This is a very interesting guest blog, because Natalie Kile is published through a fantastic indie publisher in Brisbane - Hawkeye - and I've been so excited to share her experience. The book, Just Nat – Life in the Fast Lane with Natalie Lowndes, (yes, a biography about one Nat, written by another Nat!) was published in 2020.
Today the author and I are chatting about biographies and indie publishing in today's book world.
Author Natalie Kile has a Bachelor of Journalism from the Queensland University of Technology. While working as a freelance journalist to get a 'foot in the door', she trained as a motorcycle instructor to pay the bills, and became the Queensland Manager for Motoring Women. Now, she's back making people laugh and telling good stories.
What's your writing background, and why did you decide to write Just Nat?
I studied journalism at university and worked as a freelance journalist until I was hit by a car while riding my motorbike and just like the cliché – my life flashed before my eyes and my life took on a new trajectory. I spent years recovering from my injuries.
I turned 40 and decided to create a bucket list of things I wanted to do. Due to ongoing injuries from the accident when I was 24, my doctor recommended that ‘sky diving and bungy jumping’ were a definite NO.
So I was left with finding some other challenging stuff for my bucket list. I started off buying a pair of Birkenstocks – of which I am very happy about – they are the most comfortable shoes – I have no regrets. I went to a Music Festival – again no regrets. I purchased a classic car (a 1966 Ford Mustang) ... and the list went on.
It was then that I decided to challenge myself a bit and thought it was time for me to write a book. I had always wanted to achieve this – but like most people I just kept putting it off – I would always say to myself “maybe later” OR “ one day I will do it" and then I thought to myself, “Well you are not getting any younger so best just do it now.”
I took some Long Service Leave after several years in Office Administration and started catching up with old friends that I had not seen for a while. One of those friends was Nat Lowndes. We got to chatting about the many years we had not seen each other and I thought, "Here it is – this is who I want to write a book about."
It took some negotiating, but in the end she agreed for me to give it a try. She did confess later on that she was never quite sure that I would pull it off, and we are both very surprised and humbled by the fact that the book was taken on by a Queensland based publisher.
What are some of your favourite biographies, which inspired you to write your book?
I could not name a biography as a ‘favourite’. Biographies are by nature a personal historic capture of a person's real life lived experience. I am not a fan of clickbait journalism. Quite often, sensational headlines form part of our narrative of a person and we seem to forget to question whether there is a greater meaning behind them.
I can guarantee you there is greater meaning, we just have to look. The beauty of a book, for anyone that reads it, is that it holds your attention for a longer period of time. It gives the opportunity to hear those stories that really matter, the real truth behind those headlines. And sometimes they even show us how twisted those headlines really are – how they take a little bit of truth and totally skew it and misrepresent the real truth.
What I do like about biographies is that they fill in the gaps for us that the media only drip feeds us. They become the ‘meat and 3 veggies’ of a person's life.
What was it like working with someone to write their story? What were some difficulties you faced?
When writing a biography about someone else, you introduce another 4th party to the equation of writing, which adds another level of difficulty.
(1) You have to be happy with what you write and your quality of writing because unless you are a ghost writer, your name is going on that book
(2). For a person who has a fan base or is a bit of a celebrity, you have to keep fans happy and be able to interpret what parts of that person's life they really want to hear and read about.
(3) Then of course, if you are fortunate enough, you have to please your publisher as well.
(4) You can't get anywhere unless you please the person you are writing about – not always as easy as it sounds.
One of my greatest challenges in writing Just Nat was that I did not want to show too much bias, as Nat Lowndes was an acquaintance of mine when I was a teenager. We were not super close – we are now of course – but, I did not want to be seen as too biased. I was always very reflective in the way that I wrote and admitted from the very first page of the book that I was a friend of hers.
This ended up shaping the book in a way that I never imagined. In my journey to be as unbaised as I could, I realised that I needed to include other people in the book. I needed to interview friends of hers and acquaintances so that they could talk about Nat Lowndes and share their stories.
What that did was morphed the biography into almost a ‘play’ and it was great because there were other characters who shared their own experiences. When you hear their stories, you realise how they came to become friends with Nat Lowndes and some of the stories will move you to tears and others will have you laughing until your ribs hurt.
When writing a biography, what did you have to do to balance creativity with telling a true story?
When writing a biography there is very little room for creativity – because it’s a person's version of their truth.
As I said, I think by including other people's narratives it added to the book – I think that is about the only creative thing you can do. I realised that Nat Lowndes was friends with some amazing women in Motorsport and Car Racing, who had never had the chance to tell their story and talk about what it's like to live in the background of an historic period in motorsport history.
There is a chapter in the book I called “Wives in the Fast Lane". It is three interviews that I did with wives of racing car drivers and their lived experience of car racing in the 90’s. Bev Brock, Jill Johnson and Alyson Faulkner all tell some great anecdotes about their experiences during those times.
When you set out to write this book, did you have a clear idea of the intended audience?
It's hard to know who your audience really is sometimes. I mean, I made the assumption that it was predominately women – which I think it is – but women who were interested in motorsports or grew up watching the V8 Motorsport racing on the television on Sundays. Watching Bathurst - for a lot of Australian families for a whole weekend - is just like watching the rugby.
I must say that I have had a few males write to me and contact me after having purchased the book with some positive feedback and comments about what was written. So, that was a nice surprise.
What made you choose to go with an indie publisher, and what has the experience been like?
I cannot speak more highly of Hawkeye Publishing. As a first time author, you are thrown in the deep end and you are still getting over the shock that you even got a publishing contract. Then you have to make all these decisions and then the anxiety and self doubt kicks in.
The team at Hawkeye have been amazing and so very supportive and encouraging. They don’t just publish your book and move on – they are like mentors who guide you and encourage you to keep at your marketing commitments.
I thought writing the book was the most difficult part – but it’s the journey afterwards that pushes you out of your comfort zone a bit. Hawkeye Publishing’s Director, Carolyn Martinez, has several books published herself. She knows exactly what you are going through and how overwhelming it can be, and mentors you through the process. It's like a little family unit almost.
What was your journey with querying the book for traditional publishing, and did you ever consider self-publishing?
I sent my manuscript to some big name publishers and that in itself is quite a process. Publishers don’t have time to read full manuscripts, which is understandable. So you have to send them a few ‘teasing’ chapters to get them interested and you never quite know whether you are sending them the right chapters. What you think is the best parts of your book, may not transfer to a publisher. I got some pretty nice feedback and advice, which doesn’t always happen either.
I would just like to add that getting published should never be a measure of success for any up and coming writers. Plenty of good manuscripts never get published and it can be quite disheartening once you finish a piece of writing, to find yourself ‘lost’ in the possibility that you have done a lot of hard work and that is the end of your journey. I was about to start the journey of self publishing just before I was offered a publishing contract. We do live in an era where self publishing is now a possibility for authors and writers, and that in itself is fantastic.
What have you done to market the book?
Marketing your book is another step along your journey and can be quite difficult to navigate. There are no right answers or perfect formulas to successful marketing. It's very much trial and error. The important thing is to keep trying. I have found that speaking at libraries tends to be very beneficial. And to keep your social media profile up to date as much as possible.
Buy Just Nat – Life in the Fast Lane with Natalie Lowndes