Today’s interview is with debut author, Kate Hazel Hall, whose book releases in just two days (still time to preorder!!)! We are very excited to bring this interview to you so, without further ado, here it is.
So let’s start at the beginning. How did you first get into writing?
I started writing stories as a kid, mostly fantasy stories, and I’d make little books and illustrate them.
That is so cute, oh my god!
Hmmmm, I still can’t look at them. It’s a bit cringeworthy. One was called ‘The Quest for the Crystal Sword’. Like, really.
Frankly, that could make a cool story for kids! What are your favourite genres to read and write? Did you stay with fantasy over the years or branched out?
I think fantasy waxes and wanes for me. I loved it as a kid, but I went on to become a literary studies academic so there was a lot more to choose from. Now, I’d say that SFF YA is a definite preoccupation, and I’m pretty much only reading books with queer protagonists, especially sapphic books – YA and adult.
Oh, I can relate to that. Not gonna lie, don’t remember the last time I’ve read a book without an LGBT protagonist.
Same! Except for work, of course 😉
Gotta make sacrifices for work. And are there any genres or tropes you wouldn’t write?
Yup. Next week it’s Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Love Plath. Hughes was a very bad man. I wouldn’t write true crime, though I completely understand the fascination. For me, reading should transport us beyond the vileness of the human condition.
Right, like if I want to know about the bad things happening, I can just turn on the news, unfortunately.
I know. Especially right now. That’s where books come in, of course! They offer us a way out.
Exactly! Something good to focus on, even if only for a short time. And how do you get inspiration for your books then?
Well, as a debut author I’m answering this from a place of inexperience, but … From Darkness came from being in the place where it’s set. This is a forest and a lonely stretch of beach right on the underneath edge of Australia, a few hours from where I live. There’s a small village there, just a couple of shops really, and I was there one day and the story kind of just appeared in front of me.
Oh, I like that! Using literally just what’s around you to tell story. Kind of how the oral traditions of storytelling always worked, right, just explaining stuff happening near us.
I’m sure that’s how it works in many places, though as a non-Indigenous person living in Australia I don’t feel qualified or entitled to comment on oral traditions of place. My book was written on lands belonging to the Wadawurrung and Gadubanud peoples and it is stolen land. I wanted to respect the connection to place of the rightful owners of those lands and waterways and so I didn’t try to appropriate any of the stories that belong to those places. Some people might call that erasure, but for me that is a form of respect. I decided to stick with what I know – stories from western mythic systems learned from books.
That’s very admirable of you! Honestly, I meant more the process of coming up with a story (being inspired by something around, whatever it may be), than this place in particular. 🙂
Oh I see! Well, the place is special, and I’ve been lucky enough to be able to travel there for most of my life, so it seemed like the natural setting for a story about two girls who fight the laws of life and death to stay together. I guess I feel compelled to explain why there would be a portal to the classical underworld in the middle of a pine plantation in the remote south-west coast of Australia.
That makes sense.
oh good. I often worry that it doesn’t make sense!
Okay, digging deeper into how you write. Do you have a writing playlist? And if you do, does it focus more on the lyrics or melodies, vibe of the songs?
I don’t have a set playlist, but I had certain songs I would listen to obsessively when writing this book. ‘A Forest‘ by the Cure, ‘Private Universe‘, by Crowded House, the Apollo Atmospheres and Soundscapes album by Brian Eno, and absolutely anything by Slow Meadow. so, vibes, definitely!
Vibes are the most important, let’s be real. Those are good choices right there. And what’s your writing process? At what point do you let other people read your drafts and who are they?
Good question! I have a couple of trusted readers, and I’m lucky because they know me well. My friend Lyn has been my go-to reader, critic and editor for a long time. She always spots the flaws I don’t see, and I’m immensely grateful for that. So she gets the rough drafts (poor Lyn) but otherwise I tend to hold onto writing until it feels ready, if you know what I mean.
Yeah, I do. I haven’t been writing since high school, but I know that feeling. It’s great that you have a friend you trust who is actually helpful, though!
And now for something more fun! Summarise your book in up to 5 words and a meme.
Portals, sinkholes and the moon.
Okay, that’s AMAZING
You are very kind. Hey, do I get to do some book recs? pretty please?
Yes! We love getting LGBT recs from authors!
Yay! first up, Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron should be prescribed for young readers everywhere. Actually, it should be prescribed for all readers (just not very young children, there’s a fair amount of killing). It absolutely dismembers that awful, damaging, hetero-patriarchal fairytale, and I love it. Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s The Mermaid, the Witch and the Sea is one of those books we mentioned earlier – the kind you can escape into and miss when it’s over. And my last rec is for Julia Ember’s Ruinsong – a queer retelling of the Phantom of the Opera, which is coming out on Nov 24th, and I can’t wait!
Ahh I can’t wait to read Ruinsong either!! Also absolutely love that all your recs are sapphic fantasy, very on brand. So speaking of other writers. Which three authors would you say influenced your writing the most?
Margaret Mahy and Julia Ember for YA. Jeanette Winterson, because Oranges are not the Only Fruit showed me how important it is to be brave about who you are, and Mark Smith, whose Wilder Country trilogy is set here in coastal Australia, and evokes place so vividly you can smell, taste and feel it. Uh oh, was that four?
It’s okay, we all know gay people can’t do math. If (when!) your book were to be made into a movie, who would you like to direct it?
Hmm, not sure, but it would have to be a woman 🙂
Valid. You don’t even have to know beforehand, but you always feel that something was directed by a woman.
Something about quality, perhaps . . .
Understanding the way we move in the world.
Yes, and the way we see, and feel, and … ok, this is getting very sapphic now!
Sure thing!! So continuing this train of thoughts. What does ownvoices LGBT representation mean to you?
I think it means everything, actually. I think ‘write what you know’ is good advice, and for me, From Darkness (which started its life as a straight romance) only felt true and real when I rewrote it to reflect what I knew, intimately and from personal experience, about living as somebody who identifies as queer.
I’m glad we’re in agreement here. And it’s great that you felt comfortable and confident enough to rewrite your book to be true to your heart!
It only found a publisher once I did that.
That’s even better? To know clearly there’s a market for us?
yes, and I’m so thrilled to be part of this immense surge in YA books for and by LGBTQ+ authors. Bring it ON!
Our lists of releases for each year honestly just keep getting longer and longer, it’s amazing. Okay. What’s one piece of advice you would like to give your younger self?
My younger self needed a good talking to, but would never listen to advice. If I could get her to sit still and listen I’d say ‘stop dating boys. You won’t like ending up liking it. And write that damn book.’ I love your lists! And I feel so excited and honoured to see my book on the 2020 list.
Speaking as a lesbian, stop dating boys sounds like great advice haha. We’re very excited about your book, too! One last question. If you could have dinner with one member of the LGBT community, dead or alive, who would it be?
Oh shit. Can I come too?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Hazel Hall has published short stories and creative non-fiction for adults, but YA fiction is where her heart is—especially fantasy, magical realism, and speculative YA with a healthy amount of Sapphic romance built in. When she isn’t writing, Kate often sneaks off to the forest or the beach with a sketchbook and a surfboard. Despite wearing out several wetsuits, Kate is yet to gain her advanced surfer qualifications, but she does have a PhD in Literary Studies from Deakin University, Australia. She works and writes on Wadawurrung country, teaching graduate research skills, genre studies and ecological fiction. Kate lives with her daughters and the world’s naughtiest rescue cat in a small coastal town, just across the Southern Ocean from Antarctica. From Darkness (Duet Books, November 2020) is her first novel.