Interview with Kevin Klehr

Hi Kevin, thanks for agreeing to this interview. Can you please tell us about yourself?

Thanks for inviting me over.

I’m a married man who has been with my partner for over thirty years. In fact, he was the muse for my first series of novels as the two main characters are loosely based on us. As they say, write what you know.

I loved creating stories as a kid. In Grade 5, our teacher stapled paper inside cardboard folders creating blank-paged books for us to write in. After we finished a story and drew our own cover art, we’d place our completed books on the ledge of the blackboard. Fellow students often grabbed my books as soon as I finished them so they could say they were the first to read them.

Sadly, I didn’t continue this passion until much later in life. In my late thirties I started a novel, had it professionally assessed three times, submitted it over and over until a publisher finally sent me an offer. As I read that offer, alarm bells went off. One clause expected me to seek their permission for anything else I’d write. I sent the contract to a lawyer at the Australian Society of Authors. She found it was even more dodgy than I thought.

Of course, when I asked questions, they retracted the offer.

Finally a publisher did accept my novel, but that first book, Drama Queens with Love Scenes, is now with its third publisher. The second publisher folded and as for the first, well, let’s go for a drink sometime and I’ll tell you about them.

Congratulations on the success of your latest award winning novel, The Midnight Man! What was the inspiration for this book?

The Kate Bush song ‘Man With The Child In His Eyes’ was the inspiration for that novel. I wanted a story where a lover appeared in someone’s dreams, but as I don’t often write Romance, this ended up being a story of a man’s midlife crisis and the disintegration of his seven-year relationship.

Originally, I wanted both the reader and the other characters to question Stanley’s sanity. His dream world was to become more real, while his actual life fell apart. As I plotted, the story changed to become about an insecure man learning life lessons he never grasped the first time around. Asher, the love interest in the dreams, is twenty-one. Stanley is forty-nine. But Stan gets to be an extra five years younger with each successive night-time adventure, learning to love himself along the way.

I love the variety of works you have produced for the radio! From entertaining fare such as ‘Swimming with Nudists’, through to heartwrenching stories of the homeless (Transient Tales). How did you get into that industry? Which was your favourite segment to produce?

In my early twenties, I weaselled my way into a receptionist job at ABC TV. Seven years and several admin jobs later, I finally scored a position in television production. This was my goal all along, but after several years a new government was voted in who happily slashed our budget. Suddenly there were many trained production personnel like me with little to do.

So, I got a ‘foot in the door job’ in radio, and even though I produced my first audio documentary during my first year, I had to do it as a separate freelancer outside my full time hours. Over time I found it was impossible to move from my admin role. I continued freelancing docos, only temporarily moving to a full-time producer role for one documentary with the help of a supportive Executive Producer.

Regardless, the freelance rates along with my day job helped pay off our mortgage.

Which of your characters would you most like to meet in real life?

Recently my novella, Winter Masquerade, became an audio book. The narrator recorded a video of himself explaining how he found the voices for each character. His favourite is Camilla, a woman he described as an older actress. She talks about cheese, wine and stories, embellishing everything she says in theatrical tones.

Camilla only exists on an enchanted ocean liner which sails on a chocolate sea, and she has some of the best lines in the book. I would love to picnic with her on deck.

What attracts you to the Urban Fantasy setting?

This is weird because I don’t read much in that genre, yet it’s a great way to be philosophical about life in a contemporary setting. A handful of my tales include the main characters watching themselves play out scenes from their past. It’s a story telling technique Woody Allen once used in a film which I’ve stolen from time to time.

Or I’ll find another way for characters to reflect. In Drama Queens and Devilish Schemes, married couple Allan and Wade are taken to the Valley of Lost Loves, a cliff face at the edge of the Carnival of Lost Souls in the Afterlife. Here, they hear the echo of conversations and arguments they had while they were alive. This gives both them and the reader a chance to understand why their relationship went off the rails.

What was the hardest character for you to write? 

Ferris is the main character in Winter Masquerade who wakes on the enchanted ocean liner I mentioned earlier. The universe has placed him here because he is in danger. In the real world he is in an abusive relationship.

There were elements of this piece which reflect my own lived experience from many decades ago. Ferris is blessed with Alice in Wonderland style characters on this journey who help him realise he is not in a good place. By attending a surreal masquerade ball he finds the will, and the tools, to do something about it.

For me, a theme for a lot of your novels is ‘desire’, be it for love, lust, or adventure. Why do you think this emotion taps directly into readers?

It’s an interesting question because I’ve been placed on Romance Writing panels at lit festivals a few times, yet I’ve only written two in that genre. And even those stories divided readers. Romance purists hated them while others loved them. Nate and the New Yorker and Nate’s Last Tango deal with the main character’s grief while he navigates a new relationship. And as we know, that’s not what a Romance should be about.

Not long ago I realised all my books have some kind of loving relationship as part of the narrative. It may be a new romance or an issue with an existing one, yet it is only part of the story.

But to answer your question directly, I’ll quote writer and poet, Kahlil Gibran, who said ‘Trust in your dreams for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.’ Whether we are doing what we love as a career, or chasing our desires outside of the 9 to 5 grind, we all have a calling from time to time. This spurs us on, even if we don’t know what that calling is yet sense something is wrong. We then have a desire to put our lives on the right course.

This desire is often the building block of many good stories. A character must be driven by a desire so the reader can relate.

What is the most unexpected lesson you have learnt during your writing career?

It took me many years to realise that while I’ve always been published in the US, I should have focussed on a local audience.

When my first book came out, I went to New Orleans for a literary fest, and even though it cost me a bit to be there, it gave me long lasting contacts. But it also relegated me to a market outside my time zone. And before social media relied on algorithms, it made me invisible for most of the day in the market I was trying to break into.

Fellow NineStar Press Australian author, Rebecca Langham, got in touch with me about sharing a stand at Supanova. From there I discovered the Aussie Speculative Fiction group on Facebook and local authors on Twitter. I’ve been able to make more appearances simply because I know about them. And Rebecca and I help each other out with promotional opportunities.

So, work with other authors and groups locally. The writing community is very supportive as they share opportunities willingly. There’s little use having that support in another country as all you’ll do is find out about cons you can’t get to.

Which authors have had the most impact on your writing? Either through their novels, or feedback on your works, offering support, etc. 

To answer this question, let me extend on my previous answer by mentioning authors who gave me support.

First off, well know Australian author Anita Heiss offered the perfect response to my query ‘I’ve written a novel. What do I do next?’ She told me to seek a professional assessor. I did. I reworked that story after each consultation, resulting in a more polished manuscript.

The late Mary Belk, a writer who was my assigned editor at my first publishing house, took that same book to the next level. I combined scenes, added cliff-hangers, and really learnt the art of ‘show, don’t tell’. It took three months and while we had a great working relationship, I felt she was ruining my story. That was until I read the final version. When people say, ‘trust your editor’, believe them.

Besides Rebecca Langham who I mentioned earlier, there are some other NineStar Press authors who I worked with to create the online IQARUS book con. It was a one-off event of author readings and forums you can find on YouTube. Just search for IQARUS Book Con. My partners in crime include M.D Neu, J.P. Jackson and Glenn Quigley.

We’ve kept in touch ever since, thus helping each of us obtain a clearer understanding of the workings of our publishing house through shared experience. It doesn’t matter who you are published with, having a close relationship with your fellow stablemates helps guide your choices as an author.

Finally, I’d like to mention Christian Baines, an Aussie novelist living in Canada. Having another Australian writer who has navigated the publishing world outside our own country is an asset, as they see and experience things with a similar point of view.

And there are idiosyncrasies to the way North Americans view things, as any Australian author with a US publisher can tell you. Sometimes, you need guidance.

What is next for you? Do you have anything you wish to plug?

My first audio book was released this year. The narrator, Jon Bolitho-Jones, is a British actor who has six Shakespeare productions as part of his impressive resume. He does a wonderful job bringing the fantasy world of the Winter Masquerade to life. You can find a video of him sharing how he created the unique voices for each character on my website – Just click the Book Trailers tab in the menu.

My second dystopian book, Virtual Insanity, will also come out this year. It is the sequel to Social Media Central and features Tayler again as our hero. This time he is being hunted by augmented reality players who believe he is the Enemy Alien inside the game they are playing. And they shoot to kill. The other thing I’ll say about this novel is – expect robots!

Both these works are released through NineStar Press.

Thank you so much for your time!

Kevin’s latest novel, The Midnight Man, can be purchased on Amazon, through Barnes and Noble, or from all good bookstores.

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