K M Steele, award-winning Australian author of airtight mysteries - ask me anything!

K M Steele
May 15, 2018

Hey,  have you ever wondered how to construct airtight mysteries? Would you like to know how authors find out about the cool stuff when they're writing crime/ mystery fiction? I'm an Australian author who loves writing mysteries with a gothic twist. I believe a good mystery should not rely on easy solutions or cliche. Check out my debut mystery, Return to Tamarlin, and find out more about what makes me tick (and ticks me off!) on facebook

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Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
May 22, 6:51AM EDT0
What’s the best way to market your books?
May 22, 5:41AM EDT0
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
May 22, 5:34AM EDT0
Any website or resources that have been helpful to you as a writer?
May 22, 4:42AM EDT0
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
May 22, 4:10AM EDT0

What made you choose to write airtight mysteries as opposed to other kinds of mysteries?

May 21, 4:30PM EDT0
If you could spend a day with one person who is currently alive, who would it be and why?
May 19, 10:58PM EDT0

I would have to say Harold Bloom. He is one of the greatest living literary critics and philosophical thinkers. His literary criticism is influential, and he is a prolific writer with over forty books published. He's in his late eighties, and still sharp. You can find out more about him here. 

May 20, 5:48AM EDT0
What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
May 19, 8:03PM EDT0

Procrastination, and as you can see I'm not doing ver well because I'm on AMafeed having a lovely time chatting to interesting people instead of writing! I think all writers suffer from a fair dose of procrastination. Word counts don't work for me, but deadlines do. I use deadlines to ensure I get work done. I also keep notebooks in my bag, near my bed and near my treadmill so I can write down ideas and expand on them later.  

May 20, 5:16AM EDT0
How has being published changed your life? What is your current work in progress?
May 19, 4:38PM EDT0

I can't say that publishing has changed my life that much, however it has made it possible to meet readers in person at book signings etc. When you first start out writing, you dream about how your life will be after you are published, but it takes so long to happen that it's usually nothing like you imagine!

I am working on a couple of projects - one is still too hazy to explain; the other is a coming of age novel set in far North Queensland, Australia in the 1980s

May 20, 5:14AM EDT0
How do you choose your settings for each book?
May 18, 10:38PM EDT0

Usually the setting willl depend on the story. As a rule, I use settings that I'm familiar with. For example I wouldn't write a full-length novel set in Tahiti because I've never been there, and there's a huge risk of stereotyping an entire country. It's pretty obvious when a writer doesn't know their material! Most of my work is set in Australia because I am an Australian writer. I have also set some of my work in the UK and Europe because I have travelled extensively there. 

May 19, 6:29AM EDT0
What’s most enjoyable about being an author?
May 16, 6:17AM EDT0

Imagination is the best playground in the world, and it's free! If I think it, I can write it. When I really get into a story, I start to feel like I'm living with the characters, and experiencing the events they go through. It's quite surreal at times, and a lot of fun.

May 16, 7:53AM EDT0
Do you do a lot of research when writing mysteries to make them realistic?
May 15, 1:16PM EDT0

Yes. If I'm using a setting that exists in the real world, I will make sure I study maps and learn about major landmarks and local quirks. I will also visit if possible, because nothing beats the real thing. It is easy to research settings with Google maps now. If I want to use a police procedure, or anything involving laws and courts, I will research. 

May 16, 4:13AM EDT0
Is there a difference between Australian and American novels?
May 15, 1:02PM EDT0

Yes, I think there is. Australian novels have more in common with Canadian novels. I think one of the main reasons for the difference is the fact that America has been settled by Europeans for far longer than Australia. One aspect of American novels that I admire is the acknowledgement of the damage done to the Indigenous people there. If you think about how often Indian burial grounds are referenced in horror (and are a reason for suffering, which can cycle back to underlying guilt), there is a willingness by authors and readers to own the history. Australia has not evolved that far as yet. It is still difficult to address these matters, although I do it in an oblique way in Return to Tamarlin. 

May 16, 4:17AM EDT0
Is KM Steele your pen name? How did you come up with it?
May 15, 12:46PM EDT0

Yes, the K and M are my first and second name initials, and Steele is my last name - it seems I ran out of imagination when it came to thinking up a pen name! But seriously, there is a prolific writer of romance (I think) called Kathleen Steele in America, and there is also a notorious and disturbing case of child neglect in America involving a woman named Kathleen Steele, so I decided to use my initials instead. 

May 16, 4:20AM EDT0
Is it more difficult to start writing a novel compared to ending the story?
May 15, 8:16AM EDT0

I don't find the start and end too difficult. I usually struggle with getting my characters from one point to the other. I think I usually have a short story version of a novel in my head that has a clear narrative trajectory. When I start to write, and characters start to do things I didn't expect, the middle gets a little hazy. I always find it very hard to keep the narrative moving toward the end point, but I do get there in the end by just writing it out until it works. 

May 16, 4:22AM EDT0
Was there anything new you discovered, or that surprised you, as you wrote ‘Return to Tamarlin’?
May 14, 1:01AM EDT0

Yes! I went back to the caves that feature in Return to Tamarlin, and discovered that they were far more amazing than I remembered. You know how it is - you expect that everything from childhood will be diminished. When I returned to the caves, I discovered that there was a whole world that I hadn't seen before. 

May 15, 8:55AM EDT0
Where can fans buy your book?
May 14, 1:00AM EDT0

Anywhere! Return to Tamarin is available on Amazon worldwide, in Australia online, and can be ordred in any bricks and mortar bookstore.

May 15, 8:49AM EDT0
Is there a particular book that inspired you to be a writer?
May 13, 3:26PM EDT0

Lord of the Rings

May 15, 8:50AM EDT0
Are the characters in ‘Return to Tamarlin’ based on real people or are they solely products of your imagination?
May 13, 3:27AM EDT0

The characters are all products of my imagination, although some of them may have 'borrowed' traits from people I've met. I've had the two main female characters, Mary and Nancy, with me for almost 18 years. They never went away and continued to have conversations in my head, so I knew I had to use them in a story.

Return to Tamarlin is set in a real place (Coonabarabran and the Pilliga Scrub) in Western NSW, so it wouldn't be wise to base any characters on someone I've known. 

Last edited @ May 13, 3:53AM EDT.
May 13, 3:38AM EDT0
What tips do you have for writers who hope to pen a mystery?
May 13, 2:36AM EDT0

Read widely and write, write, write. Reading in the genre you love will help you to emulate the conventions without too much strain, but more importantly, it will help you recognise when you can break with convention and take the reader on your journey. That's when storytelling gets really exciting. 

Writing outside of your chosen genre is also a good idea. It helps to stretch your technical skills and makes you think about things from a different perspective. It can also be good fun. I write romances (haven't published any yet) because I have a lot of fun with the characters and plots. 

Last edited @ May 13, 3:43AM EDT.
May 13, 3:41AM EDT0
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