Tell us about your background and what led you to writing this book.
I have a university degree in counselling and coaching, and while writing this book I worked as both a youth worker across high schools, dealing with at-risk youth and some wild characters and hectic stories, and as a case manager and counsellor in a men’s drug and alcohol rehab, dealing with heartbreaking stories and the aftermath of tragedy and with men who were trying desperately and often unsuccessfully to change their lives. This book was inspired by conversations and events from my time in these roles, and I guess by my own heart’s attempt to use storytelling to explore and process what I was dealing with. But it was also inspired by growing up in a tiny country town, and a childhood spend in the Tasmanian bush, and the fact that I love books I can escape into and can’t put down. I intended The Bluffs to be a page-turner, a thriller, a captivating mystery, a book where you cared enough about the characters that you didn’t want to put it down, but woven through that, I think, is that part of my heart that wanted to challenge the way we see drug dealers as always being the bad guys, or how we assume teenage girls are always so innocent and harmless, or how we think the Tasmanian bush is tame and dead. I wanted to write this plot in particular because I felt I had a good tale to tell about teenage girls, violent machinations, drug feuds, suburban drama that is based on true events, and how sometimes things are exactly what they seem to be, and sometimes they’re not, and life is all about trying to tell the difference . . . which is very hard when Instagram is a highlight reel and Facebook has changed the landscape of relationships.
If I looked at your internet history, what would it reveal about you?
Probably that I’m a sociopath, conspiracy theories, anarchist, and plotting murder. Not necessarily in that order. In a somewhat different direction, I wouldn’t be surprised if my phone was tapped by the police, considering the phone calls I’ve been having. I can neither confirm nor deny the fact that I’ve had friends go onto the Dark Web to find me recipes for cooking certain illicit substances. I can neither confirm nor deny that I’ve been on the phone with ex-cons, researching extensively the best ways to launder money, how to smuggle drugs, the most successful stories of extortion . . . I can neither confirm nor deny that I’ve been speaking to big time drug dealers and learning all the tricks of how their trade worked. However, to be fair, these are people who’ve already been to prison for their crimes . . . and, to be honest, I don’t even necessarily need these phone calls. In our rehab I work and with some of the roughest, toughest men you’ll ever meet. It’s very common for a therapeutic conversation to suddenly turn into an impromptu lesson on the best way to get rid of a body, and the right person to call to get rid of a body, and ‘do you want their number because I’ve got it memorised just in case I get jumped and have to defend myself’, etc . . . not that it interferes with my job, I promise! I am extremely client-centred! But they love to go down these tangents and try and get these traumatic stories out of their system, and so I definitely learn a lot. It’s honestly more an occupational hazard than anything else, and it’s the torture stories I hear on a weekly basis that are the hardest things to hear. I feel a bit like my character, Detective Con Badenhorst, in that regards. Vicarious trauma is an occupational hazard in both of our fields, and some of his traits are what I have to balance in my own life.
What was the most challenging part of writing this book?
It took me nearly three years from start to finish, so the whole book was difficult to write, but I think that keeping track of all the moving parts of the plot and the mystery was the most challenging part – and once you’ve read The Bluffs, you’ll probably get why. The next challenging part was writing in such a way that I trusted the reader to keep track, too. One main piece of feedback I received from my editor was ‘you’re spelling things out here, you need to trust the reader . . . Kyle, you’re a great writer, but you need to trust the reader . . . hey Kyle, remember what I said six months ago about trusting the reader? Yeah, I’m gonna say that again . . . ‘
What’s some great advice you’ve received that has helped you as a writer?
Trust the reader.
Other important advice is: get plenty of sleep, eat healthy, drink lots of water, and exercise. Your body is the instrument, not the laptop or the pen – so you need to take care of your body if you want the writing to be good.
What’s your daily writing routine like and what are you working on at the moment?
I’ve got no routine. I’m very lucky that I’m able to block out all distractions and write anywhere, at any time – while watching TV, in a café, on lunch break at work, in the middle of the night, in my best mate’s lounge room while him and his wife are discussing their day. I’m unlucky in that I have a short attention span and I get bored very easy (something I’m trying to work on!) so although I don’t have a routine, I just write until I get bored, and then I do something else until I get bored of that, and then I return to writing. It’s worked out well for me so far! I’m a go with the flow kind of writer.
What I’m working on at the moment is a standalone novel set on the Tasman Peninsula. It’s about an abducted girl who returns after seven years, and the events it triggers, which result in a group of suburban mums starting their own drug syndicate.