Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Getting to know ... Kit Habianic

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
Can I plead the fifth on that question? Writers seem to spend a lot of time worrying about what category our novels fall into, which is crazy; that’s a marketing question. Our job as writers is to write the best books we can – books that enable the reader to feel something, whether that’s enjoyment, or curiosity or rage.

Until Our Blood is Dry, published this spring, is the story of a South Wales community and three main characters whose lives are ripped apart by the Great Miners’ Strike of the mid-Eighties. It’s about choosing sides; about love and loyalty and belonging. And about a time and a place where the roles of men and women were thrown open to question – when everything that was certain dissolved and fell away.

What made you choose that genre?
I made no conscious choices. It was all about writing a story that sank its hooks into me and wouldn't let go.

How long does it take you to write a book?
I spent about three months writing the first draft of Until Our Blood is Dry and the next eight years unpicking all the horrors, restructuring it, mining the live scenes, fleshing out the characters, working out how to begin and end the thing. And everything that happened in between. The writing feels like one thing and the crafting completely another. Which may be why I’m struggling to talk myself into starting the next book…

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
When writing is going well, it takes on a life of its own. It can feel as though the book is writing you. You go to bed, thinking about what might happen next, about how your character will act or react, and wake up with the next scene or plot development buzzing around in your brain. When that happens, you need to stop and write before it all dissolves.

I was lucky, at the time of writing the book, to be freelance and to be able to put everything on hold one summer to get all the words down on page. Most days were full writing days but when it goes well, that doesn’t feel like a chore. 

At the moment, it feels like a struggle to find time to think. It’s a question of thinking and writing in short bursts, jotting down outlines, scribbling notes that can maybe flesh out into scenes.  

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
Things that happen, to me, or to friends, or in the news. Feelings that are dark or difficult or dangerous to follow in real life. Things that make me sad, or angry or that beg questions. Ideas can be concrete or abstract, and maybe the most powerful story ideas are those that tap into both.

At the moment, I’m excited about disconnects; about words that aren’t spoken and relationships that don’t happen and the choices that lead us down strange and winding paths. It’s about the grey hinterland that lies between the things our friends and loved ones want and expect of us and what we can do or be. Gaps and ambivalence. With canal boats and little dogs.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
There were lots and lots of unfinished books that started and tailed off after a few pages’ furious scribbling. And lots and lots of bad teenage poetry about boys and oceans and injustice and angst.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
The next best thing to writing, especially if you’re trying to get into the storytelling or structuring or plotting zone, is to read. It doesn’t matter whether you read within your genre or field of interest or way, way beyond. Inspiration can strike in surprising ways.

But sometimes you just need to get away from books altogether – go travelling, take a bike ride, dance, go to a really loud live gig, get to know unlikely new people or spend time with friends who have no interest whatsoever in books.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That you don’t necessarily control your own material. And that the book you really want to write may always lie a good few millimetres beyond your grasp.

How many books have you written?
Just the one.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A crime-fighting, bird-watching pirate who writes books? Blame David Attenborough and Swallows & Amazons and Nancy Drew.

What are you working on now?
I’m dithering over two very different ideas; one that is linear and has a relatively simple structure and choice of point of view but that may be difficult to move forward through time, another where the story feels straightforward but where choosing a point of view is proving hellish. Maybe it’s time to hole up at a writer’s retreat to ponder…

Kit is the author of UntilOur Blood is Dry, published in April by South Wales-based Parthian Books. Her short stories have been published in literary magazines and anthologies and shortlisted for the Willesden Herald prize. She grew up in Wales and now lives and works in London.

Until Our Blood is Dry is published by Parthian Books. It’s available in the Kindle Summer Sale until September 1.
Twitter: @kithabianic

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