Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Interview with Kali Napier

We would like to welcome to the blog emerging author Kali Napier, whose debut novel, The Secret at Ocean's Edge, set in Western Australia 1932, will be released by Hachette Australia in February 2018. Kali is a Brisbane-based writer of historical fiction. She was selected to participate in the QWC /  Hachette Australia Manuscript Development Program in 2015, and in 2016 two of her manuscripts were longlisted in the Bath Novel Award. She is currently undertaking a research degree in creative writing at The University of Queensland. You can connect with Kali via FacebookTwitter and through her website.

What is the inspiration for your current book?  
My book The Secret at Ocean's Edge is set in Dongara in Western Australia, in 1932. I have a personal connection to Dongara, as well as to other towns mentioned in the story: Perenjori, Caron and Geraldton. The character of Ernie Hass was sparked by my great-grandfather, George Frederick Otto Wetters, who was briefly a butcher and shop proprietor at Dongara. I discovered his connection when researching our family history through Trove newspaper articles. I also discovered he’d been a bankrupt, so I’ve made my character, Ernie, a bankrupt too.  Everything that I unearthed about George I put into my story to learn more about who he might have been, in a fictitious way. 

Is there a particular theme you are exploring in this book?  
The central theme is of belonging, to family and place. I also explore notions of protection, and what this might entail: keeping secrets and making sacrifices. 

Which period of history particularly interests you? Why? 
Even though my story is set in the Depression years, my favourite period to read about is the late Victorian/Edwardian era. I love the whole fin-de-siecle aesthetic, the shifting of ground beneath the status quo. I hope to set my novel-after-next in 1910, amid the crumbling tenure of colonialist society. 

What resources do you use to research your book?  
My major source is Trove, for newspaper articles. I have found nuggets of plots and wonderful contemporary expressions, such as ‘I don’t care a twopenny damn’, which I’ve worked into my book. I also read non-fiction histories, and other novels set during the time period. Last year, I made a research trip to Dongara and visited the Irwin District Historical Society, museums, and spoke with local oral historians and older residents about life in town in 1932. 

What is more important to you: historical authenticity or accuracy?  
Authenticity. Histories require accuracy, but historical fiction requires a suspension of disbelief. And what is accurate is not necessarily believable. 

Which character in your current book is your favourite? Why?  
I have two favourite characters and neither is one of the four point-of-view characters. Lorna Fairclough is the wife of Ernie’s rival, and comes across as brash, and though she has suffered in her past, she is proactive in getting what she wants. Ernie’s daughter Girlie befriends a young Yamatji girl called Ruby Feehely who is certain of her place in the world, yet has so much to lose from being dislocated from it. She’s a little cheeky too. 

Are you a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’? How long does it generally take you to write a book?  
I’m a light plotter, in that I’ll sketch out the major turning points of the novel and character motivations, but the flesh of the story comes when writing. With my current book, the first draft took me two months. However, I’m still working on rewrites a year later! The first manuscript I ever wrote took me five months to write the first draft as I researched as I wrote. 

Which authors have influenced you?  
There are two kinds of authors who have influenced me: those who have influenced me as a writer and those who have influenced my writing. Of the former, my mentor Kim Wilkins has been instrumental in helping me work out what kind of writer I want to be. And when I was younger I tried to emulate the ‘writer’s life’ of my writing idol, Lisa St Aubin de Teràn.  

Of the latter kind of author, Kate Forsyth, Joan London, Sarah Waters, Emma Donoghue, Hannah Kent, Esther Freud, Elizabeth Gilbert have all made an impact, among many others. 

What advice would you give an aspiring author?  
Writing is essential of course. But if an aspiring author wants to ‘emerge’, my advice is to focus on ‘being’ a writer.  A little like building the field of dreams. I enrolled in a creative writing course at university and visualised my book on the N shelves of libraries and bookshops. I added ‘writer’ to my profession on LinkedIn and answered the question of ‘what do you do?’ with ‘writer’. I immersed myself in the Australian publishing industry, following and making connections with other authors, agents, publishers on Twitter and via book reviews on my blog.  

My big break came via the QWC / Hachette Australia Manuscript Development Program in 2015 and the relationship I formed with my publisher as a consequence. Relationships are key.  

Tell us about your next book or work in progress 
My work-in-progress is set across three time periods: 2010/1, 1950s/60s, and 1940s. It is a loose retelling of Hansel and Gretel set amid the petty crime of Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley. 

The Secret at Ocean's Edge
1932. Ernie and Lily Hass, and their daughter Girlie, walk off their wheat farm and move to coastal Dongarra. Ernie steps into local businessman, Bill Fairclough’s patch. Lily befriends Bill’s wife, Lorna. Girlie forms a friendship with an outsider. Into this web of new alliances and animosities comes Lily’s brother, Tommy, suffering from shell shock, and sparks the unravelling of secrets that hold together Lily and Ernie’s marriage, with tragic consequences.  

Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Kali. Good luck with your new book!

Kali will be discussing Australian historical fiction with Ella Carey, Greg Pyers, Dorothy Simmons and Gabrielle Ryan (Chair) at our first HNSA Meet the Author satellite event in Melbourne on 19 February 2017. More details can be found on our satellite events calendar where you will find a link to buy your tickets.

The HNSA 2017 September Conference programme will be announced at this event! Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to hear of early bird registration. Come and hear Kerry Greenwood, Kate Forsyth, Sophie Masson, Lucy Treloar, Sulari Gentill, Robert Gott, Arnold Zable and many, many more! Our speakers' list is available on our website.

Let's make a noise about historical fiction!

1 comment:

  1. Update on title: An Emu War will now be released as 'The Secrets at Ocean's Edge' by Hachette Australia in February 2018.