CURRENTLY in the process of writing her third book on military history, former Orange resident Kristen Alexander is happy to defy society’s stereotypes about suitable subject matter for a female author.
“Most people assume that I’m a man and assume that military writing is a man’s world. I often get letters addressed to Mr Kristen Alexander,” she said.
“Sometimes people’s perceptions can work against you and it can be difficult to gain the trust of people you want to interview because they assume you don’t understand what you’re writing about.”
However, over the years Mrs Alexander has come to realise being a woman does have some advantages.
“When I was writing Clive Caldwell, Air Ace I spoke to Mrs Caldwell and she said she though I had the right attitude to tell her husband’s story,” she said.
“A lot of military writing just includes the facts ... and doesn’t look at the people behind the fame.
“I include anecdotes and often deal with the feelings behind their actions.”
Mrs Alexander has always loved reading, writing and history, and credits some of her teachers at James Sheahan Catholic High School for fostering her endeavours.
“I’d always had a love of history and books, even as a young child, but Mrs Jan Hardy fostered that,” she said.
“Also my English teacher Sister Francesca was very supportive of me when I was at school and she still keeps in contact with me now.”
Despite such a long-term interest in literature Mrs Alexander came to her career late in life, and “by accident”.
While purchasing stock to sell in the book store she and her husband David own in Canberra, Mrs Alexander acquired some letters Clive Caldwell had written to a friend while at war in 1941.
Once she’d read the letters they inspired her to learn more about Mr Caldwell’s achievements and life.
“Buying those letters was life- changing,” she said.
Some time after she began researching his life, a friend suggested she write a book about him.
It took three years to write Clive Caldwell, Air Ace and then another three years to write Jack Davenport, Beaufighter Leader, with both books published by Allen & Unwin.
Mrs Alexander is writing her third book and expects it to take three years to write.
The as-yet untitled book is about Australian fighter pilots in the Battle of Britain.
She admits that while her royalty cheques are “received with great excitement” they don’t cover the costs incurred when researching the books.
“I’m not doing this to be rich, and I know I never will be,” she said.
“I’ve discovered my creative outlet and my passion ... besides my husband.”