Guest Post: Kate Belle – The secret of youth

Today we’ve got a special guest post for you. Welcome to Aussie Owned and Read, Kate.

KateBelle-glamlores (2)Kate is an accomplished, multi-published author of dark and sensual new adult fiction. She refers to 2013 as her ‘Year of Wonders’, with the publication of five works: debut full length novel, The Yearning (Simon & Schuster), to rave reviews; two novellas, Breaking the Rules and Bloom (Random Romance); and two short stories included in different anthologies (Fire and Edible Delights Vol 2).

Kate holds a tertiary qualification in chemistry, half a diploma in naturopathy and a diploma in psychological astrology. Kate believes in living a passionate life and has ridden a camel through the Australian desert, fraternised with hippies in Nimbin, had a near birth experience and lived on nothing but porridge and a carrot for 3 days.

Kate lives, writes and loves in Melbourne, juggling her strange, secret affairs with her male characters with her much loved partner and daughter, and a menagerie of neurotic pets.

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The Secret of Youth

Let’s be honest with each other. I’m not young any more. I know this because gorgeous young men no longer turn to watch me walk down the street. Come to think of it, neither to gorgeous older men!

At the tender age of forty-something, after 15 years in the same relationship, and a kid, and losing a parent and grandparents, you’d be forgiven in thinking that I might be beyond relating to a Young Adult/New Adult audience. I mean – I’m now one of those technically challenged, still on a landline, flat shoe wearing dinosaurs you see trudging the shopping centres with boring hair and no make-up. But does that make me, and the thousands of ‘used to be young’s’ like me, out of touch? Am I beyond writing in a YA/NA voice?

As a writer of genre crossing fiction (erotic love story – new adult –  shades of literary) I want my fiction to be authentic to as broad a readership as possible. This means that when I use a young adult/new adult voice, I need to do it convincingly. How does a middle-aged woman with more experience than she cares to remember, manage that?

A little while ago I was fortunate to meet Abbi Glines. The Reading Room hosted the two of us for an interview focusing on the erotic content in our work. Abbi is a fair bit younger than I and I was fascinated listening to her speak of why she so loves the YA/NA genres. Abbi was very clear that it’s all about firsts, so the eroticism in her novels was very straight forward and exploratory. No kink. Nothing dark. Just young people discovering and negotiating romantic sexual relationships for the first time. In thinking about what Abbi said, I realised it’s the ability of a writer to create and authentically first time experience that’s the key to good YA/NA fiction.

Abbi Anna & Kate 2 (2)

Kate Belle and NYT best selling author, Abbi Glines.

When I was in my mid-to-late-twenties I worked at a University sports centre. I loved it because I got to work with young people aged 17-24. I found their guileless enthusiasm and energy contagious. They had a hopeful way of looking at the world, an enterprising approach to tackling problems, and hadn’t yet learnt to hide their emotional selves too much. They were intelligent, many were mature, even wise, yet this was tempered by an unguarded expectation that, no matter the pitfalls, life was going turn out great.

Capturing this fascinating balance between budding maturity and youthful optimism is the challenge for quality young adult/new adult writing. Interestingly, I’ve had a number of beta-readers comment that early drafts of my novels have a distinctly young adult/new adult flavour. It’s not something I deliberately set out to do. I suspect it’s because I often start my stories in the emotional powerhouse of teenage-hood. I love the intensity of that confused place where maturity and character growth begins. It’s a bit like compost, kind of dirty and smelly, but really good, healthy things grow out of it.

This was the place I had to go to when writing The Yearning. The first half of the book the character is sixteen. I had to push my cynical forty-something mind away so I could travel back to a place when emotions were enormous, life was an unexplored adventure, and love was all encompassing and lasted forever. Not easy when your heart looks and feels like a battered returned WWII soldier.

But, not so hard as you might think.

In reflecting on Abbi’s connection to her characters and her interest in their first shaky steps into adulthood I realised the voice of youth lives on in us all. As evolving human beings, we continue to experience firsts all our lives. I’ve just bought my first Macintosh computer (now there’s a learning curve). This year I’ve had my first novel published. I hope I have plenty more firsts to look forward to, because they keep me fresh and invigorated as a person.

If we are continue to be active participants in our lives, we should keep experiencing firsts, no matter how old we are, and a good YA/NA writer will reconnect us to that universal feeling of newness. I think the secret is to keep a little piece of your heart protected from the tempests of life, the piece that still believes in kindred souls and love at first sight and ‘I can’. If you keep that piece of your heart safe, you can keep returning to it and reconnect with the buoyant feeling of being young again.

Thanks for visiting us today Kate.

Yearning lo res

The Yearning by Kate Belle

It’s 1978 in a country town and a dreamy fifteen year old girl’s world is turned upside down by the arrival of the substitute English teacher. Solomon Andrews is beautiful, inspiring and she wants him like nothing else she’s wanted in her short life.

Charismatic and unconventional, Solomon easily wins the hearts and minds of his third form English class. He notices the attention of one girl, his new neighbour, who has taken to watching him from her upstairs window. He assumes it a harmless teenage crush, until the erotic love notes begin to arrive.

Solomon knows he must resist, but her sensual words stir him. He has longings of his own, although they have nothing to do with love, or so he believes. One afternoon, as he stands reading her latest offering in his driveway, she turns up unannounced. What they choose to do next will haunt them until they meet again twenty five years later.

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