Guest Blog: Kylie Ladd

Kylie Ladd is an inspirational, amazing woman – in fact, I’m not sure I know anyone with as many letters behind their surname , as she has!

Kylie is another of my Allen and Unwin friends – she had her first fiction novel, After the Fall published by them in 2009, so along with Lisa Heidke and I, Kylie calls us the  ‘Allen & Unwinettes!’ It’s lovely to be lumped into a such a supportive and friendly bunch!

For me, writing and being published, is something that has come around, quite unexpectedly. For Kylie, it was just going to be a matter of time. She is a freelance writer whose essays and articles have appeared in The Age, Griffith Review, Etchings, O magazine, The Sydney Morning Herald, Good Medicine, Sydney’s Child, and Readers Digest, amongst others. In 2006 she co-authored Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias (Michelle Anderson Publishing), and in 2008 co-edited Naked: Confessions of Adultery and Infidelity (Allen and Unwin). She holds a PhD in neuropsychology and continues to work in public and private practice in this field. (See? Very clever!)

Kylie jokes that her husband, Craig, has been going through a midlife crisis… I would have to say, at least a ‘sea-change crisis’ as, why else would her family just up and move from Melbourne to Broome for a year?! Lisa and I were quite amazed when Kylie told us what was happening in her life and Lisa said ‘Well, at least Craig is taking you and the kids with him!’

Being in Broome is only going to accentuate her love of reading, swimming, running, the beach, reading, eating, reading, her PC and reading!

Kyle’s novel, After The Fall, is about the aftermath of an affair-  what happens when you meet the love of your life, but they’re married to somebody else and as had rave reviews (check out www.kylieladd.com to read them and be able to follow her on Twitter and Facebook.)

She’s happy to answer any of your questions and will be giving away TWO signed copies of After the Fall. I can say, that I have to agree with all the reviews, I’ve read on Kylie’s site – it is a page tuner, a breath holder, and an un-put-downable book.

So, without further ado, here’s Kylie…!

Kylie –

When I first heard Fleur’s writing back story- after meeting her on Facebook through a mutual friend and fellow Allen and Unwin author, Lisa Heidke- I was astonished. Actually, I was gobsmacked. Red Dust, I was amazed to read, was Fleur’s first novel and was picked up, without an agent, by the first publisher she sent it to. My own journey to publication was a little more circuitous…

I first decided I wanted to be a writer at the age of eight, when in my free time at school I penned a novella (OK, it was about 100 words and it was in texta, not pen, but stay with me) called “Pip and Peppy go to boarding school”.  I’m not sure it was particularly original- I was a huge fan of Enid Blyton’s ‘Malory Towers’ series of boarding school books at the time- but I loved writing it and imagining all the adventures my two doggy protagonists got up to. I probably should admit that as much as I loved writing it, I loved what happened next even more: my adored teacher adored my manuscript, gave me five house points and read it out loud to the class, who were duly encouraged to clap. I kept Pip and Peppy, and I can tell you that it’s really pretty ordinary, but every would-be writer should be gifted with such a reception for their first book. God bless you, Mrs Whitla.

I continued to write stories all through primary and secondary school, switching to terrible tortured poetry at university. By this time my long-held plan to study journalism and become a real writer had been overturned by my parents (you can read the whole terrible story here: http://bit.ly/a5gb2B ), and I found myself studying psychology via a short and ill-fated detour into medicine. Thankfully, I discovered that psychology was also full of stories, full of motive and deliberation and impulse, and came to love it, eventually completing a Bachelor’s, Master’s and then PhD in the area.

But I never stopped wanting to write, and to write something other than academic papers or grant applications. A year after I finished my PhD, my husband was relocated to Edinburgh with his work, and I happily threw in my own job and our life in Melbourne to go with him. Edinburgh will always be incredibly dear to me: it was where I had my first child and wrote my first novel. I’d always wanted to write, and suddenly here was my chance: though I’d secured a job at the University of Edinburgh before we left Australia, it took six months for the funding for the position to come through, and while I was waiting, I wrote. That first novel was dreadful- “Pip and Peppy” had greater literary merit- and I think I knew that all along, but it was still an incredibly useful exercise… nine months after we’d arrived in Scotland I had a 100,000 word manuscript, the knowledge that I could do the hard yards of actually sitting and thinking and writing day after day, but more importantly the realisation that that was all I really wanted to do.

I stopped writing to have a baby, wrote a second unpublishable (though slightly better) novel, moved to Canada, had another baby, and eventually- unable to return to psychology in Montreal due to language laws and my French being limited to ‘croissant’ and ‘Yoplait’- began a third novel. During this time I also made my first forays into freelance journalism, which I kept up when we returned to Australia. Over the next five years I was published in The Age, Good Health, Reader’s Digest, SMH, Oprah magazine, Griffith Review, Good Weekend and a slew of parenting magazines and websites- particularly Sydney’s Child, who were incredibly generous with their advice and encouragement. I learnt a lot in those freelance years. I learnt about writing to deadline and to a proscribed length; I learnt about tailoring my work for differing audiences and different editors; I learnt about being edited (the horror!) and eventually how to edit myself. It was all fabulous experience, and I loved the regular publication and pay cheques… but I still wanted to write fiction.

By this time the third novel, which I’d begun in Canada, had been finished, sent out to publishers, roundly rejected and shoved in a drawer with the other two attempts. Undeterred (OK, rather seriously deterred, but unable to give up) I turned to non-fiction, and had two books published: Living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias (arising from my work as a neuropsychologist) in 2006, and Naked: Confessions of Adultery and Infidelity (arising from my innate voyeurism) in 2008. A few months before Naked came out I saw an ad in the Victorian Writer’s Centre newsletter asking for submissions for a literary speed-dating event at the upcoming Emerging Writers Festival. Successful candidates would be allotted ten minutes each with ten different publishers to pitch their work… I hauled out my third manuscript, dusted it off and wrote my application.

Luckily (oh, how grateful I am for this) I was one of the ten selected to participate from around 300 submissions. The session itself was rather intimidating… actually, it was pure, distilled, essence of terror: ten meetings of ten minutes with ten publishers trying to convince them that they should publish- or at least read- your manuscript; almost two solid hours of non-stop pitchpitchpitch. It worked, though. The next day I had emails from five of the ten publishers present asking to see my book. Elated but confused, I called the agent I had only just acquired when Naked was sold, explained the story to her (given my track record, I hadn’t even told her I’d written any fiction) and she swung into action. An agent is a beautiful thing: Pippa (not Pippy, but ooh- how symbolic) read my third novel, suggested ways I could improve it and held my hand through the rewrite, then sent it out to the interested parties, having in the interim explained the situation to each.

Within six months she had an offer from Allen and Unwin. After The Fall was published in 2009, almost exactly ten years to the day I started writing my first novel in Edinburgh in 1999. It’s been a fascinating if somewhat convoluted journey… frustrating and depressing at times (writing is hard and lonely work; rejections suck, and they continue to suck even after you’ve had your fair share), but ultimately incredibly rewarding. Hopefully it’s one I will continue on: after its publication in Australia, After The Fall was picked up by Random House in the US and will be released there in June. My second novel (sadly currently titleless) has just been signed by Allen and Unwin and will come out around this time next year. On the personal side, my family has once again relocated- we’re having a year’s sea change in Broome in the far north of WA, where I’m attempting to write what I hope will be my third published novel, and not just spend every day at Cable Beach. Broome is wonderful. I love the climate and the calmer pace, all the new experiences my children are having here. It’s only a small town, but thankfully we live opposite the wonderful public library… where just three days ago I borrowed the first Malory Towers book for my own 8 year old daughter.  Who knows what journeys it will take her on?

Comments 17

  1. Great story Kylie. I loved After the Fall and the ending, wow! So much truth in what you write and the feelings involved. Can’t wait for your next one.

  2. Thank you so much Fleur for this guest post!

    Kylie – I’m so glad to finally read this journey of yours, as I have wondered about it. I’ve always been fascinated by how an author comes to do what he/she does, and as you know, I’m enjoying After The Fall VERY much right now. (In fact, I’m off to sneak in another couple of chapters before I take the dog for a walk!)

    Thank you for sharing this story. Wonderful!

    PS – We had to write a novella in school – mine was called ‘Sailing Towards The Right Choice’. It was very much along the lines of the Sweet Dream romance novels I was reading at the time! I still have it, and even though I cringe when I read it, it is such a great memory of the process of writing it. Our teacher had us making character profiles and drafting storylines. We had to write it in draft form first, then write the final copy. Loved it! Thanks for bringing back that memory. Might have to dig that out later today!

  3. Goosebumps. You didn’t get lucky, you bloody deserved every good thing that comes your way.

    Best, you are such a lovely, sharing soul that will go out of your way to talk to everyone which I think is very cool.

    My daughter just finished Little Women and gave it to me and said “Mum, read this, it’s kind of sad towards to end”. And then, she went on to read Heidi. Wondering what I should get her next?

  4. Let me re-write that first line “You didn’t get lucky, you bloody well deserve every good thing that comes your way”. That’s better, not so backyardigans.

  5. Another opportunity to be amazed by you, Dr. Ladd? Well, damn straight! You give me hope that I can swing this fiction caper, if only I have the persistence and talent (via much revision, obviously). Again, thrilled to have ‘discovered’ you on these crazy interwebs! 😉

  6. Thank you Fleur.
    Thank you Kylie.
    It is always good (and helpful) to hear how writers come into being.
    I now await the publication of “Pip and Peppy go to boarding school”.

  7. Fleur & Kylie – thanks for sharing this! I love reading about how writers came to do what they do; everyone has travelled a unique path. Learning about them really helps other aspiring writers to keep going.

    Thanks xx

  8. What a wonderful and inspiring story. It really demonstrates just how important perserverance is when it comes to getting published. Great post!

  9. Awesome story! So true that the journey is as important as the destination. You’ve lived, you’ve loved, you’ve published. I lived in Edinburgh some years ago too, after finishing my journalism degree… which didn’t get me any closer to being a published writer by the way. It got me a job at the Royal Bank of Scotland! That city has a special place in my heart too. It was a few years after J.K youknowwho but I could see the appeal of that elephant cafe (did you know it’s where she wrote HP? I’m sure you did).

    I can still picture my skinny 10-year-old self sitting on the couch while my siblings played or watched TV, scribbling with a fury unmatched. My manuscript was about twins (it was always about twins) who were vying to compete in an international ping pong championship, and to do so they had to stow away on a ship to go on a treasure hunt to find the last ping pong. Or something.

    You are inspirational. And PS, what Bern said too.
    x

  10. What an amazing and inspirational journey Kylie – it is interesting reading how someone gets to where they are at any given point in time. It humbles us as we realise that…yes…everyone (not just ourselves) has their ups and downs but that’s what makes us who we are. Besides how can you girls write a fabulous story without a bit of personal growth and experience in your lives!! I think there are many girls who wanted to be a writer when they grew up, no doubt encouraged by those wonderful adventure stories we all read as kids, and what a wonderful dream to have. I realise now that I am definitely not meant to be an author – I love a good read but can’t put a story together to save myself! So I will continue on in my role as general dogsbody and plotter of story lines to my fabulous friend Fleur and look eagerly for each new book from this group of Allen and Unwinettes.
    PS I agree with Booktopia – Pip and Peppy go to Boarding School sounds like a great read!

  11. Great blog, guys!
    Kylie, you’re so right – writing can be lonely and frustrating at times and rejections definitely suck! However, persistence is the key – or at least one of the main ones, in addition to taking advice from editors. I loved After The Fall and can’t wait to read your next novel in April 2011.

  12. I am no writer, have never even wanted to be because I just don’t have stories in my head. But I am a reader and I love hearing the real life stories about how writers get their stories out there. I’m in awe of writers and am forever grateful you exist so I can continue to read.

    Do stories just pop into your head? Or do you have to actively create them??

  13. Thanks Thea… the idea, the ‘what-if’ seems to pop into my head (though often inspired by something I’ve overheard or experienced or seen in the paper), but not all ideas become stories. I have a Word document I strated about 8 years ago with those story ideas and what-if moments written down- there would be about 100, and when I look at the list some are quite interesting… but I can’t just make up an entire book-length story from one or two sentences! What seems to happen is that the ideas percolate, and what I really want to write about eventually bubbles to the surface. By the time that happens I have a few more ideas about hwo and what actually happens- what I’m trying to say is that the novels I’ve written so far have evolved at the back of my mind over a year or two. I can feel what I think (hope!) is my next one forming now, and I get glimpses of it occasionally on the horizon- but just glimpses, because I’m really concentrating on the one I’m writing now and will be for at least another year. The trick is not to look too hard at the one in the distnace in case you scare it off, and just trust that when the moment is right it will turn up ready to go.
    Phew- hope that makes sense. It was a surprisingly tough question!

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