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Georgina interviews Kate Belle

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Georgina: Hello, Kate! Thanks so much for dropping by.

Kate: Hey there, Naughty Ninjas, it’s lovely (if not a little scary) to be here. Got my black skivvy and leggings on, let’s go!

Georgina: You’ve just released your second novel, Being Jade. Could you tell us a little about it?

Kate: Being Jade is a complex love story that explores the boundaries of unconditional love, fidelity, personal sacrifice and authenticity in marriage. It poses many questions about the restrictions and expectations we place on women as mothers, lovers and wives, and how much of ourselves we chose to bury in order to make a relationship work, why we make those choices and what they cost us personally.

Banjo is an ordinary boy who falls in love with extraordinary Jade and marries her while they are both very young.  He soon discovers Jade’s idea of marriage doesn’t match his own and her unwillingness to compromise her true nature ensures their relationship is more difficult than most. Being Jade is set in a small seaside town, where Jade’s eccentricities are magnified by conformity and conservatism. The story is told through the eyes of Banjo who is filled with bewilderment and regret as he reflects after his untimely death, and his youngest daughter Melissa (Lissy) as she tries to understand the truth about her parent’s marriage through Jade’s explicit artistic diaries.

Being Jade is part mystery, part love story, part family drama. It begs the question, if you were to die today, what would you leave behind?

Georgina: Did you find writing this novel a different experience from writing The Yearning? (Which I loved to pieces.) If so, can you elaborate?

Kate: I’m glad you loved The Yearning to pieces – a few people found the premise of a student/teacher relationship a bit too challenging to venture reading it. The Yearning took four years to write, with plenty of time off between drafts to digest and reflect. There was no contract, no expectations, no deadlines, which made it an easier process. Writing Being Jade was a completely different experience.

Being Jade was contracted shortly before The Yearning was released, with 30,000 scratchy words and a synopsis. It wasn’t until I sat down to finish it did I realise how difficult a task I’d set myself. A dead protagonist, a comatose antagonist and a story necessitating a series of flashbacks – what was I thinking!?

It took a mighty effort to finish it. Many times I got lost and it was only through the support of other writers and mentors I got it into the shape it is. Without the wonderful writing community I’d still be wrestling with particular parts of the story I couldn’t solve alone.

Georgina: You have a very distinct, almost hypnotic quality to the way you write. I tend to find that once I start one of your books, I can’t stop until I finish. Could you tell us a little of the process you undergo to get your work so polished?

Kate: The first draft of anything is like a sculptor’s slab of marble or wood. It’s relatively shapeless and only hints at the form beneath the raw material. It takes a lot of chipping and chiseling to bring out what is hidden within.

I write very intuitively, I try get in behind the eyes of my characters and view the world as they view it. I learned a technique years ago of unconscious writing, where you let your critical mind go and write whatever comes for ten minutes, forgetting about grammar and punctuation. This is my slab of marble. Within these paragraphs I’ll usually find one or two phrases or sentences that are pure magic.

I pull these out and write around them, use them as central inspiration for a scene. Then I rework the prose, read it out loud, polish and rework it again. I have perfectionist tendencies so I rewrite obsessively, constantly seeking better words to express the image in my head. So far I’ve never been completely satisfied with any of my final manuscripts. There are always passages I think need more work. If I pick up The Yearning now I want to take a red pen to it.

Georgina: What’s your favorite part of the writing process?

Kate: Nothing beats the rewriting process once the first draft is down. The first draft always feels so hopelessly wrong, so lumpy and cumbersome and cringe-worthy. But once it’s down then the real work of writing begins. I jump into the newly formed world and explore it, deepen it, add dimensions and layers to it. I massage character arcs, look for connections and imagery sitting beneath the surface of the narrative, enhance and simplify dialogue and description. Nothing beats taking a paragraph and really working with it until it sings. If I could pay someone else to write my first draft for me I would. I really hate that part of writing.

Georgina: What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever told you about your writing?

Kate: Aside from ‘I told everyone they MUST read your book’? It’s wonderful when people say they are moved by it, or changed by it. When people say they were touched by the story or character, when they say they now see things a little differently after reading my work, that intimate connection between author-reader is the biggest compliment I can hope for as a writer.

Georgina: What’s your favorite thing about being a published author?

Kate: The world of ideas and people it has given me a pass to. I have become part of a wide, supportive, intelligent and diverse writing community and I love, love, love it. The people I’ve met – other authors, booksellers, readers – both online and off make this journey all the more worthwhile. I never imagined I’d have online conversations with the likes of Anita Heiss, Kate Forsyth or Toni Jordan and so many more authors. I used to feel intimidated talking to authors, but I realise now they are real and very ordinary people and they love it when someone wants to speak to them about their passion.

Georgina: What’s the most useful advice anyone has given you?

Kate: Don’t take yourself or life too seriously. It’s a trap we all fall into sometimes. It’s wise advice.

Georgina: What advice would you pass on to anyone out there who was inspired to write a book after reading The Yearning or Being Jade?

You want to writer? WONDERFUL! Put your bum in a chair and do it, but don’t rush your work. Good writing needs time to percolate and mature, just like good wine or cheese. Rushed work reads like rushed work. Be respectful to your readers and give them the best possible product you can deliver, even if it means it takes longer. I can guarantee the final product will be so much better if you allow it the time it needs to take. If you are convinced your work is ready for publication, it’s most likely not. Leave it for a few weeks then go back and you’ll see the clumsy or boring prose you missed before.

And don’t buy into the negativity in your head. Pay no attention to it. Treat it like background noise. Be determined to let your subconscious know who is boss and that you’re serious about this writing game.

Georgina: What would you like your readers to take away from Being Jade?

Kate: First and foremost, a damned good read. But also something to talk about. A few questions to ask. A new way of viewing relationships, women, sexuality, marriage, fidelity, and personal responsibility in relationships.

But mostly I’ll be happy if people have a really satisfying reading experience.

Georgina: And the inevitable question, because I’m a fan... What are you working on next?

Kate: I have about three ideas sitting on the backburner at the moment and I haven’t decided which one to go with. One is about allegiance versus belonging – to people, to country, to family. One is about competition between genders. One is a new take on the Red Riding Hood fairytale and explores the sexual stereotyping of women.

I’m waiting for one of them to step forward and tell me it’s next.

Georgina: Thanks so much for visiting and sharing with us!

Kate: Thanks for having me over. And look, not a mark on me. You lot sure are gentle for ninjas!