Mirage author Kevin J. J. Carpenter

On a cold May afternoon, I walk towards a block of town houses in South Penrith. I see a bunch of pig statues, indicating that I am at the right house. I am greeted warmly and let inside where I see a mini library- several book cases filled to the brim. “We are actually in the process of getting rid of some books,” he says. We sit down in a perfect sitting room environment and begin our conversation.

Kevin J. J. Carpenter has always loved stories, so it’s no surprise that he began writing his own when he was 16. Like a lot of young writers, he used to write a lot of online roleplay with his friend. “We’d alternate writing chapters. It sparked the idea of writing my own stories,” says Kevin. Growing up playing a lot of video games, he always thought that this would be the path he would take and that he would create stories for video games. But this role play showed him that he could actually write and tell his own stories not in gaming environment.

Over the last 11 years, Kevin has spent time studying different degrees, never completing them due to personal circumstance. However, through his personal study, he has developed and built up his writing to a point where he is now comfortable to share his stories with others. He has made a few mistakes along the way though.

The Red Hawks

In 2010, Kevin independently published a book called The Red Hawks, a decision he doesn’t reflect lightly upon. “It was a mistake. I was way too pre-emptive. It was not ready to be released to the world. But I was young, stupid and ambitious so I published it myself and got it out there.”

The book didn’t have a great deal of success, selling a couple dozen copies. As an ambitous 19-year-old Kevin thought the book was a good read and that people would want to read it. He now realises that is was a book written by a 19-year-old that read like a book written by a 19-year-old. He decided to take the book to a publisher. “They were interested in the story and taking it on board, publishing it professionally. But they said I would have to take the book I had previously published off the shelves. So I did that.” Eventually, the relationship between the publisher and Kevin severed, but it didn’t deter him from writing one single bit.

“The book was out of the public eye, so I could work on it,” Kevin says. He spent the next couple of years working on The Red Hawks to the point where he had completed 19 drafts. It drove him crazy. “I felt nuts for doing it time and time again to not actually achieve any greater results.” It was this insanity that caused him to realise that shorter fiction could be his calling.

[caption id="attachment_695" align="aligncenter" width="184"]KevinCarpenterCreativeCollections Voice of the Wild cover- the second the Mirage stories[/caption]

Kevin discovers short fiction

The first of the Mirage stories began in 2014 with Strife. It’s only 25,000 words compared to the over 200,000 words that The Red Hawks was. “It allowed me to write an encapsulated story with a beginning, middle and end. I was able to look at the finished product and say this is pretty good. I have something that I can work with, that I can rewrite time and time again without it taking months because it’s just a smaller encapsulated story.”

In 2015, Kevin discovered the Kindle landscape which meant that he could now publish stories in a digital format for people to read. He likens this idea to publishing stories in magazines and journals, which was the common practice before the digital age. Stephen King was famous for doing this and look at the success he has had. “Shorter fiction helps authors to build their repertoire and skill and helps them develop a sense of achievement.” Kevin further adds that the idea of going to a publisher with a novel is daunting, because you don’t know if what you’ve written is good. Having the opportunity to test it out with online platforms allows for a less-intimidating process. With a 20,000 word story, it can be much easier to get readers and therefore feedback.

In 2015, I published the Pumpkin King which a 2000 word short horror fiction, as a way to test the landscape to see how formatting would work. I really enjoyed it,” Kevin says. This allowed him to receive constructive feedback, both good and bad from different demographics.

He published another story on Amazon- a re-constructed memoir which had positive reviews in December 2015. “It was my grandmother’s story told in hundreds of letters and journals that I pieced together.”

Strife was published in 2016, followed by Voice of the Wild in 2017 and Sound of Thunder which has just been released.

[caption id="attachment_696" align="aligncenter" width="184"] The Sound of Thunder- third book in the Mirage series[/caption]

Through his long journey and by testing the waters with the Kindle world, Kevin finally feels that he has this independent publishing thing down pact. “I know how it works. What I’m able to do is put these books out there and see the response and become a more adept writer based on reviews and the act of putting the stories out there.”


Kevin recently took his books to the Gold Coast Supanova pop culture expo where he had moderate success. “It was a very rewarding experience to finally have some physical copies in my hand, sit them on a table and have people come up and ask me questions and sell these books,” Kevin says. It seems that at conventions like Supanova, shorter fiction works better. Where artwork and comics are popular, it is hard to convince someone to buy your book so the shorter is it the more likely they are to buy it.  Both the cost of the booth and getting to the Gold Coast was made back. Kevin expected this level of success. He will also be appearing at Sydney Supanova with his books.

Pushing through the rejection

Kevin persevered with rejection after rejection to create what he has now, something he recommends all writers do.  “Keep with it so you can build an audience. The audience might be biased but then there will be people that come along and give you constructive criticism,” Kevin says. This happened to Kevin while he and his wife Crystal were living in Port Macquarie. He happily tells me the story of the time he read part of his book to their next door neighbour who hated it. “He said it was the most boring introduction to a book he’d read. I thought about it for a few days and I was really upset but I realised he was right. It’s what I needed to hear.” So much so, that the very next day Kevin started work on Strife.

“To be good at anything, you have to prepare yourself for the good and bad criticism. There’s no point holding your cards to your chest for a decade and going to a publisher only to realise that what you’ve written is no good.” The thing is, criticism might be terrible to receive at first, but it is necessary so that you can build and refine your skills to a professional level. Kevin didn’t let the mediocre response of his novel get in the way of publishing his short fiction. He took the criticism and created stories that are fascinating and enjoyable.

Final Words

After Supanova, Kevin will look to take a step back and work on both shorter and longer fiction. After 4 months of total chaos leading into Supanova "editing, proofreading and perfecting the hard copies", it is definitely well deserved. It’s not hard to see that Kevin is passionate about literature with the way he speaks and the knowledge he shares during our interview. As our interview wraps up and I head back out into the cold, it’s not hard to see why Kevin writes so lyrically and writes so well about human life and the environment. But there’s more on that next week when Creative Collections reviews Strife.

[caption id="attachment_697" align="aligncenter" width="178"] Strife Cover- the first of the Mirage stories[/caption]

To find out more about the Mirage series of books and where you can get a copy visit: http://miragestories

Copyright: Creative Collections Blog 2018

Photo Copyright: Kevin J. J. Carpenter