REBEL GODS is out now!

When I was a kid, I was a daydreamer. I would press my head against the train carriage window, and as Sydney scrolled past, I imagined an epic fantasy story playing out across its rooftops. It’s weird to think I’m sitting here years later, typing the words: my first fantasy series is complete.

My books always seem to be a reaction to the ones that come before them. The First Third was super honest, a reaction to all the walls I built around myself as a teenager writing Loathing LolaThe Sidekicks took the queerness that was often sidelined in The First Third and brought it to the fore, at least in the first part. Monuments was a page-turning adventure in direct opposition to The Sidekicks‘ heavy stillness. In bolting to its conclusion, Monuments sowed a ton. Rebel Gods is the reaping.

Monuments was me turning my daydreams into reality. At least, an ink-and-paper reality. It was always envisioned as the first half of a larger story, but I’ll be honest, the shape of the second half has always been in flux … This year has been about finding Rebel Gods considering everything that Monuments set up and wondering what I wanted to pay off. Our heroes, Connor, Sally and Locky were always going to contend with the aftermath of their adventure and face off against the gods of love and fear, but what surprised me most was that as I wrote it, that story evolved into one about changing relationships: namely, the one between single mothers and their grown sons.

Between daydreaming Monuments and writing its sequel, I’ve moved out of home and my relationship with my mum has evolved. In my newbie gods I had the perfect vehicle through which to explore that evolution, so I ditched my plan to incorporate the father more prominently (sorry, not at all sorry), and tested that mother-son relationship that I established in the first book. While Monuments was a story about running away and coming home, Rebel Gods is about growing up.

And I can’t wait for you to read it.

While I’ve got you, I want to extend a special thank you to Melina Marchetta for helping launch Rebel Gods virtually.

I can’t say enough nice things about Melina, but I’ll try. When I met her as a young’un, despite being the only person in Australia who hadn’t read Looking For Alibrandi, I was ready to kiss the ring, tell her what a formative novel it had been. But before I could spew my BS, she looked at me and said, “I would show your short story to my Year 10s.” And instead of letting me insincerely fawn over her, she was generous enough to make me feel like her peer. She lifted me up, like she lifts so many emerging writers.

I read her work over the years, savouring every word because she was somehow more talented than I was going to tell her she was when we met. This year, her adult books were a comfort and an inspiration to me during the lockdown, and her latest, What Zola Did on Monday, is such a treat for beginner readers. I can’t wait for all the munchkins in my life to grow up a little so I can gift them the whole set and watch them treasure it.

People see her success and say they want to be like Melina Marchetta. After getting glimpses at who she is over the years, I say we should all want to be like Melina Marchetta.

Queerstories 2019: My Father Haunts Me

I’m known around the traps as the guy who got a book deal in high school, but I’m usually pretty guarded about one of my strongest motivations. This piece illuminates that and was first performed at Mudgee Readers’ Festival (‘Queerstories’) on August 17, 2019, alongside original pieces by Cadance Bell, Faith Chaza, Benjamin Law, Maeve Marsden and Hajer. Enjoy. When Monuments was released, Mum spent her lunch break yesterday in the display window of Dymocks Sydney conducting an impromptu photoshoot with the Monuments display. She’s earned it.

My Father Haunts Me

My father haunts me. It’s not that he’s dead. He’s not. I mean, he could be, but as far as I know, he’s not. I see him wherever I go. In the faces of passers-by. In cars. Ugh. He’s the tightening of my chest when a white truck that could be his drives past. He is everywhere and nowhere.

Even my writing career, which blossomed in his absence, is haunted by him. My mother’s father was the one who waited outside newsagencies before they opened to buy me fresh lined paper as a kid, but my father was the reason I was sending manuscripts to publishers before my thirteenth birthday. When my parents’ marriage ended, our house was a shell, half-renovated, the ceiling was a mess of wiring, and the kitchen was a leaky fridge, and a sink propped up by a plank of wood.

There used to be an aluminium bench and some chairs. To give you a measure of the man, when my parents divorced, my father collected his half of the furniture, as was his right. Then, he returned to halve it again, claiming that he hadn’t yet. He took our bikes, our boardgames, and the aluminium bench he fashioned in his factory with the accompanying chairs.

Mum worked hard, too hard, to keep us in school and to fill that house. One night, she collapsed walking up the stairs to her bedroom, and instead of working less, she sent us to live with our grandmother so that we wouldn’t see the toll it took on her. Slowly, she made that shell of a house a home. She installed a ceiling. She bought furniture to replace the pieces my father stole, and then some.

And I wrote. Every day. From Year Seven, I sent manuscripts to publishers, each time convinced that that manuscript would be the one to earn a JK Rowling-sized advance and mean Mum didn’t have to work as hard. That drive that saw me earn a book deal in Year Twelve … that was me trying to step into my father’s absence and provide, or at least, ease the burden he had placed on Mum’s shoulders.

His absence didn’t just inspire my drive, it inspired my output. My first novel began its life as a thinly veiled Parent Trap-style revenge fantasy. In an early draft of my second novel, The First Third, a character tracked down their absent father and said everything I wished I could have said to mine. I remember my then-editor Clair Hume, congratulating me for getting it off my chest before suggesting I cut the scene. When I asked why, she asked if I’d ever tracked down my father. I said no. I cut the scene.

I toured the book. Students who study The First Third try separating fact from fiction. Am I Billy? Is the mum in the book my mum? The grandmother? The brothers? Did this all really happen? One afternoon at a school in Sydney’s outer suburbs, a hand shot up in the middle of one of my talks. The student asked if I had ever tracked down my father. I said no. Another hand shot up. That student asked why. And I didn’t have an answer. I was a quote-unquote grown man now, mid-20s, I was perfectly capable of finding my father and expressing everything I wanted to. I didn’t need to do it in fiction.

So, I set out to find him.

I guessed his address. Suburb. Street name. House number. All of it. Unbelievable right? I mean, I could say I worked at a polling place one election, was entrusted with a tablet featuring the electoral roll, searched my surname, miraculously found his entry, and memorised his address, but that would have been a crime. And it didn’t happen like that. I can’t overstate how much it definitely didn’t happen like that.

I had his address, but I wasn’t going to show up on his doorstep. I typed the address into Google and Google returned a White Pages knock-off that featured his phone number. I sat on the edge of my bed and dialled. One ring. Two rings. My heart thumped. My chest was in a vice. My brain stung. I hung up, set my phone down and took a breath. And another.

I refused to believe a man I hadn’t seen in over ten years still had this much of a hold on me. I dialled his number again. One ring. Two rings.

“Hello?” I didn’t recognise the voice.

Heart thump. Ragged breath.

“Hi, I was wondering if I could speak to Stephen please.”


Heart thump. Heart thump. Heart thump.

“Hello Stephen, this is William …”

Heart thump.

“As in, my son?”

“That’s the one.”

Heart thump.

“What, um, why are you calling?”

“I just think it’s about time we had a chat. In person. Does Thursday night suit?”

It didn’t. We tried for the following Tuesday. He cancelled on the day, rescheduled for Friday. He called when I was walking to the train station to change the venue and push our meeting back an hour. He told me to meet him at Rockdale Station. He waited by the turnstiles. I walked right past him, but he caught the edge of my eye. I turned and stared down an older, semi-sundried version of myself. The same curly hair. The same stubbly beard. The same posture … Even though I had built myself in his absence, I had become him. He was inescapable.

I said hello. He said he thought I’d be taller. That’s what he led with. And now that I was closer, I could see he hadn’t even changed into a clean shirt after work. I hadn’t been worth a quick tidy.

He walked me to a nearby Thai restaurant. We took our seats. It was surreal, sitting opposite him as he browsed the menu. He was alive. Every day and every night he didn’t make contact, he lived. He visited Thai restaurants, browsed menus … He cleared his throat and said it was nice to have me back after my “bitch mother turned me against him”.

I was stunned. That was how he was going to start. I didn’t flinch. I told him I didn’t remember her picking up my brother and throwing him against a wall.

He denied that ever happened, then said he didn’t know why we were doing this, this was a mistake. He still ordered, mind you. My voice shook every time I spoke. We were on edge, combative. He set the tone, and I met it. Again, he said he didn’t know why we were doing this.

I knew. He wasn’t aware, but every time his mother was sick, my mum found out, and she snuck us into the hospital to visit her. Mum took me to the nursing home to see her just before she died. We resolved everything. I was here, at dinner with my father in case he got hit by a bus tomorrow. And I told him so.

He wore my words like a slap, and I teed up the rant that I’d been slow-cooking for years. I was ready for some poetic evisceration … I managed three sentences before I realised he wasn’t worth it. I didn’t want to itemise my grievances, list all the ways he’d hurt me, because he wasn’t worth the words. He didn’t deserve the satisfaction of knowing he’s responsible for any part of me.

There is only one person in the world who deserves that satisfaction. As much as my father has haunted my life, he has never cast a shadow over it, because I have sat perched on one woman’s shoulders and she bore the brunt of it so I would never go a day without feeling the sun on my face.

My mother doesn’t haunt me. She never left.

This piece was first performed at Mudgee Readers’ Festival (‘Queerstories’) on August 17, 2019, alongside original pieces by Cadance Bell, Faith Chaza, Benjamin Law, Maeve Marsden and Hajer. Monuments is out now.

Support Aussie Bookstores

Given that lockdown is back in effect, I’m reviving this offer to give back to the Victorian booksellers who have supported me so much over the years:

Spend $30+ at any Victorian bookstore in one transaction from 9/7/2020-9/8/2020, and you’ll get either:

1. A signed Will K book (your choice!) posted immediately, or
2. A 30-minute video call with me, during which we can talk books, the writing industry, the weather, whatever. If you want to show me a brief sample of your writing for feedback, happy to give it. If you just want to heckle me, happy to take it.

Simply send me your proof of purchase via DM on social media or email and we’ll go from there.

You can buy whatever you want from those booksellers, but if those purchases did skew towards Australian authors who were alive, I wouldn’t be angry.

If you need recommendations, I’m happy to give them.

If you and a friend make separate orders that total more than $30, let me know, it’ll be okay.

If you’re looking to support LGBTQIA+ booksellers, Melbourne’s Hares and Hyenas is operating as an online store.

The Greatest Hit is (also) coming soon!

Surprise! I’m releasing two books this year!

I’m so thrilled to be an Ambassador for Australia Reads, joining Beck Feiner, Anna Fienberg, Jacqueline Harvey, Peter Helliar and Dervla McTiernan. In November, we’re inviting all Australians to share and celebrate the joys of reading. Whether you’re picking up a book for the first time or your head is already stuck in one, there’s plenty of books, activities and events as part of the Australia Reads festivities. Thursday 12 November is the main event – Australian Reading Hour. You’re invited to stop what you’re doing for an hour, pick up a book and read to yourself or the children in your life.

To celebrate, I’ll be releasing a specially priced novella in November, The Greatest Hit:

Tessa is a teenage has-been.

While everyone else her age is taking their bold first steps into adulthood, she’s accepted she peaked at 14 (thank you, viral music video).

But now — an opportunity. A profile as one of the 5 Most Forgettable Internet Celebrities of the Decade So Far gives her the chance to right a wrong, and the courage to sing her greatest hit as it was originally written.

As I told Twitter between general isolation ramblings, the premise for the novella was one of the framing devices I considered for The First Third. A ‘washed up’ pop singer by 19, Billy tried to revive his career with a greatest hits compilation. Instead of completing his yiayia’s bucket list, Billy’s tasks were inspired by his old tracks.

I abandoned that framing device because it leaned too heavily on ‘the media’, which Loathing Lola had already explored, and the ‘washed up’ aspect hit too close to home after Loathing Lola underperformed, and I still felt like achieving my dream as a teenager was a grave error.

Ultimately, removing that framing device and zeroing in on family was the right call for The First Third. And now, a decade-plus into my career, I’m totally ready to explore the emotional uglies of underwhelming teenage success, in a heartwarming original story about singing your love from the rooftops.

Rebel Gods is coming soon!

Received some wonderful news tonight – in addition to its shortlisting for the Indie Book Awards, Monuments has been selected as a CBCA Notable Book.

In other news, its sequel Rebel Gods has a blurb and a cover. Scroll down, but beware Monuments spoilers in the blurb.

With the Monuments gone, there’s nothing stopping the rebel gods from reducing the world to ruin.

Well, newbie gods Connor, Sally and Locky are supposed to stop them, only they don’t know how. While Sally searches for answers and Locky makes plans to change the world, Connor struggles to keep up appearances as an ordinary teenager. But soon he’ll have bigger problems than his mum finding the giant sword hidden under his bed.

Rebel Gods is the second book in the Monuments fantasy duology from YA superstar, Will Kostakis. It’s a heartfelt look at family, friendship and the parallel lives we lead.

Can’t wait to share it with you!