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Interview with KJ Steele, Author of No Story to Tell

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KJ Steele has spent half her life creating a family with her husband, but has decided to venture into the writing world.  She is an emerging writer who has learned that the process is not so much about choosing what to write as it is about having the courage to write what chooses to be written. She intends to spend the rest of it creating equally amazing fiction.

When did you first know you could be a writer?

Wow, that is really an excellent question. For me, this was a bit of a slow revelation, rather than a specific moment or time. The teacher for my first writing class actually knew it long before I did. Which was sort of the way it was for a long time. Other people saw something promising and fresh in my writing. They believed in my ability to be a writer long before I was able to believe in myself. I arrived at that gate slowly, and with much prodding. I guess I eventually had enough really well-qualified people tell me that my writing was good, and I began to trust that it was.

What inspires you to write and why?

I am a great champion of the human spirit. I’m also an incurable optimist, and I truly believe we can all do life a little bit better. Writing is my way of giving a voice to those whose voices, for whatever reason, have been silenced. There is much to be learned both from those who live alongside us, and those who have  left little memory of their existence. We have much to learn from each other. I’m inspired by people’s stories. The lessons and the warnings gleaned there. And, that’s what I like to set down on the page, and share with readers.

What genre are you most comfortable writing?

I write literary fiction. Which isn’t to say I may not venture off into something with less walls, like fantasy. Who knows? I just write what comes into my head. And I long ago realized I’m not in charge of the selection process!

What inspired you to write your first book?

Well, to begin with, I think I would have to describe it more as being ‘possessed,’ than inspired! I actually had had no plans of actually writing a book. I mean, it wasn’t something that I had pondered over for years, contemplating the pros and cons of such an undertaking. Rather, I had come to a crossroads in my life that many, if not all of us, eventually arrive at. I had completed one stage of my life, and was exploring a bit, looking for the ‘something’ that would undergird the next stage. I had always had an interest in words. I loved to read and, although I was not a person who habitually wrote, I stood in fascination of those who did. So, I decided to take a writing class. Our first assignment was to create ‘two characters and a conflict, and write a paragraph.’ That simple. Except that when my pencil found that awaiting page… it exploded into a 388 page novel, usurping huge swaths of my life in the meantime! When I tell people that No Story to Tell is a story that demanded to be told… I am speaking quite literally.

Who or what influenced your writing once you began?

The most dynamic influence on my writing once I began was the story itself. It simply would not let me go. And, believe me, there were times I would have happily put it away if I could. Wasn’t an option. This story had things to say, and I was the voice that was going to say them!

Who or what influenced your writing over the years?

I was very fortunate to have a supportive husband and daughters. Their unflagging belief in me was paramount. I was also very fortunate to be able to interact with some very good authors through the Humber College writing program. I worked with DM Thomas, (The White Hotel) and he was instrumental in helping me to trust in my own ability as a writer. My writing style has really never wavered much from the first sentences I set down. My writing voice arrived strong and sure right from the beginning. For me, the journey was more about learning to not alter that.

What made you want to be a writer?

It was innate. I believe that latent writer’s voice was sitting still inside of me until the moment it could usurp my life, and begin spilling over onto the blank page! And I love the idea of being able to share the visions and stories in my mind with someone a world away. Someone I may never meet, but in some way have interacted with in the most intimate of ways. Magic!

What do you consider the most challenging about writing a novel, or about writing in general?

The aloneness. It’s a funny thing, when you think about it. This book will eventually be read by a great may people. But, I conceived and birthed it entirely alone. It is very difficult to spend the amount of time sequestered that it takes to successfully complete a novel. You don’t get to feed off of the energy of other people to stay inspired, as you would say, if you were an actor. Writing demands seclusion and, for me, a certain degree of just ‘empty’ time in which to process my thoughts. It helps if you have a certain amount of hermit-blood in you!

Did writing this book teach you anything and what was it?

Writing this book has been a vast education! In many ways I have discovered a great deal about myself. But, the single most important thing it taught me (and here comes the old cliche!) is that, if we can believe in ourselves and persevere… good things will come to us.

Do you intend to make writing a career?

Absolutely. There is simply nothing else that fuels me like writing does.

Have you developed a specific writing style?

Like I mentioned earlier, my writing style didn’t so much develop, as arrived. My writing voice was fully developed, and strong right from the beginning. It is a direct, bold, highly visual style. I’m not much of one for small-talk, and that’s reflected in my writing style. I like to drive to the point!

What is your greatest strength as a writer?

My characters. Interesting, conflicted, despicable, lovable, and forgivable – all at the same time! Like all of us, my characters are full of all the complexities of being human. And I love them for it.

Have you ever had writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?

Definitely. However, I’ve realized that writer’s block, at least for me, is really just me-blocking-my-writer! I have learned that I need to get out of my own way, and let the words come to the page. My technique for this is to sit quiet, close my eyes, and listen. I don’t try to summon the words. I listen, or I watch for a scene to start unfolding in my mind. I actually saw a great deal of No Story to Tell before I committed it to the page.

You can find out more about her and her book by visiting her website, on Twitter and on Facebook.

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About Tracee Gleichner