This is an interview with Brisbane author Krissy Kneen.

Krissy Kneen is a writer and bookseller in Brisbane who shot to prominence with her 2009 memoir, Affection: A Memoir of Love, Sex & Intimacy, which, as you might surmise, was profoundly erotic, and fearlessly spelunked the thrilling and sometimes dark corners of human sexuality. She’s been shortlisted four times for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Award, and in 2014 won the Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize for her poetry collection Eating My Grandmother

Kneen is known as one of Australia’s premier writers of erotica, for her collections Swallow the Sound, (2007) and Triptych, An Erotic Adventure: 3 Stories in 1 (2011), which touches on, amongst other things, incest, bestiality, and congress with an octopus.

Her erotica is provocative, with little time for taboos, which has seen her work banned from sale in some markets, and expelled from a postgraduate literary degree for ‘producing pornography’. Erotica aside it’s Kneen’s refusal to be pigeonholed into one genre, or even form, in which she is most transgressive. Her 2013 novel Steeplechase was a sticky work of Australian gothica, and her most recent novel, 2015’s The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine, is a wild melange of golden-age science fiction, 20th century Austrian metaphysics, erotic bildungsroman and an ode to the great works of sex writing through history.

Perhaps the most obscene thing about Kneen is the amount of work she gets done. She turns out novels, poems, shorts, screenplays at a rate many times most other writers. We spoke to Krissy about her ridiculously prolific work habits, sex, death, madness, feminism, gendered issues in book buying, censorship, and pretty much everything else that has ever happened. 


Writers Bloc

Well, we’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Let’s start at the top. What are you working on right now?


Krissy Kneen

As usual I have a few projects in my head at the one time, in fact I had a bit of a crisis in the last few weeks and wrote down a very long list of projects that I thought I was working on or wanted to work on. Looking at that list I could live to 100 and not finish it all. It was quite a stressful process. I had to email a friend, my mentor Ashley Hay who talked me (down) through it.  It was also quite an eclectic list and looked like the ravings of a mad person. The list lurched drunkenly between a graphic novel project about my adopted cat, to a novel about domestic violence that involved were-tigers, the libretto for a sex-opera,  a literary novel about facilitated communication and severe autism and entering the Archibald Prize with a portrait. 

At the bottom of the list, looking at it now, I see the words "I think I have a problem!"


Writers Bloc

The words "I think I have a problem," could be generalised to all writers. As you say, even if we lived to 100, we are never going to be able to achieve a fraction of the work we might write in a lifetime.  For me, it's hard to think about that for long without caving into existential despair. Is that a risk for you? Is a manic period a good antidote for writers block?


Krissy Kneen

I am a completely erratic writer. I have these periods of what I will have to call mania, where I am working on 4 or 5 different projects seemingly at the same time and surprisingly completing some of them effectively, but then I will have to put up with the downward swing where I feel like everything I write is terrible and I beat myself up about taking on too many projects when I can't even do one effectively. I suppose the trick for me is to just run with the manic periods and be as effective as possible then edit in the hyper critical period where I think everything I do is awful and I won't put up with my own shit. 


Writers Bloc

Tell me more about this hyper-critical downward swing. Is that when you arrive on the idea which survives? It sounds quite Darwinian. I'm picturing one idea winning out and you climbing up onto a rock that overlooks the veldt like Rafiki in The Lion King to hold up a shining manuscript about fisting. 


Krissy Kneen

I have not seen The Lion King but I do like the sound of a manuscript about fisting.

I live in existential despair a lot of the time. I either think I can do everything all at once or I think I can do nothing at all ever. The down parts are the dangerous times but they are also where the gold is hidden. In my most recent downward spiral I felt like everything I had written was shit and to save me from quite destructive daylight fantasies of jumping off high things I forced myself to just sit down and finish something. Finish a short story was my goal and I started working on a story I had started earlier in the year about a woman named Bec who was writing a memoir in the near future. 

I wrote this thing in a dark cloud of hate and when I had finished it I felt like it was the worst thing I had ever written. I sent it to Katherine Lyall Watson who is my first reader and has been for years. She is a great test for work because she has a good radar as to whether it is readable by a general public. She read this novella length thing and then emailed straight back to say she actually thought it was amazing. I sent it off to my editor at Text and she had that same startled reaction telling me it might be the best thing I had written. So me in my miasma of hate had no perspective on my own work but I seemed to be so harsh on myself that I became my best working self.  It is odd. Often in the depths of these depressions I write things that seem to come from some dark untapped but quite fecund part of myself. I wish I trusted that and didn't just feel so bad about myself during these times but I suppose it is the whip on my back that drags the good stuff out of me. 

Coming out of one of those low periods I realised that this project about Bec has become more imminent and has taken centre stage, so I am now working on a book about her and the future of sex. I have started voraciously consuming information about new technologies and the potential for sex using these technologies. This has felt like really fun research and has saved me from some other projects that were just really hard to get right.


Writers Bloc

Fun research huh? I bet it is, etc….


Krissy Kneen

Writing this book felt like a holiday and in fact I realised that fragments of 'short stories' I had been writing throughout the year to relax on planes to writers festivals were actually part of the same book. I pitched this Future: Sex idea to my editor and sent her a lengthy part of the narrative and she seemed to get excited so I have set myself the task of focussing on just one project for the next few months and am trying to get the draft done before I run out of interest in the subject. 

Another trick is for me to write really quickly because I get bored too easily and so I try to harness the energy before the whole project becomes one awful trudge. Hopefully the Future: Sex book will be done to a first draft stage by Christmas so I can go back to a difficult second draft of the Facilitated Communication novel in January. That Facilitated Communication book has been a really hard project that I have struggled with for a couple of years now. I wrote the first draft in 2014 and then have been unable to even read it all the way through since then because it just hasn't worked as well as I wanted. My resolution for 2016 is to wrestle that hard book to the ground.


Writers Bloc

What’s the Facilitated Communication book about?


Krissy Kneen

I just got a QLD Fellowship grant to write this Autism book which is called Holding Hands. The requirements were that I have a mentor. Someone that gets a retainer to read the work and help me through it. I picked Ashley Hay because she is an amazing editor. She is very generous with her time and has talked with me about projects in the past. I think she will be a great person to work with on what will be my most difficult project yet. 

The Autism book is a very hard beast. It is a novel about communication. A young man goes to work in a supported accommodation facility for non-verbal people with severe autism. He thinks of them as intellectually incapable people, much like working at a zoo. Then he meets a very attractive girl who believes she can communicate with her client by holding his finger and helping him point to letters on a board. Facilitated Communication is a highly contentious tool. The establishment think it is nothing more than a ouija board. But it might be a way for him to see more of the very attractive support worker if he pretends one of his clients can talk through his own letter board. This is a book about ethics, disability, love and betrayal. It is a book about communication and therefore it is a book about lies.  It is also particularly difficult but I intend to crack it next year.

Holding Hands is a really different book to the sex stuff. It is also asking questions about sex - sex and disability, sex and consent - but it is a project that is closer to my novel Steeplechase.

Writers Bloc

That seems a daunting comparison, given that that book got quite a rough reception, and enjoyed less success than your erotica. I don't want to editorialise, but it seems like that novel was unfairly punished for being a marked departure from your explicitly erotic work. Do you think that book is a victim of typecasting by the fickle undercurrent of the market? 

Krissy Kneen

Steeplechase was pretty much ignored when it came out. It wasn't shortlisted for any awards and sales were modest. It is certainly the hardest book I have ever tackled and completed and I am really proud of that project. I think there is some of the best writing I have ever done in that book but it just didn't land. Part of that is because my readership is expecting sex writing and they weren't drawn to read Steeplechase because it is not overtly a sex book. Another problem is that it explores a complex relationship between sisters.

There is a really annoying truism that men often won't read books by or about women. This is a book that concerns itself with love and hate between sisters. If I had made them brothers I'll bet it would have been more widely read. Maybe there was also an element of marketing problems too. It has a horse on the jacket and in my other life as a bookseller I had a number of customers who said they won't read books about horses.


I think Steeplechase was caught in an unfortunate cluster of issues that lead to it being overlooked. Almost everyone who read it really loved it but it certainly didn't sell like the others have. This is a shame because I want to keep exploring fiction through more literary books but it feels like only the sex stuff is getting attention.

The literary books take all that ethical, moral and philosophical exploration I do in my erotic novels and put it into action in a real world context. I don't want to feel constrained by form. On some level my sex books are like my working out, my sketching, and the most difficult part of my work is taking all the thinking around issues of sexuality and trying to bury it in a literary context.

I know this sounds like the sex books are not real books but they are different books. You can't take The Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille and hold it up against a Peter Carey novel and try to compare the two. It doesn't work. They are two very different projects. Carey is tricking us into thinking it is real life in his books, Batailles is stripping everything back to the skeleton of its ideas. I suppose that is what I am doing in Holly and Triptych and now to some degree in Future Sex. They are like skeletons assembled in a museum where as Steeplechase and Holding Hands are more like taxidermy. They are made to trick you into thinking they are real and alive. 

I probably have more of a chance of getting traction with Holding Hands. There is a male protagonist and people are still interested in the mysteries of autism - although the autism depicted in this book is the extreme kind that is quite difficult to engage with.

I am not sure there will even be many sex scenes in this book, maybe a couple but it certainly isn't the focus of the book. The focus is the murky moral territory around disability and consent. I jokingly referred to this book as my Nick Earls novel. I love Nick and he is a really skilled writer and was one of my first mentors but he is known for writing a particular kind of 'lad novel'.

I set out to write a comedy, a lad novel about a man behaving badly and ultimately figuring out that he was an arsehole at the end. I wanted the darker questions about how we treat people living with a disability and what is our duty of care to people with severe disabilities, these questions would be an undercurrent under this kind of screwball comedy. Then as I grappled with issues of communication and consciousness and what it is to be human I found myself reading great heavy books by Umberto Ecco about language and asking the question 'does humanity exist only through language?' and 'are we human only if we can communicate in some way with other humans'. I was struggling through Eco's The Search For the Perfect Language and thinking, Hang on, I wonder if Nick Earls has to read heavy shit like this to write Zigzag Street? I wasn't sure if I was just being a wanker trying to grapple with big ideas in this simple Lad Novel or if perhaps it wasn't going to be a simple Lad Novel.  I think I have resigned myself in this second draft to realising that it is not really a Lad Novel at all. I am hoping to keep the comedy in it because otherwise it might be too dark to be enjoyable.

I do that though. I overreach. Even with the Future Sex book I am reading books about the future of neuroscience and a newly translated futurist book by Stanislaw Lem, which is surprisingly prescient for something written in Polish in the 60s. It would be so much easier if I just sat back and used my imagination but I feel like I want to do more than that. I am still trying to beat the smartest kid in the class at my grandmother's insistence.  I am trying to reach for Lem and Ballard with the future sex book and I am trying to reach for Umberto Eco with my Lad Novel. Go figure.


Writers Bloc

Do people really not buy books by women?


Krissy Kneen

Working in a bookstore shows you all the horrors of gendered reading close up. I have had a male customer looking for a crime novel tell me that even if the main character is a man he doesn't want to read it if it is written by a woman because women write too emotionally. Seriously.

I also see the horrors of Christmas shopping. People buying for men often only want non-fiction and want a masculine subject matter, which is apparently war or politics. It makes me so sad. Of course my own friends are not like that but I am friends with a gorgeous bunch of nerdy guys who like all sorts of fiction by all sorts of writers. Being on the coalface at a bookstore opens your eyes to all kinds of biases.  We know these biases exist because people are now counting the gender of reviewer and books reviewed. We are counting awards going to women or to men. Our counts tell us that over 60% of writers working today are women and yet the Nobel Prize just awarded was the 14th awarded to a woman out of the 107 awarded. Those odds are terrible. It isn't that women aren't writing worthy books—it is just sheer gender bias. It is exhausting to come across this again and again.


Writers Bloc

That’s not terribly cool.


Krissy Kneen

Part of this gender bias flows through to our relationship to sex writing. When I say a sex book is not going to win any awards I really mean that a sex book by a woman is not going to win any awards. In my opinion, writers like Philip Roth, Yasunari Kawabata and Ian McEwan and even at least one book by Marquez are just plain sex books. I'm talking In Between the Sheets, The Cement Garden, Portnoy's Complaint, The House of the Sleeping Beauties, Memoirs of my Melancholy Whores and any Roth has written in his later period.

They are all concerned primarily with sex. Yet these writers are considered literary writers and not erotic writers. I don't see how my work around sex is any different and yet I am considered a writer of erotica. I think that there is a gendered perception that women writing about sex is somehow different to men writing about sex and is not treated as seriously. I haven't done an exhaustive study in this area but I would love it if someone did. I sometimes feel like I will never be taken as seriously as a male writer who is dealing with the same subject matter. My wonderful friend Christos Tsiolkas for example could win an award for his sex writing but I don't think I ever will. Happy to be proven wrong of course, but I feel like his work is every bit as concerned with sexuality as mine is and yet people don't think ,"Ah Christos, he is a writer of erotica". Perceptions are everything in this business.


Writers Bloc

Speaking of perceptions, while you’re celebrated as an erotic writer, you’ve been derided as a pornographer, had your books banned by major distributors, and were recently kicked out of a postgraduate degree program at Brisbane's QUT as they decided your thesis was pornographic. 


Krissy Kneen

Ah, so the PHD debacle. Yes that was a horrible period. I was writing Triptych and I chose the bestiality part to look at transgression in pornographic literature. Bestiality is one of the last bastions of our war against sex. It is an illegal act and therefore it is frowned on in literature and yet we have a rich history of people coupling with animals in myth and in literature. Still I was writing this work and I was on scholarship and the middle management in the university got wind of the content of my work. There were a series of meetings with the acting head of school who was quite honest with me in saying that the university didn't want front page headlines 'university funds pornography'.

They tried to make me write about my work without including the fiction as a component of the project. So if I were analysing my own work and writing a thesis about it, then that was OK but if I was including my fiction as a part of that project it was not ok. I really wanted to write the work as part of the project and I didn't think I should back down on the bestiality in the work and so I was told that they would fail me unless I changed supervisor and rewrote my stage one document within a week. I just withdrew. It was too hard to fight and I really just wanted to write the fiction so I did the book on my own terms and it was published as Triptych.

And yeah, it got banned on the Apple iBook store and on Google Play but it is still available as a physical book and on some other eBook platforms and it got some good reviews, so it ended well despite the university. And Triptych is an important part of my exploration of sexuality. It is a book about the lines we draw with particular sex acts, and questioning them. It is also my most romantic book because all of the characters are concerned with love. The girl loves her dog, the dog loves the girl. The brother and sister in the last novella are in love. Romance right there on the page. In terms of the university, my supervisor had no problem with my work and I think it really was just middle management trying to protect the university’s reputation against the evils of transgressive sex. Universities have become quite conservative now.

Gone are the days when they were places where we could challenge the norm. They are not places that encourage protest. They are driven by funding and money from paying students and they don't want to get a reputation as being too challenging.


Writers Bloc

Shouldn't universities be challenging places? There's a malaise affecting academics of a certain generation who worry that the power dynamic has switched from one where teachers are the authority, students attending university to be intellectually challenged and toughened— to a situation where the students are aware that they pay their tutors salary, and are better placed to dictate the kind of education they receive— which much of the time means selective curriculum selected to reinforce existing ideas and worldview. 

Witness the recent episode of the Duke Freshman who refused to read Fun Home. 

Should it be a student's right to refuse reading texts they think might be intellectually contagious? Or are we raising a civilisation of fragile, faint-hearted, constitutional, trigger-warning brandishing milksops? 


Krissy Kneen

Anyone who refuses to read something as great as Fun Home deserves to be slapped. University should be a place where we are exposed to a wide range of ideas. For some people it is the only place they will ever be challenged by ideas they do not agree with. Even ideas that you find morally repugnant need to be engaged with so that you know why you are opposed to them. I know time is short and you will not have the time to read everything but it is important to be exposed to a broad range of ideas so that you can make informed decisions about them.

I did a guest lecture once and warned that I would be using strong language and talking about sex and about ten students left the room. This makes me really sad. University is exactly the right place to engage with unfamiliar ideas. It is a place of learning. It is a place where there are lecturers around to help you think through your responses to ideas. I feel sad that university is now a place for those who can afford it and that students treat lecturers as their employees. This is so narrowing. 


Writers Bloc

The idea of protecting people from a dangerous idea seems daft to me. I mean, yes, ideas can be dangerous, but to treat them as a contagion, as something to be avoided only makes them more virulent, or mutates them in terrible ways. 

Have you heard of the Doppers of South Africa? Around the time of the enlightenment, when all these crazily progressive ideas were sweeping Europe, the super-devout Afrikaaner Calvinists who's ancestors would go on to found the apartheid state took a look and decided they didn't want any of it. They called themselves Doppers or wick-snuffers, because they were going to intentionally snuff out the lights of the enlightenment, go on keeping slaves, all that. 

That kind of bloody-minded pride in ignorance scares me, especially when it's shackled to progressive politics, the idea that young leftists need to be protected from offensive content. The idea that you can be a kind of neo-Dopper in the age of untrammelled information seems really quite crazy to me. 


Krissy Kneen

I feel sad that I couldn't finish my studies at a university, that my ideas are somehow too dangerous to be housed at uni. It seems ridiculous to me that it has come to this.


Writers Bloc

To be banned as a pornographer? Do you consider yourself as a pornographer?


Krissy Kneen

I like the term pornographic. It is a more challenging word than erotic. Pornographic work is what it is. It clearly states the purpose that the work is used for. Pornography is stuff you are aroused by. I like how confronting the word is to some people and I think it speaks to the confrontation I am trying to cause by my work. It is another gendered separation. We often think of pornography as the stuff consumed by a man and erotica as stuff consumed by a woman to become aroused and we load those terms up with value judgements - erotica is softer, gentler, more concerned with love and relationships seems to be the general view (although not my own). Pornography is a term we often use when the sex is separated from love. Well that is the work I have been doing in Holly, separating sex and love and suggesting the pure arousal is powerful and different to a narrative of love. These are loaded terms although they shouldn't be.

The words are still words on a page, we have just gendered them. I haven't done an exhaustive study on feminism. I am often asked to talk at feminist conferences because my female characters always have agency, always take the sex they want and there certainly are female characters that challenge sexist views of female sexuality in my work, but I haven't studied feminism in any meaningful way. I have been more concerned with the literature and in general sex literature was the realm of men for most of our literary history. It was the world of de Sade and Henry Miller and all those male writers writing under pseudonyms or anonymously, Oscar Wild and Felix Salten. It was called pornography because it was all banned at one time or another. It was all considered dangerous and there is power in that. To label something 'women's erotica' is to take the teeth out of the beast. I feel like my sex writing has a very dangerous bite and therefore pornography is a much more accurate word for it. Mind you, if you call something pornography these days people immediately think of badly filmed and acted sex downloadable from the internet which is a shame. 

I do think sex stuff is literature in fact some of the most influential books have been pornographic like de Sade and Henry Miller and Anais Nin's work, but it is about other people judging it. We are not in a world where the Premier of Queensland or Victoria is going to be happy giving a literary award to a pornographic novel. Imagine Holly White winning the Prime Minister's award? So I feel released from that kind of race. I am free from judgement because I am writing outside the competition for literary awards. There is a degree of freedom in this. Waiting to hear about literary awards its own kind of madness. I am avoiding that should destroying wait where people are going to pick you for the team. I know from the outset they are not going to pick anything as extreme as some of the things I write. There is also hardly anyone writing in this area particularly in Australia so in a way it is outsider art. There is no one to be judged against which is a bonus. 

Writers Bloc

You write a lot even amongst prolific authors, your output is very healthy. We've spoken about what drives you to write, but I'm curious whether you are frustrated that the scale of the book industry might not be able to keep up—the fact that most publishers can only schedule  to put out a book by an author perhaps every couple of years, and so completed works may languish for years until the perfect confluence of market forces align. Do you have works like that, that you've written but cannot publish for one reason or the other? And given that you have a body of work and an established readership, have you ever thought about going the crazy pirate self-pub ebook route? 


Krissy Kneen

The publications seem slow but only if you can lob the book into the world and run away from it. I know you have to promote a book and that takes away from the writing. I think I would be happy to hire someone to be me at festivals. Do the public talks which actually make me quite anxious. I want the actor version of me to go run with the books so I can get back to the page. 

I have thought about experimenting with publishing a book of erotic poems one month and one poem at a time, so people subscribe to the book then get each month by month poem followed by a beautiful book of poetry at the end of the project. I am keen to follow up on that and then maybe do the same thing with short erotic stories. I probably will do that eventually but at the moment I have my nose in a novel so that is more important. I am also keen to do a graphic novel in the next few years and maybe that is something that I can work on with a small independent publisher because that is so out of the realm of my current publisher.  

I have lots of ideas. I have a bunch of completed things that have gone nowhere but ultimately the book I am working on at the moment is always the most important one so it is a little easier to know those manuscripts are just sitting there because I am moving on with other work.


Writers Bloc

It seems a terrible shame that segmentation of the industry would ever dissuade an author from experimenting with something outside their genre, but I accept it as a fact of life now. I wonder if this is something that folks have had to deal with throughout history? Imagine if someone told early career Oscar Wilde not to bother with plays and to keep writing garbage poetry forever? When I was a little younger, I could not for the life of me understand why an established author would ever turn to a pseudonym, but it makes more sense every day now. I love the idea of abandoning a book on the doorstep of a church for someone else to look after. Or even better, of hiring an actor to play me in public and do media. Cyrano should absolutely be a route we can take.

Are you optimistic/pessimistic about the future, and the place of writing in it? Apropos of everything we've talked about, conservative and fear of ideas and declining book markets/fearful publishing climate, what will become of us? Where will the superstars go? Is there a place for the freaks and polymaths and where will it be? 


Krissy Kneen

I am always anxious about everything. It is in my nature to be anxious. It is in my nature to be pessimistic, but despite this I do know that there will always be narrative, no matter what the form. We need stories to save us from the abyss. We need to read whole novels that put what we are frightened of into a gentler light. It is like our need to invent God. We invent stories that take pointless events and make them mean something. Even if there is no print market left we will find ways to make stories. Some people will still want to read the stories I make. Some people will want to talk about the harder parts of life despite their own anxieties and therefore some people will want to read stories by Krissy Kneen. In fact the more conservative we become, the more likely that a small but keen group of thinkers will be drawn to my more extreme work. So even though I am pessimistic I am a realist and I know I will continue to write and people will continue to read it. 

Maybe as everything fractures in the future there will be even less chance that I can support myself through my work than there is now. I will still make the work. It is impossible to separate my self from the work I do. It is a part of life. I recently went to Bali for a writing retreat and I saw how the people there make art as a daily practice. It is a part of their life. They call it ritual and religion but it is art. The most wonderful decorations and offerings and stories too. It is just impossible to separate the people from the artistic nature of the people. I was looking at the decorated ceremonial hanging at the side of the road and I realised that this is how my world is too. My work is a part of the way I look at and think about the world. It can't be separated and I will never stop practicing the work. I can't retire from it. I can only die and stop doing it. 


Writers Bloc

Writing is not something you’ll ever be able to retire from? Why? And why wouldn’t you, given the choice, and all the attendant miseries that come with a life in writing?

Krissy Kneen

I think I possibly downplay my work in conversation. I can hear myself saying "Oh, I'll never win a literary prize because it is just sex stuff," but internally I am on my back the whole time trying to beat the greats of the genre. Am I even coming close to Georges Bataille? I need to work harder. I need to be as good as him if not better. It is probably not a great habit. Set the goal too far away and I will just be a failure my whole life. It certainly isn't a healthy way of dealing with things from a psychological perspective. My darkest days are pretty dangerously dark and I have sometimes flirted with the idea that giving up would be easier than striving for the impossible. Luckily I have a bunch of really great writers who are also my friends around me and they have been there in those dark days to help get me through. So many writers understand this cycle. I know a dozen people who have a similar relationship to their work. Writing fucks with your head. It isn't something you do, it isn't separate to yourself, it IS you. It becomes all of you and if it isn't going well then you aren't going well. I think those extremes of emotion have something to do with my personal creative process too.

I was on anti-depressants for a year at one time and I didn't write a word during that whole year. I felt fine. I didn't even care that I wasn't writing. I could still make jokes and appreciate a good book etc. but I didn't inhabit those books I was reading. I wasn't possessed by them. After a year of not writing I realised this was a problem and if I wanted to write again that maybe I had to go off the drugs. I clearly remember the moment when I felt finally clear of the medication. It was the beginning of spring and I was walking to work and I passed a fence with jasmine growing on it and I got a whiff of the jasmine. It wasn't just smelling jasmine. It was becoming the smell of jasmine. It was something I hadn't felt for a year. I inhabited the scent of jasmine. It was just a beautiful experience that I began to cry right there on the street, great heaving sobs because this experience was so beautiful. That is what it feels like to experience art. I am often moved almost to tears at a beautiful piece of music or a painting or a photograph or a particular passage in a book. This is the thing that makes the world tolerable. The problem is you can't have those moments of exquisite beauty without having the opposite of them. So I just have to live with those really dark moments if I want to have the ability to inhabit and hopefully collect beauty to put it on the page. 

The world is heading into a terrible, perhaps fatal period of climate change and social disruption but all this will lead me to see new things in a changing world and to turn those into stories. We make stories to protect ourselves from the cruel horror of the reality of living. And I need that just like the Balinese people need their collective storytelling and visual art. 

The work might kill me one day, but it rescues me on a daily basis.

And that sounds like the right place to end. 

Krissy Kneen is an author, poet and bookseller at Brisbane's Avid Reader. Her latest book is The Adventures of Holly White and The Incredible Sex Machine. 


This is a Writers Bloc Interview, part of a series of discussions with some of the most exciting writers from Australia and the world. To read more like this, click here. 

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