Thank you so much for allowing me to hang out on your blog, Dale. I appreciate your hospitality.
1. What comes first for you character or plot?
I know it’s much more grown up to say character, and in truth, sometimes that’s the case, but for what I call my Dead Books, it was most definitely plot. Of course, after I had my characters from the first book, ‘Dead, Actually’, then it as a case of finding Macey’s story. Macey is the unforgettable side-kick in the first book and the lead in Almost Dead.
2. Was there a particular incident, place or monument that first sparked your thinking for this novel?
Because ALMOST DEAD is linked to ‘Dead, Actually’, I already had my main character, so really it was a case of digging deeper into her psyche. But I suppose in expanding upon this question it was initially three words splashed sideways across a teen magazine that began it all: It’s a Bitchfest! I was immediately intrigued and spent the night playing out all kind of scenarios where this might apply. Of course that’s certainly not a title that would have worked well here in Oz.
3. Did you know how this novel would end before you wrote it? Or did you consider any alternate ending?
Basically I knew where and how it would end, right from the beginning. That said, there were tweaks and slight changes, but I ‘saw’ it in my mind as soon as I started fleshing out a plot. It was one of the few constants. Many other things changed as the story evolved.
4. What was most difficult aspect of this story to write?
Macey herself! She’s such a strong, tough, kind of character and I was afraid that in making her sympathetic to the reader that I’d lose the essence of her. There was much, much rewriting of almost every scene because of that. Sometimes she was still too sharp and edgy and others times I knew I was diluting her. Finding and keeping that balance – finding her vulnerabilities, rattling her cage and not weakening her... It was a task from start to finish. But I have to say I was so pleased with the result. I believe Macey didn’t lose herself as she grew through the story, we just got to know her better, and love her more. Phew!
5. What is one thing readers may not know about you?
Oh wow. I was asked this the other day and I struggled. I’m pretty much an open book – but what very few people would know is that my kidneys are in the wrong place!!! LOL! True! I had to have a full body scan for a serious illness a few years back and the doctor said to me afterward, “Um do you know your kidneys aren’t where they’re supposed to be? Gave us quite a start for a moment.” Very childishly I answered, “Cool!”
6. Was Macey based even loosely on someone you know or have met even casually?
No, I don’t think so. I’ve met some very cool people in my time, but no one quite as untouchable as Macey Pentecost. That said, I can’t honestly say she’s not a subconscious melting pot of traits – but then again, which author could ever say that about a character they’ve created?
7. Where is your favourite place to write?
Boringly, it’s usually at my desk. I mix it up occasionally and go out by the pool or curl up on the lounge, but generally I do my best work at my desk. There’s something about the place and order that seems to click a little switch in my brain that signifies ‘work time’. However, much of Almost Dead was created in a fantastic penthouse on the coast with ocean, lake or river views from every window – even the loo. I was going through a very difficult period of my life and a friend blessedly sent me away to her family holiday home and told me to finish the book. I will always be grateful to her. In fact the book is dedicated to her.
8. Do you read fiction while working on a novel? Or do you tend towards reading non-fiction or poetry?
When I’m in the depths of a book I can’t read anyone else’s work. It’s not that I’m afraid, as some writers are, that I’ll be influenced by someone else’s style or words, the truth is that when I’m past a certain point in a story, that’s all I want to think about, talk about or read. It envelopes me; takes me over. I’m hungry for it and for more of it. So, I tend not to read anything when I get past a certain stage of a book I’m writing. Early on I can read, but usually something entirely different to my own genre at that point. Crime is a huge love of mine, so more than likely it will be an adult crime novel. Between books I devour YA fiction, though. And then once I’ve edited that book a hundred or so times? Yerk! THEN I get to that stage where you know if you look at it once more time you’ll puke. That’s usually the time to send it off to wiser eyes. Aka – my editors.
9. What are you currently reading?
Interestingly I have JUST finished a JK Rowling book, not her HP series or her fated adult romance, but her adult crime novel, ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling’ written as Robert Galbraith. It was brilliant, and I heartily recommend it! Prior to that I read and loved (Aussie author) Jennifer Kloester’s YA - ‘The Cinderella Moment’. Poignantly beautiful. It’s another book I wholeheartedly endorse.
10. What is the most helpful advice about writing you have ever received?
Gosh – so much. The four that stand out are very commonly known but they are the ones that immediately sprang to mind so here goes: “You can’t edit a blank page”; “Show Don’t Tell”; “Elicit Reader Sympathy” and “Don’t Move the Chair”. The last is a Brian Falkner reference that needs a lot of explaining. It was and is, for me, very profound and I heard it at the moment I needed to. (As often happens)
11. Who are some of your favourite authors?
Just about every YA author I’ve ever read. I just love the diversity of YA fiction! Such talent both here and abroad. Adult authors? Again so many, but as I do love crime fiction I have to mention a couple of Aussie authors such as Barry Maitland, Jaye Ford, Wendy James and Lee Christine. Loving Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. I could go on forever... Too, too many to mention!
Thanks Kaz for sharing some of your insights into the writing process with us.
Thank you Dale! That was fun! I sincerely hope your readers find Almost Dead to be a fun and intriguing read. It’s not just for teenagers – I have as many or more adult readers as I do teenage fans. If any do like it and would like to drop me a line, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kaz is kindly giving away a copy of her new book to one lucky reader of this blog. If you want to win a copy of Almost Dead just leave a comment on this interview and tell me the name of the main character. The winner will be drawn on Friday 14th February.
Good luck with the draw everybody! And thank you so much once more for helping me celebrate the release of Almost Dead. Cue the streamers and balloons!