Words of wisdom from Kim Wilkins and Kimberley Freeman

In episode 15 of our top-rating podcast, So you want to be a writer, Allison Tait spoke with two authors at the same time: Kim Wilkins and Kimberley Freeman. But rather than talk over each other, it was all very orderly.

That’s because it was the same person. Dr Kim Wilkins writes under two names – her own for her award-winning historical and speculative fiction, while Kimberley Freeman is the name she puts to her popular women’s fiction.

She has a blog and a website for each, making it twice the work – but twice as rewarding. And it would seem, twice the amount of awesome wisdom. Here are some highlights from their chat:

On distractions: “I’m the only person in the Western world who’s never seen Breaking Bad. Nor do I watch Game of Thrones, which people think is incredibly weird. I don’t watch television. I got Foxtel earlier this year, what a waste of money that was…”

On fitting in lecturing, writing under two names and a young family into her days: “My writing is my hobby, it’s the thing I like to do best in the world. It’s not sort of another thing to fit into my day, it’s, ‘I’ve had a really crap day, so I’m going to go write for awhile and that will sort me out.' Maybe it’s just that. Maybe it’s simply that little shift of perspective. Obviously, I have a lot of crap days because I write a lot!”

On deciding to write under two names: “The Kimberley Freeman books were borne of the fact that I felt that I said all I could say in the other genre I was writing in, at least for awhile. I sort of pitched this book to my agent and she loved it, and she said, ‘Well, contemporary women’s fiction is doing very well, I think it would be a smart choice’, as well as something that I wanted to do. And so Kimberley Freeman basically reinvigorated my career and kept me going for several more years until I could get another fantasy book published.”

On writing: “I love writing, full stop. When it’s flowing it’s the best fun you can have by yourself, there’s no doubt about it. I’m making up the stories and my fingers are flying across the keyboard and people are doing stuff and saying things, and climbing mountains and falling down. It’s happening and it’s unfolding in front of my eyes, and I’m sort of putting it all down as quickly as I can.”

On why she prefers not to write for kids: “People can’t swear and have sex and kill each other with, you know, broken glass.”

On her new books: “The books that are coming out this year are number 25 and number 26, and you’d think by number 26 I would probably know how to do this with a minimum of fuss. And that is the case, it’s like anything that you’ve done heaps, you just get better at it. The first time you make a lasagna it’s a huge mess and it takes you two hours, by the 50th time you’ve made it you’re a finely honed machine. I’m entering the finely honed machine phase.”

On whether she’s a ‘plotter’ or a ‘pantser’:
“Well, I’m a plotter, that’s how a book is written quickly and that’s how they come out the right shape, they don’t require much structural feedback, and you can just get on with the line edit and publish the damn thing. But I think the problem is these terms, plotter and pantser (flying by the seat of your pants, making it up as you go along) – it’s a false dichotomy. I don’t think they’re the opposite of each other; everyone is sort of on that spectrum somewhere. People will say they’re pantsers, but they kind of know where the book’s going.”

On having an ‘author platform’ “Oh, wow. I just did a 20-minute TED talk on this in March, and it’s up on YouTube. We are encouraged to be on as many sorts of social media as we can, and have as big a digital author platform as we can. It is a lovely way to get in touch with people, but it does represent a huge potential time sink and energy sink too. So you have to be in control of it, you need to use it for good instead of evil, and that’s really, really important.”

On not seeing the forest or the trees: “What happens is if you’ve ever found yourself waiting for five minutes somewhere, just five minutes, just say you’re waiting at the gate for your kids to come out of school, what do you do? You pull your phone out of your pocket and you go on Facebook or you check your email, whereas 10 years ago you would have just looked at the trees. I think we need to do more looking at trees, you know? We need to do more sort of reflection, just quiet reflection and we need to just wait, because when you’re waiting and reflecting the ideas come.”

On tips for aspiring writers: “Have excellent work habits, don't go and check the internet all of the time. Make sure you make time to write, make it a priority, and sort of maintain good writing ‘hygiene’. Build and maintain good relationships, because goodwill in the industry is one of the most important things that you can have. And finally, be prepared to diversify and explore other aspects of your craft and your creativity – you’ve got more of a chance of writing success.”

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Kim Wilkins

If you'd like to hear more from these two fascinating writers (in one body!), you can see the entire transcript of the interview, or listen to the whole podcast.


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