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Interview with Kylie Ladd, author of Last Summer and After the Fall

I’ve been a big fan of Kylie’s ever since reading After the Fall, her first novel. Her latest release, Last Summer, begins with the death of Rory, the heart and soul of  Yarra Yarra cricket club, and explores the fallout among his extended group of friends. Told from an impressive nine points of view, Kylie addresses themes of love, grief, aging, marriage, and parenthood, and the story is full of Kylie’s hallmarks: psychological insight, beautifully crafted writing, and characters you feel instantly connected to, despite their flaws. You can find out more about Kylie and her books at www.kylieladd.com.au, and I’d highly recommend following her on Twitter (@kylie_ladd). I’m thrilled that Kylie agreed to answer my questions, and I’m already looking forward to her next release. Over to Kylie…

1. Why did you decide to write Last Summer?

The book was inspired, for want of a better word, by the unexpected death of one of my husband’s close friends, a guy he had played cricket and footy with for many years – and I’ve actually written a whole blog about this over at Lisa Heidke’s website. But as well as that, having written about romantic love in my previous novel, After The Fall, this time around I wanted to write about friendship. My husband has played club cricket for over three decades now, and is still going strong. Some of the relationships he has made in that time are like blood to him, and how he and his mates can still seem to need to dissect a game six hours after it has finished never fails to amaze me. I find the whole group psychology thing fascinating… a long established group, be that of Uni friends or teammates or work colleagues, is almost like a marriage, with all the compromises and resentments and deep understanding that entails, and I wanted to dive into that.

2. What do you find essential to sustain or encourage your writing brain? (e.g. food, drink, music, etc.). Do you have any other writing habits?

I have no writing habits other than, it seems, stuffing around for hours at the start of my writing day (of which I have three a week) then finally getting into gear when I suddenly realise I only have a few hours until 3:30. The threat of the school bell is the greatest incitement to write I have ever come across – once that goes, it’s all over for the day. Other than that, there’s nothing special I do to get the muse to show up. I’m quite used to starting without her.

3. If you could live the life of any fictional character (book or film), who would you be and why?

Robinson Crusoe. I really love the beach.

4. If you weren’t a writer, what else would you like to be?

A hairdresser. Or a bank teller. In fact, I dream about these professions on a regular basis, usually when it is 3 o’clock and I am still 550 words off my 1000 words/day goal…. Oh, how I long to be doing something productive and straightforward and that you can go home from feeling good about yourself, rather than lying awake that night wondering if you dare re-read over the chapter you’ve just finished and if it’s even more rubbish than you already suspect. Swimsuit model would be good too (the beach again), but so far I haven’t been able to find an agency.

5. Who inspires you in life?

Big question! My mum has always inspired me – she decided to become a doctor at the age of 40, with three young kids, and having left school without passing Year 11. That she went on and did so is a constant reminder that dreams can come true – particularly if you’re prepared to put in years of hard work. In terms of authors, Toni Morrison is unable to write a bad sentence. Every one of hers is as exquisitely turned as a Bentwood chair, supple and strong. Also Joanna Trollope, who I suspect is often under-rated, simply for how well she can pin characters to the page and make them squirm.

6. How would your ideal day go?

Any day where I get 1000 words I am happy with is a perfect day, it really is. That probably sounds like a cop out, but I came to writing in my thirties, after eleven years studying for another profession, and I’m just so grateful to be finally doing something I truly love and occasionally even get paid for. The only way it could get any better would be if I could find a way to write on the beach… but I keep getting sand in my laptop.

7. You’re about to get parachuted on to a desert island for a month, Survivor style – and you’re allowed to take three books. What would you take and why?

This sounds like my Robinson Crusoe fantasy! If it really was in Survivor style I guess I’d need Robison Crusoe, so I could see how he survived, plus 101 Tasty Ways With Turtles And Other Easy To Catch Aquatic Species, and my Girl Guide handbook, so I could brush up on my knots and semaphore.  If, however, I’m being parachuted into Club Med I’d pack the biggest, thickest books I could find – War and Peace, definitely, all of Proust, and maybe Of Human Bondage. All a bit intimidating, I admit, but I could get through a lot of books in a month doing nothing, and I’d hate to run out!

8. What have you learned during the course of writing and publishing your novels?

That EVERYONE hates their novels at some stage of writing them, and often on a daily basis. That the muse is utterly unreliable and not to be trusted. That Twitter will sing such a sweet siren song to you that the only way to defeat it will be to unplug your laptop and go and work in the kitchen where you can’t get wifi (pathetic, I know). That being published won’t automatically make you happier, richer or a better person… but also that the first time you see your name on a book is right up there with the first time you see your children, although with the added bonus that you won’t need stiches afterwards.

9. What do you hope people take away from reading your book?

An overwhelming desire to buy 100 more copies to pass out to their family and friends, and particularly that great-uncle who is the literary editor at the New York Times. Otherwise, though, I simply hope people come away from my books having enjoyed them, and, while they were reading them, having believed in their world. Being asked about my characters as if they were real people is the greatest compliment I have ever been given.

10. What’s next on the horizon for you?

Finishing my next book! By some fluke of timing (and the fact that publishing moves at a pace that can make glaciers look reckless) I should complete the novel I am working on, Into My Arms, not long after Last Summer comes out. A first draft anyway… Finishing a book is almost as scary as starting one, and right up there with having one launched. To be honest, it’s all terrifying… but I still love it.

It’s been a pleasure chatting to you, Kylie (and your mum sounds incredible!) Good luck with your writing, and I’m really looking forward to reading Into My Arms.