Industry Insider: Kylie Ladd on why the writing shouldn’t get any easier

Posted on May 3, 2013

INDUSTRY INSIDER: KYLIE LADD ON WRITINGKylie Ladd, one of my very favourite ‘acclaimed Australian authors‘, launched her third book Into My Arms this week.

I met Kylie on Twitter in my very earliest weeks, and she was and is all of the good things: smart, funny, engaging, friendly. I read her first book After The Fall soon after, and was hooked.

Last time she visited, we talked about characters and voice and lots of other good writing stuff. This time, well … read on.

Now that you have your third book, do you think that the writing gets easier or more difficult as you go along?
Kylie Ladd: “It should be easier, and in some ways it is, because I have the psychological crutch of knowing that I have done this before, a number of times now, and thus there’s no reason I can’t do it again. But really, every book is different, and every book should be harder if you’re also pushing for it to be better than your last (and if you aren’t, why not?), so the short answer is no, not at all. They’re all their own individual forms of hell.”

Do you finish each book with an idea of what the next one might be about?
Kylie Ladd: “Thankfully I do. It’s never a clear, fully-formed idea, but usually as I come into the final 20 or 30,000 words of whatever I’m working on I can sense something glimmering out of the corner of my eye. The trick is not to look at it directly – for one, I might scare it away. More importantly, though, it’s not a time for playing with new ideas – I need to keep my eyes on the horizon so I can steer the story I’m telling into shore.

“It is a comfort to have it there though. I’m not one of those writers who has a thousand ideas before bed each day – usually I only have one every few years, and then I have to make sure I can make it last the length of a book. I’m at the 75,000 word mark of my next (hopefully, fourth) novel now, and I can just feel something beginning to take shape at the edges of my brain. I really hope it’s a new novel, and not a migraine.”

Relationships of one form or another are at the heart of all your books – what’s the most difficult thing about writing about relationships?
Kylie Ladd: “Keeping them real. Having my characters do and say things that real people do, and not what I want them do to move the plot along or work in a nice piece of exposition or what have you. I also get a bit nervous about writing male characters, in case I get the voice wrong, but hopefully I’m getting over that. At the end of the day we’re all people first and foremost.”

You’re an author who doesn’t blog, FB, pin or all the rest – though you do Tweet. Do you agree with Charlotte Wood that ‘branding is junk‘? Or is there another reason you don’t get too involved?
Kylie Ladd: “Oooh, I didn’t know Charlotte said that. I like her even more now! I can definitely see the importance of branding to some extent, but I’m not sure it would be worth it for me. I don’t really think I’m all that interesting… but hopefully my novels are, so that’s what I’d rather work on and put my effort into.

“The other reason I don’t get too involved, as you say, is time (see next question!) and, to be honest, that thing I mentioned above about my general dearth of ideas. I have blogged in the past in a paid position (I know! But not paid much) and while I enjoyed it and am proud of what I produced in that year I found that it didn’t leave much in my tank for my fiction; that I was using insights and ideas and quandaries that I normally would’ve explored or addressed in a novel in my weekly column instead, and then I wasn’t much interested in them anymore or felt I couldn’t go over them again. Also, the pressure to always have something fresh and new and well-punctuated coming along did my head in. (NB. I do actually Facebook. Clearly not that well though!)”

How in the world do you fit being a successful author around being a parent AND a part-time job as a neuropsychologist?
Kylie Ladd: “By not blogging. Seriously though, it’s about discipline- it’s about setting aside time to write and refusing to let myself be talked into going out to lunch or seeing a private patient or even meeting for coffee on those days. It’s about keeping them so sacrosanct that one of my kids would have to be in the ER before I got up from the desk. It’s about allowing myself a bit of time to muck around on Twitter but then unplugging my computer and going to work in the kitchen or backyard if necessary so I can get something done without being lured astray by the siren song of the internet. (We don’t have wireless so I can accomplish this. My children believe we are living in the stone age.)

“Reading back, this all sounds a bit obsessive, but something I always say to my creative writing students is that the first rule of being a  writer is to write. They all look at me like I’m nuts (Write. I paid money for this?), but it’s true. When you can write – and for most of us, that time is limited – the writing must come first.”

Visit Kylie at her website, or say hello on Twitter (or, apparently, on Facebook!).


  1. Kelly Exeter

    I do believe in love at first sight – that said, it was anything but for me and my darling husband (who I have been with since we were 17… More than half our lives!). We met in Human Biology lab at Uni and the first thing he ever said to me was ‘can I borrow your pencil’. And I thought ‘what kind of disorganised loser rocks up to the first week of Uni classes sans pencils?!’

  2. Linda Nathaniel

    Doug had all the swoon-like charms with chiselled cheekbones, teeth-perfect smile and wavy hair that you just wanted your fingers to become entangled with at every opportunity. Being aware of his showbiz pizazz, he wore designer label spectacles for added intensity. But, it was his voice that immediately captivated me. He could say anything and sound utterly captivating. Just the way his jaw moved when he spoke, provoked excitement. It was impossible not to be dazzled by that dimpled expression.

  3. Sara

    Kylie, you are speaking my language – ‘They are all their own individual forms of hell’ – as I also get cracking on book 4! As for love at first sight – I do remember the first time I saw my husband, eighteen years ago with a cup of tea in his hand in my kitchen at uni – I thought he was gorgeous then, and I think he’s fabulous now. It’s a totally different love today, of course – all those shared experiences have made it deeper, more intricate and complex, but through all that we have had the opportunity to fall in love again and again in all sorts of different ways.
    So, before I get too mushy, I’m really meant to be writing at the moment… must go!!! Thanks for a great interview.

  4. Kate Belle

    I have spent my life chasing the ‘love at first sight’ experience to no avail. As middle age and married, don’t think it’s gonna happen. Perhaps that’s why I keep writing about unrequited love.
    Kylie I LOVE your refreshing take on social media. I have recently discovered I’m an addict. I love the connections it’s brought but it EATS so much time.
    I actually posted this comment yesterday on my ipad, but it didn’t work, so rather than letting it go I had to come back today on the computer and try again.

  5. Bec

    not sure about love at first sight but definitely infatuation at first sight but true love definitely takes time – I just have to look at my grandparents who were married for almost 60 years – they were married by proxy (didn’t meet each other til she arrived here in Australia) but they had a great love

  6. Janine Fitzpatrick

    No, have never fallen in love at first sight, I’m more a “slow burn” kinda girl. Although maybe that is to do with the fact the man I did end up in love with falls into the “catatonically slow” category. It takes YEARS for this man to do ANYTHING. Hence a five year relationship before marriage. Although once he does commit he’s a stayer, given the marriage itself is in it’s 17th year.

  7. Donna

    Brilliant post; as always it is very inspiring! I’m a fan too and cant wait to read this!

    As for love at first sight, does it count that for my husband Tony this was the case? He and I were introduced by my then boyfriend’s best mate (Adam) on a golf course when I was a fresh faced 19 year old and he 22. While I thought him friendly, but shy, I didn’t pay much attention to him as I was otherwise occupied 🙂 Fast forward 4 and a half years, when Adam suddenly died and Tony and I were introduced again, he told me he remembered me from all those years before – so much so that he recalled exactly what outfit I was wearing that day! Now it could have been the journalist in him, with an knack for storing information securely for years to come, but I like to think, over 14 years later from that first fateful day it was all due to love at first sight 🙂

  8. Cassie

    Three times.. I have fallen in love at first sight three times. To this day, I’m still in love with each one of them. It hasn’t always been smooth. At times, they drive me mad, make me cry, become a crazy person. But I will love them with my whole heart till the day I die. And I will always be grateful to the love of my life, my husband, for giving me my life’s big loves – Ruby, Sasha and Lucy. Girls – it was love at first sight, and it will remain so until my eyes close for the last time.

  9. therhythmmethod

    Love these Q&As, Al for being so generous with her time, and Kylie for such great insights. I’m really looking forward to reading this book (love the Nick Cave reference).
    I wouldn’t say I fell in love at first sight, but it was definitely a very quick courtship with Mr Karen. On our first proper date, as he showed me around his newly purchased weatherboard by the sea, he asked me where I wanted to put my vegie patch. How could I resist such cheekiness?
    The weatherboard is now our family home.

  10. Jodi Gibson

    Oh I’m a huge Kylie Ladd fan. I loved Last Summer and After the Fall. Kylie has a knack of writing characters that are so real, you feel as if they could be your next door neighbours. I do love her writing style and can’t wait to read Into my arms.

    I’m going to be a little bit of a party-pooper and say that I actually don’t believe in ‘love’ at first sight. Sure we can fall in lust at first sight, (as I do every time I watch an episode of The Good Wife, but that’s another story)but I think love is a more complex emotion to feel instantaneously. Although I do believe there can be an underlying chemistry that is more than lust when you meet someone, and this leaves all sorts of things open!

  11. Jenn J McLeod

    How very timely. I fell in love at first site thirty years ago YESTERDAY and I SPENT THE DAY celebrating the fact that one person has put up with me ever since!!!! Yes, I found my soulmate – totally unexpected by family and friends and everyone said “she’ll wake up.” or “it’s just a rebellious phase” and “it’s just a fling. It won’t last.” Well, haven’t I shown them!

  12. ~stinkb0mb~

    Yes, though I didn’t realise it at the time. I remember looking at him and thinking to myself – “Could I spend the rest of my life with this man?”, that was on the first night we met. At the time I didn’t realise that I’d begun to fall in love with him, at first sight, so quickly but I had.

    3 weeks after we started dating he proposed to me. We became engaged before we lived together – I was living in London, him the North West of England, we were commuting that distance twice a weekend to spend time together. 3 months after he proposed, I quit my job and moved up and in with him. 11 months after meeting we got married.

    So many said it wouldn’t last – it happened too quick, the age difference [there are 10 years, 3 months between us] etc

    14 years later, 13 of them married, not only have we proved them wrong but I fall a little more in love with him every single day.

    It can happen – if you’re lucky, which I know I was and am.

    Rach aka stinkb0mb

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