Tell us a bit about your chosen genre. Do you feel your strength as a writer is within one specific genre or do you dabble in a number of different genres?
The current genre I write is biography and I’ve been primarily writing on women since July 2013. I write my biographical stories a little differently to most biographical writers because I write my stories by experiencing the same similar situation as the subject themselves as much as I’ll allow myself. For instance, in 2013 I wrote a story on two homeless women, so I dressed up homeless and sat out on the main street in Sydney experiencing the heckling and rejection they received as a result of being homeless. No-one asked me for my story as to why I was homeless (I actually wasn’t) so it validated my statement of ‘unless we take time out to ask a person for their story, who are we to judge?’
In terms of being strong in one writing genre, I’m still learning about biographical writing and the different ways one can tell another persons story, but I am enjoying this kind of writing for the moment. In the long term, I’d like to pursue cultural writing more and write myths, legends and history concerning my people, the Maori people and teach how I plan to do that, to other indigenous writers so their cultures stories are preserved and continued on.
How has your life experience as a whole helped – or hindered – your voice as a writer?
I think my life experience has definitely helped my voice as a writer through having the strength to take the criticism I get for writing the stories I write (and at times, the way I choose to write them) and through having the confidence to approach people to ask them for their stories. How many people can say they’ve successfully got a true, legitimate story from a homeless woman, a street sex-worker or even a working girl in a massage parlor dressed either as a homeless person or looking like an undercover cop, and gain the subjects trust enough to let you publicize their voice?
As humans, we’re more likely to not give something a go rather than to ‘take-the-plunge-and-see-what-happens’ because we fear rejection. In biographical writing, the writer has to take the plunge otherwise they’re not going to get their story, so having the confidence to approach a person and to have the strength to push on with spreading the message is how my time in the military (a long time ago) has paid off for me with my writing.
Being connected to my culture helps too, and makes talking to people very interesting because they always ask me where I’m from, so I use that as an ‘ice-breaker’ with the interviewee most times.
What can you tell us about your preferred writing environment? Music or no music? At home, locked in your office or out in the world in a coffee shop?
It’s not necessarily where I write that matters to me, it’s how I feel that counts. As long as I’m well slept (7 hours min.), fed and watered (usually healthy, wholefood), have had some exercise (a long distance run is my preferred exercise) and have music playing (nothing beats the old skool music), then I can write anywhere.
Where did your love for reading and writing come from?
My love for reading came when I was around 4 years old when I used to try and read ‘The Little Golden Book’ books. I didn’t actually know how to read but I do remember turning the pages and making a story up from the illustrations I saw. I recall doing this because I would hassle people to read to me but they weren’t always keen to do so lol. When I started school, I loved reading and was always in the top reading and spelling groups and the love of writing came from….jeepers, I don’t even know. I read one of my school reports from when I was around 6 years old and even way back then, my teacher identified me as being a strong writer with clear, concise ideas. I remember writing a letter to my big brother, and my parents when I was 7 years old and I’d frequently make cards at school for people I loved. I guess the short answer would be my love for reading and writing genuinely comes from my heart.
Originally born and bred in New Zealand, K.M Harris hails from the northern New Zealand tribe of Ngapuhi with connections to tribes in the Bay of Plenty and East Coast regions. Real experiences from real people is the kind of writing K.M Harris enjoys producing and ‘reality reads’ is what she calls it. She has since written Eight Women: Pure Platinum People, a journalistic, memoir-ish styled book which saw her go deep undercover to interview – among other people – women involved in Sydney’s sex industry to add a face of humanity to the subjects. Published by Off the Path Press LLC in the U.S.A which specializes in producing work by indigenous writers, K.M Harris is also a contributor to Off the Path Press’s anthology Off the Path Vol. 2 written by international native, indigenous and Polynesian writers which will be released in the coming months.
K.M Harris has been residing in Sydney, Australia, since May 2013 and will be living and working in Sydney for another 1-2 years to give back as much as she can to the city that has given her so much in the nearly two years she’s been living and working there to make her writing dream a reality.