Tuesday, 2 September 2014

In Conversation with Kate Belle.

Today we welcome the wickedly talented Kate Belle.
Kate is a multi-published author of dark, sensual love stories that will mess with your head. Her interests include talking to strangers, collecting unread books, and ranting about the world’s many injustices. She writes regularly about being a woman in modern culture, relationships, sexuality and books on her blog, The Ecstasy Files. She is also the creator of the Eros in Action writing sex workshops.

Kate lives, writes and loves in Melbourne with her small family and very annoying pets. The Yearning was released in 2013 to rave reviews. Being Jade is her second novel.
Tell us a little about your writing journey.
Gosh – this shouldn’t be a tricky question, but it is. Do I start when I won the Southern Cross Literary Short Story Award? Or when I signed up for a Year of the Novel course at Writers Victoria in 2008? Or when I won my very first short story competition at the tender age of twelve? Or did it start younger, when I used to create my own magazines and books at home? Woggy the Frog was the first series I ever wrote at about ten years of age. I illustrated it myself on recycled paper my dad brought home from the State Electricity Commission where he worked (yes, back in the days when the government still owned utilities!) It probably started there.

Your writing can be … (blushing) … quite raunchy. How did Being Jade come about compared to some of your other titles?
Jade first appeared in a writing exercise during my very first writing course seven years ago. She was a character I was fascinated by. She was completely new, I hadn’t seen anything like her in fiction before.

Jade’s character enabled me to explore feminine sexuality as a form of empowerment. Jade pushes past the assumptions we commonly make about women. Most of the stories we tell about women reinforce old stereotypes and limit the way we allow ourselves to view female sexuality and power.

If a woman is sexually empowered, in reality and in fiction, she is usually demonised and punished for asserting herself in such a way. Mother’s and married women are not meant to be sexual beings, much less polyamorous beings. Jade gave me the opportunity to play with the idea of female sexuality as a lasting presence in a woman’s life, no matter what ‘role’ she played for others. What if a woman didn’t submit to the idea that monogamy is the only flavour of relationship available? What if she refused to allow her body to be owned and controlled by her partner or society? What if a woman asserted her right to be sexually empowered and not adhere to the rules and roles expected of her?

Love her or hate her, Jade challenges people to question why they hold the beliefs they do about women. And in this patriarchal, masculine world, that can only be a good thing.

What is the hardest aspect of being a writer?
The hardest part of writing is the first draft – it’s an arduous, excruciating slog through sludge. But the hardest aspect of being a writer is keeping a life/work/family balance. I work (not many writers don’t) so my writing time is precious and limited. Sometimes I have to steal time from my family to work on projects or promotion and that’s hard if my daughter or partner want my time or attention. There’s a lot of guilt involved. And sneaking around stealing time in between household and family commitments.

Writers are sometimes influenced by things that happen in their own lives. Are you?
Always. I’ve studied psychology and I deeply believe that stories say lots about the authors who write them. Stories well up from unconscious places and they can’t help but bring our biases, conditioning, memories, history and beliefs with them. I also believe the better stories are the ones that aren’t ‘made up’ but evolve from within and contain an essential emotional truth. These stories tend to be more satisfying to read, no matter what the genre - from children’s books to sci-fi or crime - if emotional truth is present the story resonates on multiple levels for the reader.

Tell us about your publications? Do you have a favourite character?
It’s a funny thing, but I love all my characters and I definitely have a bias toward the male ones. I’ve discovered I have a preference for writing in male point of view, which is weird and I can’t explain why.

Banjo, in Being Jade, is just so lovable, so committed to his family, so compassionate and loving and tolerant and put upon. He spent so much time in my head I felt sad when I submitted the final manuscript and he said ‘thank you and good bye’.

Ramon Mendez, the feature character in my Master of Love erotic romance series, is essentially my idea of the perfect man and I just go to water when I write him. I’m working on the beginning of the series at the moment, when Ramon is only sixteen and experiencing his first love. He’s so sweet I just want to scoop him up and give him a big cuddle.

But Solomon from The Yearning I had an intensely complicated relationship with. After reading a draft chapter my critique partner pointed out that ‘you love him so much you’re being too kind to him’. That was a shock. But she was right. I had to unravel my feelings for him before I could see him clearly.

What is the most surprising thing about writing/publishing you have learnt?
Writing never gets any easier. I thought once the first book was published it would get easier, but it doesn’t. Competition is fierce. There are so many books flooding the market every month, people are spoilt for choice and simply can’t get through all the books they want to read. My passion is writing quality books and I’ve realised I have to reach higher and deeper to get to each new book I write.

Top tip/s for writers.
There will be many times when you feel deflated, when you watch other’s succeed while you struggle through rejection, when finding the motivation or inspiration to keep going seems all too hard. Don’t give up. Keep working on improving your writing, finding your voice and your stories. You need to be very determined to work through the many and multiple hurdles. It’s the only road to success, however you define it.

Other than writing what else do you love?
Reading. I lament that I have to squeeze reading into tiny wedges of free time. My bookshelf is overflowing with unread books. I also love my vegie garden (although you wouldn’t think so to look at it at the moment) and spending relaxed time in the kitchen cooking. Cookbooks like Nigella Lawson’s are like comfort food to me, a combination of two of my favourite things.

If you had a premonition you would be stranded on a desert island what 5 books would you take?
I hate these kinds of questions. I’m a book slut – it’s not fair to make me choose. What I can say is one would have to be a volume of folk tales or a classic children’s story like Peter Pan or Alice in Wonderland. One would have to be a coffee table book filled with clever, challenging and inspiring photographs. I’d want a fat and brilliant work of literary fiction, probably some Aboriginal poetry or short stories. And a blank diary so I could write.
Five words that sum you up.
Loud – (just ask my work colleagues and family); Vivacious; Bossy; Outspoken; Loyal. – the quintessential Leo.

How can we learn more?

Twitter: @ecstasyfiles https://twitter.com/ecstasyfiles 

A tragic death. A family divided. One truth can set them free.

Banjo Murphy is killed on the night he finally musters the courage to walk away from his wife Jade after twenty five years of repeated infidelities. In the aftermath, Banjo is bewildered to discover he still exists, but death has placed an invisible wall between him and his beloved family. In despair he watches Jade collapse into deep depression and his daughters, Lissy and Cassandra, struggle with their unexpected loss.

Lissy is tortured by guilt and the mysteries surrounding her father’s death. What compelled Banjo to leave the night he died? Why won’t Jade speak about what happened? In spite of their volatile relationship, Lissy believes her parents’ love to be enduring, but sensible Cassandra sees things differently. When Cassy discovers a sketch book chronicling Jade’s extra-marital affairs, the truth of their parents’ relationship begins to unfold and Lissy’s loyalties are divided.

Searching for answers, Lissy contacts Jade’s ex-lovers, unaware her father’s spirit watches as they visit. Unable to let go of his one true love, he aches to know that Jade loved him above all others. Banjo is taken on a journey of discovery through Jade’s memories as the lovers unveil long hidden secrets about her affairs. But the mystery remains, frustrating Banjo and Lissy, until Lissy’s questioning leads her to an explosive truth. One that will finally set her family free.
"This story had so many layers to it. Each character showed growth as the story progressed. This was a central element to my curiosity and the flashbacks and present day scenes allowed this to happen. Very clever Kate Belle!"
You can read more of my review of this intriguing story at GOODREADS.

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1 comment:

  1. Nice interview, Melissa. I'm interviewing Kate at an event in Castlemaine next month and this was very helpful.