Kimberley Freeman is the pen name Kim Wilkins uses for her brilliant commercial women’s fiction. Born in London and raised in Brisbane, she has degrees in English Literature and Creative Writing. Hachette published Duet in 2007 (which won the Ruby Award), Gold Dust in 2008, Wildflower Hill in 2010 and Lighthouse Bay in 2012. For more information about Kimberley Freeman visit her website here; for more information about her writing under the name Kim Wilkins, click here. My review of her latest book, Ember Island, is here.
Monique: Your writing spans a number of genres, including children’s, historical and speculative fiction (under the name Kim Wilkins). What prompted the move to commercial fiction targeted at women?
Kimberley: I never wanted to write in just one genre. I felt I had said all I had to say, for the time being, in the fantasy genre, and I wanted to take a break. I told my agent I wanted to write a big, epic, adventure romance for women, like the ones I’d love in my twenties, and she thought it was a grand idea. Thus Kimberley Freeman was born.
Monique: After the success you had with your earlier writing, how did it feel tackling a new market? From the reviews I’ve seen, it looks like the move was successful – what was it like getting such positive reviews?
Kimberley: It’s been fun, and I’ve really enjoyed the positive response. I feel I’ve learned a lot more about my craft writing in a different genre. And really, they’re not so very different. Fewer ghosts and dragons.
Monique: Ember Island, your fifth book in the women’s fiction genre, is due for release shortly. Can you tell me what I have to look forward to with this book?
Kimberley: A governess story! It’s the nineteenth century, and a lass without many options makes some bad decisions, then has to pay for them. She ends up as a governess to a little girl on a remote Australian island, and does something really, really naughty.
Monique: What do you like most about Ember Island? What was your response to the cover design?
Kimberley: I like that it’s quite gothic, in a Victoria Holt windswept sort of way. The cover is gorgeous. I love all the reds and golds.
Monique: Does Ember Island relate to any of your real-life experiences? Which character do you like the most?
Kimberley: The main character in the contemporary part of the plot is a writer, so I got to write about some of those insecurities and the roller coaster that trying to write a novel can be. But my favourite character was Nell, the little girl whom Tilly comes to teach. Nell is spirited and smart, just as all little girls should be.
Monique: Ember Island was inspired by the area you grew up in – a background you once wanted to put behind you. Was writing the book in any way cathartic for you?
Kimberley: Not cathartic, but it did allow me to write about a place I’m very familiar with. So it was a lot easier than writing about Russia after the Cold War.
Kimberley: I have no idea! I hope that it reassures women that it’s okay to be angry, especially when some fellow is treating you poorly.
Monique: Books about uncovering past secrets seem to have great appeal for women. Why do you think this is?
Kimberley: Because it gives you a sense that life is far more interesting than it actually is.
Monique: What do you think is the difference between women’s fiction and “chick-lit”?
Kimberley: I think chick lit is meant to be funny. I’m not funny at all. My favourite writer, by the way, is Marian Keyes, who writes chick lit. I think she’s possibly the greatest living female writer.
Monique: Are you still writing in other genres? Do different genres evoke different feelings from you?
Kimberley: I get a different thrill from writing fantasy, which I still write. I find myself indulging a melancholy streak in fantasy, so it’s nice to write something cheerful instead.
Monique: Is asking you which is your favourite book the same as asking which is your favourite child?
Kimberley: No, books aren’t children. They’re far quieter. My favourite book is always the one I’m working on.
Monique: What’s your writing process like? Where do you write? Do you need complete silence or can you cope with noise? How do you get into the “zone”?
Kimberley: I write in bed a lot. I don’t need quiet and I don’t need a zone. I just write. It’s not that hard for me.
Monique: When you write, what is your biggest weakness?
Kimberley: Feeling sorry for myself and doubting what I’m writing. Then I tell myself to harden the f*** up and get on with it. My kids don’t eat if I don’t write.
Monique: Do your characters create themselves? Or do you plan them out? Do they ever surprise you?
Kimberley: I will quote Nabokov here: “My characters are galley slaves. They do as they’re damn told.”
Monique: Love that quote! Which writers do you admire the most?
Kimberley: Marian Keyes, Marion Bradley, Tolkien, Keats … That’s a bit random, I know, but I actually admire all writers. It’s a tough gig.
Monique: Which book are you reading now?
Kimberley: I’m reading pulpy romances about Vikings for a research project. Apparently all Vikings have completely hairless chests and very large penises. Am I allowed to say penis in this interview?
Monique: Do you ever skip ahead a few pages or read a book’s ending?
Kimberley: Never. Authors hate readers who do that.
Monique: If I came over for dinner now, what would we have to eat?
Kimberley: Given I’m usually too busy to cook, we’d probably get takeaway noodles from Red Rock.
Monique: Finish this sentence … I really hate it when …
Kimberley: I make it my business not to hate anything. I really love it when people are genuine and exuberant and appreciate what they’ve got.
Monique: Which song best describes you?
Kimberley: It depends on the day. Today, I’m going to say Over the Hills and Far Away by Led Zeppelin.
Monique: Which book in your collection would you most like to have autographed by the author?
Kimberley: Lord of the Rings.
Monique: You’re based in Queensland. Which places would you take a friend/relative to show off the area?
Kimberley: Peregian Beach. Heaven on earth.
Thanks for answering my questions, Kim.