It is a pleasure to warmly welcome Desney King to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, a short form author interview series. To help celebrate the release of Transit of Angels we sat down for a chat. Thanks Desney!
What is your drink of choice as we sit down for a chat about your new book?
Right now, I’m drinking T2 organic rooibos tea from my favourite mug (one that my daughter chose for me). But I start each day with a pot of Madura English Breakfast.
Can you give us an overview of your writing career to date?
I’m a very late starter, largely because of circumstances and lack of opportunity. But I come from a long line of women writers: my mother, her mother; my mother’s cousin and her mother. So writing is in my blood. I loved composition at school and couldn’t understand why it was considered a task.
I worked as a book editor/publishing manager for 35 years, and was the founding lecturer of one of Australia’s first diploma courses in book editing and publishing. I’ve written course notes and blog posts about writing, editing and publishing for many years. All that has set me up well for my own creative writing.
Sixteen years ago, after reading Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, I began writing morning pages – three pages of handwritten stream of consciousness first thing every day. This practice has established writing discipline, as well as being a wonderful way of putting my writer self first, no matter what else is going on in my life.
Transit of Angels is my first novel and my first published work. It’s been twelve years in the making; I had a series of strokes, the first in 2012 when the manuscript was almost ready to begin presenting to publishers. The strokes left me with a mild cognitive impairment as well as various other disabilities, and I had accepted that this book would end its days deep in the guts of my laptop. Then Jennifer Scoullar from Pilyara Press approached me last year and offered to publish it. Sometimes, something that seems impossible magically takes on a life of its own.
Can you tell us what inspired the creation of your new book, Transit of Angels?
In 2008, I signed up for a series of writing workshops with Joyce Kornblatt who is not only a published author but an internationally respected writing mentor and a therapist. Under Joyce’s expert guidance, our writing exercises focused on self-discovery: our passions, self-sabotages, hidden darkness and hidden light – going very deeply into our emotions including grief and joy. By August of that year, I’d reignited my passion for writing and accepted it as a gift that should be used. By October, I realised I’d begun writing a novel – Transit of Angels.
What are the main themes in Transit of Angels?
Death, grief, love, healing, family dynamics and other relationships. For years before I attended Joyce’s workshops, I’d done voluntary work with people who were dying, and their families. I’d experienced firsthand how poorly we (Westerners) generally deal with dying, death, grief and grieving. I wanted to bring these universal issues into the open in a way that readers could cope with; to explore the mystical and invisible aspects of what happens after we die; and the ways in which grief can become part of our lives over time, allowing joy and happiness to creep back in.
Where did the inspiration for the character of Angelica come from?
I have no idea. Angelica simply emerged as I wrote, as did the other characters in Transit of Angels. I don’t know anybody like Angelica, and she certainly isn’t me. But I grew to love and respect her as she slowly revealed herself through my writing.
What is one thing that you really hope readers will take away from the experience of reading Transit of Angels?
Comfort and hope. Early readers have all said that they find the novel comforting and soothing (even though most of them go through lots of tissues).
Have you developed any quirks or habits while writing?
Prior to the strokes, I had a highly disciplined writing routine. I rose at 4.30 am each day to write for an hour. I developed a ritual: sitting at my small dining table with a pot of tea, my favourite mug and a tiny jug of milk; lighting a candle; and allowing myself to relax into a meditative state. The words would flow for about an hour and stop abruptly. The first draft was written in about five months, working this way. In the past year, since I began the editing process with Pilyara Press, I write and edit when I’m fresh; when my brain is functioning well. I live mainly on my bed, and my laptop sits on my overbed table. No tea, in case I spill it. Shorter bursts of writing/rewriting – whatever my brain can cope with at the time. And I’m still disciplined: I write whenever I’m able; no excuses.
What writers have inspired you along the way to publication?
The first novel I read was George Eliot’s Silas Marner. I was seven years old, and my mother thought I’d enjoy it. I did. And I learned early that I was lucky to be living in an era when it had become acceptable for women to be authors, and that I should never take that gift for granted. There are some notable authors who have inspired me to go deeper with my writing. Barbara Kingsolver, from whom I learned (among many things) that there is power in writing from the heart about issues that might be confronting or uncomfortable. Inga Simpson, who showed me that slow, quiet and mindful writing can be captivating for readers. Jackie French, whose Walking the Boundaries was a revelation: a book for people of all ages, that deals with mystical experiences in a grounded, straightforward way. Gillian Mears, whose deep, passionate portrayal of everyday characters left me awestruck; an Australian talent gone much too soon.
When I look at this list, I realise that each of these authors has had the courage to write about issues that readers might find confronting; even controversial. But each of them has followed their heart and written what they’re passionate about. Their work has authenticity and integrity, and that has had a profound influence on my writing.
What book or books do you recommend that I add to my reading pile?
Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven, which is one of her lesser known novels. Heather Rose’s The River Wife. The Girls, by Chloe Higgins. The Reason for Wings, by Joyce Kornblatt.
What are you working on writing wise at present?
Nothing right now, as I’m immersed in getting Transit of Angels out into the world. But I have a memoir and two novels waiting for me, all of them partly written. The memoir, Blank Canvas, is calling to me; and so is one of the novels, Lovesong for Timmy Chan. I’ll have to choose one. I’m waiting to discover which of them captivates me most once all the current PR and publicity activity has died down.
Thank you for the lovely tea break and chat Desney. Congratulations on the release of your new book, Transit of Angels.
Thank you so much for inviting me, Mrs B.
Is there life after death?
Angelica is thirty-four when her beloved husband, Bill, is killed in a motorbike accident. She knows Bill is dead. Yet she yearns to be reunited with him.
In desperation, she begs him for a sign. What happens next makes her leave the city and move to a quaint mudbrick cottage in a remote river valley where even the impossible feels sane.
As Angelica delves further into mysterious realms she finds that not all is as it seems, and that grief – and life – have a way of carrying you forward, whether you like it or not.
Transit of Angels by Desney King was published on 19th October 2020 by Pilyara Press. Available now at all online bookstores and Amazon.
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