Kate Belle is a multi-published author who writes dark, sensual contemporary women’s fiction. She lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter and a menagerie of neurotic pets.
When did you start writing?
I’ve kept a diary since I was 8 (yes I still have them all). I was delighted to recently discover copies of a series I wrote when I was about 10 years old. They featured a small frog called Woggy and followed his adventures around his pond until he lost his tadpole tail.
The originals were handwritten (and illustrated) on the back of recycled paper my father brought home from work. I’ve written as a matter of course, or perhaps as a matter of survival, all my life, but it wasn’t until about six years ago I decided I should do something more serious with all the words burning a hole through me. I took some classes, joined a writers group, got rejected and suffered for my art. Two years ago I hit a turning point when I scored an agent for my first novel, The Yearning and I haven’t looked back.
How did you find the process of getting published?
Publication is the holy grail of writing. Every writer wants it, thinking once they land that elusive publishing contract they’ll have it made. The truth is writing life changes significantly post contract and a whole new mountain range opens up for the intrepid, inexperienced writer to traverse.
There is pressure where before there was none and expectations that shift with different editors and publishing houses. As a newbie in the publishing world I tried to prepare myself by asking lots of questions and listening to what other writers say, but, like most big things in life (marriage, babies and death), nothing can compare with the lived experience.
Being published requires a writer to ‘grow up’. It means cutting the umbilical cord and trusting others with your work. It means seeing your writing as a marketable, saleable product, not the baby you love with all your being. It forces you to ‘professionalise’ the way you work, what you write, how you promote. It’s a rebirth, of sorts. It also means making dumb, misinformed, over-enthusiastic mistakes and learning from them.
You write in several genres.
I have two pseudonyms at the moment, only because I want to keep the commercial genre material separate from the more literary work I do, although I think the first will swallow the second eventually. Under Kate Belle, readers know I write fiction with strong erotic themes. It would be confusing for them to pick up one of my stranger, literary short stories, which rarely contain erotic material.
Because I wanted to stretch my skills as a writer I learned to write beyond the way I wanted to write. I also knew my chances of being published increased dramatically if I wrote more commercial styles of fiction. My aim has always been to establish myself as a professional writer, which means I had to develop the ability to write across genre’s. I write the odd non-fiction commentary piece, as well as short story, novels and commercial romance novellas. I hope to one day have a go at writing for children.
Tell us about The Ecstasy Files.
Women’s issues and sexuality have always held a special interest for me. I grew up in the 1970s, marinating in the vast political landscape of change created by the Whitlam government. Social justice, environmental and human rights ideologies are native to me.
Once I had a publishing contract for The Yearning and my erotic novellas, I knew I needed to establish an interesting website/blog platform. I wanted it to reflect my interests and the ideas I portray in my work, particularly in respect of female sexual power. For too long us gals have only had patriarchal power structures on which to base our views and values around our sexuality. Time for a change. Time for women to reclaim their bodies and sexuality and define them in their own way, not according to old stereotypes.
The Ecstasy Files emerged from my desire to create a space where I could air these ideas, interact with readers, share blogs/books/knowledge I’ve discovered, as well as question some of our assumptions about sexuality and gender.
I aim to be entertained and educated by what I blog about, so I hope other people will be too.
What are you reading at the moment?
I am a bona fide book slut. I like to spread myself around, without loyalty, and read widely, although I’m a literary lover at heart. I’ve just finished Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth – a surprising and enchanting book weaving three tales into one with some wonderful erotic content I thoroughly enjoyed.
I’ve just picked up Sex, Lies and Bonsai by Lisa Walker and love the distinctive voice of the narrator as a self-proclaimed failure (I can relate).
I always have Tobsha Learner’s short stories on hand and I’ve promised myself I will soon read and review the stories in Edible Delights anthologies – a project I undertook with fellow Australian erotic writers. On my TBR: Eat Me, Linda Javin; That Deadman Dance, Kim Scott; Burial Rites, Hannah Kent (to name three).
Tell us about My Year of Wonders.
I’ve proclaimed 2013 my ‘Year of Wonders’ because it’s seen the publication of my novel (The Yearning – Simon & Schuster); two erotic novellas (Breaking the Rules and Bloom – Random Romance); and two short stories included in anthologies, one literary (Fire: Margaret River Press), one erotic (Edible Delights Volume 2). That’s five commercial works of fiction published in my first year as a writer!
Add to this the arrival of the publishing contract for The Yearning and a Voluntary Redundancy offer from the Victorian Government on the same day in September last year, allowing me to take a year off to write, promote and get established – 2013 has gone down in my calendar as the most golden of years since my daughter was born.
This is the year Helen Garner refers to – ‘Every woman writer needs a bucket of cash thrown at her once in her lifetime…’
I don’t expect to repeat it so I’m drinking lots of champagne to celebrate.
Is it hard to maintain tension throughout an erotic novel?
Here’s the thing about erotic tension – it’s not just about sex. Eros is its own drive. It’s the power of attraction to something and can manifest in a myriad of ways. Eros is the pleasure factor that rises in us when we desire and interact with someone or something we love. It’s beauty, longing, love, passion.
Maintaining the erotic tension in a novel is actually about accentuating those things. By making the prose beautiful, or the structure of a narrative, or the voice, or the description of the quality of the heroines skin, a writer creates Eros. Once a reader engages with Eros on the page, in whatever form it takes, you have them. They will keep reading because of the pleasure they are deriving from the work. It’s really that simple.
But, as with all simple things, it’s also incredibly difficult.
What do you see as the future of erotica?
I read an interesting article about 12 months ago that predicted that the current erotic fiction boom will wane because traditionally that’s what always happens, and I think that’s somewhat true. There’s only so much sex most people can read before they become immune to it and feel tired by it.
Having said that, I do believe erotic fiction and erotica will always find a place on people’s bookshelves (oops, showing my age, e-readers). Reading about sex and relationships never goes out of style because they are one of the essential challenges of human life. We are all trying to understand how to have better relationships, particularly sexual relationships.
I also believe there has been a significant shift in post 50SOG first world cultures. Women have given themselves broad permission to more openly enjoy erotic work written by them, for them. Men have always had porn, but porn doesn’t satisfy many women. Women need the emotional connection in sex – Eros in other words – for sexual writing to really appeal.
I’m not a fan of ‘that book’, but I do applaud the effect it’s had. Women are carving out their own sexual space in a culture that’s been traditionally dominated by prevailing masculine views of female sexuality – and this is something to truly celebrate.
Tell us about The Yearning.
Many readers tell me they are pleasantly surprised by this book. They pick it up expecting something predictable or salacious or romantic, but what they find is a sensual, evocative and layered story exploring the connection between love and desire.
In the vein of the old myth of Parsifal in The Fisher King, The Yearning explores the perils of encountering something of great spiritual power (in this case sexual love) too young.
It begins with a fifteen year old girl who becomes infatuated with her charismatic teacher. In an effort to express her feelings for him she sends him anonymous erotic letters, hoping he will realize how much she loves him. Solomon Andrews has a dodgy history and a weakness for female flesh. There is something about her letters that intrigues him, but it’s sometimes difficult to tell who seduces who.
The Yearning explores themes of love, desire and longing, of the role of sexuality in relationships and links to broader mythical tales of first woman/first man, which is why I’ve incorporated stanzas from the Song of Songs at the head of many chapters.
What are you up to next?
My second novel, currently titled Saint, is due to be published in 2014. This tale is another challenging one, inspired by the ancient mythology of Lilith, on whom my character Jade is based.
Jade is a wild woman, an artist who has grown up not knowing love. Until Banjo. Banjo fell for Jade the moment he saw her walk through the school gates in her oversized, second hand school dress.
For over twenty years of marriage Banjo tolerates Jade’s affairs, but there comes a day when he’s had enough. After a furious fight he walks out on her, something he’s never done before.
When Jade learns he has been killed in a hit and run accident she descends into a deep depression, using sleeping pills to escape her grief. In the aftermath of Banjo’s death their daughters, Cassandra and Lissy, discover a sketch book filled with images of Jades former lovers.
Lissy realises someone else was with her parents the night Banjo died and she sets out to discover which of Jade’s lovers knows the truth about what drove her father away that night. As lovers come to Jade’s bedside and tell their stories, Lissy and Banjo’s spirit begin to understand the riddle that is Jade.
I’m also working toward releasing a couple more novellas in 2014 from my Master of Love series featuring my favourite fictional man, Ramon Mendez. It should be another busy year, but perhaps not quite.
Kate is a multi-published author who writes dark, sensual contemporary women’s fiction. She lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter and a menagerie of neurotic pets.
Kate holds a tertiary qualification in chemistry, half a diploma in naturopathy and a diploma in psychological astrology. Kate believes in living a passionate life and has ridden a camel through the Australian desert, fraternised with hippies in Nimbin, had a near birth experience and lived on nothing but porridge and a carrot for three days.
Buy The Yearning:
Print book: Target, Kmart, Myer, Collins, Dymocks, Big W, Eltham Bookshop and other independent bookshops (http://www.truelocal.com.au/find/book-shop/) and major airports.
Reading group questions here (http://books.simonandschuster.com.au/Yearning/Kate-Belle/9781922052643/reading_group_guide#rgg)
Do you want to be the next Featured writer?