1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
KC: Actually, I have never wanted to be writer. I would have rather been an artist or musician, because an artist can more easily scrap a painting he is not happy with, and paint it again – as can a musician scrap a self-composed song and re-write it in a matter of minutes. Whereas it would take much more time and effort to re-write a book. Last year, I re-wrote a novella that I had written more than three decades ago; this time, research was involved – and had I not persisted and not sacrificed all my evenings and weekends of going out – I would never have completed the task.
2. How long does it take to write your book(s)?
KC: My first novel, “The Down and Outs,” took me several years to complete, because I kept suffering writers’ block bouts, and then placing the incomplete manuscript back in my cupboard. The next novel, “Poisoned Trees and Yellow Grass,” took me four-and-a-half years to write, probably because I only worked on it during weekends. The third (and unpublished) novel took me only two years to write, as I worked on it during weekday evenings as well as weekends. It was also quicker to complete, as it was a ‘re-write’ of my first ever novella (formerly called “The Synthetics”) – which meant I had already worked out some of the plot, and was familiar with some of the characters that had featured in the first version of the book.
3. What is your work schedule like when writing a book?
KC: Providing new ideas keep entering my mind, and I am not suffering from writers’ block, I can devote some of my weekend time and about three evenings each week to writing a book. It also depends on what is going on in my life at the time. I still have to go out to work, so can’t devote as much time to my writing as I’d like to.
4. Where do you get your ideas or information for your book?
KC: My first novel didn’t involve any research; I simply had a few ideas that had been circulating in my mind since having been sacked from my very first job for having revealed something ‘taboo’ about myself that I should never have disclosed. From very young I’ve felt short-changed about having come from a poor part of town, and about not having been able to enjoy the privileges of those more wealthy than myself. I’ve always wanted to write a plot about the poor being jealous of the rich – hence the poverty-stricken quarter in the book being represented by the colour green.
An ovarian cancer scare, plummeting blood count through giving up eating meat, the game show, “The Cube,” the introduction of food banks for the poor, the television program, “Gems TV,” the 1980’s cold war, and the “Protect & Survive” four-minute warning films advising civilians what to do in the event of a nuclear war, gave me ideas for my second novel, “Poisoned Trees and Yellow Grass,” for which I did research on vitamins, farming, nutrition and the various precious gems and radioactive metals used as names for the characters in the plot.
Having been severely bullied and having to change schools, as well as various teachers reprimanding me – yet allowing some of the other pupils who happened to be male and twice my size – gave me the idea for the plot of my third and unpublished novel, “Out of School” – which is about a bullied schoolgirl being punished by the law. For the plot, I did some research on juvenile prisons and the stages leading up to how a chronic truant ends up in juvenile court.
5. When did you write your first book?
KC: I finished writing my first novel in 1988, but began it as early as 1981. In 1994, it was accepted by a literary agent, who unfortunately died. I was bitterly disappointed when the agent who replaced him said he didn’t like the book and turned me down – after which the manuscript was promptly returned. This was an experience that deterred me to such a degree, that I didn’t put pen to paper again for the next twenty years.
6. What do you do when you’re not writing?
KC: When I’m not writing, I go to work, do the housework and cook, as well as go for long walks where I sometimes browse around the shops. There are only twenty-four hours in a day, and time passes so quickly, I find.
7. What does your family think of your writing?
KC: I’m not sure if dystopian novels are my family’s cup of tea. However, whatever I write, my family make the effort to read – and irrespective of the nature of my work, they regard what I write as far-seeing, imaginative and highly creative.
8. What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating your books?
KC: After having written my third book and reading through it, I reflected on what my two previous novels were about, and was surprised to have discovered that I had included the subject of stabbings in all three – something which was totally subconscious and that I hadn’t planned.
9. How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
KC: I’ve written three novels; all of them are dystopian. The second book, “Poisoned Trees and Yellow Grass,” is definitely my favourite, as I view it as the most dynamic of the three, and feel it stands out – probably because it’s frightening with an ironic, twisted plot – which also has a twist at the very end. Also, the book is about a possibility that everyone subconsciously dreads becoming a reality – nuclear war and the aftermath involved.
10. Any tips/suggestions on getting started?
KC: To be able to start writing a book, initial ideas for the characters and the plot are a must – and sometimes having experienced a shock inspires one to write.
11. What do you think makes a good story?
KC: I believe that creativity as well as originality makes a story stand out.
12. As a child, What did you want to do when you grew up?
KC: As a child, the first thing I wanted to be was an astronaut – probably because of the Apollo moon landings that were televised at the time. A bit later on, I wanted to be an actress or a singer – and when I was sixteen, I wanted to become an artist – a career that I never got the chance to pursue.