Thursday, 25 April 2019

84. Graffiti Lane


First, I wish to acknowledge the ANZACS on this special day for Australia and New Zealand. April 25th will always hold a special meaning for those who fought, those who stayed behind, and those who live on in our hearts and memories. I honour your sacrifices.

While it was a long weekend for some, for those who celebrated Easter, I hope you’ve enjoyed time with your loved ones. :) My ‘bunny’ gifts this month include a wonderful adventure north of Perth to attend PL Harris’ book launch for her latest release – In His Protection. Ms Harris also writes as mystery author, Polly Holmes, so I added a few new books to my TBR pile. (I’ll share more about Ms Harris in a later blog). I was also blessed to spend interview time with the amazing poet and author, Kelly Van Nelson as she chats about her latest release , Graffiti Lane, and her writing life.

Author Interview

When did you first consider yourself a writer / poet?

What a great kick off question. It’s not something I’ve thought about before. Even though I had been writing for as long as I can remember, it was probably only a couple of years ago. I hit a good run of poetry and short story submissions getting published, my novel manuscript placed in a few literary awards, and I secured my literary agent, Clive Newman. Think that was the turning point when I began to consider myself an actual writer.

Do you have support from family and friends?

My kids are my biggest supporters and read everything I write, while my husband puts up with me spending way more time with my laptop than with him and kindly lets me use most of my annual leave to go on writing retreats. My UK friends are massive supporters. The week Graffiti Lane was released on Amazon UK, it shot up to Number One Hot New Release and Number Two Poetry Bestsellers. It was a crazy moment that could not have happened without my friends getting behind me. I have a superb bunch of friends, some who troop to all manner of literary events with me. I’ve also got a fantastic writing network in Australia that are also supportive.

What inspires you?

People who have managed to overcome the odds to forge a better place for themselves in life. I also get inspired by urban life and its complexities. The daily things we see but are blind to. Like the hidden messages in graffiti or the kid standing on their own in the playground.

What are your favourite story writing genres and authors and what draws you to them?

I typically write urban, gritty, contemporary fiction and poetry. My reading list is eclectic but I particularly enjoy reading anything that breaks the mould and tackles uncomfortable topics. All my Puny Sorrows by Miriam Touws is one of my favourite books that I devoured. She writes about a successful Amish woman who has it all yet is constantly trying to commit suicide. Sad, dry, and weirdly funny, you can’t pigeonhole it. Who wants to be pigeonholed?

Where can we buy or see your works?

Links to my social media platforms, publications and book sales can be found on my website www.kellyvannelson.com. Graffiti Lane is widely available via mainstream channels such as Book Depository, Booktopia, and Waterstones, as well as Amazon at

Can you tell us a little bit about what are you working on now?

I’m working on a contemporary short story collection, plus a poetry follow up to Graffiti Lane. I’m also working on a second novel which still needs a mountain of work done to it.

How much research do you do?

Lots. In the UK recently, I went on a family visit to sit in the Supreme Court for a live case to get insight into the legal system and court hierarchy for my second novel. It was super interesting! In South Africa, a policeman let me inside a local jail to help me flesh out a scene for my first novel, The Pinstripe Prisoner. I love to travel and incorporate places I’ve been to all the time. With Graffiti Lane, I became obsessed with photographing good street art around the world and researching the artists. I’ve developed a modern urban art fan base over recent months as a result which is cool.

Why do you write?

Writing helps deal with things I’ve seen or heard that otherwise fester in the mind and can’t be parked easily. It’s the best stress buster ever. Hopefully my ramblings also impact at least one reader in a good way. I like to challenge the thinking of my readers as well as my own.

Do you have a writing routine?

I never write at a desk or have a set routine, which I would find restricting. I’m always on the go with the family and work, so the laptop goes everywhere I go. I can zone out noise going on around me easily and am opportunistic in grabbing windows of time in the day (and night) to write, so I don’t let a day slip by idly. I really love to write just before going to sleep. I’m a total insomniac and find writing helps channel energy in a productive way. Another favourite writing space is on an aeroplane. I maximise every minute of flight time knocking out some of my most productive work.

Do you believe in Writers block, and if so, what’s your advice on moving passed it?

I do believe it exists but is not something I suffer from. When I want to write, I write. Quite often it’s not what I sat down to write, but that’s the beauty of not setting boundaries on creative space. It can lead you anywhere.

What book/s are you reading at present?

A limited edition of Trouble by mega US mural artist, Tristen Eaton, is on my bedside table next to the Lonely Planet Street Art book that a friend bought me. I’ve just finished Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty and Thirteen and Underwater by Michelle Weitering, a story of overcoming anxiety from being bullied. My TBR pile is enormous. I’m about thirty new books behind and keep buying more. Need to stop buying books … okay, never going to happen … need to read faster. 

What do you do to inspire your creativity?

I search for the extraordinary in the ordinary. The starkness of a concrete floor, the flicker of a florescent light, the smell of wet clothes coming out of the rain. It’s not a conscious thing. I get so caught up in my own weird world that I miss the normal things in life too. Forgetting the oranges on netball day (bad mom), bumping into a lamppost while staring at the gum on the pavement, leaving my handbag in a cafĂ© … I do that at least once a week! 

Do you have a story first and then a title or the other way around?

Yes, always a story or poem first and then the title generally spills out along the way.

What do you think makes a good story?

It leaves the reader thinking about it after they turn the last page. If it does that, it’s beyond good, it’s great.

What question do you wish someone would ask, but no one ever has?

Would you like me to make a movie of your novel starring Brad Pitt – well, I suppose yes, that would be nice!

Do you have any writing rituals / superstitions?

I back up my work three different ways. On a USB, on a hard drive, and I email a copy of each draft to myself and store it in a cloud file. I’ve seen the meltdowns of modern technology and have major trust issues with machine reliability.

How did you find the business side of writing?

If I was going it alone, horrible. I hate doing even a simple tax return, never mind keep all my writing profit and expenses in order. However, I have a guardian angel who guides me on the nuances of the industry. My publisher, Karen Mc Dermott, is a fountain of knowledge on this stuff. Her book, Everything Publishing, comes out soon and is a must read for anyone embarking on a career as a writer who needs to learn the ropes.

Have you ever travelled to the places your stories / poetry are set?

Yes. I’ve been fortunate to have travelled extensively and lived in a few different countries around the world. My husband is South African, I’m English, my kids were born in Scotland, and we’ve just relocated from Perth to Sydney in January. Seeing and appreciating different cultures, food, and scenery is enriching in so many ways that these experiences often filter into my writing.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever been given?

Don’t submit any work until you have edited it top to bottom thoroughly at least six times. I took this advice way back from someone and my publication success rate has shot through the roof.

All writers have ‘a voice.’ How would you describe yours?

Sardonic, blunt, and full of thorns to balance the roses.

ABOUT GRAFFITI LANE

What inspired you to write this collection?

I was verbally bullied in high school and it was exhausting. I’ve since become an advocate for antibullying initiatives. It’s terribly sad to see the problem continuing to exist, often with devastating effects on the victim. The idea for my poetry collection, Graffiti Lane, started with writing poems about big bullies in the playground and corporate world. I had a blank canvas in front of me, allowing me to speak out for anyone out there who has been pushed to the point of breaking. The concept expanded to include poems about diversity, gender pay, domestic violence, and feeling kicked down in the world, then evolved into rising above the setbacks to achieve dreams.

What drew you to the urban scene and gave you the desire to express yourself in this format?

I was born in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the North East of England (I’m a Geordie) and lived in a council estate in an inner-city concrete jungle. It was pretty bleak. Those early years shaped my colourful dreams and Graffiti Lane is my way of making them a reality. Using poetry as a vehicle to write gives the ability to be visual in layout of words and is without boundaries in the verse content. Poems can be short and sharp, for example in Haiku format, or long and winding free flow rambles. You can stick to the traditions, break all the rules or make up your own method to the madness with poetry. Poems have a beautiful way of bringing order to chaos.

What do you feel is the message behind the desire to share art and words on inner city walls?

Like authors, sculptures, artists and musicians, street artists are following a creative pathway with a desire for their work to be visible to the public eye. They often have something to say, much like some writers desperately want to become published for others to enjoy. I’ve spent so much time in Melbourne that the laneways inevitably attracted my attention. The colourful graffiti there is incredible, representing freedom of speech for talented street artists, many expressing underlying messages on social or political issues. The most amazing murals are popping up every day around the world, some even forming part of the architectural design of a building in early planning phase. I don’t condone vandalism but transforming a plain brick wall into something beautiful is becoming more and more popular. New pieces are popping up everywhere to brighten inner city landscapes, many which are legally commissioned by the powers-that-be.

What was the most challenging part of writing this collection?

Writing the acknowledgements. So many people have helped me on my journey as a writer that I was worried about forgetting someone extremely important. I edited this section so many times I had to be weaned away from the manuscript by my publisher in the end.

Have you ever made any street art and if so, is it in the book?

Haha – love that you asked this. I would love to say I am the elusive Banksy to put the media out of its misery, but sadly I’m a hopeless case when it comes to art. I cannot even draw a matchstick man. However, I have researched many different graffiti techniques and had a go at creating a stencil. I have a grand plan on how I’m going to use it but have not had time to move this into action. Watch this space.

Thank you so much for your time, Kelly. :)

Book Reviews

Graffiti Lane by Kelly Van Nelson

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Graffiti Lane looks at life through an unfiltered lens.

With unflinching honesty, Kelly Van Nelson offers an intensely personal perspective on the grittiness of urban living in an eclectic mix of traditional, shadow and freeform poetry. She fearlessly tackles issues of intimidation and discrimination, including playground and corporate bullying, domestic violence, marginalisation, gender inequity, mental health and suicide.
Yet while the writing is raw and the darker side of human nature is being exposed, there is an underlying sense of hope. The underdog is beaten down but not defeated and has the resilience to bounce back and rise again.

Kelly Van Nelson is a poetry and fiction writer, wife, mother and managing director on the executive board of the world’s leading provider of staffing solutions. She is a fresh voice on the literary scene and one that demands to be heard.

Graffiti Lane is a powerful debut collection of poetry that will stir the spirit and speak to the heart.

This book begins with an author’s note which shows incredible insight into why Ms Van Nelson writes. She shares what motivates her, intrigues her, and above all, what drives her to share her thoughts and feelings in the written word. Above all, this collection is about resilience. Graffiti Lane paints a picture of a fierce warrior who is both strong and protective, an advocate of fairness when there’s none, and a multi-coloured messenger of truth and hope worthy of any urban wall.

The author takes the reader on a nostalgic tour of youth, a time when we feel each emotional cut deeply. A harsh word, a crush, our first betrayal and the ravages of heartbreak. The angst of teenage years, bullying, of battling the establishment, and discovering self, pours from the early pages. The poems then progress to adult relationships, reflection and life experience. Domestic abuse, employment, gender equality and struggle are prevalent here. But in the final collection of imagery, the reader discovers beauty, strength, victory, love, and power.

This collection has a timeless message. Like any urban wall that lends itself to the truth of the current generation, yet leaves the mark of the one before, the reader will connect with the poems that matter to them. They will find their truth and meaning and perhaps feel less isolated in their experiences. Even if poetry is not your thing, you will find heart and emotional depth in Ms Van Nelson’s words.

Outcast Reaper: A Reaper Series Prequel short story by Shelley Russell Nolan

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Never say no to the Grim Reaper

After twenty-five years working as a reaper, Ash is looking forward to fulfilling his contract and being reborn with a clean slate. When he refuses a job that would put his rebirth in jeopardy, he is cast out of the comfortable afterlife he’d built for himself in the Underworld. Ash must fight for his last five reaps. Not an easy task when the Grim Reaper wants to shred his soul.

Will Ash have what it takes to cheat Death?

Ash, the Grim Reaper’s right hand ‘man,’ has three more souls to reap before he can leave the hellish Underworld and become Reborn. He’s spent the last twenty-five ‘mortal’ years bringing the translucent life forces to his master only to watch him torment and torture them instead of sending them on to the Afterlife. But what choice does he have? He made a deal with the devil and there’s no escaping until the deal is done.

But the closer he comes to his final Reap, the more difficult it becomes to achieve his goal. Not only are the other Reapers and Wraiths plotting his demise so they can take his place, it seems the Grim Reaper himself is reneging on his deal, and all because Ash refuses to Reap the soul of a woman who’s very much alive. But he has to wonder, is her soul worth more than his own.

This prequel is a brilliant hint of what’s to come in the Reaper series. Readers will be intrigued by the lengths the Grim Reaper will go to achieve his goals, just as Ash is determined to escape and be reborn into a new life.


A Pocket of Pebbles by Catherine Evans

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This is a collection of 8 romantic short stories, all mentioning gemstones. They were written for the Romance Writers of Australia’s annual short story contest between 2008 and 2014. Each story is a tiny pebble—less than 3000 words.

There are no connections between the stories, except for a touch of romance.

You may find birds and vampires, cops and crashes, married couples and young love. Some are serious, some amusing, some crazy madness.

These stories feature gemstones, which is the foundation of the annual RWAus Little Gems short story competition. For aspiring and emerging authors, having one or more stories in this anthology is a huge achievement. It was for me when one of my stories placed in the 2014 Moonstone edition. Ms Evans’ offerings vary between sweet and saucy, tug at the heartstrings, and leave you with a pocketful of happy endings. :)

Water Liaisons

Eloise Carter has been friends with Daniel McCosker since childhood, and possibly in love for him almost as long. To him, she’s always been his ‘Sunshine.’ But now something terrible has happened, and it will ruin everything. Worse, she has no idea how to tell him. All she knows is the future’s looking decidedly gloomy.

An Old-Fashioned Courtship

This is a clever story involving a genteel romance between a showy, brilliantly dressed gentleman and a dowdy, innocent young lady – with a little twist. :)

From Disaster Comes Love

Almost missing the train after a day where nothing’s gone right, Samantha O’Collie is thrilled to discover the last seat is next to the dreamboat she’s furtively been watching for weeks. Their conversation instantly turns flirtatious, and things are going well until the train crashes. Can their fledging romance survive the most disastrous moment of their lives?

‘Twas the Night Before Conference

When a paranormal romance writer attends her first RWA conference all she’s expecting is to mingle with other authors and learn more about her craft. The last thing she imagined happening was meeting a handsome gentleman who could be a character in one of her novels, especially when she realises she’s the only one who can see him.

Last Hope Safari

When Matilda accompanies Jake on a camping holiday, she knows it’s the last chance they have of making their marriage work. The pressures of trying and failing to conceive are more than she, and their marriage it seems, can take. But Jake’s not about to walk away without a fight.

Diamond Shield
Speed dating isn’t Officer Kendra’s ideal way to pass secret information, but her cover as a desperate and dateless woman takes less effort than she’d dare admit. Her attraction for one of the male participants isn’t something she wants to dwell on either, especially when it turns out he’s waiting for the information she now possesses.

Farewell Sapphire

Emmie can’t wait to turn eighteen and leave the only home she’s ever known in the tiny Queensland town of Sapphire. With a name like Emerald, wouldn’t you? But there’s work to do in her parents’ caravan park if she’s ever going to have enough money to follow her dream. But it’s one she shares with the man of her dreams, someone she’s not seen for almost two years.

Moonstone Madness

Winning a horse is a big deal for Katrina Jaclynn. She’s always wanted one, and now she’s the proud owner of a racehorse. She can’t help but wonder if the handsome man grooming the gentle beast is part of that winning deal.


Stray Magic: A dystopian Fantasy (Faerene Apocalypse Book 1) by Jenny Schwartz

Stray Magic: A Dystopian Fantasy (Faerene Apocalypse Book 1)

When magic crashes through the Rift, Earth devolves into an apocalyptic nightmare. Survival becomes the only game in town, and college girl, Amy Carlton, learns she’s a more ruthless player than she ever imagined.

Magistrate Istvan signed up for the Faerene Migration knowing that the price of Earth’s future would be paid for in hellfire and blood. But the black griffin hadn’t anticipated humans accessing magic.

Now, a new and impossible bond must be forged between a Faerene invader and a human familiar. But first Istvan and Amy must survive to form the bond.

*Note: “Faerene” refers to the many peoples of another world: the griffins, dragons, unicorns, werewolves, elves and ogres who've crossed to Earth. No prepper or survivalist could have been prepared for their arrival.

Amy Carter, American college girl and go-getter is used to being on her own. Rather than giving her their time, her parents express their love with gifts. They pay for whatever Amy wants whether it’s learning how to shoot a bow and arrow, martial arts classes, or helping her work toward her dream profession of being a doctor. Growing up without that personal connections means Amy throws herself into everything, always looking for something to fill the empty space.

Her natural aptitude for healing becomes precedent when a rift opens in the damaged ozone layer and magic arrives in the form of creatures Amy’s only read about in fairy tales. But they’re real, and if Earth is to survive the magical invasion, then Amy is prepared to do whatever it takes. She never imagined magic would run in her veins, or she’d be expected to act as a familiar for one of the faerene visitors, much less the hell she must endure to prove herself worthy of their bond.

Stray Magic is the first in Ms Schwartz’ new Faerene Apocalypse series following the integration of Faerene beings on Earth after they appoint themselves guardians against a danger no human realised existed. The world building in the book is a necessity for setting the stage for the story to come, and I can’t wait to see what’s next. :)


News

I’ve hit “send” on three stories I hope will find a forever home in two anthologies. Not sure why I always feel ill after I hit that button, but I can only hope for the best. :) I’m working on a website, although that’s more hit than miss at the moment. I’ll be attending an editing workshop in early May, and another author talk later in July. We’ve had some amazing guests on the Aspiring eLoop, so I’ve been chatting to some fabulous authors online with more wonderful guests as the year progresses. Meanwhile, and I’m sure you know the drill by now, I’m off to work on the next story. :)

2 comments:

  1. I'm not in the loop to hear about new poetry collections so this was great. Thanks for the wonderful interview with Kelly Van Nelson, D. You had such a varied collection of books this post (loved the Stray Magic review! thank you!!).

    THREE stories?!! Good luck, busy woman :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for another entertaining read, Jenny. :)

      There were several poems I connected with in Kelly's book.

      Thank you for the good wishes. All my fingers and toes are crossed.

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