Kim Kelly

Australian Author

Month: April, 2016

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MOUNTAIN MAGIC

Memory is such a tricky fish, I say it all the time – unreliable, selective, eccentric – and mine sometimes leaves me completely baffled.

Almost three years ago now, while I was waiting for publisher feedback on the first draft of Paper Daisies, I scratched down the opening third of another story, one set in Canberra and the Snowy Mountains high country. It was a tale of soviet spies and shifting identities, full of suspense and political intrigue – and skiing. I’d written it quickly, thrilled by the pace and the taste of something a little different, for me.

Then I gave it to someone to read, and that someone said, ‘Hm. It’s a bit too masculine, this one. If you publish it, you should use a pseudonym. It’s not a Kim Kelly novel.’

I was disappointed at the response but I didn’t have much of a moment to worry about it. Apart from my husband Dean being very ill at the time, I was soon busy with edits for Paper Daisies, and I forgot all about my snowy spy story.

Well, not quite entirely. It’d flit through my mind every so often, but whenever it did the words ‘too masculine’ forced it to flit out again. It was a silly idea, the whole thing, I decided, and I put it away – literally, I filed it on my laptop under ‘story junk’ and didn’t open that file again.

Then, earlier this year, desperate for a holiday, I randomly booked a much needed week away – where? In the Snowies.

Last Sunday, driving out of Canberra, with the wild slopes of the Brindabellas kissing a grey sky, I had a flicker of what seemed like déjà vu before the story came to me again, and I said to Dean, ‘Remember that thing I was writing ages ago? The spy thing? I should look at it again while I’m here.’

‘Yeah,’ Dean laughed. Because of course I’d taken my laptop with me.

And of course I wasn’t going to do any work on this holiday. Was I. No. Neither was Dean.

Driving up towards Charlotte Pass the following day to gaze out at the highest peaks in all Australia, I’d given myself over entirely to the superlative beauty of this country, precipitous shards of craggy granite riven by a thousand sparkling streams – there was little going on in my mind but the theme song from The Man From Snowy River.

Then, while Dean was taking a work call on the side of the mountain in a pocket of clear reception, I found myself looking out over a mad blue creek and thinking, ‘I’ve got to set a story here.’ I even posted a photo of said creek on Facebook, as you do.

Before I realised, truly realised, I already had written a story here, or at least I had begun one.

So, last night, when we got back to our little bolthole in the alpine village of Thredbo, I dared to finally open that file.

And I read the first few chapters in blinking wonder. It’s not how I remembered it. Somehow it’s even better.

 

 

sell yourself

SELLING YOURSELF

I’ve learned an interesting lesson this week about the subtleties of selling that most important of commodities that is yourself – that fine line between appealing to the market and misrepresenting your work and your wares.

Excitingly, I’ve been going through all of the back cover blurbs of my novels looking for ways to refresh them for republication, but in doing that, I’ve noticed how boxed in to the notion of clichéd romantic hooks and passive heroines my original blurbs were.

I have no-one to blame for this but myself, really. Because I’m a book editor who’s been writing blurbs for other authors for twenty years, the publishers of my own novels have tended to say, ‘Hey, Kim, mind writing the back cover copy for us?’

But of course. And in the process I’ve managed to strip my leading ladies of their personality in possibly the most important sales calling card they have: the book description.

Take this snippet from This Red Earth as one of the more startling examples:

It’s 1939, another war in Europe. And Bernie Cooper is wondering what’s ahead for her. She knows Gordon Brock is about to propose. An honest country boy and graduating geologist, he’s a good catch. And she’s going to say no.

She sounds like a vacuous, characterless flake, and he sounds like a cardboard cut-out, compared to what I’ve now changed it to:

On the cusp of summer 1939, another war has begun in Europe. Bernie Cooper is wondering what might be in it for her; she’s looking for adventure, some way to stretch her wings. The boy next door, Gordon Brock, is wondering if Bernie will marry him – before he heads off on his own adventure, his first job as a geologist with an oil company in New Guinea.  

More to the point, the latter more accurately describes the situation. It also dares to include the male protagonist as a character in his own right, which is also more accurately representative of the story considering half the novel is written from his perspective – indeed, from inside his freaking head.

Why then did I tone down Bernie’s sparkle and make Gordon disappear? I can only suppose that at some level I thought this would be more attractive to readers. When I look at it now it only seems insulting to readers, and insulting to me, dumbing down my work this way.

And I’ve made a promise to myself here – and to you, too – that I’ll never do that again.