My guest in the attic this week is Karina Kilmore, who writes about how hard she found the move from journalism to crime writing and how much of herself she unwittingly wrote into her character. Please read on:
Karina is a finance journalist during business hours and has covered almost every major financial event and scandal since the 1987 global share market crash. She has a passion for consumer rights and social justice and is a strong financial rights advocate. Although she is a début novelist, Karina has had more than 3 million words published in articles for newspapers, magazines and websites around the world.
Karina lives in inner-city Melbourne with her teenage daughter, husband and two dogs. She is also a lifesaving volunteer and a national convenor for Sisters In Crime.
From Fact to Fiction
I’m just going to jump straight to the nitty gritty and tell you how bloody hard it was to write this novel. It was one of those happy-sad, best-worst type situations, where you want to keep going but there are so many reasons to give up.
Even though I’ve been a writer all my life as a journalist, this was the hardest thing I’ve written. Not because I’m undisciplined—after almost thirty years working to daily deadlines, the physical act of getting my head around a story and writing it wasn’t the problem. Nor was it because I had doubts about what I was doing. I had all the ingredients I needed: a story outline, a word target and a deadline. Naïvely, I thought it would be the same as my day job.
Writing Where the Truth Lies was sometimes gut-wrenching. Unlike reporting facts or writing non-fiction (I’ve also written three finance books), writing a novel was different because I could take the story wherever I wanted it to go. There were no limits, no boundaries, and no facts that need to be told.
The second hardest aspect was living in the head of my main character, journalist Chrissie O’Brian. Chrissie is a damaged, grief- and guilt-stricken young woman. To write her story, I had to inhabit her mind, and it was tough living parts of Chrissie’s life with her. I realised, unlike me who could pack up the keyboard at any time, my main character, like many other people with anxiety or living with grief, had no no relief, day or night, from emotional pain. So each night when I started the next chapter or the next scene I had to put myself back in Chrissie’s shoes.
I didn’t learn the third big lesson until after I’d finished the story, when I realised how much of myself I had written into the book. As a private person not used to exposing myself on social media or voicing my opinions because of my career as an independent journalist, I suddenly found myself pouring my opinions and beliefs into my novel.
I come from a big political, left-wing family of wharfies and truckies. Despite working and reporting on the corporate and finance worlds, unionism is probably in my blood and growing up I had a front row seat to some of the biggest union disputes of the times. Despite working mainly in male-dominated areas, the women in my family, past and present, are among the bravest and strongest people I’ve ever met or heard about. That came out in the women in my novel. Less surprising to me was that my natural cynicism was transferred to Chrissie.
Where the Truth Lies is not just about a journalist who, like me, was born in New Zealand and transferred to Melbourne, but almost every character and event within the story is also based on a first-hand connection. The boardroom corruption, the newsroom dysfunction, the decline of unionism, the collapse of traditional news values, the automation of our world. And when I say automation, I don’t just mean the wharves in my novel, where ships are run by computers and robots rule the docks, but also our everyday lives, such as DIY-service through the internet for everything from banking to shopping to medicine. Even dating has become automated with apps replacing pubs and nightclubs. The media, my great lifelong love, hasn’t been immune. Traditional news judgement has been replaced by algorithms and click-bait results.
But, of course, those are just some of the underlying themes in the novel. On the surface I’ve wrapped them all together in a gritty, urban crime story about resilience, passion, knowing grief will end and accepting that the world is complicated. I hope you enjoy it.
One a final note: As everyone knows, you only get one chance to be a début author and unfortunately my début coincided with coronavirus. My book tour and public launches were cancelled but I hope reading, more than ever, will offer an escape while we sit out this historic crisis.
Karina has donated a copy of her book, Where the Truth Lies, to giveaway.
To enter, simply comment on the blog or any of my social media posts about Karina’s book.
The winner will be drawn 12pm (WST) this Thursday, 20th August, and will be chosen randomly.
International entries are welcome, but we can only post to an Australian address.