Kate Kelsen has received recognition from literary awards and competitions around Australia, including the Cancer Council Literary Awards, Alan Marshall Short Story Award, and Warrambucca Books Spooky But True Competition. At twenty-one years of age Kate published her debut novel The Wilted Rose, a novel inspired by the true story of a Brisbane family’s experience with mental illness during the 1960s. Guests at the book launch included representatives from various community groups associated with the book’s subject matter, including mental health organisations and local historical societies.
In 2014 and 2015, the Hunter Writers Centre consecutively selected Kate’s entries to Grieve Writing Competition for publication in the competition’s annual anthology. In 2015 her entry, a flash fiction story titled No Questions Asked was also chosen for the inaugural Hunter Writers Centre Award. In 2015, Kate’s story The Other McEllison Boy was selected as a finalist in the Reader’s Digest 100 Word Short Story Competition.
In 2016 Kate has published a collection of short stories, titled The New Neighbors, and Paid To Dance: Stripping Past and Present, a comprehensive insight into the stripping industry. In her writing, Kate takes a particular interest in exploring various human experiences and perspectives, using her writing to help to share people’s stories in the wider community.
Kate lives on the Gold Coast, Australia. [Excerpt from Kate’s website!]
Q. What got you interested in writing?
My interest in storytelling began around age two. I would draw pages of stick figure characters like a cartoon strip, and my mother used to sit with me while I explained to her who the characters were and what they were doing in each frame. My dad supplied the paper, bringing home stacks of scrap paper from work for me to use. Mum glued many of these drawings into scrapbooks, and I still have some of these today!
Through primary school my storytelling progressed to include a few words to accompany each picture, and by the time I reached high school I had dropped the drawings altogether and was writing short stories and full-length novel manuscripts.
Q. How long have you been writing?
In high school I decided I wanted to get serious about my writing, and in Year 9 I enrolled in the Comprehensive Writing Course with The Writing School Australia, which I completed after leaving school. In 2010, at age 21 and after three years of hard work, I completed and published the manuscript for The Wilted Rose, my first book, a creative nonfiction novel about a family struggling with mental illness throughout the 1960s and 70s.
Q. Do you have any goals/projects in the pipeline?
In July of this year I published Asha’s Story Part Two, the third and final installment in the Paid To Dance series, a series which tells the stories of women who have worked as dancers in strip clubs in Australia and around the world. Now that that is finished, in the second half of 2018 I want to start work on a collection of stories about women who have traveled to unusual or dangerous places around the world, or who have overcome personal limitations in order to achieve their travel goals. For example, a friend of mine who is 80% blind has traveled through South-East Asia, Bangladesh and India. Another has traveled to North Korea, and another through Iran and Pakistan.
Q. What do you like most about writing?
Writing has always been a source of great strength for me. My early childhood was plagued with illness, learning difficulties, developmental and behavioural problems. I was an extremely shy and self-conscious child, and struggled to maintain friendships. I spent hours in my bedroom after school each day drawing and writing. It was an escape for me, something I could do aside from all the things I couldn’t because of my cognitive limitations. My writing continues to provide me with that same strength and sense of accomplishment.
Q. What genre do you write?
I am what is known as a ‘genre agnostic’ author, meaning I write across a variety of genres. I have written fiction, non-fiction and creative nonfiction, with themes ranging from historical, thriller, crime and supernatural. Although I do gravitate more towards the stories that are dark and disturbing!
Q. What draws you to this genre?
Because I write across numerous genres, it is less about the genre than the story I’m telling. I like to explore both the hero and the villain, to give the reader an insight into both perspectives. I also like confronting controversial topics that people are hesitant to talk about. What I like about creative nonfiction in particular is that you are allowed the creative licence and freedoms of fiction while still telling a true story.
Q. Where do you get your ideas?
I love exploring various human experiences and perspectives, and using my writing to help to share people’s stories with the community that may otherwise remain untold behind close doors. The world is a melting pot of ideas, which I see around me every day. I also often see subplots in films about secondary characters, and decide to explore those ideas and concepts further in a story of my own.
Q. Tell us about your process, how do you get into a writing mindset?
I always like to get the daily tasks for the day e.g. housework/ grocery shopping etc out of the way first before settling into my writing time, so I can fully focus on the task at hand. I do my best to set aside time every day for writing, even if it’s only for half an hour before dinner!
I have created ‘soundtracks’ for my novels that I listen to when I’m typing on the computer, driving in my car or traveling anywhere I can listen to music on my iPod. I find that these soundtracks really help me get in the zone of the story, and in touch with the emotions of my characters and their experiences.
I also still write the drafts of my stories with good old-fashioned pen, paper and clipboard, and then type them up on my computer afterward. I have always done it this way, and I find my creativity flows better rather than writing straight onto my computer.
Q. What are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I am working on a crime novel set in Galway, Ireland, and my goal is to have this manuscript finished by 5 March 2019, which will be the second anniversary of my trip to Ireland to do research for the book.
Q. Which writers inspire/influence you?
Ruth Rendell. I am reading a collection of short stories by her at the moment. I love the way she throws in a twist right at the end of her stories, and flips the whole thing on its head in the matter of a sentence.
Also, Stieg Larsson. I absolutely loved the Millennium book series (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo etc). Larsson’s characterization is absolutely brilliant. The picture he paints not only of his characters’ physical traits but their innermost thoughts and motivations gives such individuality to each character, and really makes them three-dimensional on the page. He helps you paint a fully-shaped picture of them in your mind as you read. My own crime fiction is very much character-driven, and I aspire for my own series to be as complex and atmospheric as Larsson’s.
Q. What else about your writing journey should we know?
My books are available worldwide via Amazon in paperback and Kindle eBook. I am also able to send signed paperback copies within Australia. Readers can get in touch with me to arrange postage via the Contact page of my website www.katekelsen.com, or via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
I want to give my beloved readers rich, educational and insightful experiences through my books. I am so excited for the stories I will be sharing in the near future, and I want to thank each and every one of my readers and supporters for coming along on this journey, and I hope they’ll stick around for the ride!
Q. Where can we find more about you?
Facebook: Kate Kelsen Author (page)
*Paid To Dance: Stripping Past & Present and The New New Neighbours are also available at Book Face Pacific Fair (Gold Coast)
Thank you Kate for your time with us today!