At My Desk: Best-selling Australian author Karly Lane

Karly Lane is the bestselling author of four novels, all of which are works of Australian rural fiction. Her love of rural towns and communities comes from a life spent happily living in the same town where her parents, grandparents and great grandparents all lived. Her most recent book, Poppy’s Dielmma, was inspired by a story Karly read about her own Mid-North Coast town of NSW, and the World War I hero who returned there in 1920 with tragic results. Her previous novels are North Star, Morgan’s Law and Bridie’s Choice.

Karly spends her days doing the two things she loves most – writing and wrangling her four beautiful children. She lives on the Mid-North Coast of NSW.


Tell us about your most recent book, Poppy’s Dilemma. Was there something in particular that inspired you to write it?
Poppy Abbott’s been putting off packing up her grandmother’s house but when things begin to unravel in her professional life, she decides that it may be the perfect time to head out to Warrial and finally face the dreaded chore once and for all.

When she finds a diary that belonged to Maggie Abbott, a spirited young woman from 1914 in her Gran’s things, Poppy soon becomes captivated by the story which unfolds between its pages before ending abruptly, leaving a mountain of questions unanswered.

About 18 months ago I was given a clipping from an old newspaper written in 1920 about a tragedy that happened at a local dance between a returned WW1 hero and a young woman from my town. After reading the story, I couldn’t stop thinking about the people involved. The WW1 soldier was so typical of the young men who went away to war with the promise of adventure and excitement only to return home a shell of their former selves. The more I thought about the newspaper article the more questions and what ifs I had floating around inside my head. Eventually I decided I had to write not only their story but the story of every small country town in Australia and the effect the war had on not only the men who went away but also the loved ones they left behind.

What’s the first thing you do before you sit down to write?
Take the kids to school

Tell us about your desk or writing space.
My writing area is situated in the corner of the lounge room, and nicknamed Control Central. Originally when I was writing in any spare time I could find, it was put in that particular spot so I could keep an eye on the kids as well as still technically be part of the family while they were watching TV. Now I’m so used to writing with the TV blasting and children fighting, that I’m not sure I’d be comfortable with peace and quiet in my own little office anywhere else.

In a perfect world my house is always spotless and my desk is always clean… in reality, my desk is usually covered in Furbies, school newsletters, used coffee cups and the occasional bill I’m supposed to remember to pay. But buried beneath that I have a display of my print copy books, my CD player (because I’m old school and that’s how I roll!) pretty chests I’ve bought to hide all my mess inside of and character sheets of books I’m currently working on.

I put two huge cork boards above my desk, planning to use these to display my plot outlines and all the relevant writerly stuff you dream of, only they’ve been taken over by my children’s artwork and I can’t bear to take them down.

How many words do you aim for in a day when you are writing?
I don’t aim for words, I just write from around 9.30am until 3pm. Some days I can have a huge word count at the end of the day, other times I may not have gotten much written but I’ve caught up on all the news on Facebook!

Tell us about your typical day.
I usually stagger to the kitchen for coffee then open my eyes to see what kind of day it is outside.

I get rid of… oops, I mean, I lovingly pack off my husband to work, and then calmly instruct the children to get ready for school… Oh ok, I can’t keep a straight face either… It’s bedlam. No matter how organised I try to be, I always end up sounding like a drill sergeant as I follow kids around and try and get us all out the door and to school before the bell rings.

I then head home and fire up the computer. I check emails and make a note of anything I’m supposed to do like upcoming appointments for radio interviews (if I’ve just released a book). Some days I can do two a day, or I may have to write a guest blog for someone or have edits turn up that need to be done. Then I check Facebook – purely for networking and promotional purposes only, *cough* before opening which ever manuscript file I’m working on at the time.
If I’m on a bit of a roll, I work on one story at a time, but if I come up against writers’ block or a plot problem, I find another manuscript to work on until I’m ready to go back to the original one. I currently have four works in progress.

It’s 3pm before I know it and time to pick up the kids. I usually finish my writing day then, unless I’m on a deadline or really need to get some more writing done, but I’m very lucky that I can now treat my writing as a career and do it in work hours. Up until a year or so ago, I was doing all my writing early in the morning before everyone woke up and late at night when they all went to bed as I was still working part time.

Winding down is usually having time to sit with my husband at night and watch a bit of TV or read while he watches cricket.

Do you have an alternative writing space?
I’ve never taken my writing to a cafe. I’ve always thought it looks incredibly sophisticated, but if I took the computer to my local cafe I’d just spend the day talking to my friends and all the locals who came in, so I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t get much writing done. I have tried to take the computer out on the boat with us on the weekend, but then I realised if the boat sank I would be forced to choose between saving my children or my computer, and no mother should ever be put under that much pressure. Ever.

Tell us a bit about what you’re working on now.
At the moment I’m working on one of my fantasy novels, which I write under my other writing name as I’ve already finished the next Karly Lane book scheduled for later this year. I really enjoy working on different genres.

What’s your advice to up-and-coming writers who want to be where you are today?
Write, write, write and then write some more. When you finish one novel, get it edited, send it off to a publisher, by all means research other avenues of publishing as well, but then start a new book and keep on writing.

Also, join a writers’ association like the Romance Writers of Australia. The industry news, networking and support you get from groups like these are invaluable. If you’re not a member, go and join right now. It’ll be the best thing you can ever do for your writing career.


You can buy Poppy’s Dilemma by Karly Lane at all good bookstores or online at Booktopia here.

If you’re interested in writing your first novel check out our Creative Writing and Novel Writing courses. You can do courses in Sydney, Melbourne and online.