Please welcome Kirsten Krauth.
I am pleased to welcome Kirsten Krauth to Book’d Out today. A freelance writer and editor, she currently edits the NSW Writer’s Centre magazine, Newswrite and writes reviews, articles and fiction for various magazines and newspapers, including The Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald. She lives in Castlemaine, in Victoria, with her husband and two young children and blogs at Wild Colonial Girl:www.wildcolonialgirl.com
Kirsten’s remarkable debut novel, just_a_girl was published by UWA Publishing in June 2013.
“just_a_girl tears into the fabric of contemporary culture. A Puberty Blues for the digital age, a Lolita with a webcam, it’s what happens when young girls are forced to grow up too fast. Or never get the chance to grow up at all.
Layla is only 14. She cruises online. She catches trains to meet strangers. Her mother, Margot, never suspects. Even when Layla brings a man into their home. Margot’s caught in her own web: an evangelical church and a charismatic pastor. Meanwhile, downtown, a man opens a suitcase and tenderly places his young lover inside.
just_a_girl is a novel about being isolated and searching for a sense of connection, faith, friendship and healing, and explores what it’s like to grow up negotiating the digital world of facebook, webcams, internet porn, mobile phones and cyberbullying – a world where the line between public and private is increasingly being eroded.”
My review of this remarkable novel will appear later today but first I invite you to learn more about the just_a_girl in this guest post from Kirsten Krauth.
Howdy folks. It’s lovely to be invited by Shelleyrae to talk about my book just_a_girl at her blog. I blog about writing and writers too, and I love to be surrounded by books, wherever I am…
I started writing my first novel in my early thirties. I’d dreamed of it for many years before that. But I always put it down on the priority list. Finally, a friend could see I was stuck and she urged me to just sit down and do it. I’m an all or nothing kind of person (I think most writers are: you need a bit of obsession to keep at it). I threw in my full time job and enrolled in a research masters in creative writing at Sydney Uni. While I hadn’t done much creative writing (a few short stories), I had lots of other writing to back me up (lots of articles, mainly reviews).
At Sydney Uni I had three things to help me: a wonderful supervisor (the fabulous novelist Sue Woolfe); time dedicated each week to writing (two days); and firm deadlines (I had to produce 4,000 words a month). Also, when I did a research masters, I didn’t have to go to classes or pay fees. The pressure in many ways was off. I could just focus on the words.
At first I was nervous about writing fiction. Where to begin? How to start such a huge task (a novel)? How to tell if it was any good? But Sue encouraged me to leave those questions aside (at least for the first draft). I focused instead on just writing paragraphs. Playing with words. Seeing who emerged. Making connections between ideas. Very soon Layla’s voice started to fly onto the page. When I sat down to write, Layla pumped out. She was fast and frenetic. She spoke in very short and disjointed sentences. Her voice was entirely natural to me.
Layla is 14. Like any teenager, she is full of contradictions. Although she is a young character, I realised fairly soon that I wanted it to be an adult novel. I needed to be able to honestly explore her sexuality and challenging situations (for example, she catches a train from Sydney to Newcastle to spend the night with a man she has met on the internet) without fear of censorship.
I also wanted to move beyond the constraints of YA fiction (I love YA!) to explore adult characters and relationships in more depth too. Margot, Layla’s mother, moves from ecstasy rave parties to evangelical churches — and doesn’t notice a great deal of difference. Tadashi, a Japanese-Australian man, buys a love doll and begins a tender relationship.
All the characters in just_a_girl are searching for some sort of connection in a world where they struggle to relate. I think this is more common these days than we might think, possibly one of the reasons why social media and blogging have become so important. In a world where people often don’t know their neighbours, people use blogs as a kind of bonfire, standing around and commenting to try and keep warm. It’s a great way to meet people with similar ideas and passions. I never dreamed when I was starting up my blog that I would meet so many inspiring people (and eventually in the flesh too!).
Just_a_girl in many ways questions the impact that digital technologies are having on family relationships, and young girls in particular. What is it like to be 14 today: to be able to distribute images of yourself (sometimes in provocative poses) on the internet, to be able to bully someone with the click of a button? To do this all in the privacy of your own bedroom … when your mum is asleep in the next room and doesn’t notice. The news is constantly filled with these types of stories. It’s a world where the line between public and private is increasingly being eroded.
Writing a debut novel is a great challenge. It’s a tough time to be published and all the more sweet for that. When the little parcel arrived in the mail, I was shaking with excitement. I am now dreaming of the next one…
I’m also one of those writers who likes the idea of their characters living on in some shape or form. Layla is now on Pinterest. I look forward to seeing where she ends up.
If you’d like to talk to me about the novel, or writing and editing in general (I also edit the NSW Writers’ Centre magazine, Newswrite), you can find me on Goodreads or at my blog Wild Colonial Girl. I look forward to your responses to just_a_girl.
just_a_girl is available to purchase