Kylie Ladd is a novelist and freelance writer and part-time neuro-psychologist. So, the usual mix then.
Her previous three books have all gone gangbusters – picking up many accolades along the way. She spoke with Allison Tait recently for our podcast “So you want to be a writer”. They discussed her fourth novel, Mothers and Daughters, and a bunch of other stuff.
Here’s the link to the full interview. And below are some highlights.
On the subject matter for her new book, Mothers and Daughters:
“I was certainly watching with interest as lots of my friends’ daughters grew up and life started becoming a lot rockier. I really wanted to write about that issue, I definitely wanted to write about that issue before my own daughter hits her teenage years – she’s 12 and a half, so I’m very happy that the novel has come out. No one can read it and think ‘that’s Kylie’s daughter who’s the bitch!’”
On blurring fiction and reality:
“None of my characters in any of my novels are ever a direct copy of someone, that would just be cheating, that wouldn’t be very interesting at all. But, that said, you can’t help but absorb what is going on around you, particularly if you are a psychologist as well as a novelist, like I am.”
On writing about anything she sees:
“I’m just warning everybody, as Nora Ephron famously said, ‘Everything is copy’…There’s nothing that is sacred, it can all be used.”
On her search for ideas:
“I’m one of those writers that has no ideas. I teach creative writing and I’m always impressed with my students who say they’re bursting with ideas and they carry notebooks around, as I do, but mine are empty.”
On the inspiration to begin a new novel:
All I need is a word. Once I have a word I’m happy to let that word sit there for a few months and percolate away while I’m finishing the novel before.”
On writing to a theme:
“If I’m going to work on something for a year and a half, I’m going to write roughly 100,000 words about it, it’s got to be something that at its core I’m interested and I think having a theme it gives me a rudder or a keel or something, it weighs me back in the book, it reminds me, ‘What am I trying to do here?'”
On the importance of getting to know your characters:
“That was really important with Mothers and Daughters because I’m dealing with four white middle-aged women and four white teenage girls, all from a sort of middle-class Australian background, so they’re very similar demographically, so I needed them to be very distinct to me in terms of their personalities and their attributes.
“I found it much harder to write my four Australian women and make them all distinct and interesting than I did to write about the different culture, which I hadn’t expected.”
On struggling to find a home for her first book, After the Fall:
“I was widely rejected all over Europe and North America, as well as Australia. After the Fall was rejected roughly 40 times in Australia and in the UK…Easily 40. I think I stopped counting after 40, it was too dispiriting.”
And on the literary speed dating event that got it ultimately published:
“We were at the Melbourne Town Hall [as part of a writers’ festival] and we had 10 minutes each with 10 different publishers from 10 publishing houses. In that 10 minutes we had to sit down and pitch our novels as effectively and efficiently as we could, and then the bell would ring and we would hand over our piece of paper with the one page notes or synopsis or what have you and move onto the next one…I think I came out of that about 10 kilograms smaller than when I went in!”
On her social media platform of choice:
“The thing I love about Twitter is it’s short. I love the 140 character limit. I like the immediacy of Twitter. I like that I can be short and sharp and still be getting something out there, or saying something, or joining in a discussion or have an opinion.”
On the ‘glamorous’ life of a writer:
“It’s not glamorous at all. There are glamorous moments — they’re lovely, those moments, but they’re not the sum total and they’re not all that common either. A lot of it is sitting in my pyjamas or my track suit pants with the holes in them and wanting to beat my head against my desk.”
Kylie conjures up some imagery:
“I have to admit, I find writing very, very difficult. Sometimes a sentence or two, the words will flow, but mostly I feel like I’m drawing them out of me like a tapeworm or something…”
And a final piece of advice:
“Be prepared to be clear-eyed about the industry and what you expect from it… Be prepared for it to be a hard slog… Be persistent.
“I think authors need to be very honest about what they do too, because a lot of people are very starry-eyed. They think it is all champagne and book tours, and it’s not. There’s tapeworms in there as well.”