Interview by Nicole Melanson ~
Kayte Nunn is a freelance book, magazine and web editor and writer with more than 20 years’ publishing experience and is the former editor of Gourmet Traveller WINE magazine. She is also a mother to two girls and when not writing, reading or ferrying her daughters around she can be found in the kitchen, procrasti-baking. Rose’s Vintage is her first novel.
Kayte on Facebook
Kayte on GoodReads
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
Writing has always been a part of my life, from gushing diaries and bad poetry when I was a teenager, to working as a magazine features writer and editor as a career, but writing fiction had been a secret dream. When I had a break of several weeks between freelance jobs and my daughter was in daycare, I realised that it was now or never and so I began. I had written a couple of short stories and they had been shortlisted in local competitions, but tackling a full-length novel was a much more daunting prospect. I was training for a marathon at the time and used the same tactics – consistently applying myself to the task, and only looking as far ahead as the next chapter.
When I had finished, I sent the first few chapters to a number of agents and got several requests for the full manuscript. I also got my fair share of rejections, but one afternoon Margaret Connolly rang me and asked for a month to read it exclusively. When she got back to me she gave me plenty of notes and I set to work on a new draft. When it was in a shape that she was happy with it went to several publishers, most of whom said very nice things but that it was too close to other authors in their stable, or that it wasn’t quite where it needed to be. Based on their feedback, I revised it once more, and then it was accepted by Black Inc, which is building its women’s fiction list. I was also close to getting a deal from a much larger publisher, but decided that, as a debut novelist, I was more likely to receive individual attention from a small publisher.
WHAT IS YOUR LATEST BOOK OR CURRENT PROJECT?
Rose’s Vintage is a love story, set in the fictional wine region of the Shingle Valley about an English chef who is there to spy on a troubled winery as a favour to her brother. She arrives in the middle of winter and it’s far from the lush, romantic vineyard setting she’d imagined…
Growing up, some of my favourite books were the Darling Buds of May series about life in a bucolic English countryside, as well as Jilly Cooper’s early novels, Imogen, Octavia, Harriet et al (if you haven’t read these, they are still fabulous), and so as I wrote I realised that I wanted to evoke that kind of feel-good love story, with a gorgeous setting, in my own novels. Having worked as editor of Gourmet Traveller WINE for several years and visited many wine regions, the choice of setting was obvious.
WHAT IS YOUR WORK ENVIRONMENT LIKE?
Completely schizophrenic! I take my laptop anywhere it’s quiet – during the day, in our living room or out on our back deck (where WiFi conveniently doesn’t reach). I spend a fair bit of time ferrying my daughter to various sporting commitments, so will often bring my laptop to her swim sessions (where there is helpfully a row of desks outside the pool, but perhaps not so helpfully it’s also where rugby players choose to disrobe before going in to the ice baths…so a little distracting at times!). I’ve also sometimes taken myself off to the library for a few hours at the weekend for some peace and quiet – anywhere someone’s not shouting ‘Mum!’ essentially!
WHEN DO YOU WORK? WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE?
I work when I don’t have other freelance writing projects on, and usually between 10 and 3 on weekdays, with a few hours squeezed in on the weekends as well. I like to get some exercise in as soon as I’ve dropped my girls off to school or it never gets done, but I try and schedule any other errands for after 3pm. Needless to say, the hour between 2-3pm is often my most productive! I set myself a word count, and as I’m quite goal-oriented that usually works for me.
WHAT IS YOUR WRITING PROCESS?
It really varies. I spend a lot of time thinking about an idea, then make notes by hand, often on the largest piece of paper I can find. Characters and scenes pop into my head, and then I start writing. I find that after about 20,000 words or so I really need a detailed chapter breakdown and so plan the story out a little more. For my second book, The Angel’s Share, which is also set in the Shingle Valley, at about the halfway point I got a huge piece of cardboard and lots of coloured sticky notes to try and make sense of the different story threads and the plot arcs. I’ll often have ideas for lines of dialogue or plot twists in the middle of the night and so always have a piece of paper and a pen by my bed.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
I absolutely love it – well, the having-written bit. The actual writing bit can sometimes be fun, but at others is painful, and leaves me riddled with self-doubt.
WHO OR WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Favourite writers inspire me: Liane Moriarty, JoJo Moyes, Kate Forsyth and Kate Morton. I often reread their books to see if I can figure out just how they achieve what they do in their writing.
For me ideas are like tuning into a radio frequency – once you’ve got your brain tuned in they won’t stop flying at you. The trick then is to sift through them and work out which are worth pursuing. For the book I am currently working on, the original idea came as a flash of inspiration as I put my hand on the sundial in the rose garden in Sydney’s Botanic Gardens.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF WHAT YOU DO?
Juggling the demands of motherhood with the desire to just lock myself away. Ignoring the voice in my head that says what I’ve written is complete bollocks.
WHAT DO YOU WISH YOU HAD KNOWN WHEN YOU STARTED?
That there is an art to storytelling and – for me anyway – it is something you have to learn, whether from creative writing books, or studying other writers, or from attending writing courses or workshops. It’s like opening the back of the watch to see how it all works.
WHAT IS YOUR ARTISTIC OR PROFESSIONAL VISION?
I want to write books that people love and that take them to a better place when they read them, that give them hope when things in their own life are tough, that entertain them, make them laugh and sometimes cry.
WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE FEMALE AUTHORS?
Liane Moriarty and JoJo Moyes are two absolute favourites. I’ve also recently really enjoyed the Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling) crime series. Gillian Mears, ML Steadman, Charlotte Wood, Kate Morton, Kate Forsyth, Kate Grenville, Geraldine Brooks, Isabelle Allende, Amy Tan…
WHICH FEMALE AUTHORS WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE INTERVIEWED ON WORDMOTHERS NEXT?
Thank you, Kayte Nunn!
— Nicole Melanson
Like this interview? Follow WordMothers or Subscribe to meet more great female authors!