. A few questions. Some new insights. An after-shadow of revelation that stays with them for a while. And, of course, a deeply satisfying and pleasurable reading experience.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

There are too many writers, both know and unknown, I admire to list them all. I guess I am most impressed by those who have stayed the course and offered something back to the world from their success. Writers like Alice Walker, Tim Winton, Tara Moss, and so many others, who are so generous with their knowledge, wisdom and time and who use their skill to have a positive influence on our thinking and attitudes. People like Anita Heiss and Arnold Zable who bring our attention to unheard voices and educate the world through story. Writers who bravely ask the difficult questions, who take personal risks in pursuit of truth, who bare their own wounds so the rest of us might learn and heal, these are the people I most admire.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

Pulitzer Prize? (Kidding.)
My main aim is to be making a modest living through the realm of writing in the next few years, which is notoriously difficult to do in Australia.
There are three more complicated novels I want to write. I’d like to dip a toe into self-publishing and have a go at a children’s book and maybe young adult too. I want to teach. It would be nice to win a modest novel prize someday. I’d also like to stop biting my nails. Awful darned habit.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Hold your nerve. Self-doubt, self-criticism and ego will try to bring you undone, but don’t let them. Prove to your subconscious that you’re serious about this writing game. Let it know that you intend to sit and write, no matter what crap it throws at you, no matter how it tries to distract you. Don’t let negativity have its way, be prepared to work long and hard and show all that internal negative babble who’s boss.

Kate, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Being Jade here

GUEST BLOG: My Romantic Achilles Heel – by bestselling author Kate Belle

Bestselling author Kate Belle on the expectation of a HEA

I have an affliction as a ‘romance’ writer. I’m not good at happy endings. Actually, it’s more of a curse than an affliction, because romance readers expect their Happy Ever After (HEA) fix, it’s why they read the genre. For God’s sake, in romance HEA’s are mandatory! It’s part of the genre’s promise.

Believe me, I’ve tried, God knows I’ve tried, but to no avail. My story’s endings are always tinged with bitter-sweet. My questionable romantic history probably has a lot to answer for here. My bent out of shape, battered heart looks more like a returned WWII soldier than a thing of worthy of loving. I’m not doing a poor-me act here, I know I’m not alone in the ‘I stuffed it up’ stakes. But for some reason, perhaps the way my psyche is built, instead of hungering for inspiring stories where true love ultimately finds a way like everyone else, I hunger for truth. I want to know how to survive a broken heart, humiliating mistakes and choosing the wrong guy. I want to understand how to come out of those experiences wiser and stronger.

Which isn’t, on the whole, what a romance writer is supposed to do. Most romance authors offer their characters bright, sunny futures as couples. I offer mine tough choices and the opportunity to seek a deeper truth about themselves in love. Which leads me to wonder, can I call truly myself a romance writer? Am I failing reader’s expectations by classifying my books as ‘romance’? Am I just upsetting people by not delivering on the widely accepted promise of a HEA?

Kate BelleThe truth is I can only write the stories that grow within me. Everything I write comes from a deep and honest place. I draw it up from the murky subconscious and half the time I don’t know what’s coming until I start typing. If I try for a neatly-tied-up-in-a-bow HEA ending, all sweet and romantic and perfect, I feel I’m betraying the origins of my story in some way. If I force it I fear I’ll be outed as a fake. So best I be honest, ‘woman-up’ and admit it.

I’m crap at romantic Happy Ever After.

The uncomfortable ramification of this revelation is realising I’m a black sheep in Australia’s golden stables of pedigree romance writers (we have so many of them, just look at Booktopia’s Romance posts for July). What right do I have, with my subversive stories, to even lay claim to being a romance writer? Am I traitor to the cause? The ultimate wanna-be?

My answer arrived recently in a timely email from a reader who’d received The Yearning as a birthday gift. This is what some of she said:

I have to say, the book resonated with me in a way that no other book has. … I like that it didn’t deliver the cliche ending, it kept things real but also left you hanging somewhat – yearning almost – giving the reader the opportunity to draw their own conclusions about some of the story. … I cannot stop raving about the impact that this book had on me.  (Reprinted with permission)

Thankfully books find their natural habitat once they are released into the wild. People read them and either allow their expectations to be shifted, or push the book aside because it doesn’t give them what they were looking for. As it turns out, Happy Ever After doesn’t always have to be about neat bows. It can be about wisdom, strength and the confidence to step into a new future with a clearer vision of what we want. While my stories may not fit romance in the purest sense, they are about love. The journey’s my characters take are inspired by what I’ve learned from the School of Romantic Failures and my endings, while not always neat, contain the most important ingredient in a HEA – hope.

——————————————————–

Kate is a multi-published author who writes dark, sensual contemporary women’s fiction. She lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter and a menagerie of neurotic pets.

Kate holds a tertiary qualification in chemistry, half a diploma in naturopathy and a diploma in psychological astrology. Kate believes in living a passionate life and has ridden a camel through the Australian desert, fraternised with hippies in Nimbin, had a near birth experience and lived on nothing but porridge and a carrot for 3 days.

Head over to Kate’s website http://www.ecstasyfiles.com, like her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/katebelle.x, and don’t forget to follow her on twitter at @ecstasyfiles

2013 Romance Writers of Australia Conference: Top 10 moments

Recently our Romance Specialist Haylee Nash flew the flag for Booktopia at the 2013 Romance Writers of Australia conference in Fremantle. These are her stories.

dancing up a stormFor those of you who have never been to a Romance Writers of Australia (RWA) Conference, or indeed any kind of romance conference, let me paint you a picture. Imagine a modestly sized room, filled with women. Hundreds of women. Each of these women are writers, romance writers, who spend their day behind a computer (if they’re lucky enough to be able to live from their writing) and in the rest of society are often derided for writing “those books”. So it’s fair to say that these women don’t often get the pleasure of speaking about romance, certainly not with fellow enthusiasts. Now to this joyous scene add oodles of champagne, a nautical theme and a conference venue that  is far enough away from most attendees to require staying at the hotel, sans husbands, significant others, kids, pets or any other responsibilities. Into this melee I walked, and, rather than wincing at the noise and leavig, I grabbed a champagne and, with stupidly big grin on my face, entered the fray. Continue reading

Love and Other Firsts – Booktopia’s Haylee Nash chats with up and coming author Kate Belle

There’s nothing quite as nostalgia-inducing as first love. Get any random group of female friends and throw in a few bottles of wine and chances are first love will come up. Chances are this discussion will lead to the discussion of other firsts – the first time you had sex, the first time you moved out, first car.

Kate Belle’s The Yearning explores, in a way that is both raw and poetic, a first love that is also a forbidden love, so Booktopia’s Head of Romance Haylee Nash thought she’d quiz Kate on some of her ‘firsts’.

KateBelle-glamfrontlores1. Who was your first crush?

Prince Charming. There’s a scene in The Yearning where the little girl begs her grandmother to read Snow White to her again so she can gaze in awe at the “…figure drawn tall and manly, riding a powerful white stallion. He wore a tight red vest over his broad chest and his brown boots reached up to thick thighs barely hidden by a royal blue cape. Square-jawed and raven-haired, his image gave her goosebumps…”. The scene is taken from my own childhood. I still remember the picture very clearly and I used to spend my holidays with my grandparents pretending Prince Charming was my boyfriend.

2. Describe the first place you lived when you moved out of home?

When I was 18 I moved from Geelong into Medley Hall, a Melbourne University student residence. I had the dungeon room, a dark little corner on the ground floor facing out onto the lane. The Drummond Street, Carlton building was very old and gothic, and was reputed to have once been a well-known gaming house and brothel. It was noisy. And fun. And I learnt to eat swede, which was bloody awful.

3. What was your first embarrassing memory?

Ha! Farting while I was learning gymnastics in my country home town, Benalla. I was probably only 8 at the time and the instructor was teaching us rolls and every time I tried I let off a ripper. I was so humiliated I refused to go back.

4. When was the first time you told someone you loved them?

Honestly I can’t recall. I suspect it might have been my first serious boyfriend at the end of high school. Can’t imagine I meant it.

Oh wait, I remember now, it was my best girlfriend in high school. We were inseparable. We had the traditional teenage sleepovers, eating potato chips and watching lame Godzilla movies. I think we exchanged ‘I love you’s one night after we’d talked at length about how hopeless boys were and decided that one of us should be a boy so we could get married. Days of innocence.

5. Describe your first kiss.

Like a threshing machine in my mouth. Muck like the swede, it was also bloody awful. Can’t even remember his name now – go figure.

6. What was the first lie you ever told?

Lie? A lie wouldn’t ever besmirch these lips (smirks).

7. When did you first get drunk?

My 19th birthday. My university friends bought me a bottle of Bailey’s. We drank a couple of mug full’s (yes, student life was pretty classy in those days) in my dorm room over lunch break and came back to our prac lesson (I was doing a chemistry degree) silly as wheels. It was fairly pleasant really. Don’t even recall a hangover.

8. What was the first book that really affected you?

Are you ready? Jonathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. I discovered it on my grandmother’s bookshelf when I was ten-ish (I think). There was something in the story that really resonated with me. I remember reading it again and again every time I went there for holidays, until she relented and let me take it home. I still have it. It’s in happy company with a number of other Richard Bach books on my shelf.

9. What was the first thing you bought with your first paycheque?

Do you have any idea how long ago that was? Probably something frivolous. Like a Stevie Nicks LP from JB’s Second Hand record shop. Yes. I am old.

10. Who was your first friend?

This Easter I attended my first friend’s wedding on St Kilda beach. We met at St Joseph’s Primary School in Benalla and have stayed friends our entire lives, in spite of the two of us moving to different places and in very different circles. Other than my family, she’s the person I’ve known the longest. I love the shared history we have. It’s unique.

_________________________________

Kate Belle lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter, and a menagerie of neurotic pets. She holds a tertiary qualification in chemistry, half a diploma in naturopathy and a diploma in psychological astrology. Kate believes in living a passionate life and has ridden a camel through the Australian desert, fraternised with hippies in Nimbin, had a near birth experience and lived on nothing but porridge and a carrot for 3 days.

You can follow Kate on Twitter @ecstasyfiles

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,048 other followers

%d bloggers like this: