There’s nothing better than a good interview and I thoroughly enjoyed Kyra Bandte’s witty and insightful responses in this, my inaugural writer interview. Read on to hear Kyra’s take on author labels, her writing process, the influence study and work has had on her writing and more.
- Tell us a bit about yourself and your writing?
I’m a creative writer and freelance editor from Wollongong, NSW, but I also work full-time in Sydney as a content writer for an e-commerce company.
I guess I always knew I wanted to be a writer (it’s the first thing I remember announcing to my family as a kid–– sorry, not sorry, guys) and I was nurtured in story-telling all through my school years. I was lucky that I had good teachers who saw my love of reading and writing (one teacher used to give feedback for my attempted poems while we rode the bus to and from volleyball practice).
I studied at the University of Wollongong and graduated in 2013. I basically fell into full-time work straight out of the gates, so I squeeze in reading and writing time wherever I can.
My passion is for prose; micro-fictions used to be my jam, but I’ve been getting into longer forms lately. The longest story I’ve ever written turned out to be around 4,000 words.
I mostly write realism, and like to use imagery to my advantage. So similes and metaphors are my best friends. I’m also a big believer in the ‘story object’ which is super helpful for starting out a story and for connecting all the dots.
- What do you describe yourself as? An emerging writer, a young writer, a sparkly pink unicorn with rainbow eyes or something else entirely?
I usually just go with ‘writer’, because that’s the simplest way to put it. I’m someone that could be termed a ‘slashie’ (creative writer/editor/book critic/copywriter/cat enthusiast) so ‘writer’ and ‘editor’ are good umbrella descriptions.
In the right setting I suppose I could also identify as a ‘young writer’ but that would really only be if I were flung in amongst other young writers. It’s a bit weird to bring age into it, because age should be irrelevant to the quality of your writing.
I probably wouldn’t call myself an ‘emerging writer’, because it makes me think of baby chickens breaking out of eggs, all their tiny feathers covered in goop.
- How do you feel about all the writerly labels out there?
I’m not a fan! I feel like we go through a lot of changes as writers, we experiment, we evolve. It doesn’t make any sense to brand yourself as a poet when a few years later you stop writing poetry and only read it for the love of it (which may or may not have been me, haha).
These days, there’s a lot of emphasis put onto your ‘author brand’ and ensuring you build a specific audience and that you stick out in the industry in your own way. It’s hard to do that when you don’t really know what you’re doing yet!
There’s no need to pigeon-hole yourself as any specific kind of writer. Once you put a label on yourself, your approach to writing changes. Can I write a horror story if I’m supposed to be a ‘literary’ writer? Can I have an opinion about politics if I’ve only ever written fiction?
I also think terms surrounding ‘emerging’ and ‘aspiring’ writers are a bit condescending. It makes it sound as though the work is going to be of lesser quality because you’re ‘new’, which is certainly not the case.
- Do you have a standard writing practice or is it different every time?
My standard practice is to have no standard at all… I probably need to start one!
I have a list of story ideas and prompts, so whenever I get some time I already know what I’m going to write about. Very rarely do I ever start writing from nothing at all, I always have at least an image or a few abstract words to kickstart my brain. I’m very much a ‘pantser’, not a ‘plotter’.
From what I’ve heard about other writers’ processes, I’m pretty lucky. I write all my stories in one sitting. Wait, that’s a lie. I once wrote a 3,500 word story that took me two or three sessions from start to finish. But other than that, I’ll sit down for anywhere up to two hours and just write.
Once the writing is done, I usually get some friends to read it over. They always pick up on problem areas I’ve missed and make me ask new questions about my own characters that I hadn’t thought of. Workshopping friends are an indispensable must-have.
I go weeks, sometimes months without writing (woops). And then all of a sudden I’ll sit down with a spare fifteen minutes and spit out a micro-fiction, or I come up with about ten ideas at once. I have a lot of ideas!
- Tell us a little bit about the last piece you’ve had published?
I’ve had more articles and book reviews published this last year, but do have some fiction forthcoming in a few places which is exciting!
The last story I had published was ‘Mrs. Metkin’s Lemons’ in Kindling Volume I by Writer’s Edit Press.
I remember writing the story in one frenzied creative session. I was well-chuffed about the story object (a lemon tree) acting as a metaphor for a sour marriage and got so caught up in how much fun I was having describing the heavy, juicy lemons and developing the characters that I forgot to work out an ending.
So I got to the ending, made up something super weak that made no sense, and submitted it to a journal without having anybody read it. Of course, it got rejected.
I went back to the drawing board, scrapped the ending, and got some great advice from a writer friend (thanks!), and it got published in print!
The moral of the story, is always workshop your writing 😉
- Do you think your education and work experience has had an effect on your creative writing? If so, how?
Oh, definitely. Doing the creative writing course at the University of Wollongong really opened my eyes as to what writing and reading was all about. Before that, I had no idea what I was doing or working towards, I had zero direction.
University gave me a clearer idea as to what kind of writer I wanted to become, and what writers could actually achieve in the industry. There’s so much to learn and a long way to go, and I’m very thankful for that perspective; this writing gig is a life-long project!
Reading uni texts basically taught me how to read for the craft, by which I mean, read to analyse the text’s techniques, themes, and structure until you pull them apart like a roast chicken on a Sunday, massacred until there’s nothing but flecks of stringy flesh clinging to grey bone (again with the poultry metaphors).
But that’s okay – it’s actually pretty useful, and I’ve learned a lot that I can use in my own writing 🙂
In terms of my work experience, I’ve dabbled in a lot of different things: print journalism, short copy, blogging, vlogging, product descriptions, book reviews, EDM copy, social media… I’ve been privileged to see writing in a lot of different industries and because I’ve shed those pesky labels I can basically do whatever I want!
My day job is writing product descriptions, so I’ve learned a lot about brevity and vocabulary – about saying a lot in a short space of time – which is super useful for work writing and creative writing. I used to notice my ‘work’ voice (more salesy and structured) was creeping into my everyday sentences, but once I picked up on it I stopped that quick-smart!
- When things are getting you down what do you do to cheer yourself up?
Good question! I’m not too good at cheering myself up, actually. If I had to answer simply, I’d probably say ‘go to bed’ (lol) because sometimes you’re just emotionally exhausted by the end of the day and you just need today to zip itself into yesterday.
The answer I like better is that I’m lucky enough to have an amazing partner who basically knows me better than I do myself. His hugs are 10/10 and he knows how to make me laugh, which always helps to stir me out of the sad-fog.
Colouring in is also a good one – it’s something tactile and intricate that you can focus on to let yourself just space out or think things through quietly. Also watching Gossip Girl on Netflix is a total no-brainer (pun intended).
You can find out more about Kyra on her website or follow her on Twitter @KyraBandte.