Working with Words: Krissy Kneen

Krissy Kneen is a Brisbane-based writer and bookseller. Her memoir, Affection, was published in 2009 and shortlisted for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award and the ABIA Award in 2010. Krissy is also the author of the erotic adventure, Triptych, which was published in 2011. Steeplechase is her first non-erotic novel.

We spoke to Krissy about writing horrible reviews in your head, writing what frightens you most, and being adopted by J.D. Salinger’s Glass Family.

What was the first piece of writing you had published?

It was in The Australian Horror and Fantasy Magazine. It was a horror story about a night watchman in a museum and an African statue comes to life. I was only 14 and the editor thought I was an adult and I felt very pleased with myself.

What’s the worst part of your job?

I get very distressed about how my writing will be received. I always go through a soul-destroying few months of thinking I have written the worst book ever and writing horrible reviews in my head that say how terrible the writing is. I am pretty sure I will one day have a stroke whilst waiting for those first reviews to come out.

What’s been the most significant moment in your writing career so far?

The day I got the phone call from Mandy from Text accepting Affection and offering me a contract was the best day in my entire life. I think that moment turned everything around for me.

What’s the best (or worst) advice you’ve received about writing?

The best advice came from Rick Moody’s memoir. Write what frightens you most. I think he was quoting someone else, but really writing something that is safe is not going to help you move forward at all. The things that scare you are the things that are going to dig deepest into your psyche as a writer.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve ever heard or read about yourself or your work?

I am getting used to being quoted in the same breath as 50 Shades of Grey but at first I found it difficult to put my work into the same basket as E. L. James.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

I have always wanted to do something with fish and science. I have at times threatened to retrain as a marine biologist or even a pond-keeper. My latest thing is that I would really like to do the scientific drawings for marine life. I am great at that fine copying in pencil and I would love to sit and watch fish amongst a room full of geeky biologists. I love the ocean. I see myself doing this in a glass-bottomed boat.

There’s much debate on whether creative writing can be taught – what’s your view?

I think you can teach the practice of writing. You can teach about mistakes to avoid, and work practices that will help your craft. Just studying writing will make someone take the job seriously and help you to see what the industry involves so you don’t have false hope of becoming famous or rich.

What’s your advice for someone wanting to be a writer?

Read and write. That is the main trick. Keep reading in an area that relates to your own work. Read things that inspire good writing from you. Then put the time aside to write. Don’t send anything out till you think it is ready. Make sure you get advice before you do.

Do you buy your books online, in a physical bookshop, or both?

I mostly buy physical books but some research related books don’t exist in print form and so I do order some of those online.

If you could go out to dinner with any fictional character, who would it be and why? And what would you talk about?

I would love to have dinner with J.D. Salinger’s Glass Family. I would love to be a part of their big, vibrant, smart family. I would just generally chat with them and argue and start philosophical debates. I have always longed for a really close and supportive bunch of family members and I wish they would adopt me.

What’s the book that’s had the most significant impact on your life or work – and why?

Ray Bradbury’s R is for Rocket made me want to be a writer. I fell in love with sentences reading that book when I was nine or ten. Then my politics was cemented when I read George Orwell. 1984 dictated the kind of book I wanted to write. Those two books were the building blocks for me.

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