Earlier this year I reviewed Peace, Love & Khaki Socks by Kim Lock. If you haven’t read the book, read my review – it’s a great piece of contemporary women’s fiction by a talented new writer. Kim’s had a big few months promoting her book as well as just living her life, so it was lovely that she made time to answer a few questions for me. Reading her answers, I see that we have a few things in common, including a love of Craig Silvey’s book Jasper Jones and the U2 song With or Without You.
First up, some questions about her first novel.
Monique: What do you want readers to know about Peace, Love & Khaki Socks?
Kim: That the story is one woman’s unique journey through an unexpected pregnancy. Struggling to find empowerment, readers will follow a young woman, Amy, who often feels like the proverbial square peg in a round hole. The narrative is light-hearted, at times funny, and I hope that readers will take from the story whatever they need—whether that is simply enjoyment of a story, or perhaps space to reflect on some of the deeper issues broached in the text about womanhood, pregnancy, and birth in our culture.
Monique: What do you like most about Peace, Love & Khaki Socks?
Kim: I really enjoyed the way the narrative rolled out with a dry, sarcastic, humorous undertone. Written from the first-person perspective, readers are dropped right inside the protagonist’s world. I think (hope!) this allows readers an unobscured view through Amy’s eyes.
Monique: What has been the feedback to Peace, Love & Khaki Socks since it was launched? What’s it like waiting for the reviews to come in?
Kim: So far, the majority of the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Which is a huge relief! On the night the book was launched, I suffered an enormous panic attack—it suddenly dawned on me that this novel, this culmination of so many years of angst and joy and apprehension—would be out in the world, out of my hands. The literary world seemed enormous and unforgiving, and I was so frightened! For me, part of being a writer has been forming the understanding that writing is art, and the appreciation of art is subjective. Of course, I’d love every review to be glowing, but there are always going to be parts that don’t work for some readers. I have to be okay with that. Waiting for reviews is intensely nerve-wracking. I read and absorb every word of them.
Monique: What do you hope readers learn from Amy’s pregnancy and birth experience?
Kim: That every woman’s journey is different. All women are unique and sometimes, what fits some just doesn’t fit others. That it’s okay to be unique, it’s possible to work through the fear.
Monique: Are there any similarities between you and Amy? What are they?
Kim: Amy and I share a similar insecurity, in that we worry deeply about what other people think of us. This means that sometimes we might keep people at arm’s length. We also both desire, deep down, the utopian ideal of a contented, peaceful world.
Monique: If you could put together a soundtrack for Peace, Love & Khaki Socks, which two songs would have to be on it?
Kim: Gosh, that’s a great question. Perhaps With or Without You by U2, and maybe Helen Reddy’s I am Woman.
Monique: What advice did or will you give to your children when they start a family?
Kim: Always, always follow your heart. You know best.
Monique: What’s the biggest thing you learnt on the journey to publication (or after publication)?
Kim: Publication is only the beginning, there is still so much work to do getting the book out into the world and into the hands of readers.
Monique: Now for some more general questions about writing. What’s your writing process like? Has it adapted over time? Do you have a particular writing space? Do you need complete silence or can you cope with noise? How do you get into the “zone”?
Kim: Having two small children, my writing process has to be very flexible. I have to be able to write at any time of the day or night, I have to be okay with being interrupted, and I’m getting good at typing whilst standing up at the kitchen bench! But there are inevitably times when I crave quiet, uninterrupted writing time, and when that happens, I wait for the weekend then pack my laptop into the car and head out into the country to find somewhere quiet to sit. Reading something I love inspires me, so I often keep a pile of my favourite novels alongside when I write.
Monique: When you write, what is your biggest weakness?
Kim: A tendency to go back over previous work and edit, rather than just writing and getting the story out. Also, I often get distracted by all the shiny things on the internet…
Monique: Do your characters create themselves? Or do you plan them out? Do they ever surprise you?
Kim: I recently read an interview with Kate Forsyth, who said it takes the first quarter of her novels for her characters to begin to feel real to her. I really related to that. My characters reveal themselves slowly to me, almost as people do in real life. It takes quite some time before my characters are standing on their own two feet, but once they’re up and about, they talk to me constantly, demand my every attention. Yes, they constantly surprise me; they grow as the story grows and they often throw me a curve ball.
Monique: What do you look for when you read fiction?
Kim: Writing that moves me, authentic (not necessarily likeable, but believable) characters, and an engaging plot. Then I’m hooked!
Monique: Which Australian women writers do you admire the most?
Kim: There are so many inspirational Australian women writers. Where do I begin? I love the writing of Charlotte Wood, Kate Forsyth and Kate Morton. Hannah Kent for turning a decade-long obsession into an international success story, and a truly exquisite novel. Loretta Hill, who balances the creation of her wonderfully fun, feel-good novels with pregnancy and motherhood of small children, and still finds time to maintain her blog for readers and other aspiring writers.
Monique: Which book are you reading now?
Kim: Dirt Music by Tim Winton. Next on the pile is Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch.
Monique: How should a newly-published writer promote themselves?
Kim: I’m still working this out myself! I think it’s important to find a balance that works for the individual, to find a niche that you’re good at. For instance, I struggle to blog, so I try and engage on Twitter and Facebook instead. Right now, it seems a social media presence is an essential way to engage with readers, booksellers, publishers and other writers.
Monique: What sort of challenges face writers looking to get published these days?
Kim: Keeping the faith in your own writing while you await publication can be a real challenge. Publishers are looking for books they can sell, and what is selling may not necessarily be what you are writing—even if what you have written is brilliant. Patience, persistence, being both open to critique and having a thick skin are all things we need as writers aspiring to publication.
Monique: Which book could you not live without?
Kim: All of them! But if you’re going to make me choose … Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey and Atonement by Ian McEwan.
Monique: Finally, the “just-for-fun” questions. If I came over for dinner now, what would we have to eat?
Kim: We have some gorgeous places to visit here in the Barossa Valley—I’d probably take you out for a glass of wine instead!
Monique: Do you ever skip ahead a few pages or read a book’s ending?
Kim: I do! I really shouldn’t, but I can’t help myself … I usually limit it to a glance.
Monique: Finish this sentence … I really hate it when …
Kim: I’m cold and can’t get warm.
Monique: What is the dominant colour in your wardrobe?
Kim: One moment, I’ll have to go check … it seems to be mostly blue and grey, with the odd splash of red.
Monique: Boots or thongs?
Kim: Boots! I have so many pairs. Boots are the silver lining on the cold of winter.
I hope you enjoyed this insight into Kim Lock – make sure you check out her book!