Welcome to the Author Spotlight, Kate, and congratulations on the release of ‘Being Jade’.
Here’s the blurb…
A tragic death. A family divided. One truth can set them free.
Banjo Murphy is killed on the night he finally musters the courage to walk away from his wife Jade after twenty five years of repeated infidelities. In the aftermath, Banjo is bewildered to discover he still exists, but death has placed an invisible wall between him and his beloved family. In despair he watches Jade collapse into deep depression and his daughters, Lissy and Cassandra, struggle with their unexpected loss.
Lissy is tortured by guilt and the mysteries surrounding her father’s death. What compelled Banjo to leave the night he died? Why won’t Jade speak about what happened? In spite of their volatile relationship, Lissy believes her parents’ love to be enduring, but sensible Cassandra sees things differently. When Cassy discovers a sketch book chronicling Jade’s extra-marital affairs, the truth of their parents’ relationship begins to unfold and Lissy’s loyalties are divided.
Searching for answers, Lissy contacts Jade’s ex-lovers, unaware her father’s spirit watches as they visit. Unable to let go of his one true love, he aches to know that Jade loved him above all others. Banjo is taken on a journey of discovery through Jade’s memories as the lovers unveil long hidden secrets about her affairs. But the mystery remains, frustrating Banjo and Lissy, until Lissy’s questioning leads her to an explosive truth. One that will finally set her family free.
Can you tell us a little about ‘Being Jade’, please?
On the surface Being Jade is a story about an ordinary man who falls in love with an extraordinary woman and will do anything to keep her. Underneath though, it’s a much bigger story about unconditional love and the sacrifices we are willing (or not) to make for love.
Banjo, the main character, takes us on a deeply emotional journey through his life and death, where he tries to reconcile the choices he’s made in life with his unending love for his wife Jade. His reflections on love during this process took me by surprise and are sometimes very profound and insightful. He uses emotion and humour to explore some big questions: is it okay to surrender parts of ourselves in order to make a relationship work? What does marriage really mean and what does it entitle us to? What role does integrity and authenticity have in marriage?
‘Being Jade’ has paranormal elements in it, where did your inspiration come from?
Funny, even though Banjo narrates from death throughout, I never really thought of Being Jade as having paranormal elements, but I guess if my main character is dead it must be.
Death is a very powerful idea for all of us and whenever we come into contact with it we are led to reassess our lives and priorities. When Banjo arrived in my mind he was adamant he was dead and wanted to tell the story from that vantage point. This posed some serious difficulties in the writing of Being Jade, but it also added a retrospective wisdom and compassion that might not otherwise have been there. It allowed Banjo to be philosophical about love and marriage in a way he could not have been in life.
For which character from ‘Being Jade’ do you hold a particular soft spot and why?
Banjo, Banjo, Banjo. I’m still in love with him and I miss him terribly since he left, which was after I submitted the final manuscript in November last year. He’s just such a sweet man. His vulnerability is very endearing and his devotion not only to Jade, but to his family, his life, even his house, makes him so loveable. I simply adore his wonderful mixture of strength and weakness. He’s the kind of reliable man any woman would want in her life, whether as lover, friend, brother or father.
‘The Yearning’ provoked such a positive response from a wide variety of readers, both in terms of age and genre preference. Has its wide spread success made you re-evaluate your target audience?
I was going to say not really, but I guess in a funny way it has. I’ve realised my work, with its bitter sweet endings and challenging themes, doesn’t strictly fit the expectations of your run-of-the-mill romance reader. But my books are very much about love and desire and the complicated places in our hearts where those two things meet, so my stories and characters still have plenty to offer romance genre lovers. My books probably straddle the narrow divide between women’s fiction and romance.
Are there any other genres you can see yourself diving into?
I have a secret (not so secret now) desire to try my hand and YA and children’s books. On the walk to school my daughter often asks me to tell her a story. Together we’ve come up with some beauties. I just have to find the time to give them the attention they deserve. They are on the back burner – a project to work on in the future.
You write such beautiful prose. Is there anything you do to get into the right headspace to achieve this?
Every story I write has a soundtrack. For The Yearning it was Seduction by Luminesca, for my Master of Love Ramon Mendez novellas it’s a local flamenco band call La Rumba. Interestingly I couldn’t find a soundtrack for Being Jade for ages and it showed in the writing. It was lumpy, contrived, awful. It wasn’t until I discovered Birdy’s first album did I overcome the hump and find the rhythm I needed to capture Banjo’s voice.
But as an aside, beautiful prose doesn’t just arrive on the page, or if it does it’s rare. Good prose is the product of many, many, many rewrites and a ‘close enough isn’t good enough’ attitude. Ironically as soon as I see anything I’ve written in print, I want to take to it with a red pen and fix all the problems I see in my own sentences. (I’m the worst boss I’ve ever had.)
Are there days where you have to write, but just aren’t in the mood? How do you get around this?
There are plenty of those days, but as a part time worker and parent I have no choice but to make myself write when I have time because that time will be gone too soon and I won’t get more for a while. I simply don’t afford myself the luxury of procrastinating – well, not very often anyway. I pour a strong cup of brewed coffee, put on some inspirational music, plant my bum on the chair and write. (Like I said, I’m the worst boss I’ve ever had!)
It isn’t easy. I put up with my own moaning and groaning about how crap my writing is, I ignore all the self-doubt and the constant inner criticism. I just push through and write. Even if the 1500 words I write are deplorable, I’m at least giving my subconscious a clear message that I’m serious about this and I’m gonna show up and write no matter what rubbish it throws at me. On those bad days I figure if the muse does eventually arrive, I’ll be there, ready and waiting.
What would we find on your bookshelf and e-reader? Which authors or books inspire you the most?
On my bookshelf you will find a huge jumble of unread second hand books. Being a book slut, I tend to love whoever I’m reading at the time. I’m a literary lover at heart, but have diversified in recent years and discovered the joys of a light hearted and clever commercial read. My favourite authors are too many to list. Pretty much anyone listed for an RWA or ARRA award deserves a mention.
I’ve also drawn lots of inspiration from Tobsha Learner’s erotic works – she has such a fine touch when it comes to writing sex. And I can’t go past Susan Johnson, Jeanette Winterson, Anais Nin, Kate Forsyth and Nikki Gemmel for beautiful prose. Generally I enjoy the style of women writers far more than men. They are better at intimacy I think.
Which part of a book do you find hardest to write- plotting, first draft, editing, etc?
First draft, hands down. What a labour! I have a tendency to leap ahead, so once I think I have the idea for a plot clear in my mind I want to jump straight into editing it and skip all that work of writing the cruddy awful stinker of a first draft. I think it’s the most painful part, because it all seems possible until the previously invisible plotting problems emerge and they must be dealt with if the story is to mature with a strong spine. First drafts are a wade through thick mud in bare feet for me.
You are part of an author’s group, can you tell us a little about that?
Ah, the Little Lonsdale Group – what an amazing group of supportive and talented people! I’ve been so, so, so fortunate to be part of this group. We met at a Writers Victoria course, Advanced Year of the Novel. A group of us were very serious about our writing and decided to continue as a group after the course finished. We are still at it four years down the track. To date four of us have had books published since the group was formed, two have agents and are close to publication, another two are undertaking PhD’s in writing, one has had a TV script accepted and aired. Along the way there have been major and minor literary prizes awarded for short stories and so many other successes to celebrate. We share so much, both personally and professionally, and I know I’m a better writer because of these wonderful people. I can’t thank them enough for their generosity.
Could you give us a sneaky peek at one of your favourite parts of ‘Being Jade, please?
LOVE TO! The first (very short) chapter is available for free HERE , but for RWA members, I have a special scene very close to my heart. It shows how much Banjo loves Jade. In this scene they are in their mid-thirties and married for over fifteen years. Jade has been away from home for five days and Banjo was on the verge of leaving, but he came home to find her in the vegetable garden of Serendipity, their home. The moment he sees her, his resolve to make a stand dissolves:
But then, as I shepherded the girls into the house, I caught sight of Jade in the vegetable patch. As usual she was naked from the waist up and wearing the ridiculous broad brimmed straw hat she loved so much because it sheltered her shoulders from the sun. Brown skinned, she looked luscious and ripe among the verdant growth. She looked as though she belonged there, a woman grown from the fertile earth, her lush breasts hanging like ripe fruit, her dark nipples new seeds ready to drop to the ground and germinate.
She was bent over, weeding, harvesting, trimming back the excess growth. Lissy spied her and hesitated a moment, her eyebrows raised in surprise that passed too quickly. Cassy, outrage streaming from every pore, saw her mother but chose to ignore her. I stood rooted to the spot, captivated.
Jade didn’t notice me at first. She was absorbed in the garden, humming something tuneless. I saw a flash of bare feet as she shifted, turning her back to me. The glory of that back. Strong. Fleshy and curvaceous. She was slender as a sapling once, but age and babies had thickened the meat on her bones so that it filled out her shape. She was perfect. I felt desire stir within me.
My traitorous body. Every time she left me I ached, as though someone had blown a hole through me. I understood she’d been with someone else, but I pushed the knowing away. Sorrow buried itself deep in my longing. I swore more than once I wouldn’t humiliate myself by wanting her when she came back. I resolved many times to shun her, give her a taste of her own medicine. Then I’d be assaulted by a vision of her like this. Skin glowing in the sun, elegance and sensuality in every movement, and my body would remember her warm wet places and my good intentions would take a hike.
I watched her for a while, feeling the stiffening in my groin, ashamed I could be so easily swayed by her natural beauty. I drank her in, my Goddess of Fertility, and waited for her to turn and see me admiring her. Let her choose me. A rebuttal was not what I needed now.
The sun was uncomfortable burning the already faded tattoos on my shoulders. My lunch esky hung from my hand, my good leg bore most of my weight. What would such a woman want with a lame man like me? That I could claim her as my wife must be some kind of miracle. Or mistake.
A bird in the air made her look up. Our eyes met and her mouth curled in the tiniest apology. I knew then she wasn’t going to leave me. Nor I her. Not today. Probably not ever.
Buy links: iTunes
Kate is kindly gifting one signed paperback copy of Being Jade to one lucky reader. To be in the running, all you have to do is answer the following question:
Who is your favourite book bloke hero and why do you love him?
Leave your answer in the comments section below.
This competition is open only to residents of Australia and New Zealand and will be drawn on June 11th, 2014. The winner will be notified by email, so please ensure the we are able to contact you.
Kate Belle Bio
Kate is a multi-published author of dark, sensual love stories that will mess with your head. Her interests include talking to strangers, collecting unread books, and ranting about the world’s many injustices. She writes regularly about women, relationships, sexuality and books on her blog, The Ecstasy Files. She is also the creator of the Eros in Action writing sex workshop.
Kate lives, writes and loves in Melbourne with her small family and very annoying pets. The Yearning was released in 2013 to rave reviews. Being Jade is her second novel