Kirsty Capes is an author based in London. Her fiction and poetry has been published in Rising, Roulade, Token, Thrice Fiction and Mslexia. She was a Penguin Random House WriteNow mentee and a HW Fisher scholar at Curtis Brown Creative. She is currently finishing her PhD in care-experienced fiction at Brunel University London. Her debut novel Careless will be published by Orion Fiction in 2021.
26-YEAR-OLD KIRSTY CAPES’ ‘VISCERAL, SHARP AND ACHINGLY FUNNY’ DEBUT BECOMES MURSELL’S FIRST ACQUISITION FOR ORION
Charlotte Mursell, Editorial Director at Orion Fiction, has made her first acquisition for the company with debut novel Careless by Kirsty Capes. The two-book deal for World Rights was made with Anwen Hooson at Bird Literary Agency.
An upmarket, timely, feminist story and a hyper-realistic account of the UK care system, Careless is a raw and big-hearted celebration of female friendship and enduring hope against all the odds. The book cuts through class, race, privilege and prejudice to shine a light on the realities of the care system, as well as a woman’s rights over her own body. ‘A coming-of-age story like no other’, the novel follows Bess, who is in foster care and pregnant at fifteen, and her friend Eshal, who is trying to break free of an impending arranged marriage, during a hot, oppressive summer in 1999.
‘Every so often you read a book that knocks you sideways and changes the way you look at the world forever – and this is it. Careless wrapped me in its sticky, gritty clutches from the very first page and never let me go. Visceral, sharp and achingly funny, it’s like nothing I’ve ever read before. Kirsty is a phenomenal talent, I’m beyond thrilled that she has chosen Orion Fiction as her publisher and that we can share her story with readers around the world.’ – Charlotte Mursell
Careless by Kirsty Capes will be published in hardback in May 2021.
It is an absolute pleasure to welcome Kirsty to the blog. I’d like to thank Kirsty for writing about her forthcoming novel Careless – brilliant title – which I am sure will be a fantastic contribution to care experienced literature.
- Tell us of your journey as a writer.
I have always wanted to write but didn’t start taking it seriously until I started university. While studying my BA and my MA in Creative Writing I had some poems and short stories published in literary magazines. I started working on my novel during my PhD and this has been the writing project that has dominated my life for the past few years, although I still occasionally publish short stories. My debut novel is titled Careless and will be published in Spring 2021.
- What made you choose to write about care experience?
As a care-experienced person I became frustrated at the lack of good representation of people in care in fiction. When we think of a foster child in fiction the first person to come to mind for most of us is Tracy Beaker, who is portrayed as difficult, a problem child and pre-determined to fail. There have been lots more nuanced representations in recent years, such as Holly in Solace of the Road, Anais in The Panopticon and Leon in My Name is Leon. But overwhelmingly care kids in fiction are represented as pre-determined to fail. They are also often written by people who don’t have care experience themselves. I wanted my novel to not only give an ‘insider’s perspective’ what it’s like growing up in care; I also wanted to offer a more positive, more hopeful, more aspirational narrative for care-experienced readers – and to show non-CEPs that we’re not all doomed to fail.
- Do you have any personal experience with the care system, fostering, children’s homes etc?
Yes I was in residential foster care and then supported lodgings from the age of 2 to 21.
- Orphans, those in foster care or children’s homes, often feel they are stereotyped by their past. How aware of this were you whilst writing your novel?
I agree that the narrative of care-experienced children is a hugely negative one and has a seriously detrimental impact on wider cultural discourse about the care experience. It was something I was hyper-sensitive to while writing and something I try to actively disrupt with my care-experienced narrative in Careless.
- What is the meaning of the title?
My care-experienced protagonist Bess falls pregnant at 15, while still in the care system. The word ‘careless’ is a word so very often levelled at young girls who fall pregnant. The word is a nod to that, but also plays on Bess’s care experience, and invokes questions of the nature of care and how ‘caring’ the care system really is.
- What are you currently working on? What can we look forward to reading?
I’m currently finishing my PhD and still editing Careless ahead of its publication, but I will soon be starting work on my second novel.
- What #diverse characters do you think are missing from literature?
I think there needs to be more representation of marginalised groups across the board: publishing tends to centre the white, cis, straight, middle class experience and this needs to change. I do think – in the current moment – we are in danger of falling into the ‘diversity tick-box’ trap. One so-called ‘diverse’ book on a list does not equal representation. The way we talk about ‘diversity’ in books and publishing still has a long way to go.
- If you could recommend one book for your readers, what would it be?
For a powerful portrayal of care-experienced girls that is honest and hopeful, I would suggest The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan.
- Who is your favourite literary character from childhood and why?
I loved Lyra from the His Dark Materials series (also a care-experienced character HAH!) I find it interesting that Pullman chooses not to centre the biological nuclear family unit (as children’s literature often does), and instead unpicks it to expose its many flaws, and allows his young heroine to choose her own family. This is something I’m sure many CEPs can relate to (I certainly do!)
- What one piece of advice would you give young people leaving the care system today?
Try and build strong support networks wherever you can; don’t be afraid to ask for help; don’t ever think you don’t deserve something, or that you shouldn’t aspire to the things that will make you happy. Remember your experience is unique and valid and there is power in that. Remember you are the only person who can tell your story.
Follow Kirsty on Twitter: @kirstycapes