Meet Kathryn Hore, author of The Stranger
She works behind the scenes as an Information Manager at Deakin Library, but today we’re putting Kathryn in the spotlight as we celebrate the release of her debut novel The Stranger.
How long have you been writing fiction?
I’ve been writing fiction since I was old enough to hold a pen. I was about 12 or 13 when I wrote my first novel, a wild fantasy adventure that will never see the light of day, but which I still do have a copy of in the bottom drawer. However, it wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I started seriously writing for publication, sending off short stories to open markets and writing the novel which eventually became my first published book, The Wildcard.
What made you want to be a writer?
Stories. I fell in love with reading stories as a child and then wanted to write my own. To this day, I remain fascinated by how stories work, how they’re structured, how they have such emotional and psychological impact on us as human beings, and how we use them as individuals and communities to help make sense of ourselves and our world.
How do you balance writing with your full-time work?
I get up very early in the morning, basically. I’m usually up between 5-5.30am to get in a couple of hours writing time before the rest of the day calls; kids, work, other responsibilities. The story then kicks about in the back of my head throughout the day—the thinking is as critical as putting words on the page. I’ll also take advantage of every opportunity to write: whenever there’s ten minutes to spare, I’ll use it.
You’ve mostly written short fiction up to now – what made you want to write a full novel?
Novels were always what I loved most and what I’ve always written, ever since childhood. However, I began with short stories in order to build a publishing history first, to help with later landing a book deal. Short fiction is also faster to write and publish than with novels, which take years. I found writing short stories fun, but it’s not my natural home. I have a huge admiration for the great short story writers out there, who can tell a complete character-driven story in only a few thousand words. I usually need tens of thousands of words (or more) to do the same thing.
What is The Stranger about?
The Stranger has been billed as a feminist western. It’s also a speculative fiction novel, set in a dystopian near future. It’s about a young woman, Chelsea, trying to survive in an isolated walled town where the food is running out and the water is drying up and there’s secrets being kept about the past.
Then a stranger rides into town. Who turns out to be a woman. She has a gun on one whip, a bullwhip on the other, and unfinished business to settle with the town leader, who happens to be Chelsea’s lover. As Chelsea gets drawn into someone else’s frightened quest for revenge—or maybe it’s only justice—she has to figure out what she wants, and how far she’s willing to go, to find her own autonomy.
What gave you the idea for the book?
I grew up watching westerns. My dad would watch them when I was a kid, mostly the revisionist westerns of the 1960s and 70s, where the grime was palpable and the blood splattered. I first met the Man With No Name in a comfortable 1980s suburban Melbourne lounge room. That’s where I fell in love with these clever, sly, if violent, stories.
They were also very masculine stories. Women didn’t have much of a place in them. So what interested me most was interrogating the genre I loved for the gaps I saw in it, and trying to figure out what the appeal of these stories was to someone like me, who did not seem a natural fit. I wanted to ask the questions: where did women fit within this kind of world? What might it take for a girl to survive, or thrive, in such a place? What does it mean for justice, when revenge seems to be all that is left?
What do you hope people get out of reading it?
I hope they find a rollicking good story that keeps them turning the page. That’s the most important thing. I also hope it subverts their expectations in the most satisfying ways, and maybe makes them question why they had such expectations in the first place.
How did you get your book deal?
I was a recipient of the Australian Society of Author’s mentorship prize back in 2018 (after I’d tried and been unsuccessful at least three or four times before that year). The mentor I chose, Melanie Ostell, was someone I knew about from my previous creative writing studies. I knew she had a long and successful career as an editor before she’d become a literary agent, and that she knew the industry extremely well. So I felt confident I could trust her as a mentor and that she would also be able to give me industry advice.
I worked with Melanie on a draft and she signed me as a client. As my agent, she then brokered the book deal with Allen & Unwin.
What advice would you give to people who want to write a novel?
Write. That’s the first and only real rule. Put words on a page and keep on doing so until it’s done. Persistence, more than anything, is key in writing and publishing, and for me, that means allowing myself to write badly in the early drafts. The only thing a first draft needs to be is finished; after that, it’s about fixing what you’ve got and polishing until it’s ready. The best writing happens in the redrafting.
You can find The Stranger in our Deakin Library collection. You can also join us for a book launch celebrating the release of The Stranger at 5.30pm on Wednesday 26 October – find out more and register here.