Last year, I met William J Kite at the awards event for the Armadale Writer’s Award. His story ‘Robert the Bruce’ won first prize and we got chatting. I read Kite’s story and really enjoyed it (it is masterfully written). We kept in touch and became friends. Writing can be a lonely business and it’s lovely to know people who will run through your work, tell you where the writing is weak, and pat you on the back for the good bits. So that’s the lovely kind of friend, William J Kite has become for me. I hope you enjoy this interview.
NLK: Can you tell us a little about your writing journey? How did you get started? Do you have a day job? How do you balance writing with ‘real life’?
WJK: When I was fifteen, my English teacher played Phil Collins ‘Another Day in Paradise’ to the class and asked us to write a story based on the lyrics. I wrote a Dean Koontz-type story which ended in a murder in the sewers. The praise I received spurred me on to keep writing, despite my Dad helping with much of the story and deserving at least half the credit. I dabbled for years with poetry (I set up a company named ‘Your Poet’, writing personalised event poetry, when I was 25… unsurprisingly it flopped! I hear poetry doesn’t sell…) and short stories but lacked confidence.
When I was thirty-eight, the clutch went in our small Kubota tractor. With few mechanical skills, I decided to split the tractor and change it myself – a 30-hour job for an amateur. I expected disaster but managed to pull it off. Somehow that gave me the belief to go all in with my writing, and a year later, I won the Armadale Writer’s Award which was a nice bit of affirmation. I love the writing life whatever the outcome. My wife and I are both nurses and this gives me great flexibility to write and for her to paint.
NLK: How do you approach writing a new story? Can you please share a little about your writing process?
WJK: It depends on what I’m writing. For the Border Reiver series, I knew I’d be at it for years so I picked something close to home (Northern England and Scotland), with plenty of history and fun. I read a passage about 16th century Border Reivers which described the people and place as “more lawless than the wild west.” I was sold.
I do a little research at a time and keep writing most days. Gradually your mind just tells you where to go (I’m bendy with facts). Once I’ve got all my thoughts down, I see that as a first draft. For the first book I had to re-write the second draft from scratch because I’d been a bit too footloose but had learned a lot. The prequel (now in third draft) was more organised and directed because I knew where it was going. “Write toward an end, even if that changes.” I’ve heard that said.
For anything else, I’m happy just to write an idea with little prep and see if it takes me anywhere. If I like it, I’ll keep re-drafting and if I don’t, it’ll be abandoned in a folder.
For a short called Robert the Bruce it went from a Buddhism-inspired story to a Shirley Valentine meets Marley & Me to its own thing, which I found fun. I don’t think people have too much control over what they write until after the first draft.
NLK: What advice would you give to someone who is taking up creative writing for the first time? Or conversely, what do you wish you knew when you started writing?
WJK: If you want to write, just write. Sometimes it won’t be fun and sometimes you’ll be flying but enjoy the process and you’ll get better with time. First drafts won’t read well. Everyone tells you that advice, but I didn’t hear it until last year – or I didn’t believe it. I’ve stopped writing so many times because I’ve written a few pages, read it back and chucked it in the bin. Oh, and listen to The Bestseller Experiment podcast from the beginning and read interesting books and watch videos on story and craft. And get to know other writers. And don’t be hard on yourself. And enjoy. And so on.
NLK: Can you please tell us about the writing tournament you are involved with?
WJK: It is for young writers aged 8-16 and the theme is the “Border Reivers”. From that prompt you can go anywhere your head and reading takes you for up to 500 words. I want people to have fun and tell a story their way and surprise the judges. If you make the final, you’ll have pretty much followed the process of an author, so you’ll be an author. And you’ll have a properly crafted story to show off. The finalists will be judged by two guys who, between them, have written movies, published novels, played Glastonbury and set up charities and podcasts. Talented guys but big kids at heart, so give it your best shot and you could be published, have your story read out by an author on the Youtube channel… all sorts. Plus there’s some other prizes coming because everyone loves a flashy prize. It was announced at the (virtual) Hawick Reivers Festival, which you can watch online. The first round closes 28th September. Join in at wjkite.com
NLK: Do you think it’s important to connect with other writers, and why?
WJK: Yes. I can’t imagine how long I would have been slogging away making mistake after mistake without the help of others. Other writers are often generous with their time and more than happy to talk shop. I’ve met some lovely people this past year.
NLK: Do you have a favourite writing craft book? What have you learned from it?
WJK: I’m a bit of a flitterer. Into the Woods by John Yorke, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, Stephen King’s On Writing are all good. I did a week long course with Perth writer A.R. Levett (The Story Mentor) based on John Truby’s Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller. That was very helpful and he was a great teacher. I believe he runs a full year course. What did I learn from what book? God knows. Lots.
NLK: What hopes do you have for your future writing journey?
WJK: More than anything I’ve just learned to love the day-to-day and not worry too much about big goals. If you love what you’re doing then you’ll be pretty happy.
About William J Kite
W.J. Kite is an award-winning author currently releasing Border Reiver-inspired fiction. He is the organiser of the Writing Tournament, aimed at inspiring young people to write. Born and bred in Teesside, UK but now living in Albany, Western Australia with Mrs. Kite, two dogs and a cat.
Enrol for the Writing Tournament and get updates on his work at wjkite.com
Connect with William J Kite
Read Robert the Bruce, the winning story of the 2020 Armadale Writer’s Award