Kay Kerr on book obsessions, casual ableism and writing
Being a YA novel, Kay Kerr's latest release was ripped out of my hands the moment it arrived in my postbox, with my tween daughter devouring Social Queue and proclaiming it ‘amazing’ before I’d even got a look in! The novel follows 18-year-old writer Zoe Kelly as she embarks on an internship with an online media company. Just like I did, readers will find themselves cheering for Zoe as she writes about her search for romance. Told from a first-person perspective, the story gives a sharp and sometimes confronting insight into autism. Told with plenty of heart and humour, Social Queue was released late last year with Text Publishing.
Kay Kerr is a former journalist and community newspaper editor from Brisbane, now living on the Sunshine Coast with her husband and daughter and working as a freelance writer. Kay was writing Please Don’t Hug Me, her debut novel, when she received her own autism-spectrum diagnosis.
Kiss and Tell with Maya Linnell
Current book on your bedside table:
Show Me Where It Hurts by Kylie Maslen
Where do you do most of your writing?
Usually at my desk or the kitchen table, but I have recently started going to my local library to work. Something about being out of the house is really helping me get the words down.
Favourite Australian holiday destination:
Ooh this is hard. It is a tie between North Queensland (the Daintree Rainforest! The reef!) and Tasmania.
What’s your preferred drop?
Coffee. Always coffee.
I don’t feel guilt about my pleasures! But, I don’t have a lot of time for TV so when I watch something I usually want it to be good. Recently I’ve been watching Succession, which is brilliant. But sometimes I really want to zone out to nothing and not have to think, so I have also been watching Selling Sunset, which is a reality TV show about real estate agents in LA. It is ridiculous and I love it. The balance of the two shows is perfect for me right now.
People making broad, overarching statements without taking disability into account. Casual ableism I suppose. For example: ‘not making eye contact is rude’, ‘picky eaters are childish’, ‘catching a taxi is lazy’, ‘freezer meals aren’t real food’ etc etc.
If you could pack two non-essential items for a deserted tropical island, what would they be?
Ooh another hard one! Probably ear plugs so I could sleep. I need absolute silence, so even on a deserted island I would need them. And a book to read. Now, which book is a whole other question and one I don’t think I could answer without a lot more thinking. But I love the act of reading, it is meditative, so something to read would be good for my mental health. And let’s be honest, something romantic and uplifting would probably be just what I need if I’m stuck on a deserted island for an indeterminate amount of time.
Name an emerging author to keep an eye out for:
I become so obsessed with books I love. I want to read every interview with the author and stay living inside the story for as long as I can. Authors whose work I have felt that way about recently have been Madeleine Ryan, Tobias Madden, CG Drews, Sara Haghdoosti, and Fiona Murphy. Sorry, that’s way more than one!
Australian book you’re most looking forward to reading in 2022?
Rhiannon Wilde has a second novel coming out in 2022 that I can’t wait to read. Her first book, Henry Hamlet’s Heart is a gorgeous, romantic coming-of-age YA that has put her on my ‘automatic purchase’ list.
Best thing about being a writer?
Making up stories in my head! I love the dreamy phase when a story is coming together, when it is legitimate work to daydream and let my mind wander. Nothing beats it.
Worst thing about being a writer?
Self-doubt. Yuck. Get out of here. I always convince myself that I have completely forgotten how to write at least once during a project, and it is a struggle. I am trying to find peace with this, and to view it as part of the process.
Do you prefer music, podcasts or silence when writing? What song/channel/podcast do you have on high rotation?
I like to do the actual writing in silence, but I listen to a lot of writing podcasts on runs and drives when I am working on a project. I love The First Time podcast, So You Want To Be A Writer, James and Ashley Stay At Home, Better Words, and Novel Feelings, to name a few.
I am sensitive to smell so I don’t wear perfume very often. I prefer rose water or lavender oil–both such calming scents.
I think I might have been the only person on Earth who had a crush on the Duke in the first season of Bridgerton. No one else was really into him, were they?
The best non-writing related prize I won was…
I was once on a trivia team called The Binge Thinkers and the night we won trivia at the local bowls club was definitely a soaring high.
Top three tips for aspiring authors?
1. Focus on the part you can control (the writing)
2. Connect with other writers, they will make the hard parts easier and the good parts better
3. Read widely
What theme do you hope shines through in your writing?
I hope themes of self-exploration, self-acceptance, and self-love shine through in my writing, regardless of the form or genre.
Proudest author moment?
Every time I get an email or DM from an autistic reader outlining the ways in which they have connected with my book/s, that is the best possible outcome. Nothing else comes close. It makes my heart burst, and I can ride on that high for weeks.
My favourite thing about writing romance is ….
As much as I want to say that the climactic getting together scenes are my favourite, I think I equally love to write the awkward, obviously-not-the-right-person moments too. Anything really visceral, that makes me cringe or my heart race is great.
If anyone gives me flack about writing romance, I tell them…
That people tend to devalue things that are predominantly enjoyed by girls and women.
Share a fun fact readers might not know about you:
I am an Irish-Australian dual citizen. I hope to set a book at least partly in Ireland one day, because it is such a beautiful, romantic, scenic place.
Find Kay online
I thought I was nobody’s teen crush, but turns out I was just missing the signs.
Zoe Kelly is starting a new phase of her life. High school was a mess of bullying and autistic masking that left her burnt out and shut down. Now, with an internship at an online media company—the first step on the road to her dream writing career—she is ready to reinvent herself. But she didn’t count on returning to her awkward and all-too-recent high-school experiences for her first writing assignment.
When her piece, about her non-existent dating life, goes viral, eighteen-year-old Zoe is overwhelmed and more than a little surprised by the response. But, with a deadline and a list of romantic contenders from the past to reconnect with for her piece on dating, she is hoping one of her old sparks will turn into a new flame.
Social Queue is a funny and heart-warming autistic story about deciphering the confusing signals of attraction and navigating a path to love.
Out now with Text Publishing. Interview also published with Romance Writers Australia.