While travelling around the state of Victoria and Tasmania in Australia, Norm and I were with Kevin Moloney, Chair of the International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association Australasia Division. I mentioned to Kevin that I liked to interview writers, and he agreed.
Maralyn: Please introduce yourself and provide some background.
Kevin: I came to writing by accident really, or more correctly, writing came to me by accident. It’s strange, but my two greatest obsessions – travel and writing, ended up being my lifeblood. I was in the corporate world of Human Resources and had several career swerves before finding myself designing incentive programs for successful employees. As travel was the most common incentive reward, I was invited on a trip to Vietnam to check out the local travel options for a particular program I was putting together. To cut a long story etc, I ended up writing a piece about the trip, sold it and the rest, as they say, is history – literally. The editor started sending me on assignments all over the world. I couldn’t have had a better ushering into travel writing. Once you get the first story sold, writing gets in your blood and literary hemophilia takes hold. There’s plenty of world to write about but travel writing is just one of the options. There’s food, wine and lifestyle to fill any amount of pages. And, God forbid, if I run out of things to write about, I can always write about myself and get all self indulgent.
Maralyn: Do you specialize in a specific type of writing?
Kevin: When I started to write, my focus was on business events – conferences, incentive programs, etc. because that was my comfort zone. But I can’t stop myself from writing about the process of travel. I like to zero in on one element of a travel experience and look at it from with prescription glasses on. I really enjoy writing in humour – if I can laugh at what I write then I reckon others will too.
Maralyn: What can you share with others as to important tips or suggestions for other writers on writing and finding outlets for articles?
Kevin: Obviously writing has to tell the story – that’s the job of the word. Never believe the adage that ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ – that’s cheating every good writer. Try and paint that picture with the clever use of your words. Can you create a set of imagery without photos? If you can, then you’ve done your job as a writer. I try to do creative descriptive pieces – ones that will stand up without photos. If there was a tip that I’d give a new writer, it would be to write and keep writing. It’s incredible how your confidence grows as your style develops.
Maralyn: Did you have something specific that inspired you to write in this genre?
Kevin: Every writer has to find their own voice and I’m most comfortable writing in a style that’s close to how we all speak. I break a few conventions and writing ’rules’ in creating my own voice – for example, I’ll use a lot of contractions where a purist wouldn’t (just like that). I find it makes the reading more engaging and relevant.
Maralyn: Do you also blog or have a website?
Kevin: Interesting you should ask that. I’ve just put the phone down after talking to a web designer. I’ve written a lot of good copy for other people’s websites but just like a hairdresser with a bad haircut, I’ve never got around to looking at my own needs. Until today. I’ll tell you though, the first line of the website copy I’ve written for myself reads – “I want a word with you”. Very soon we’ll have kevinmoloney.com.au on the net– you just wait.
Maralyn: I’ll be waiting to see it Kevin. Let me know when it is live.
Do you query for assignments before you write or after the article is done?
Kevin: I’ve never really understood how a writer can pitch to an editor before he or she’s gone on a trip. How do you know what you’re going to encounter? Okay, if you’re off to India, you’ll probably see the Taj Mahal but writing isn’t just about seeing – it’s the feeling the Taj gives you or the encounter you had with a person who is standing in the queue behind you. Travel writing has to be experiential and the telling a good yarn. Frankly, a lot of travel writing bores me senseless. I don’t want history lessons and I don’t want to learn about what hot travel deals there are to a particular place – I can get that all from the net. I want to know what’s going on there today. Right now.
Maralyn: Are you a freelancer or on staff?
Kevin: Most people who freelance have been in a staff role for a publication at some stage but unfortunately I didn’t start that way. I think if I had a good journalistic pedigree that comes from working at a paper of mag, life would have been a lot easier for me when I started writing in terms of selling my stories. But the hard road chose me. It was tough at the beginning but it’s all good now.
Maralyn: Do you do other types of writing to supplement your income?
Kevin: It’s getting tougher and tougher to make a buck out of travel writing and I’ve always said “Travel writing’s a perfectly paved road to poverty”. You have to do other things. I write commercially because it pays ten times the amount travel writing pays. I judge restaurants and get involved in all sorts of communications work. I love the variety and anything that involves communications I jump at.
Maralyn: What is your approach to research?
Kevin: That’s also a really interesting topic and I’m mixed on that one. If I’m going to a particular destination for the first time, I’ll deliberately avoid doing too much research. I want to experience it for myself (although I will learn who the Prime Minister of Canada is before I go to Toronto, or what a Court Bouillon is before I go to a contemporary French bistrot so I don’t look like an idiot in conversation). But generally, I prefer experience over research. Always fact check though. Always.
Maralyn: Have you learned any inside tips along the way you could recommend to writers starting out?
Kevin: Write as you go. I’m not great at taking notes and I really need to be in the moment and reflect that in my writing. I usually write late at night particularly when I’m away. I feel I get the essence of what I’m experiencing right in to my work. Again, a true artist doesn’t paint from a photograph – he or she uses real life. And that’s what good writing should be – a reflection of real life.
Maralyn: Have you done much with broadcasting?
Kevin: Not a great deal but one of the best gigs I’ve had was writing and presenting a TV show on food and wine for US cable TV – in France. Poshing it up and 15th C castle and restaurants in a medieval city in the south of France was good for the ego and brutal on the waist line.
Maralyn: What are your favorite type of books and authors? What intrigues you about them?
Kevin: The world needs more Bill Brysons, AA Gills and David Sedaris’s. I could read their work forever and not have further needs. After reading two or three of David Sedaris’s short pieces, try and convince me that you didn’t get to know the guy.
Maralyn: Have you considered writing a book? If so, could you tell us about the subject?
Kevin: I’ve actually written three books. Happen to know any good publishers? The first one is about owing a weekender in Central Victoria while the second is a collection of 50 vignettes about growing up as a little boy in Melbourne’s suburbs. All a bit indulgent but fun to write. The third, which I’ve just put the finishing touches on, is called ABATAN – Anything But A Trashy Airport Novel – which is a collection of travel tales and quirky little stories. Did I ask if you know any good publishers?
Maralyn: Do you Face book, Twitter or use Linkedin? If so, do you find them effective?
Kevin: I struggle with social media but know I have to embrace it. It just takes so much time and so far I haven’t been convinced of the benefits. I’m sort of hoping it will all just pass as some sort of fad – just like the hula hoop or yo yos. Head in the sand for the time being is my defence. I actually don’t particularly like what social media stands for and is doing to writing. Having said that though, I do have a FB page and a Twitter account somewhere. I think I have three followers.
Maralyn: Do you attend writers’ conferences? If so, is there one you prefer?
Kevin: I’ve been to several writing gigs but, you know what? I actually get more out of having a writing mate to bounce things off. I’ve got a great mate – Greg Clark who’s a really talented writer. We’ve got this terrific professional relationship and if either of us needs encouragement at all we turn to each other. He’ll send me some of his work that he’s not too sure about and I’ll give him feedback. I’ll do the same with him. The only rule we have is that we have to be totally honest with each other. The last thing I sent to him via email was returned with one line – “that’s crap mate, you can do better than that”
I love honesty.
Maralyn: Do you belong to writer associations?
Yep, IFWTWA – it’s the only one that I find a real benefit. Good communication, good people and good value in many ways.
Maralyn: Where can readers learn more about you?
Kevin: Kevin.moloney.com.au (but just let me get it up and working first – won’t be long, I promise!
Kevin did not say so, but if you want to see some of his articles before he has his website live, you can see his IFWTWA profile at Kevin Moloney.
I hope you enjoyed learning more about Kevin. He writes with passion, feeling and certainly humor. I’ve read his upcoming book, and look forward to seeing it in print.
If you would like to be interviewed, please let me know.
International Food Wine & Travel Writers Association
Books By Hills Success With Writing Where & What in the World
Member: Society of Professional Journalists
Finalist in the Writing and Publishing category of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, “$uccess, Your Path to a Successful Book,”