Glancing Backward — and Forward! by Guest Author, Kate Veitch

It is with great pleasure that I introduce the 2008 Debutante season’s final guest author, Kate Veitch. Kate and I met recently at Books Inc in San Francisco where I read from Falling Under, she read from Without A Backward Glance, we held a Q&A and then hung out afterward with some friends and fellow debs. I loved Without A Backward Glance–it is deep and powerful with vivid, complex characters and beautifully nuanced writing. In addition, Kate is a great reader, a lovely, intelligent woman and Serious Fun. (she’d better come to the Deb Utopia of my Thursday post!)

I am posting her official bio below the post, but let’s get to Kate herself…

Let me begin with a grateful curtsey, for I’m honored to be Guest Deb-in-the-Middle at this wonderful Ball, at such a significant moment. Liminal Deb, that’s how I think of myself, standing in the doorway watching one lot of lovelies leave the dance floor, nursing blisters and a wealth of stories, as a new group sashays forth, tiaras sparkling. “What a year you’ve had!” I murmur to the debs departing, “And what a year you’re about to have!” to those just stepping forward.

I should know. I’ve been a deb myself — twice! My recent deb experience in North America has been so very different to that in my native Australia as to be like a first time. (And I thought you could never be a virgin again!) At home, everything that is not meant to happen with a debut novel, happened — the manuscript scooped promptly from an agent’s slush pile, snapped up by a big publisher, featured book in Australia’s biggest women’s magazine, reviews and interviews up the wahzoo. It was unbelievable. The day I opened the weekend paper in my hometown of Melbourne and saw my book, LISTEN, on the bestseller list, I was so startled I literally fell off the sofa. Then, that thrilling news: an American publisher. Oh boy oh boy!

And now, ladies and gentlemen, having debuted for the second time — same book, different title: WITHOUT A BACKWARD GLANCE — I know what the more usual first-time author experience is like. Here, I’m just a teeny little fish in a very, very big pond. Australia’s population is one-fifteenth that of America’s, and the flood of new books released in the US is relentless. I went into the Barnes and Noble store on Union Square in New York City, rode the escalators up through floor after floor of books to find my little offering tucked away in the deepest recesses of the fiction maze, and felt discouraged almost to the point of tears. Why in the world would anyone choose to buy and read my book, I asked myself, when it had received no media attention, and another couple of thousand titles are pouring onto the shelves each week?

In late July I went on tour, feeling like a hatchling turtle scuttling down the beach toward an unimaginably vast and unknown ocean. My lowest point: the reading at an out-of-the-way bookstore in Austin Texas attended by just one person, a gal I’d met at a bar the night before. (Donna, my lone star — thank you!) The high: sharing a reading in San Francisco with Deb Danielle, with Debs Jess, Lisa and Jenny and a goodly show of other folks there too, cheering us on. You could truly say we had a ball! And over after-drinks we moaned luxuriantly about publishers, publicists, book covers, media, and anything else that came to mind. Just like new mothers; it was so good to talk honestly to other women, all going through the same exhilarating, anxiety-inducing, often painful experience.

My epiphany came a few days later, after a reading at the fabled Tattered Cover bookstore in Denver. A couple attended whom I’d met for ten minutes in Bali, months before, and as we talked (yes, again over drinks: reading from your novel is thirsty work!) they told me why they’d hired a babysitter for the evening, even though their son is sixteen: he has severe cerebral palsy. As they told me, with love and calm dignity, about how their son’s condition has changed their lives, I felt all my anxiety about my foundering literary debut just melt away. So my book wasn’t going to be the hit in the US that it had been in Australia — so what? Look at how lucky I am, to have achieved something once only dreamed of. Enjoy! Smell the roses!

For the rest of the tour I felt touched by grace. I met wonderful people, and had a marvelous time. In Portland, Ann Patchett, whose droll and incredibly timely article about the trials of book tour in August’s Atlantic Monthly had given me heart, read the night before me at the great Powells bookstore and — imagine this! — I got to sign their Visiting Authors book on the page opposite her. Then, just before I got on the train to Seattle, I received an email from my agent in New York. She’d just had a call from my publisher to say how thrilled they were with the sales of WITHOUT A BACKWARD GLANCE. 30,000 copies shipped! 3,000 in the previous week alone! In its third printing! My jaw fell open and stayed that way. I had to read that email 47 times before I believed it. And then I started to get reviews — good reviews! Here, you can read them for yourself, on the MEDIA page:

So, what have I learned from my North American debut? That, like that little turtle scuttling for the ocean, we owe it to our creativity, our art, our writing, our lives, to give it everything we possibly can. Why be half-hearted? There’s a lot of hungry fish out there: swim like mad! And what advice might I give all you dear and beautiful and talented Debs, both those passing their tiaras on and those about to step onto the floor? Simply, to remember always how lucky we are to be at this wonderful Ball. A curtsey to the orchestra, to the chaperones, to our fellow dancers and to those who are so kind as to applaud our efforts, for we’re all in this together.

Thank you for inviting me. And may your dance card always be full!


Kate Veitch was born in Adelaide in the mid-1950s and left home and school early, eager for color and movement. Her work over the years includes writing articles and reviews for the Sydney Morning Herald and Vogue, collaborating with other mothers on Feeling Our Way, a book about becoming parents, and producing a series on women writers, Their Brilliant Careers, for Radio National. She lives part-time in Manhattan and part-time in Melbourne, while she and her partner build a home for themselves in northern New South Wales. Without a Backward Glance is her first novel. To read more about Kate, go to

20 Replies to “Glancing Backward — and Forward! by Guest Author, Kate Veitch”

  1. I am one of the new Debs, tiara sparkling, about to take the stage and oh so awed to be following in the graceful dancesteps of the wonderful women who have led the way. And I thank you for your sage cousel and the wonderful imagery that I will bear in mind and in heart. Blessings as you continue to make your big splash in oceans big and small.

  2. Thanks for your gracious and generous introduction, Danielle. Just try and keep me out of Deb Utopia!

    Julie — of the Booking Mamas! Hi there, and thanks for your kind recommendation — you know, if you wanna interview me for your blog, just say the word. Any old time!

    Deb Eve – delighted to make your acquaintance. I’ll be among the fond crowd watching and cheering you and your fellow new Debs on in the year ahead.


  3. Hi Kate!

    Great to have you here. This is a perfect post to make the bridge between this season and the new one, and I love seeing the comparison of your two debutante experiences. I love your candor and also deeply appreciate your optimism.

    Now…of course I want to know what’s next for you. Are you working on something? And if so, what?

  4. Ah, the second novel. Yes, it’s well underway — another tale of modern tortured families. I do think wistfully of the blissful lack of expectations I had while writing my first novel, when I was so sure that no one else would EVER read it, so I was free to write without any self-consciousness. Another way in which one can never be a virgin again! But I hope that I’ll have it completed by the end of this year. And then the circus will roll on its way again!

  5. What a lovely post, Kate! Delighted to meet a fellow author of books about modern tortured families.

    Thanks for the warm introduction as I get ready to start the dance!

    Deb Kristina

  6. Kate,
    Congratulations! Congratulations!

    For those reading this, I was honored to meet Kate when she was here in Denver. I purchased her book and look forward to reading it during our slow season (September) here at the Bed and Breakfast.

    From what little I did read I would say she is a VERY talented writer and look forward to reading her next book.


  7. Kate, I know EXACTLY what you mean about the second book and expectations. It’s hard to get the “voices” (the bad kind) out of one’s head and just throw oneself into it. I guess that’s part of the process of becoming a “pro”.

    I would offer you a race to the finish with my second book, but who needs even MORE pressure!?

  8. I love these exchanges! You know, at this rate — I could almost be tempted to join the blogosphere. Lovely to hear from you, Christine from Denver (and let me recommend Adagio B&B to anyone who’s travelling to Denver and would like a warm welcome in a beautiful house), and new Deb Kristina, whose book I look forward to seeing launched. Danielle, we MUST and WILL stay in touch as we push on to the conclusion of our second novels — and beyond!


  9. What a lovely bridge from current Debs (notice I didn’t say OLD!), to new Debs. Kate, I’ve a long-standing fascination with Australian writers, and I’ve added you to my list of must reads. Thank you for adding your voice to The Debutante Ball, and may you dance on and on…

  10. Oh, Kate, darling! I am SO sorry to be late to the Ball tonight but hey, I feel a bit debauched, what with this being my last night as a debutante and all, and having drunk a wee bit much of a LOVELY LOVELY couple of bottles of a fabulous cabernet at a friend’s house tonight…
    I totally adored listening to you speak in San Francisco and am so sorry that I missed the post-reading drinks session with a few of the gang and you, but had prior commitments. I have your wonderful book waiting for when I can reward myself with it AFTER I finish my manuscript (which will be soon, Holly, I promise!). I know hanging out with you would be a really memorable experience and do wish I’d have had a chance to do so. And yes, it all gets into perspective when you learn of others’ trials and tribulations, doesn’t it?
    Best of luck here in the States, though from the sounds of it, you don’t need too much luck!
    Thanks for visiting the Ball and OMG! This is the last time I get to say that!!!!!! I’m feeling weepy now…

  11. Tears — of laughter, of shared delight, of joy, and of the sorrow of things passing. I am someone who has been a restless spirit, passing from one place to another, knowing as I grow older that the price I pay for moving on is that I have but a fleeting touch with people whom I would (often) wish to hold more closely.. And yet, and yet…

    if I didn’t keep moving on, I would never have got to know you all, would I? However fleetingly…

    The truth is, there is a price to be paid for all our living.

    At its most innocent, simply — the wish that all the people I come to love coud forever be in my life…

    But that’s not possible

    Only further friendships are possible..

    What do you think?

  12. Kate,

    Welcome, welcome. It’s so great to have you as the 2008 Debs’ final guest. 🙂

    I so enjoyed meeting you, (also glad to meet another of Mary P.’s authors) Your book is beautifully written.

    Best of luck with it,a nd thank you so much for joining us here.

    Deb Lisa

  13. Kate, you are a gem!! I wish you all the success in the world. I had so much fun trading emails with you as I prepared my review of WITHOUT A BACKWARD GLANCE and the interview with you that followed!

Comments are closed.