Krissy Kneen is a Brisbane 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. She is also the author of the erotic adventure Triptych, which was published in 2011. Steeplechase is her first non-erotic novel.
Why I write
I write for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I discovered the power of beautiful sentences when I first read Ray Bradbury stories as a child. I was hooked. Where other books were fun to read, his books made me want to write. I decided then and there that that is what I wanted to do. I continue to write now because I feel awful when I don’t. Writing is the only thing that makes me feel calm. It is almost like a drug. When I am off it I go through unbearable withdrawal.
Do you write every day? If so, how many hours?
Three days a week, often for eight or nine hours a day. If I am in the middle of a project I will write as much as I can on the other days too. Sometimes I finish work and go to a bar and write for an hour or two before going home. I go through phases when I get up early and work from 5-7 before work. I am a bit erratic in my hours but I put in as much time as I can. I also take holidays to write and spend a week or two doing nothing but the work.
Worst source of distraction?
Writers’ festivals and running writing workshops. These are terribly distracting but a necessary and sometimes pleasurable part of the job. I can mostly work around my day job at the bookshop and my friends and family know to give me space to work.
Best source of inspiration?
Paintings and other novels are my inspiration. Some authors always make me want to write, Michael Ondaatje and Annie Proulx and Kerri Hulme always inspire me. Also visiting a gallery will make me want to write.
How often do you get writers’ block/doubt your own ability?
Writers block is rare for me. I treat it as a job and force myself to write no matter what. I doubt my own ability pretty much all the time. I am a terribly anxious personality and am never happy with what I have created. There are always other writers who I aspire to be like and I never feel like I can stand beside the greats of literature. I am always striving to be able to hold my head up in the company of the writers that I admire.
Contemporary writer in any medium who you never miss?
I love James Salter – my absolute favourite. I have been waiting for a new book by him for years. Now there is one out in April and I am excited. I also love the monthly New Yorker fiction podcasts. I find new authors to love there and listen to it religiously.
The Bone People by Kerri Hulme and A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter – a tie.
The book that changed your life?
1984 by Orwell. I read Orwell at the same time as my sister read Ayn Rand and our politics were pretty much set in stone at this point. We became separate people with different goals. I wanted to fight censorship and to attack class wars and she wanted to embrace capitalism. It seemed a defining moment for us.
The book you should have read but haven’t?
At the moment that is a pile of my friends’ books that are sitting by my bed, but in general, I know I should have read The Decameron. It keeps coming back as being important to my work. I have it on my iPad but I haven’t had a chance to read it and I keep pushing it back.
You look back at the first thing you had published and think…
I am pretty proud of it actually. I was 14 and had a short story published in The Australian Horror and Fantasy Magazine. They thought I was an adult and that made me feel proud. I still have a copy. The story is pretty patchy but I till feel fondly towards it.
How did you get started writing?
I used to write at school all the time. My best friend and I were writing a novel in grade 5. I wish I had those notebooks. It was a science fiction book and we wrote before school and every lunch break then I would go home and write my own stories after school. It was an easy pleasure.
Does writing change anything?
Writing stops me feeling anxious and depressed so personally writing changes my emotional state. Sometimes, not often but occasionally I read something that completely changes my perspective. Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware did that. I think books like that can change an individual. Collectively? I do think books change cultures. Books challenge set beliefs and if a culture embraces their literature it can question values and ideas.
What are you working on now and when is it out?
I am working on a book called Abstinence which references the classic erotic texts and touches on the work of Wilhelm Reich. Not sure of the release date but imagine it will be late this year or early next year.
Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2013