- Guest Author
Today I feature an Australian writer who is very involved in recording Australian history - Kay Koenig. Kay's work has often featured on my blog. Welcome, Kay. Tell us more about your journey as an author ...
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR WRITING JOURNEY.
I was born and bred in Broken Hill. My father was a miner, as was his father before him. I grew up listening to stories. Tales about mine accidents, great mineral finds, battles between unions and the rich mine management. At an early age I began collecting minerals and had a desire for a career in a museum. Weekends were spent in the bush visiting old mine sites, station properties and ghost towns. Everywhere there were stories of the past – of German Charlie and his sly grogshop, the mine manager who killed his wife and hung himself above the fireplace and metal balls from outer space littered the countryside in the far outback of NSW. I remember these stories and have a desire to record them. For twenty years I worked at the Geological and Mining Museum in Sydney. Mostly I was Exhibition Manager and spent my time researching topics, writing exhibition text, exhibition notes, publicity blurbs etc. This was the beginning of my writing journey.
WERE YOU A GOOD READER AS A KID?
I was an avid reader as a kid, spending lots of time late at night reading under the bedclothes with a torch.
WHEN AND HOW DID YOU BECOME A WRITER?
I meet my father-in-law in 1969. He was a Czech refugee who had been on the Russian Front in World War I, dodged a bullet whilst escaping the Nazis at the beginning of World War II and then lived in the lap of luxury in the home of Clementine Churchill’s bridesmaid. The first night I met him he told me he was the last of the convicts- this was a story waiting to be written and I wanted to write it from 1969. About eight years ago by brother -in-law gave me a case of letters, photographs and documents belonging to his father Karel Koenig. They were a gold mine. They covered the first fifty years of the 20th century. Many were written from behind the Nazi lines and forwarded via the Red Cross. This case of documents was like a drug. I could not put it down until I had answered every question posed. Initially I only intended writing for the family but the story from the case was so good that it begged a broader audience. The result was Voices from his Suitcase. It is my first book.
Copyright Raymond Sanders (c)
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Without a doubt the research. I love digging for snippets of information and firmly believe that the answer you seek is always somewhere.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT BEING A WRITER?
Spelling. I have always been a poor speller and require a good editor.
WHAT WERE YOU IN A PAST LIFE, BEFORE YOU BECAME A WRITER?
I am a geologist and a historian by profession. My first career was in a Museum, initially as a Museum Assistant in the collections section, then as exhibition manager. This was a most enjoyable and fulfilling twenty years. After the birth of our third child in 1990 my husband and I changed our careers. James has Angelmen’s syndrome, a genetic condition on the autism spectrum with many similarities to Cerebral Palsy. We purchased a Garden Centre so we could both care for him. Running the centre was a steep learning curve but a great place for our son. He learnt to crawl, at the nursery, in an ornamental creek between two ponds! We operated the business for ten years. From 2002 I was involved with two respite organisations that provide respite for parents and entertainment and community access for young people with disabilities.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST WRITING ACHIEVEMENT?
Something in the future, I hope.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON AT THE MOMENT?
My main task at the moment is to establish and publicise Australian Family Stories. I have a dream to build an online business to promote and sell books by Australians about Australia. Australian Family Stories has a facility to promote and sell books. I hope writers and readers will also use it to communicate via a blog and to use it to present their short stories to the public, and that it will become a hub for all those interested in Australian literature. This will, no doubt, take some time. As far as writing is concerned, I have a great desire to write about a naughty lady who lived in Victoria in the 1800’s. Most of the research for her story is finished. Writing it will be fun.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
People who are faced with adversity but can rise above it and enjoy life.
Copyright Clancy Tucker (c)
WHAT GENRE DO YOU WRITE?
I don’t think I have been writing long enough to say emphatically that I only write in one particular genre, but my writing will always be rooted in reality. I am interested in history and most probably will always write about something with a factual background.
DO YOU SUFFER FROM WRITER’S BLOCK?
Yes. I sometimes find that I cannot string two words together and I certainly cannot spell them. If the muse has disappeared I do some research or go to bed. There is always tomorrow.
DO YOU HAVE A PREFERRED WRITING SCHEDULE?
A son with a disability takes up a fair amount of each day so writing is squeezed in, usually for two or three hours in the middle of the day and for a similar amount of time late at night when he is in bed.
DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE WRITING PLACE?
I write at my desk in the study, a sort of cave-like room at the bottom of the house. Except for four walls and lots of books there is nothing to look at and nothing to cause a distraction.
WHAT IS YOUR GREATEST JOY IN WRITING?
I love researching a story. This is the joy of the hunt. If you are lucky you can go places that you have never been before and spend some time in somebody else’s shoes -a most enjoyable experience.
WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE AUTHOR AND WHY?
This is a difficult question because different authors appeal at different times. I love John le Carre’, especially if George Smile is featured. He is a great writer to curl up in front of the fire with. Tolkien is the author whose books I have re-read the most.
WHAT’S THE GREATEST COMPLIMENT YOU EVER RECEIVED FROM A READER?
Couldn’t put the book down. Read it over two nights.
WHAT WAS THE WORST COMMENT FROM A READER?
WRITERS ARE SOMETIMES INFLUENCED BY THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN THEIR OWN LIVES. ARE YOU?
I’m influenced by the people I have met during my life and the stories they have told me. I have a stack of stories that can be fleshed out and written down.
HOW MANY BOOKS HAVE YOU PUBLISHED?
- Two booklets- History of Broken Hill and History of Mining in Australia. Voices from his Suitcase is my first book.
HAVE YOU WON ANY PRIZES OR AWARDS?
OTHER THAN WRITING, WHAT ELSE DO YOU LOVE?
Family and friends of course. I love travelling, building things, gardening and cooking.
DID YOU HAVE YOUR BOOK / BOOKS PROFESSIONALLY EDITED BEFORE PUBLICATION?
No, but I probably should have. I published 50 books in 2009 and gave them to several people to read and asked my readers to give me honest comments. I took these on board, did a writers’ course and then completely rewrote the book. It was then edited by my husband who is a stickler for spelling and grammar.
IF YOU HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK TO THE ENTIRE WORLD, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY?
I would suggest that people Googled galaxies and examined some of the wonderful images taken from the Hubble telescope. One photograph includes about 500 galaxies – how vast is our Universe? The closest spiral galaxy, (a galaxy similar to our Milky Way) is Andromeda which is 12 million light years away. Our Galaxy, the Milky Way, has a diameter of about 100,000 million light years. How far is that in reality? It is approximately 9,000,000,000,000 km. We cannot travel at the speed of light. The fastest man-made object to be sent into space is Voyages 1. It was launched in 1977 and is just passing from our solar system into outer space. It has taken 35 year to make the trip. It travels at a mere 17.36 km per second. Our little planet, Earth is a very insignificant dot in the vastness of the Universe. How stupid are we to fight amongst ourselves? When viewed from outer space there are no boundaries between countries, no colour differences amongst our people. Our orb is so small and we are trapped on it. Unlike science fiction, it is unlikely that people will be able to leave our world and colonise another. The distances are too great. The only hope we have for a future is to co-exist peacefully and to stop trashing our planet!
DESCRIBE YOUR PERFECT DAY.
Breakfast overlooking the ocean, a walk in a rainforest, a comfortable hammock and a good book followed by a romantic dinner & good bottle of wine with my husband.
WHAT ARE YOUR GREATEST ASSETS AS A WRITER?
Tenacity. I don’t give up.
IF YOU WERE STUCK ON A DESERT ISLAND WITH ONE PERSON, WHO WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO BE? WHY?
In reality a boat builder would be the best choice. However if you mean who would I most like to spend time with, it would be Nelson Mandela. I would like to ask him how he maintained his sanity, why he didn’t succumb to depression and most of all, how he managed to leave prison after so many years with humanity intact. A most amazing man.
SHOULD YOU WRITE YOUR PERFECT BOOK, WHAT WOULD IT BE ABOUT?
Voices from his Suitcase is not a perfect book but it is a perfect topic. It has everything adventure, love, tragedy, war, it covers the first turbulent fifty years of the 20th century, it has lessons to teach about life and Australian’s treatment of refugees. I wish I was more experienced when I wrote it. My perfect book would have an equally important topic with a similarly interesting and sympathetic main character. I haven’t found it yet.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE FUTURE?
To travel more and write my next book.
Australian Family Stories: http://www.australianfamilystories.com.au/
Clancy's comment: Thank's, Kay. Now, slip onto the hammock with a good book and relax.