Wednesday, August 24, 2011

author interview: kimberley freeman

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Kimberley Freeman, the author of the amazing Wildflower Hill, was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions.

Wildflower Hill is set in both the 1920s and 2009. What research did you do to create the 1920s setting?

Historical research is one of the things I really enjoy about my job. I have learned so much about different time periods for the novels I've written, and the 1920s and 1930s were such interesting eras to write about.

Authors have so much at their fingertips now with the internet as a tool for research. I actually started with images of the clothes. It was really important for me to be able to see the character: not just her face and hair, but her body, how she wore her clothes. The wonderful thing about this period, especially the 1920s, is that the fashions were so wonderful. I would have loved to wear a flapper dress!

Another great way to do historical research is to read first-hand accounts of the time. I found a wonderful published version of a young woman's diary of the time, and so I was able to find all those little details of what people called things, and what their concerns were especially during the Great Depression. The most horrifying revelation for me was that some people were so poor that they made soup from grass. Not only did it give me a bone-achingly clear idea of how desperate times were, it gave me a wonderful image to work within the story.

You’ve published a number of books as Kim Wilkins. What made you decide to write Wildflower Hill as Kimberley Freeman?

Kim Wilkins (which is my birth name) writes fantasy fiction, and some of it quite dark. I wanted to explore this other side of myself, where stories could be uplifting and set in the real world, but I knew if I published them as Kim Wilkins (at least in the Australian market where I am known) they wouldn't meet the right audience. Freeman is my grandmother's maiden name, but Kim Freeman sounded like it might be a man's name. So I changed it to "Kimberley" because it was much more feminine. Something about writing under the other name really inspired me to write in a different way. I really love going into my office and changing into Kimberley Freeman: she's a fun girl!

You list a number of music-related top tens on your website. What music inspires your writing?

It depends on what I'm writing. I like music that has drama and scope in it. At the moment I'm really enjoying Zoe Keating, a fabulous cellist. I also love music that creates a mood, and for that reason I love Hammock. I find it very hard to write with singing on, so it always has to be instrumental.

What book (your own or someone else’s) has had the most impact on your life?

When I was a little girl, I read a book that affected me profoundly. It was Gladys Malvern’s The Dancing Star, first published in 1944, an account of the life of Anna Pavlova, written for children. Like many little girls, I dreamed of being a ballet dancer but it wasn’t the stuff about ballet that affected me so deeply, it was the stuff about work.

According to the book, Anna Pavlova was obsessed with dancing. She practised all the time. She did it until her toes bled and she just. kept. going. This notion, that one could work so hard and push through barriers of extreme discomfort, really took hold of my imagination. From that moment on, I understood the incredible romance of work: diligent hours spent on something that mattered to make an outcome appear in the world. Art is not a divine bolt from above, but the sweet, constant labour of real human beings manifesting things with their feet in the soil. And there is no idea about art more pleasing to me than that.

What’s up next for you?

I am working on a novel, provisionally titled "Isabella's Gift", about a woman who survives a shipwreck off the coast of Australia in 1901. She has many reasons for wanting to run away from her old life, but has trouble making a new life for herself, especially when somebody from the old life comes after her. The historical plot is mirrored in a contemporary plot about a woman who comes to the same small seaside town in 2011, and has to make some difficult decisions of her own in order to reconcile with her estranged sister. I am having such a wonderful time writing it. I should be done in about a month, so very close to the end now.