Author Spotlight – Kellie Nissen

Hi Kellie, thank you for joining us. Can you tell us about who you are and also about your writing: for example, what genres and themes do you write in and about, and is there anything that has influenced your choices?
I’m a committed Canberran—grew up here, as did my parents and two of my grandparents. I’ve left a couple of times, for study (in Japan) and work (in Newcastle and again in Japan) but not for long and always came back. My two favourite things to do are dragon boating and scaring myself stupid on ghost tours.
Dragon boating, with my wonderful team Dragons Abreast Canberra, has taken me to Florence, Italy where we raced on the Arno River—there is nothing quite like the exhilaration of a dragon boat race, whether we’re in Canberra, interstate or overseas, or the whole body fatigue at the end of it!
As for ghost tours, or anything spooky, icky or supernatural I come across in reading and random googling, these provide stimulus and motivation for my writing. As a child, and also as an adult, I loved watching scary movies—not the blood and guts horror, but the psychological and twisted suspense stuff—but I tend to watch from behind a barrier, whether it’s a cushion or my fingers. It really is my favourite genre to write though. I’m not sure if it’s the escapism I like, or if it’s the scary dark side of me coming out, but I am most engaged when I write along the paranormal theme. My YA works and short stories all follow this path. On the flip side, I also write froth and bubble for kids.

Can you tell us a bit about your publications and writerly highlights, and what else we can look forward to seeing from you in the future?
After boring my teachers silly in primary school with long, long, long pieces of creative writing, I really didn’t write anything creative again until about five years ago when, on a whim (and after deciding to go part-time in my primary school teaching job) I enrolled in a ‘writing for children’ evening course at the Canberra Institute of Technology. I don’t know why I stopped writing creatively, because I loved it as a kid, although I suspect the focus in high school on assignments and essays probably had a lot to do with it. I started off writing picture books and short stories for kids, then my mentor suggested I turn my 2000-word short story into a novel. It went from a piece about a girl who sleepwalks (me!) to a dark and deadly YA novel—which I’m still shopping around. I’ve placed in a few competitions, been shortlisted and had four stories published in anthologies—all for the age 8-12 market, but the selection of my story for Trickster’s Treats #4 – Coming Buried or Not is my first for the older, adult market and, quite honestly, the one I’m most excited about. It’s funny how, as writers, our focus can change. I feel like I’ve found my niche and am planning on refining my skills in this genre, with hopefully much more to come in the next few years and beyond.

This year has presented a lot of challenges for many of us. Instead of discussing those, what are some of your 2020 highlights?
As just mentioned, my selection in Trickster’s Treats is a definite highlight of 2020 for me. However, this was the cherry on top of the sundae which was finding my wonderful critique group (which we’ve named ‘Prompts Plus’) as it was this group who encouraged my writing in this genre, critiqued it, encouraged me some more and gave me the confidence to submit in the first place. I love my group and, like I feel I’ve found my niche in genre, I also feel I’ve finally found my tribe.
Another writing-based highlight of 2020 has been working with my amazing ASA mentor, Rae Luckie on my narrative non-fiction memoir ‘thingy’. My son has Asperger’s and years ago, I started a blog about our journey. It was basically a venting platform for me (I see that now) but I did get quite a few followers and one of them suggested I should turn it into a book. At the end of 2019, applications for the Anne Edgeworth Fellowship opened and I thought ‘why not!’. I banged out an application – and won it! Never have I been so surprised. Part of the fellowship enabled me to engage Rae’s services and together we’re turning this memoir into a bit of a butt-kicker when it comes to the lack of understanding of autism, particularly in education.
On a personal/work level, a massive highlight has been my decision to leave teaching (after 25 years!) and focus on my editing and writing business. Scary, but liberating.

To find out more about Kellie:
Business website: https://justrightwords.com.au/ (my other passion is promoting local authors, there’s a page for this)
Blog site: https://inmyaspergersworld.wordpress.com/

Thanks so much for chatting with us, Kellie, and sharing a bit about yourself. Congrats on the Fellowship – an awesome achievement. Also a brilliant achievement writing something that raises autism awareness. Looking forward to seeing what you do next.

Kellies story “Till Death Do Us Part” appears in Trickster’s Treats 4: Coming, Buried or Not! , a charity anthology in support of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.