K M Steele is an Australian author who loves a good plot and a great sentence. She recently published her debut novel, Return to Tamarlin. It started out as a diarised account of fictional family events experienced by two sisters, because she was fascinated by the way siblings can remember the same events so differently.
Why do readers connect with the story?
A good percentage of my readers are Australian and female – readers who enjoy two strong female characters. The novel is also enjoying a strong readership in Western NSW where it is set – exploring the landscape and the difficulties of rural life.
What is your professional background?
I have a PhD in English (Creative Writing/ Australian Literature). Return to Tamarlin was part of my final thesis. I was writing and submitting fiction for many years before I started my PhD, but the discipline of completing a thesis that was half theoretical exegesis and half creative writing certainly helped to hone my craft. I currently write in between a full-time day job, teaching creative writing, and marketing my novel.
Tell us about your process – are you a plotter or a winger?
I often start with a plot, but I rarely stick to it. I usually have a very strong beginning and ending – it is the bit in the middle that takes time to evolve. I tend to write my first draft at a gallop. I want the bones of the story there, and I’m always impatient to get to the end. Once I have the story down, I go back and start layering. That’s when I’ll add plot twists, and little idiosyncrasies in characters or communities, and start to explore certain themes within the novel in more depth. The first draft can be painful because it often feels like I have to force the story from one end to the other. The layering is the fun, creative part.
What have been the hardest lessons you’ve learned as a writer?
Patience. I never had much and I still have to work on it, but your entire life as a writer is consumed by waiting, and that takes patience. Waiting for ideas, waiting for replies on submissions, waiting for competition results, waiting for proofs – it doesn’t matter where you are in your career as a writer, you still have to wait!
Do you enjoy the promotional side of being an author?
Yes, and no. I enjoy meeting people face-to-face, and doing readings and talks. I enjoy answering questions, and talking about the process behind the writing. However, marketing the novel and selling my author brand, while necessary, is not quite as easy and very time consuming.
What’s been the most extraordinary ‘meeting a fan’ experience you’ve had?
I just finished a mini book tour to Lightning Ridge, Walgett and Coonabarabran. I was amazed at how much everyone appreciated the fact that I’d travelled all the way out there to read to them in person. It proves that no amount of digital interaction is as good as a real live author.
What’s next for K M Steele?
I’m currently writing Tiny’s World, a novel set in Mackay in the 1980s. I’m trying to recapture the zeitgeist of the time and having plenty of fun in the process.