Kirsten Krauth’s first novel just_a_girl was published in 2013, she blogs at Wild Colonial Girl, and writes on regional arts for ABC Arts Online. She will appear at two sessions at the upcoming Sydney Writers’ Festival in May:
Here and Now: Debut Fiction, Monday 19 May, 10–11.10am, Carrington Hotel, Katoomba. (More info – tickets for session at venue or day passes available.)
Forest for the Trees: Writing and Publishing in 2014, how to publish and market a debut novel, Thursday 22 May, State Library of NSW, 10am–4.30pm. (More info – tickets available from SWF website.)
We were fortunate enough to ask some questions of Kirsten in this recent interview, and you can find my review HERE.
Hi Kirsten, welcome to Beauty and Lace and thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
Thanks for having me! I really enjoyed seeing your readers’ responses to the review and giveaway, when you posted them… A very interesting mix of ideas.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
I always loved writing from when I could hold a pen. My very first story was when I was about four, helped by my dad, about a stegosaurus called ‘Kirstenbong’. I loved Spike Milligan when I was a kid and making up silly words and rhymes. Now my little boy does it too! After that I wrote lots of short stories, poems, essays, reviews, until I tried my first novel in my mid-30s, which turned into just_a_girl.
Can you tell us a little about your road to publication?
When I first started writing just_a_girl, I wasn’t even thinking about publication. It began as a novella for a research masters in creative writing that I decided to do at University of Sydney – to see if I could write fiction. I really loved the challenges and discipline of writing and it was only after I graduated, with feedback from the writer Sue Woolfe who was my supervisor, that I thought it might find a publisher. I tried and was knocked back a couple of times. UWA were always interested and after a couple of redrafts they took it on! After that it was a breeze. I had a fantastic editor, and the book cover was wonderful too.
Your debut novel ‘just_a_girl’ was released in 2013, can you tell us a little about it?
just_a_girl investigates what it’s like to be a teenage girl these days, and how to parent teenage girls too. The internet, chat rooms, social media bring about many new challenges for parents and have changed the way families operate and negotiate relationships and connections with each other. Layla is provocative and sexually precocious on the outside, but vulnerable and looking for guidance on the inside (as many teenagers are). Her mother Margot struggles to cope. And a Japanese man Tadashi adds another dimension to the book as he finds his own strange ways to deal with loneliness.
What inspired the book?
I used to commute between the Blue Mountains (where the book is set) and Kings Cross in Sydney for four hours a day! I had a lot of time on my hands, and I started listening in to teenage girls hanging out on the trains. I was interested in how their lives were different from my own (teen in the 80s) and what had stayed the same. I was surprised how much they revealed (in front of strangers) about their lives, but also questioned the truth in what they were saying. I also wanted to explore the life of a single parent and how hard it would be to keep up with her daughter’s dalliances.
The writing style you employed is a little different, can you tell us how you came to write it in this way?
I wanted Layla’s voice to be unique, even if that meant it could be challenging at times. The style is short and disjointed sentences, that reflect the way she describes her mind, like a ‘grasshopper’s spring’ jumping from one thought to another in quick succession. I also wanted it to capture the idea of contemporary communication too: texts and chat messaging, quite flat and quick. She uses only the words that are necessary, not fleshing anything out in detail. This is contrasted with Margot, who has long sentences that often go for pages, in a rhythm that can be like prayer. Margot is recovering from depression and trying (often unsuccessfully) to pull herself back from the brink.
Who is your target audience for the book?
The readers who have enjoyed it (and those who would like it, I hope) are generally women who remember well what it was like to be a teen, mothers parenting teens or daughters now — or those currently in their late teens and early twenties. I think most women will relate to it, whether they were rebellious teens or not. It’s about finding connection, and how difficult that can sometimes be. I think it would be an eye-opener too for many men, especially dads of teenage girls.
You run a communications business from home, are a freelance writer and editor as well as editing the NSW Writers’ Centre magazine Newswrite, all while juggling a young family. How do you manage to find the time?
Yes, I’m not sure I ever do find any time! It’s all about priorities, I guess. I love writing fiction but it often has to go at the bottom of the pile after mothering (obviously), and paid work. At the moment I try to dedicate one day a week to giving just_a_girl a little push along. In the future, that will transition to working on the next novel. I can’t wait for that to happen! I love the early stages of a new project.
Are you working on anything new you can tell us about?
Yes! I’m about to start work on a novel set in the place I live now, Castlemaine in rural Victoria. It will weave together stories of women here (both now and in the past). I have just started researching, and the goldfield history is a rich source of material. It looks like it will be quite different to just_a_girl but I’m always fascinated by teenage girls, so I’m sure there will be one or two featured again here…
The About section of your blog states: “My first novel just_a_girl was published by UWA Publishing in June 2013. I’ve heard it said that releasing your novel into the world is like letting your baby crawl across an 8-lane freeway. Let’s see how we go…” So tell us, how did you go?
What a great question! My baby crawled tentatively at first but about halfway across she stood up and toddled upright to the other side. The book has done really well for a debut novel, thanks to bloggers and online readers in particular, and the reviews have been wonderful and thoughtful – better than I dreamed of, really! So the process has been less painful than I imagined…It’s also taken me on all kinds of interesting journeys and I’m about to hit the festival circuit (Clunes and Sydney Writers Festival) for the first time in May, so that’s all new to me too.
What does being a woman mean to you?
It means looking for balance. I have two young children and I love the challenges and joys they present me with every day, and being present for them is important for me too. I don’t want to miss out on the small things because I’m looking out the window distracted by my own ideas. So when I get the chance to write (not often) I do it with blinding speed and discipline, not wasting a second, because time is short. One of the reasons I moved to Castlemaine was because I wanted the chance to be a part of a thriving community, and I have found this to be the case here. Friendship has become very important to me and here I’m surrounded by people with similar interests, who genuinely care for each other, and the environment around them. This is the kind of place where balance is possible. I’m working on it…
Thanks for your time Kirsten.