I see writing as having a conversation with life. It’s a purge of all your experiences, imaginings and curiosities all balled up in some semblance of a plot. I absolutely love doing it. It is one of the few things I do that seems to come naturally, that feels like the right fit for me.
How did you come to writing?
For sanity preservation reasons when home on maternity leave with my third son. I was fairly housebound, under-stimulated, overtired, and wanted a piece of the day that was only for me. I started writing, and haven’t stopped.
What were your greatest obstacles starting out? How did you overcome them?
I had a short path to publication (paved with luck) so I feel rather guilty that I didn’t face too many obstacles. My first novel, Losing Kate, was picked up by Random House a few weeks after I sent them a sample in the slush pile, and went on become translated internationally. That’s not to say I didn’t have my fair share of self-doubt (and still do). You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t wonder if your writing stank, if it would ever see the light of day. I still struggle with the promotional side of things and public interviews and panels. I am a writer, not an ‘appear-er.’ But you can’t sell a secret, so social media and all the fluff that goes with it is part of the game. Authors needs to realise they are not just a writer, they are a business owner, in a way.
How do you keep yourself motivated and disciplined?
Unlike exercise, I love to write, so I don’t find it a chore or invent excuses to avoid it. Because I’m a pantser, I occasionally need to wait for my ideas to ferment and clarify enough for me to write them, so I write in fits and starts. Book three, a suspense, has more twists and turns than my first two women’s fiction titles, so it’s taken a while to piece together. I’ve imposed a daily word limit to push through to the end which I find helps me keep my head in the story – even if you write a few hundred words a day, it keeps your mind incubating ideas, and living with your characters so you can get to know them better.
How do you manage your writing time with everything else you do? How has that changed from when you were starting out?
I do find life gets in the way – I have three young sons, so finding the head-space is a challenge. I write in snippets of stolen time, so often I find I need to re-read what I last wrote to re-connect, but by then, often someone is spear-tackling the other and when I come back to the computer I’m clueless again. I find writing subsequent books more challenging than when I wrote my debut – you create your first book in a complete vacuum, void of any expectation. Now it feels like I have an invisible audience lurking in my living room!
Where do you write? How do you arrange your working space?
I basically write in my head while pushing the trolley, waiting at kid’s tennis lessons, making porridge, etc., then purge out the day’s fermented thoughts when the chores are done and I can be alone with my beloved computer. I used to write everywhere, in bed, on the couch, at the library café, but I try to be kinder to my posture now and stick to my cluttered desk with the raised monitor (tip for young players – set up your desk ergonomically! Your body will thank you!).
What are your essential writing tools?
My voice. That’s all I need. It’s the only thing that makes me different from someone else. All the rest is distraction. In the words of Oscar Wilde, be yourself – everybody else is already taken. Don’t dilute your personality. It is the one thing that makes you distinct.
What’s the one thing you wish you’d known when you were starting out as a writer?
Don’t put off writing until you ‘know how’. There are no rules. Learn as you go.
What do you read and how do you read as a writer?
They say writers should read widely to learn from different forms, but I think life is too short to read genres you don’t connect with, and will therefore never write. So I’ve only ever read for fun. But my bookshelf is rather eclectic – thrillers, mysteries, romance, and women’s fiction. When I first became totally engrossed in improving my writing, I did find it hard to not see every novel as a text book. A learning opportunity. The good ones inspired, and in a way, so did the bad ones, as you (a) noticed and felt clever and (b) felt better about your own writing. I’d analyse every change in point of view, ponder each scene for the writer’s intent, judge every plot twist and the worst part – get down on myself when the story was better than I could ever write. That has eased off a lot now, thank goodness!
How do you overcome ‘writer’s block’?
I have a few methods: I procrastinate by writing other things (this, at least, is more productive than writing nothing), I buy stationary (with the logic that my plot problem will smooth out spontaneously if I simply write scenes on index cards!) or I clean the house (this is a last resort). I try to remember that writer’s block doesn’t mean you are a bad writer. It means you are a writer who, in that moment, has nothing to say, so go find something to say – research your topic, listen to music to be inspired, go looking for your muse on a walk. It is always temporary!
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write the things people are scared to say. Readers yearn for honesty, and it is easy to connect to people if you say it like it is.
Wrangler of her sticky brood of boys, and author of women’s fiction, Kylie Kaden is a self-confessed chocoholic. Her debut, Losing Kate, was plucked from the Random House slush-pile and went on to be translated internationally. Missing You, another suspenseful love story, followed in 2015 to critical acclaim.