Interview with Kathy Charles

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Kathy Charles is the author of the brilliant novel Hollywood Ending, currently available in Australia from Text publishing and to be published in the US by MTV Books. In my review, I said: 'This novel was wonderful, and unsettling, and sometimes just plain scary.' and 'This seems to me a novel that could develop a cult following. It definitely has the capability to become a hit amongst emos (You knew I was going to mention emos, didn't you?) but it's intelligent enough to be popular amongst both teens and adults. Definitely a novel worth checking out.'

But don't take my word for it! Read Hollywood Ending yourself!

There are sure to be plenty more great novels to come from Kathy Charles, and here I interview her about Hollywood Ending, writing and inspiration:

1. The setting is such a strong element of Hollywood Ending. What made you decide to write a novel set in LA, as opposed to Australia? Will your next book be set in Australia?

Hollywood Ending is a story about the dark side of celebrity, and there was no way it could be set anywhere other than Los Angeles. I have had people scratch their heads and ask why an Australian author would write about Los Angeles, and it is strange to think that authors should be relegated to writing only about the places they were born or where they live. I strongly believe that you should write what you are passionate about, and LA is a city that continues to inspire me with all its darkness, mystery and secrets. If the right story set in Australia came along then I would write it.

2. What provoked you to write a book that centralized around two teenagers' fascination with death?

There are so many fascinating, scandalous stories about how famous people had died that I thought they would be the perfect backdrop for a novel. I also wanted to write something that expressed my love for the celebrities that had inspired and touched me, people like Kurt Cobain, John Belushi and Chris Farley. Celebrity often has very bad connotations but I think everyone has a celebrity who they looked up to and idolised, and were maybe traumatised by their passing. This year we have seen so any famous people pass away tragically, people like Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, David Carradine and John Hughes, that our interest in celebrity death is stronger than ever.

3. You also work in the film industry. How has working in film affected the way you write a novel?

I think my writing has an emphasis on plot and dialogue that is very similar to screenwriting. I’m a big fan of screenwriting gurus like Robert McKee who emphasise that story is everything. In the case of novel writing you could have the most beautiful prose in the world but if the story doesn’t pull the reader in you will most likely lose them. When I’m writing a first draft I try not to agonize about fashioning beautiful sentences: I concentrate on getting the story out and making sure that it is compelling, truthful and moving.

4. What was the road to publication like for you?

I think I had a relatively easy path to publication compared to some people. I started writing seriously about five years ago and only have one trunked novel, so I’ve been very fortunate. That doesn’t mean that the process hasn’t had periods of heartache and doubt. If you want to write as a career you soon learn that rejection is an integral part of the process, and it’s actually beneficial because it pushes you to want it even more. I have also been very lucky to find strong advocates in my agent and publisher, as well as other authors who dig what I do.

5. What inspires your writing? Any particular books or authors, music or foods, colours or sounds?

Some of my favorite authors are Bret Easton Ellis, John Gilmore and Stephen King, but in some ways I am more inspired by the films that I watch than the books I read. I am a fan of the director Hal Ashby, who made off-beat, character-centred films like ‘Shampoo’, ‘Harold & Maude’ and ‘Being There.’ I also admire David Lynch a great deal and am very inspired by his refusal to compromise his vision, no matter how strange or disturbing some people may think it is.

In terms of music, each novel I write has a soundtrack that I listen to while I’m working on it that dictates the tone and mood of the story. Hollywood Ending had a bit of an indie soundtrack with bands like Modest Mouse and Grandaddy. The manuscript I just finished was Jolie Holland, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Marilyn Manson. The novel I’m outlining at the moment will have a very folksy-feel. I’m listening to a lot of Elvis Perkins.

6. Complete this sentence: Outside of writing, my life is...

Busy. Sometimes it’s hard to juggle everything. I wish I had more time to read.

7. Complete this sentence: My years as a teenager were...

Some of the best of my life in hindsight.

8. Are you working on something new at the moment? Can you reveal anything about it?

I always envisioned Hollywood Ending as the first in a series of three books that I am informally calling ‘The L.A. Death Trilogy.’ The books aren’t sequels as such but deal with similar themes. I have just finished a manuscript that features serial killers in the same way Hollywood Ending focuses on dead celebrities, and I’m outlining the next book at the moment, which will center around the music industry. You never know which stories are going to work so I like to have multiple projects on the go.


Many thanks to Kathy Charles and Text Publishing for making this interview possible! Remember to check out Kathy's website and blog at

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