Australian LitBlog Snapshot #14 - Kirsty Brooks

Kirsty Brooks is an Adelaide-based writer of crime novels and runs a weblog titled,
reasonably enough, Kirsty Brooks. As best I can figure, she is the only interviewee in this snapshot who also appeared in the earlier Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - and you can read that interview here.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

Mine is a little unusual as it's - well unstructured. The best blogs I've read have been like Thought Diaries, but a little like Essays too - good essays that include great pictures (which are so beautifully and easily downloaded from phones and cameras used to explain things in the text or simply to make a slab of text look more spangly) and are personal but interesting and a little like a column in your favourite newspaper, written by someone you like, on a topic you like. And you usually get them every day.

This is ideal. And how some writers have become celebrities or found fantastic jobs, through writing well and insightfully, day by day. I do mine about once a week, or once a month, which is pitiful.

Like any writer I have several aspects to my professional writing life and my personal life, and most of them are at least touched on in my blog, except for the very personal details of my very personal life (which is written about in detail all my books).

So I have written blogs about writing my novels, about running Driftwood Manuscript Services- my manuscript assessment agency - and the things that I've learned from that which I want to pass onto other writers - such as things that seem to crop up over and over again in manuscripts, bad writing habits (mostly reflecting my own) and so forth, and I also post articles I've written for other magazines, journals and newsletters. I also write personal pieces and also diaries and articles about caring for birds.

I look after rescue birds, at present not in any official capacity, but I looked after a baby honeyeater for several years and he would sit on my glasses most days and be my little pal, so I explained in my blog how I helped him and what worked and failed in keeping him alive, where I got information to help him, and how he lived with me for many years - and eventually died in my hands.

I enjoyed it and thought it might be useful because at the time there wasn't much on-line that was specifically helpful. Now there are some terrific blogs, articles and Q&As, so, as in all other aspects of my writing, I looked at what I wanted to read about, at a certain time, and tried to write that.

Many readers have emailed me about this, especially people who have also found abandoned birds as well and are not sure what to do. I love birds and am in the process of building an aviary in my back yard but it's slow going, despite the obvious joys of banging things with a hammer and using a staple gun. It is just about my only non-writing related hobby so I'm trying to nourish it so that I have some other interest outside writing and reading. I have done both these things all my life and it is not the way to being cool or popular...

Also I write about my life - which is the crappier bit of my blog. However, it seemed that fans of my books were interested in me, and I got a bit freaked out about it until I realised I too, am interested in my favourite authors, except they are stylish clever people like Anne Tyler and Joyce Carol Oates and Sue Grafton, and so I try not to let my readers down by being too much of a dickhead (both in life and in my blog)

Sometimes a blog can be far too much like a diary and you have to be honest in a diary because otherwise what's the point? And I am far too honest, I hate the stupid saying 'Too much information!' (in fact I hate lots of stupid sayings, like 'Talk to the hand!' etc), I guess I hate them also more because mostly people say them to me...

With the former, I never think I'm getting too much information, mostly because I think I'm getting far too little information. I hate small talk so I am always asking people 'big talk' questions. I would qualify this by adding I'm not referring to intelligent enquiry but rather personal things like what they love most about their (usually freakishly boring) house and why they have so much purple in their bathroom and why they have a fringe that is clearly irritating them. Stuff like that.

So my books get written mostly because I am nosy (and thus mostly friendless) and my blogs get written mostly because I can't stop wondering about people and why they do things. To write down my thoughts and questions and - more rarely - conclusions - loosens my internal struggle to understand the world. I'm banned from asking any questions in my family.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

Yes, I typically started with lofty notions and have slowly dribbled down to becoming fascinated by the difference in the two suburbs I've recently lived in. How much I prefer my current area - Highbury - where the local deli has milk crates for chairs and a broken Sebel table/umbrella ensemble for outdoor seating and yet it's the (hip hop) hub for young and old.

However, in my old neighbourhood - Norwood - there were expensive chrome chairs and vines and lots of red painted feature walls and yet everything was just as uncomfortable as sitting on a milk crate and a good deal less fun (for so many reasons I won't go into here).

In short my blog has gone from being excellent to a bit crap.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

Indeed yes. I find books comforting. I would build my house out of books if I knew how to remove one book and replace it with another without allowing the entire structural design to collapse around me. When I first moved house the people making my bookcases took an age to finish, and so all my books where in storage and I was in a bit of a state. So I had to buy a bunch of new books which acted like a balm for my nerves.

As other people go to floatation tanks or have facials or do yoga, I buy books. Lots and lots of them. I am not very good to them though. I get them wet in the bath and bend back the pages and write things in them and so forth. No one lends me books.

I love going into people's houses and looking at their lives, their private spaces, but mostly also their books. I love to see what they've read and what they have there for show. What books they've re-read (I reread a lot of books) and what they read out of obligation/curiosity etc.

Books are a huge comfort and joy to me, and they are so different, and yet the ones that mean the most are the ones that create a strong recognition in me, a sense of connecting to the author through the stories. I think that's why people want to learn more about writers of their favourite books, and why they are often so disappointed. Writers conceal and reveal through their writing, but they are also , in the best possible sense, honest in this. The more honest they are, the stronger the link between reader and writer.

I should take care to explain that I don't mean they are being honest in such aspects as truth in day-today practical life, about what really happened, about even being plausible, but I refer to truth in a greater sense, in the whole of things, in the essence of themselves and in what makes a life worth living.

Good writers, the very best writers, seem to me to be true to themselves, and therefore earn the intrinsic respect of the reader. They earn the right to tell the story and to take the reader on an adventure of some kind. They earn the right to take the reader from their lives for a certain time, to distract and entertain and destroy and rebuild them within a story. It's a rare gift to do this, (and to be a willing recipient of this as well - not everyone is a good reader).

They say everyone has a story in them, and this might be true, but very few can tell it well and even fewer can draw on a reader's imagination and essence to allow them to give back some of themselves to make that story become real. That is a rare thing indeed.

I have always wanted to write the books I love to read, and often, the books I wanted to read but could not find, so looking at a writers' bookshelf is very informative, and wonderful fun. I wonder what books they think are missing, what books they want to write next. What books they wish they'd written themselves, what books they can 'see through' and what books sweep them away.

For any keen reader, a new author, who has written many books, is a joy to discover and to share. If I like something, I will always buy it if I can afford it or find it, because I love to have such books around me around to read again or just remember, or check something against.

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?
I would love to write daily, but it seems to often I don't have the time but of course I must do, I just don't use it well enough. I prefer to do other things I guess, I choose to care for a bird, or go looking for his favourite plant in my local river bed, or read up about something, or write a letter, or some of the many things that seem to take me away from work too often. Right now I'm writing another novel that's years overdue (due mostly to my mother's illness), so I only write in my blog when something is busting to get out and distracting me from my own writing.

If I could, I'd like to write every day and secondly be able to better source and include scans or photos or pictures of what I refer to, whether it's a bird, or a book or a person so ideally I would pepper my text with images more often, and thirdly, I would have someone doing all the typing for me.

I'm about to get some voice-recognition software so I can talk to my computer and get away from it more often, but in the meantime , I would much prefer a fellow with a side part and thick Clark Kent glasses sitting in a chair uncomfortably close to me, listening to me with solemn respect (and a secret love) while typing it all up for me. Yes, that would suit me well.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

By 'eat' I assume you mean the early Spanish word 'et -a' which means 'to dine with' and in its pure meaning, at a hotel, brasserie, club, or motel. If the meal was my treat, I'd tend towards the luncheonette or greasy spoon.

I've always admired the work of the short-order cook, and not being someone who enjoys much more than what can be provided by a spaghetti jaffle or fried egg sandwich, I'd take him somewhere where he'd be comfortable too, where we could dine outside and knock back a mixed grill and some Chelsea buns on the sidewalk. In my mind's eye this would involve a good pass-out diner built into an 1962 AirStream.

After that we might enjoy an affogato, as few things compare with good coffee, ice-cream and liquor. I'd probably have to assist him with the delicacy involved in this bit of the meal, possibly in exchange for a lift home.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 19, 2008 12:11 PM.

Reprint: "At Dawn and Dusk" was the previous entry in this blog.

Poem: The Golden Vein by C.G.A. Colles is the next entry in this blog.

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