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An Interview with Kate Capewell

Updated: Sep 19, 2019

Kate and I virtually met through Gishwhes and what started with fairy penguins ended up with magical llamas, but that's another story for another time. Kate lives in Western Australia and is the author of two published books with Wild Eyed Press and has at least two more exciting projects under way. She is one of the liveliest, smartest, and funniest people I've ever met. I decided it was past time that I introduced her. So, here you go:

Hey Kate, I wanted to catch you for a few minutes so the rest of the world can take a peek inside your head. What got you started writing your first book? What motivated you to pick up a pen or open a file?

I’ll start with what motivated/motivates me. I had actually been writing for quite a long time before I realised I wasn’t too bad at it. I’ve always tended to take written snapshots of life so I don’t forget them. Why? Because I’ve noticed, over the years, people will ask me how my day’s been, or what I’ve been up to, and I tend to say, ‘Yeah, not much, you?’. I realised that quite a lot happens during my days but I don’t share them in conversation very often. Solution? Write it down. It’s far more exciting then.

As to what got me started writing my first book, it was a question from a friend’s little girl asking about where Ladybugs go in winter time. I was curious to find that out as well.

At first, I assumed they just, well, passed away (my first draft was based on that). Not a really good thing to tackle for little kids who just want to know where Ladybugs go. They don’t want to know about death for goodness sake, and why the heck I assumed they died, I don’t know either. So I did a little more research, which was lucky, as I found out they hibernate during winter and live a lot longer than I thought they did. But that was a little boring as well. That was when I met Ambrosia and all of a sudden it grew into something bigger than me. I thought, well, maybe someone else will like it as much as I do. Turns out, they did. Pure luck. That’s all it was.

What are your favorite writing tools? Computer? Pen?

Years ago, before I knew the computer had been invented (and, when I did, they might actually make it smaller than a room), I used pen and paper. That’s how things were done a lot of the time back then, you know, in the dark ages. I didn’t own a typewriter or I would probably have used one. I loved using typewriters and whenever I was at my aunt’s I would sneak into her office and happily type away on hers. It made things look more ‘official.’

Nowadays, my first point of call when writing is the laptop at my desk, but if it’s something personal I want to write, I like the pen. Handwriting is one of the windows to the soul. I can sit and look at it for hours, not to necessarily read it, but simply to study how each word and letter has been put on the page.

What is/are your favorite Children’s Books? Feel free to choose more than one?

My personal favourite is probably The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. When I was little I absolutely adored that book. I loved all the ‘Little Golden Book’ stories as well. Stories like The Poky Little Puppy, I read to my own kids because I loved them so much. Turns out they did too. But, when it comes to bedtime reading, I’ll always go for a fairy tale, and no it doesn’t matter which one.

Your new book Top Secret Guide to Australian Slang is out, right? It’s an unusual thing to write. How did you tackle it?

I don’t think I considered it as tackling, really.

Over the years I’ve worked with a number of new Australians, and I’d see the blank looks on their faces when I’d say a word they simply didn’t understand. I realised I was speaking in Australian Slang, so I’d quickly tell them what it meant so we could move on in the conversation.

I was asked to write the book by my publisher because I quite often lapse into broad slang and it’s possible she thought I’d be good at being able to explain what the heck I was talking about. So, I started listening to every day conversation over a year or so. I realised a lot of slang that we’re known for, internationally, isn’t used in modern Australian society, and I thought, yep, this really needs an upgrade. So, all the words in the book are what one would usually hear when speaking with a modern Aussie. I have found some words are different in each state or region, but other state and regions instinctively know what they mean.

Although the world has opened up with the internet, Australia is still quite secular and remote and it shows in our everyday language. I could go on for hours on this subject, so it’s best I stop now.

I know you are a busy person. What’s your writing day look like?

Snatches. A strange word to use, I know, but that’s what it is. Snatches in time. I’ll often get a ‘ah ha! moment and want to write it down. Unfortunately, if I have nothing on me, the moment passes. I’m starting to make little voice recordings and videos on my phone so I can capture ideas. No, you can’t see or hear them. They’re mine.

Let’s talk about you. What do you eat for breakfast? If it’s not a standard thing then what did you have this morning?

What is this thing you call breakfast? I can’t eat when I get up, it’s far too early. Coffee is my go to, and recently it’s started being a long black, just to get my eyes open. It takes me at least an hour to wake up properly and be human.

This morning I woke up late – 6 am. It’s now 9:30 and I haven’t eaten. What I have had is three coffees, ranging from black to a muddy brown. I’m sucking on one now.

What are you reading/watching on TV/ most recent film you’ve seen?

I’m currently reading, ‘The Way of Kings’ by Brandon Sanderson. His world building is outstanding, and it is a truly epic tale. I’m very glad his publisher realised a story such as this needed to be released in its entirety. It’s quite brilliant, and very long. Just love it.

Watching on TV. Hmmm. The husband and I tend to binge watch TV series over a period of weeks. At the moment we’re on ‘The Americans’ (and have been for about a month now) and we’ve just started on the first season of ‘The Innocents.’

The most recent movie I’ve watched was ‘Killing Gunther.’ It was terrible. My husband chose it. I feel asleep and I blame him. It also annoyed me as the only person who pronounced the name ‘Gunther’ right, was Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Are you working on another book? Can you tell us about it or them?

I am. All I’m really willing to say is that they (yes, there is more than one) aren’t children’s stories. I don’t really want to go into details at this point. Things change.

What makes you sit down at the computer/notepad and start writing? What motivates you?

When I sit down at the computer I am immediately in work mode. I associate my desk with work because it’s where I spend the majority of my day. If I can find that moment to splash out on words then I will do so. My writing is not as sporadic as one may assume because of this. It is always simply a click away.

As for motivation or to ‘get in the zone’, one has to use that singular ‘ah ha’ moment and dive in immediately. If you don’t, all is lost.

What time of day (if any) is your sweet spot for words?

The best time for me personally, with a house full of men and clingy animals, is very early in the a.m. It is my alone time, when the sun is thinking of rising, and the day is fresh and new. This doesn’t always happen though, so if I can find a moment where nothing much else is happening, even if it’s only an hour, I’ll write.

Any habits or rituals? Anything you do specially to get into the mood to write?

No, though I will head for the kitchen to make coffee when I realise I’m writing. It just tends to happen.

Any advice for novice writers?

Don’t ever waste that ‘ah ha’ moment. This is of the utmost importance.

Be prepared for rejection. It means your story needs more work, or you haven’t found the right person. More often than not, your story needs more work.

Walk away from your first draft and let it simmer. Don’t look at it again for at least six months. Work on something else, sure, but don’t look at that one.

Not everyone will see what you do. Be prepared for this, and if they don’t understand it yet, write it so they can.

Learn about writing. Learn about style. Learn about beginnings, middles, and ends. You will not lose your voice by following grammatical rules. Don’t be arrogant and think you’ve written a masterpiece. Even if you have, it’s going to need work.

Get other people to read it. Find someone you can absolutely trust to give you positive, yet realistic, feedback. Listen to them. If you don’t understand their notes or are upset by them, walk away from them for a day, yes a day, then go back.

If you think you’re ready to submit something, follow the submission guidelines. You are NOT better than everyone else.

Your story is your baby and you’re going to be very protective of it. Be prepared to get sad and angry at what other people say. It’s a given. Also be prepared to help your baby grow so it has the tools to go out in to the real world. You cannot molly-coddle it forever.

Funniest thing that has happened to you that you can remember without having to think about it.

Ah, see, I’d have to think about it. That’s why I write stuff down.

Kate has a secret competition running for signed copies of the Top Secret Guide To Australian Slang. You can find all the details here.

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