I got my hands on D A Kelly’s “Brooms Away”, a first in a series and was surprised in many ways. Although it opens with a tough-as-nails girl who has a soft heart, the book and character are not what you would think they are.
There are ‘brooms’, but not used by those whom you would expect.
Deb Kelly also has openly discussed her battle with self-doubt and procrastination in he writing. When I asked her about it, she gave us basically two of her posts on the subject. If you have any problem with this, you are not alone.
Let’s ask her about herself and her work:
Thanks for coming in, Deb. Brooms are used in “Brooms Away” and sequels by all sorts of ‘people’. However, I assumed that you had a story about all witches here. It even starts with the young woman, with no knowledge of her true background, acting witchy. Am I giving too much away to tell readers that this is not the case?
No, I don’t think you’re giving too much away, at all. The title refers to Arabella’s fear of flying on a broom.
I was reading away one night, and The Husband came in. He said, “You look intent. Is that a murder mystery?” I was only into the beginning of the book and said, “No, well, yeah, maybe.” You should have seen the look he gave me! How much of the overall story and subsequent volumes did you have in mind when you started “Brooms Away”?
I’m a Pantser, I wing it. When I have a few ideas ricochetting around my brain that make my inner child clap hands with glee, I start writing. Often these ideas never make it on the page, but they trick me into thinking I’m an author. This happened with Brooms Away. I knew Arabella wasn’t a witch because I wanted to have an adventure with an unusual magical being. The only things I was sure of when I started writing were:
One: I wanted lots of magic and fantasy elements.
Two: I had to throw a murder or two in there somewhere.
From there, I figured out the story as I went. As I wrote, ideas came to me. Or, I’d see something out in the real world and my mind would twist it into some obscure idea perfect for the story I was creating.
I will try very hard not to give spoilers, but a couple of times you really took me by surprise. Good for you! I try to find stories that are not obvious and that isn’t always easy. I like the slight changing of well-known mythical characters, yet you didn’t feel the need to turn all that is ‘known’ on its head. How much of that was purely your ideas?
My brain has a mind of its own. (Insert wild-eyed cackle here.) I surprise myself all the time. Weird characters. Strange magic. I cracked myself up with some of the stuff while writing Brooms Away. I might need psychiatric help. Can’t be sure, but if it enlivens my stories, it goes on the page.
One character that I will refer to is “Ploggit, the Spriggit”. [NOTE TO READERS: this is the only truly unusual name in the book, don’t let it throw you off]. This is truly a character the likes of which I have never seen in any other story. Can you tell us where he sprang from, (again, if you think it isn’t giving too much away?)
I love Ploggit! So, one day I imagined what it would be like to live in a world where magical creatures and powers were so common they were everyday stuff. We have spiders, insects, pets, plants in and around our homes. Hmmm, I thought. How cool would it be to have magical creatures populating your place? Pests, pets, and whatnot.
I filed away a lot of this musing for future use. For example, fairies in webs like mean little spiders.
One thing I dreamed up was a fairy training for a kind of Olympics. I imagined Arabella catching her running on top of a toilet roll, unspooling the paper as she ran. When asked what she’s doing, she shouts, “I’ve entered the Bog Rolling competition.” This is funny to Australians because we sometimes call toilet paper bog-roll. Sorry, I zipped off on a tangent. That didn’t make it into book one, but I still laugh when I remember it.
Anyway, back to how I came up with Ploggit. I was in a ‘particular room’ in my house and imagined him watching. Now he lives in Arabella’s home. I won’t say what he is, or where he lives, but he’s adorable. (In his own way.)
You toss a lot of unusual, and often quite unique, characters, and you keep opening up more about some as the story progresses. Did you plan on that, or did the characters ‘tell’ you what they wanted to be? In other words, are you big on plotting or do you let the story and /or characters lead you?
It’s not my fault! 🙂 The characters make me do it. I strap in and hold on because my brain and the characters conspire against me. I’m lucky they come up with such fun, original things. Imagine if they came up with monotonous stuff?
Arabella, the protagonist of the story, starts out constantly ready for battle over almost anything. During the course of the story, as she gains knowledge and struggles to understand what is going on in and around her, she seems to mellow slightly. Did you also plan that as well? Not that you can have her totally mellow, or she wouldn’t be herself, funny and ready to take on so many new situations and characters with unknown powers. How hard has it been to keep an even keel with her? (I regret that I have only gotten through the first volume so far.)
I found it was best to listen to Arabella. See the world as she moved through it. Empathising with her plight allowed me to delve deeper into her heart and soul. We experience grief when we lose something or someone that matters. She lost everything. Without realising, I used grief as a paintbrush, illuminating Arabella as she moved through the story. Grief and loss, once accepted, lead to growth. I didn’t do any of this on purpose. It’s only now, long after I finished writing Brooms Away, that I can see the subtle shades and highlights.
Arabella is also mistaken for her older sister, Rebecca, quite often and I can relate to that! You handle it well in the book; do you have first-hand experience with this?
Not at all. I had no frame of reference, so I imagined what it would be like to be mistaken for someone all the time. Frankly, it would suck, especially if you felt you didn’t measure up to your ‘almost double’. [Frankly it IS tough, trust me-T]
Will you tell us about your life and family?
Where to start? I have 5 grown kids – 4 boys and 1 girl, 24 to 33 years old. (Yes, I am that old!) I also have 3 grown step-kids, one with a daughter. I have 2 rag doll cats, Bosun and Magellan. They’re brothers from the same litter.
I live in Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia in a house with 7 bedrooms – for the kids, remember. Darren and I regret getting such a big house because those adult-kids keep boomeranging home. Why won’t they leave?????
Now to the light of my life – Darren. He is my partner and best friend and I love him to bits. I couldn’t ask for a more wonderful man. Darren supports my writing and believed in me long before I did. He’s kind and has a warm heart. He’s also a yobo, Aussie construction worker.
I come up with ideas, and he makes them happen because he can turn his hand to anything. I brought home 3 wisteria and said, ‘I need something for these to grow up’. Next thing you know, I’d babbled on about this grand gazebo thingie with water-features, a deck – not built yet – and a hanging bed – still to be purchased. The gazebo is wonderful and my wisteria love it.
On a more personal note, I struggle with depression. It has been bad at times. Medication helps, but doesn’t eradicate the dark times completely. I’m happy to share this because I know so many other people struggle in silence.
[For those readers not up on Australia, Queensland is in the northeast of the continent.] So, Deb, you avoid the Antarctic winds in your winter, right?
Is Queensland one of the places people go north to for the Winter? How warm do you get in the Summer?
It is much warmer in Queensland than down south during winter. Toowoomba, however, is colder than most areas of the Queensland because of the elevation. It’s cooler here in Summer too. We rarely get the high 30’s and mid 40’s in Summer like most of Australia. (That’s Celsius not Fahrenheit.) Lots of people from Victoria and New South Wales love to come to Queensland on holidays because of the weather. And, many people choose to retire here. [Around 115F-T]
I suppose that it is natural for you to have a heatwave for Christmas and to have Easter in Autumn. Does it bother you that most of the songs, cards, literature, etc., assumes that it is cold and snowy for Christmas and Spring-(ing) forth new life for Easter? How do you and yours counter that, or don’t you? One friend in Australia always has a big beach party for the kids on Boxing Day. We really don’t celebrate Boxing Day in America, but we do rather string out Christmas at least until New Year’s Eve. What are holidays like for you?
Having boiling hot days around Christmas is normal for us. Sweat. Puff, puff. Groan. I’m a traditionalist when it comes to cooking Christmas Dinner with roast turkey and pork, and roast vegetables. Oh, and apple sauce and gravy. You know, a traditional English Christmas feast. I almost die from the heat but keep on cooking. Stupid, I know.
Knowing that movies, cards and TV shows depict Christmas cold and snowy, and Easter in spring, doesn’t bother me at all. It is what it is. In fact, most Aussies are proud of our stinking hot Christmas Days.
For us, Boxing Day is a recovery day. I’d love to go to the beach, but we live too far away to be bothered after such a stressful lead up to Christmas Day.
We try not to go away over the Christmas break because all the holiday areas are packed. Too many people, and too expensive.
I have known quite a few people from Australia and I have found them to be generally the friendliest people on Earth. Most fall right in and treat you not only like a relative, but like a close relative or at least a life-long friend. To this day, my brother speaks of the incredible friendliness of the Australian troops when he was in Vietnam. Do you find that friendliness still prevails in Australia? (Of course, you find all kinds and even we have inherited a few that you’re probably glad to be rid of!)
I think friendliness still prevails in a big way.
Australians aren’t what we call ‘stuck-up’ – which means snobby and full of themselves. We like down-to-earth people. Genuine and friendly people. We give a lot of ourselves. But take us for granted and look out! Most Australians are quick to laugh, love a good joke and will go out of their way to help someone in need.
I did a post a few weeks back on British English compared to American English and frankly, expected to find more differences in terms in your book from American English than were there. Beside the fact that we cut out the ‘U’s in “colour”, and switch the ‘E’s and ‘R’s in “centre”, there were only a few differences that I found:
“Wending its way”, we would say “winding”,
“Lounge room”, which, by the sofa, etc., we would call a ‘living room’, and
“A Slippery Dip”, which is what we call a “Slip’n’Slide”.
Have any American terms confused you, or are there any that you find amusing?
I was told to write cosy mysteries in American English, but I thought, I’m Australian, so I will write in Australian. American terms rarely confuse me because we hear them so often on the television and movies.
Deb, you speak frankly on your blog and elsewhere of your crippling self-doubt and how hard it has been to get yours books finished and ‘out-there’. Again, I can truly relate. Even though I have had success in what I have ‘put out there’ for the most part, I still hold back. Do you still face those problems now that you have a series published? What are some ideas, practices, what-have-you that have helped you?
Every. Darn. Day.
Especially when I have a dark day.
Who am I thinking I’m an author? I’m just me. I’m a nobody.
What if I run out of ideas?
What if my plot doesn’t hold up?
What if my convoluted ‘brain-dumps’ I call stories confuse people?
What if I get bad reviews?
What if my book doesn’t sell?
Will I let everyone down?
These doubts, and so many more, prowl through my soul, seeking ways to destroy motivation and confidence. They empty my mind. They turn my computer into a monster, so I am afraid to sit down and turn it on.
Here are snippets from my Morning Pages I wrote back in 2012. Bit’s and pieces strung together, so I hope you can follow along. It might seem weird sharing something from so long ago, but I still feel this today. I hope my opening up helps someone feel better about their writing.
I have such difficulty writing. A definite anxiety that really blocks me from accessing creativity and story-writing. That is really ruining my chance of ever achieving my dream to be a published author. How stupid, eh! To have a dream and an aptitude for writing and yet also to have a broken brain that prevents you from doing the very thing you love. I wonder why that is? It doesn’t make any sense.
I really need to make friends with my muse. I think in the big picture, he is the protagonist and I’m the antagonist. I’m always sabotaging his efforts to help me. I block him, fight him, ignore him and argue with him. I must be so frustrating. I bet he’s bald because of me and if he had hair, he’d be grey. And wrinkles, lots of them. I wouldn’t want to be saddled with a stubborn human like me. Low self-esteem, no self belief and no motivation. What a lemon. I think his name is Byron. Very posh, but it somehow feels right. I feel relaxed and comfortable when I think of him as Byron. Even if that’s not his true name, I’m pretty sure he’s thinking, ‘Whatever floats your boat and makes you work.’
I wonder if it’s the soul talking when you write? Its voice filtering through the life experience of the current body and mind it inhabits. Or if it’s the muse channeling through you? That sort of detracts from the person themselves writing. But perhaps that’s just the ego talking. I think, well I hope, it’s more a partnership. Which partner is the driving force is up to speculation I guess, but if my case is any indication, I’d say the soul/human brain is in the control seat and the muse is the navigator. He’s well and truly strapped in in the backseat. Sometimes, I even stuff him in the boot so I don’t have to hear him. It’s easier to drive along without being told what to do. Well, not told exactly, more guided. I mean that’s what muses are really, aren’t they, guides? I also think they are like conduits, or catalysts that either spark creativity or connect you to some higher source of wisdom and creativity. I mean the Universe really is a great creator isn’t it? And destroyer for that matter. Perhaps that’s the part I tap into – the destroyer department. I bypassed the creativity department and went straight to the ‘Wreck everything you can get your hands on’ department. Yeah, no need to waste time working hard to create something, mate, just give me the wrecking ball and let me pound it into rubble before I even start. I suppose a mountain of rubble is still a creation of sorts, but it’s not anything constructive. It has no form, no elegance or structure. It’s not even interesting. Unless it’s the greatest mound ever made, then it’s just a great honking curiosity and nothing more, sort of like the greatest ball of string. A tangled mess, much like my brain, half the time. Still, this rambling opens my mind and allows thoughts to flow freely and that’s exactly what I need. Rambling is like a big shiny key to open a sturdy lock. Every word I write makes the key stronger – able to unlock the door blocking me from writing.
My head feels thick today, thick and sluggish. It might take a bit of doing to get my thoughts flowing smoothly this morning. Yep, I got nothin’! I want to write my novel. I know I should start. Bang out the words and fix them up later. That’s why the Universe created editing. That’s why we were gifted with 2 sides to the brain. That’s why hats were invented – a writing hat and an editing hat. Stupid, I know, but I warned you that my brain was like glue. Only the crap is leaking out. But that’s ok. At least something is leaking out. I’d be anxious if nothing was going on in there. And believe me, that happens more times than I care to admit. I sit here to write these Morning Pages and I just go blank. I think it’s like stage fright or some sort of pressure that does that. And that’s so stupid because these pages are not supposed to be prose. They’re supposed to be like a plunger to clear all the crap from the creative s-bend so the words can flow freely. Perhaps I need more than a plunger. Some industrial Draino might do the trick. Add one of those metal electric eels the plumbers jam down pipes to rattle and shock the crud free. I hope they lubricate it first!
I often wonder why I have such trouble ‘starting’ to write. Why I knot up with anxiety. What is the block based on? Where did it come from? Is it fear based? I think most sorts of anxiety blocks are fear based. I know I worry about not doing a good enough job. About failing. About not living up to expectations – both mine and the expectations of others. About not doing the story justice. Of creating a pale shadow of a vividly formed universe and story. Am I good enough to achieve this goal? I put so much pressure on myself, and I shouldn’t.
I’m here again. APRIL FOOLS! Stupid joke.
I’ve been wondering where my dream has gone. Is it just buried or is it gone completely? How can a dream that was so strong just dissipate and blow away? Or is it I’m so scared I won’t achieve the dream that I am too chicken to try? Too scared to humiliate myself by failing? Shouldn’t I be just as humiliated by giving in to fear? How weak am I? I usually look down on weak people and truthfully, I am no better. All I do is make excuses and apologies. Nothing gets done. Years have gone by since I started this novel and I have written hardly anything. Yes, I have been world-building and my novel will be better off for it, but I know deep down the actual writing of the story is constantly being pushed further into the future. At my age, I don’t really know how long I have left. Yes, probably (hopefully) years, but you just never know. How would I feel if I found out I only had a little time left and hadn’t achieved at least one dream? Yes, it’s my grandest dream, but shouldn’t that be the one I DO achieve?
I have those walls again. Great muffled things that surround my emotions. Or do they surround me, keeping me from being able to access the writing part of my brain. Every time I try to write, I feel tired, empty and need to lay down. Why would walls do that? How can walls do that? Are the writing parts of my brain buried so deep I have to battle through tons of rock just to find them. Again. When I am writing, I love it. My body feels alive. When I stop for a while it is so hard to start again. I’ve heard of other artistic people having this problem. The question is why does it happen? Perhaps all the sign posts fade and crumble when you do not follow them. Perhaps you have to start out on the artistic road and hope the sign posts return. Maybe they’re only visible when you are open and willing to take a risk. You can’t see with your eyes closed. You can imagine, but you can’t see. And imagining is far less dangerous than actually starting out on a real journey. When you imagine, you can pick whichever path you like. In the real world that’s not always possible. Sometimes the path is shoved before you and you either follow it, not knowing the destination, or you turn back to the safety zone you are most comfortable in. So if you don’t follow a real path does that make you a coward? Most people fear the unknown, making all sorts of excuses not to face it.
I think procrastination – the crippling kind – is a very real pathological state of mind. Whether it’s a learned behaviour that becomes a habit, or the way a brain is wired is hard to say. Perhaps it is fuelled by fear. Fear is a super-fuel (not the regular stuff) that starts up the procrastination-engine without needing to turn a key or push a button. Procrastination blocks the path to creativity and refuses to budge without a fight. It sucks the life out of you so you don’t even have the energy to throw the first punch. See it wins by sneaky tricks. If it doesn’t sap the will out of you, it holds up a ‘fun park’ mirror reflecting distorted impressions back at you. Everything about you seems negative and warped, making you feel worthless and talentless. Once again, procrastination wins without a fight. So what does it take to start swinging punches, to win the battle and get through the entryway? Perhaps standing your ground and recognising the monster as a bully. If you stand up to a bully, they back down.
Let’s say you pummel fear/procrastination into submission and start working. One battle down. There’s another waiting around the corner for the next day. But I have found that after a few days of fighting and scratching for ground, procrastination loses some of its grunt. It loses its teeth. It’s that first battle that’s the hardest. After a few it gets easier. Unless you stop. Then, the longer you leave it, the harder it is to face the bully again.
We all struggle with self-doubt. It doesn’t go away. So face the bully and slug him in the shnoz. (Nose.)
Thank you for being so opened with us, DA Kelly!
Please let everyone know how they can learn more about your work:
Thanks big heaps of lots for giving me the opportunity to waffle on about my writing and my life.