Welcome to Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. Here to share a pot of tea and to chat about her brand new book, Graffiti Lane, is Kelly Van Nelson.
Kelly van Nelson is a Geordie fiction writer, wife, mother and managing director on the executive board of the world’s leading provider of staffing solutions. She is a fresh voice on the literary scene and one that demands to be heard.
Hello Kelly. It is my pleasure to warmly welcome you to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews. Thank you for joining me for Tea with Mrs B, an author interview series. To set the mood for our tea infused interview, what is your preferred beverage, tea, coffee or other? And side accompaniment, scone, cake or other?
Coffee – milky with lots of froth! It’s the first thing I look for when my eyes open in the morning. No sweet accompaniments, only savoury. I have serious dependency issues on a good packet of crisps, especially British flavours like Pickled Onion Monster Munch.
Can you tell us what genres you write for and how many books you have had published?
I write poetry, short stories, and novels, all with a focus on contemporary social issues. I’ve featured in numerous magazines and anthologies, but Graffiti Lane is my debut full length book so it’s a super exciting period in my writing!
Graffiti Lane has just been released. Can you describe it in just a sentence?
Poetry tackling urban life, without any filter.
Where did the inspiration for the title of your book come from?
I was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and lived on a council estate with a lot of concrete around. It was a tough upbringing and instilled in me a heightened awareness of urban life and all that it brings. I pay attention to my surroundings and in my travels to Melbourne the laneways attracted my attention. The graffiti there is incredible, representing freedom of speech and work by such talented street artists. The cover was taken on a photo shoot in Hosier Lane which is a blank canvas for urban art. Graffiti, and some of the underlying messages it often contains, has had a huge influence on my poetry collection and several poems were inspired by amazing artists. A number of international graffiti artists have been in touch through social media which helped with my research for the book and adds a colourful dimension to my output.
How long did it take you to write Graffiti Lane?
One of the poems was written in 2009 and was my first poem to ever be published in the UK. The rest of the collection took around a year or so to complete.
There are some powerful themes explored in Graffiti Lane. Did you find it challenging to incorporate these themes into the collection?
I love writing about anything that tackles uncomfortable topics that challenge the thinking, even my own thoughts. The collection started with writing poems about big bullies in the playground and corporate world. Bullying is something that has been going on for centuries and it keeps reinventing itself, for example cyber bullying was not such a big issue a decade ago. The poetry evolved to include broader social issues about diversity, gender pay, domestic violence, and feeling kicked down in the world. These situations often generate incredible resilience in people so I expanded into writing about rising above such setbacks to eventually fly high. I didn’t have publication in mind when I wrote most of the poems, they are intensely personal, but another author and good friend of mine, Dr Laurie Steed, sent me a message of advice about taking the next step after I received a rejection on a different manuscript of mine. Graffiti Lane was that step. Without his advice, I probably would have left them collecting dust.
Is there a particular poem in the collection that you are proud of?
There are a few favourites, but I giggle at one particularly chaotic poem which has no formal structure to it and is creativity letting rip. It’s called ‘Dice of Life’. I wrote the poem two days after being released from hospital post-surgery while still medicated on heavy painkillers. It was published in the UK by Reflex Fiction and was also shortlisted by Retreat West for a themed flash competition on ‘Protesting’. Mainly though, I’m just proud of it because I managed to write something coherent while drugged up to the eyeballs. It’s a crazy one that works well for poetry slams (My son does a particularly funny Scottish accented performance of it, Trainspotting impersonation style).
What do you hope readers will take away from reading Graffiti Lane?
I would love if it inspires at least one person out there who might be the underdog or is being kicked down to know that there is hope and anything is possible with the right mindset.
How will you celebrate the official release day of Graffiti Lane?
Probably with a packet of Pickled Onion Monster Munch in front of the laptop. I write daily with very few exceptions. I might wash them down with a glass of bubbly though. Classy stuff.
Can you tell us about your creative working space, where do you write and is there anything vital you need to get started?
My most creative writing sprints spill out on aeroplanes. I travel a lot and there is something about the air up there that feeds my brain power. Because of the super busy lifestyle, I’ve learned to write anytime, anyplace, anywhere, to maximise the hours in the day. I don’t need much to get me started. The laptop or paper and pen. If I don’t have these handy, I type ramblings in the notes app on my phone.
What is the best advice you could give to aspiring writers?
Edit at least six times before you click submit and find the willpower to keep going in the face of adversity.
How do you balance life with writing?
I juggle spending time with my family, doing the corporate day job, and writing. I don’t compartmentalise them, they are all intertwined, making me who I am. I try and stay in the moment of whatever I’m doing, applying full energy, passion, and attention so the time is enriching and the soul can refuel. Oh, and I’m a total insomniac, able to operate easily on very little sleep. That helps a lot!
Is there a genre you haven’t tried writing yet, but want to in the future?
Hmm, tough question. I just write whatever comes to mind so I’d probably lose my mojo if I tried to dive into a space that didn’t flow naturally in the moment.
What is next on the horizon for Kelly Van Nelson? Do you have any writing projects you would like to share with us?
I’ve been working on a novel called The Pinstripe Prisoner which has been getting traction in literary awards for unpublished manuscripts. It got me noticed by Clive Newman who is now my literary agent at The Newman Agency. He’s had me pruning out a few thorns and has me working on a second novel which is in early draft phase. Several of my short stories have been published in the UK, USA, and Australia so I’m mulling over pulling them into a collection too.
I was recently awarded an emerging writer First Edition Fellowship funded by Department of Local Government, Sports and Cultural Industries. It includes various mentoring sessions with Fremantle Press plus a two-week retreat at KSP Writers’ Centre, so I’m embracing these learnings with open arms and seeing where that takes me too.
What 2019 book releases are you most excited to read?
All things contemporary poetry … I’m busy reading Beau Taplin just now.
Tess Woods has been an enormous mentor to me and we chatted about a couple of scenes in her upcoming release, Love and Other Battles, way back when I was in Wales on her writing retreat. I’m looking forward to reading the finished product.
My publisher, Karen Mc Dermott, has a new book coming out called Everything Publishing, sharing industry insider knowledge – I have that on advance order from MMHPress.
And I have a limited edition copy of Tristan Eaton’s sold out new book, Trouble, being shipped my way from LA, which I will unwrap like it’s got a golden ticket inside. He’s a megastar US graffiti artist just commissioned by Universal to do a movie inspired mural. He plants weird hidden meanings in his work and is going to do a live video about some of these gems – can’t wait!
Finally, wrapping up our tea themed interview, who would you most like to share a pot of tea with?
My kids and husband. I love my morning coffee but our whole family likes tea, so it’s something we can enjoy together.
Thank you for taking the time to visit Mrs B’s Book Reviews for Tea with Mrs B Kelly. Congratulations on the publication of Graffiti Lane!
Graffiti Lane looks at life through an unfiltered lens.With unflinching honesty, Kelly Van Nelson offers an intensely personal perspective on the grittiness of urban living in an eclectic mix of traditional, shadow and freeform poetry. She fearlessly tackles issues of intimidation and discrimination, including playground and corporate bullying, domestic violence, marginalisation, gender inequity, mental health and suicide.
Yet while the writing is raw and the darker side of human nature is being exposed, there is an underlying sense of hope. The underdog is beaten down but not defeated and has the resilience to bounce back and rise again.
Graffiti Lane is a powerful debut collection of poetry that will stir the spirit and speak to the heart.
Connect with Kelly here: