In this interview, I catch up with Tasmanian #KidLit champion, Kate Gordon and hear the honest truth about Kate’s success as an author and what living in Tasmania is really like…
NLK: What’s your favourite thing about living in Tasmania?
KG: There are all the clichés like “the amazing scenery” and “the clean air”, but I think for me the most wonderful thing about living here is how “secret” it feels. Despite the success of MONA, Tasmania still feels a bit like a mysterious, tucked-away place. It has a bit of a “fantasy land” feel about it. We are a small island, hidden down at the bottom of the world and it gives us a great sense of community and protectiveness over the lives we have here. It’s not perfect – our political situation is … complicated (if I’m being generous), and we still have a long way to go, regarding issues related to the Aboriginal community, and with migrant and refugee communities, but there is an enormous groundswell of politically active people trying to fix that and I believe we’ll get there.
NLK: Can you tell us about your journey to publication? What do you wish you knew at the beginning of your journey?
KG: I came to being published by accident and too young. Which is the thing I most regret. I wish I put in the hard yards learning the craft and the industry before I had my first book published. I could have avoided so many mistakes!
I have always written but never considered it as a viable career. I worked as a children’s librarian and, as part of that job, I did a postgraduate degree in children’s literature. A component of that course was creative writing. One of my lecturers suggested I enter the novel I wrote during the course into contention for a Varuna fellowship. I won and, on the back of that, got my agent, who submitted my novel to a wonderful publisher. They rejected that novel but contracted me to write a book in the YA series they were running in partnership with Girlfriend magazine. And … things just went from there.
But while the beginning was easy, the rest hasn’t been. First of all, I came into writing *just* as ebooks were taking off and also signed with a publishing house on the cusp of a major restructure. Literally everything changed and the publishing industry became much more complicated – especially for people like me who were new and had no idea what we were doing. Then, I had my daughter and decided to take four and a half years off to be a full-time mum. Going back to writing was super hard but I’m so luck that my agent stuck with me and that I’ve had such a wonderful reintroduction to the industry, through Wombat Books and Rhiza. THAT WAS A VERY LONG ANSWER. I’m sorry!
NLK: Your publication credits are impressive, what piece of advice would you give to emerging writers?
KG: Gah, as above, don’t rush into the industry before you’re ready and before you’ve been writing for a good, oh … *insert piece of string joke here*. Take your time. Your writing will get better, your judgement will get better, and books will always be there, despite what the tech companies will have you believe.
NLK: Your latest book, ‘Girl Running, Boy Falling’ is for YA, can you share why you chose to write for a YA audience?
KG: Honestly, I started writing YA because I was working in a high school and I was mainly reading YA books, to vet them before putting them in the library. I was deeply immersed in that world and it seemed a no-brainer to write for teenagers. Also, I’m pretty much still thirteen inside my head, so that helps.
NLK: Can you tell us a little about the inspiration for the book?
KG: It’s a really shitty thing that this book comes from my personal experiences with losing friends to suicide, and from my own experiences with mental health issues. I wish I could say it all came from my imagination – that would be a much happier backstory. But suicide rates in Australia are so diabolical that it would be almost impossible to find someone whose life hasn’t been touched by losing a loved one in this way. It has to be fixed and I don’t know how to fix it, so I did the only thing I knew how to do and wrote about it.
NLK: What have you read recently?
KG: *coughs* Well, I’ve read over 200 books this year, not counting all the children’s books I read with my daughter. And yet it still feels like I will never have read All The Things. Some books I’ve loved this year include Icefall by Stephanie Gunn, Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend, Finding Kerra by Rosanne Hawke and An Absolutely Remarkable Thingby John Green. But I could make a list of another fifty others and I wouldn’t be done. 2018 has been a great year for books.
NLK: What was your favourite childhood book?
KG: Was? Or is? Because I still read children’s books every day! But my favourite one when I was an *actual* kid (as in, not just inside my head) was The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy. Mildred Hubble was, and always will be, my soulmate.
NLK: What’s the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?
KG: That my first draft is “draft zero” and should never be seen by a single living soul.
NLK: Can you share any unusual writing practices you have?
KG: I never, ever, ever edit as I’m writing. I’m a highly anxious and insecure person. I have to write the whole first draft before I go back and edit, otherwise I’ll panic and ditch the whole thing. Is that unusual? It’s probably incredibly common. We writers are a neurotic bunch.
NLK: Can you tell us about your releases due in 2019?
KG: 2019 is actually going to be a super busy year! I have a picture book coming out with Wombat Books, called Amira’s Magpie. I have the first book in a new middle grade series coming out with Yellow Brick Books, called Juno Jones. I have another picture book, called Bird on a Wire, coming out with Hardie Grant, and I’ll be working on another middle grade book with UQP. I guess that’s what happens when you take nearly five years off! All the things, all at once. I am ridiculously grateful to all the people who have taken a chance on me again after this long break. You’re all my absolute heroes.
Kate lives in Hobart, in a mint-green cottage, with her husband, her very strange cat, Mephy Danger Gordon, and a wonderful little girl who goes by the name of Tiger. Kate dreams that one day she and her little family will live in another cottage, by the beach, with goats and chickens. In the meantime, she fills her house with books, perfects her gluten-free baking technique, has marvellous adventures with Tiger, and she writes.