Five Minutes with Karen Ginnane #LoveAusAuthors

Author Karen Ginnane writes historical fantasy that straddles young adult and middle-grade – that age when children are quickly becoming aware of themselves and the wider world.

‘I clearly remember the intensity of this age and how books were almost visceral experiences – so many ideas are encountered for the first time. This is an age when imagination, curiosity and understanding are flowering and it feels a privilege to write for these young people,’ she says.

Karen takes the real world as a jumping off point for the imagination and enjoys reading and writing stories that twist reality with magic or fantasy. She says a magical or weird element seems to creep into most of what she writes, even when she doesn’t intentionally set out to do so. She is also passionate about the inclusion of history in stories.

‘We can’t understand ourselves and where we sit in the world without looking at history – and for me history is everything that got us to where we are now. It’s part of the living present, not some dry and dusty irrelevance.’

She is passionate about the stories that haven’t made it onto the page and the stories of the people not telling the history.

‘The loudest and most platformed voices are often not the most interesting. I was a shy child, full of self-doubt, and I put myself together through reading and writing. If anything I write inspires a child to have confidence in themselves and their own way of seeing the world, or to imagine other possibilities in difficult situations, then I’m happy.

Five Things About Karen’s History

  1. Born, educated and raised in Perth and Boyup Brook on Whadjuk Noongar land. I love my home boodja but I’ve also always had one eye on far horizons. I leapt into the world as soon as I left uni, teaching English in Japan before travelling and living overseas for many years (mostly in London) before returning to Melbourne with husband and children in tow. I’d never left WA before I flew to Japan to start my overseas adventure at the age of twenty.
  2. I was incredibly shy as a child and lived most vividly through books.
  3. My non-writing job is running a specialist tour operator business with my husband, taking goups of professionals all over the world (usually) to look at their profession in the context of a different destination –
  4. I reached national finals in the now defunct Jaycees Youth Speaks for Australia when I was at school – I’d entered public speaking to challenge my shyness.
  5. When I left to go overseas, my great friend Meri Fatin gave me a journal to record my adventures, which began a lifelong habit of journal writing. I now have boxes full of them.

Five Things About Karen’s Books

  1. I got an agent and publisher interest for my debut novel at the age of 50 – so, never give up! I signed a 2-book publishing deal with Penguin back in 2019, so it’s been a long time coming (mostly thanks to pandemic.) Being a published author is a dream come true – I’ve always written but it took a while for me to take writing a ‘proper book’ seriously. My debut novel was my learning novel and has changed a lot in the writing.
  2. When Days Tilt when through many iterations – starting as rhyming couplets! – before its current form of historical fantasy based in London and a parallel world. I did a lot of research to ensure the historical element was solid and accurate, to anchor the imaginative leaps. I really enjoy incorporating real historical turning points whenever possible.
  3. I’ve been working on the edits for Book 2, When Souls Tear, with my fabulous editor Amy. The release date is July 2022 and I have just shared pictures of the cover artwork on my social media, which is incredibly exciting.
  4. My books are about identity and truth-finding, the value of time and how to fill your time as only you can, and the importance of authentic connection.
  5. It’s been so exhilarating seeing my book baby out in the world in the hands of readers and hearing some very kind feedback! I hope my book/s find lots of readers, so I can keep writing this world for a bit longer – I have big ideas for a book beyond When Souls Tear, which I would love to wrestle with!

Five Things That Help Karen Keep Writing

  1. Put bum on chair, and write. Do not wait for Muse, as Muse is notoriously unreliable!
  2. I protect my morning writing time jealously – I won’t look at social media or emails first thing, but instead turn straight to the page. I love that uncluttered time just after sleep, before the world intrudes.
  3. Expect to write terribly at first. You have to write through the awful stuff to get to the gold. See the dross as an essential part of the process.
  4. Stay open and curious. Learn to watch and listen. Walk without headphones and take in your environment – and those fascinating snippets of conversation you catch in passing!
  5. Read widely. The best way to absorb how to write is to read.
  6. Nurture your writing community and support them – they will do the same for you. The writing community has been such a wonderful, essential part of becoming a writer and I’m so grateful for these people.

In the future, Karen hopes we all learn that the natural world is not there to serve as resource for us – we are part of a richly interconnected nature in a way that we still barely understand and not sitting above it like some omniscient ruler.

‘We need to wake up and take action to protect this incredible world while we still can. I hope we leave the next generation a healthy planet that we’ve learned to live respectfully with. The natural world is truly heaven on earth and we need to re-learn that animist wisdom.’

Further to this, she hopes we can learn to treat all living things with reverence – that we respect all humans, whatever their race, creed, gender, sexuality. In particular, that we face and own the violent history of this land and elevate First Nations people to the status they deserve.

She would love to co-write a book or work collaboratively on a creative project and to have her book made into something visual.

‘I can see each scene so clearly in my head and would love to have it come alive in another format. A play, a series, a film – all big dreams.’

Karen would love to take part in residencies (here and overseas, when possible) to meet other writers and creatives, to learn from and inspire each other, and also form those vital connections. Finally, she would love to have the opportunity to teach young people about writing and finding your voice, and to work with organisations promoting literacy and reading.

See more about Karen at her website and social media Twitter – @Karen Ginnane
Instagram – @ginnanekaren and find her first book, When Days Tilt, at The Australian Bookish shop.

Helen x

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