Kylie Ladd is a novelist and freelance writer. Kylie’s first novel, After the Fall, was published in Australia, the US and Turkey, while her second, Last Summer, was highly commended in the 2011 Federation of Australian Writers Christina Stead Award for fiction.
Kylie’s third novel, Into My Arms, has been selected as one of Get Reading’s Fifty Books You Can’t Put Down for 2013. She holds a PhD in neuropsychology, and lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and two children. Visit her here.
NAW- Tell us about your book, Mothers and Daughters. How did you get the idea for it? What is it about?
Mothers and Daughters is about four middle-aged women on a girls’ trip away in the far northwest of Australia with their four teenage daughters. I have a 12 year old daughter myself but have a number of friends with older girls, and it was watching the change in their relationships with their daughters as the daughters hit puberty that made me want to explore the territory… as the blurb on my book says, ‘How can we let our daughters go to forge lives of their own when what we most want to do is hold them close and never let them go? How do we let them grow and keep them protected from the dark things in the world at the same time? And how can mothers and daughters navigate the troubled, stormy waters of adolescence without hurting themselves and each other?’
NAW- There is more than one story in Mothers and Daughters. Why did you choose to focus on more than one family?
One family only would have been too restricting. Everyone is different, everyone has different experiences. I definitely wanted to portray the “Queen Bee” type teenage girl- popular, pretty, privileged- and what makes her tick, but I was just as interested in the more gangly and introverted type of teen, or the Goth who wants to make a statement about who she is by what she wears, and the one who actually loves and values her mother. Their mothers, of course, are all different too, which set up lots of interesting interactions for me to play with.
NAW- What can a novice reader expect from Mothers and Daughters?
I know that in some ways my book looks like a bit of a light read- girls’ trip, gorgeous beaches, cocktails, sun- and I hope it is easy to read, but I also hope it makes readers think… about ageing and racism and how the way you are parented affects your own parenting, about friendship and body image and what it really means to belong somewhere.
NAW- Do you carry out a lot of research before you start writing? Tell us about the research you did for Mothers and Daughters.
As a general rule, yes- my last book, which dealt with the syndrome of genetic sexual attraction and also the vagaries of how asylum seekers are processed in Australia took quite a lot of research well before I began writing. Mothers and Daughters was easier in that way as I had already been observing my friends’ relationships, and I am, and have, a daughter myself. My family lived for a year in Broome a few years ago, which is one of the most beautiful places in the world and gave me the setting of the book, though I did still do quite a bit of research into how remote Aboriginal communities function and the impact of the missions and the Stolen Generation on that part of Australia.
NAW- Please tell us about your publishing journey. How did you get into writing?
Like most writers I know, I have always, always wanted to write, and was an early and voracious reader. I’ve been making up and writing down stories since I was in primary school, so novels were really just a natural progression. That said, the first two novels I wrote have never seen the light of day, and my first published novel, After The Fall, was rejected over 40 times before it finally found a home. I wished many times in those years that I could give writing up, but I never could- I just kept plodding on. Persistence, in this business, is easily as important as talent!
NAW- Tell us about your other works.
Mothers and Daughters is my fourth novel, and all my novels are about relationships – lovers in After The Fall, friends in Last Summer, and family, or blood ties, really, in Into My Arms. It’s just a theme or area I’m drawn to, I guess… in addition to writing, I am a practising psychologist, so maybe it’s just my nature that I’m nosy about people, that I want to know how they tick.
NAW- Tell us about yourself. What do you do when you are not writing?
As I said, I work as a neuropsychologist for 3 days each week, which keeps me busy (and funds the writing!) I also have two children, a teenage son and my daughter, who seem to require feeding or being driven somewhere every time I look up. I still adore reading- my idea of a perfect day would be spending it at the beach with my family and a good book (family optional), and when I get the chance I love to run and swim. These started being for my fitness, but I now know how crucial they are for managing stress and worry, and for sorting out plotting problems- they’re the closet thing I have to meditation.
NAW- Please name your favourite writers. Are there any who you’d like to name as an inspiration?
Michael Ondaatje, Tony Morrison, F Scott Fitzgerald, Garrison Keillor, Lionel Shriver, Siri Hustvedt, Tim Winton, Mordechai Richler, AS Byatt, Margaret Atwood, David Vann, Pat Barker, Sebastian Faulks, John Irving, Joanna Trollope… I could go on, but you’d have to edit them all out!
NAW-What are you currently reading?
I’m half way through- and thoroughly enjoying- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. It’s that perfect sort of book for me, one that entertains but constantly prods me to think, to ponder, and I don’t ever want it to end. Other great reads lately include Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates, After Darkness by Christine Piper (another book partially set in Broome) and Looking for Alaska by John Green (my daughter is forcing me to read the entire John Green backlist. Luckily, so far it’s very enjoyable.) Next in line after Americanah is Catherine Harris’ new novel The Family Men, which I’m dying to read. So many books, so little time!
NAW- What will you be working on next?
I’m about ten thousand words into what I hope will be my fifth novel. I’m very superstitious about saying too much about works in progress, in case that scares them away, but it’s much darker territory than Mothers and Daughters. When I was in grade three, a girl in my class was abducted. She has never been found, and I have never stopped thinking about her, wondering what happened. My new novel isn’t her story, but it’s a story I have to explore.