Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Genre: Popular Fiction
"A superb tale of friendship, love, loss, depression, desire, joy and enlightenment... five stars." Sunday Herald-Sun
Kylie Ladd is an Australian novelist and freelance writer. Her first novel, After The Fall was published in Australia, the US and Turkey. She holds a PhD in neuropsychology and has published, Naked: Confessions of Adultery and Infidelity and Living With Alzheimer's And Other Dementias: After the Diagnosis. Kylie lives in Melbourne with her husband and two children.
My book club read and discussed Kylie's new novel, Last Summer in September. It’s a distinctly Australian story, set in Melbourne. We all enjoyed it. It led to a great discussion about relationships and expectations and how differently people respond to the same circumstance.
Author, Isak Dinesen, says, "All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them." Kylie’s impetus for writing Last Summer was the death of her husband’s friend. Here she answers questions on her novel and her worldview.
1. How difficult was it to steer your story away from biography and into the realm of fiction?
Not too difficult at all actually- for one, I was intensely aware of not wanting to step on other people’s toes, of appropriating or exploiting their grief in any way, and thus was at pains from the outset to ensure that everything except the initial premise was completely made up. The other reason, though, is that fiction is far easier to work with than the truth! You can bend it to suit your aims; you can put words in the character’s heads or mouths without having to worry about accuracy; you can push into territory that you wouldn’t dare touch in a biography.
2. How did your psychology training help you write about living through grief?
Mainly I guess in that I knew there is more than one way grief is experienced, expressed and survived- and that there is no “right” way. In Last Summer, Colleen, Rory’s widow, is none too overt with her grief, and acts at times in a way that might suggest she isn’t grieving at all… but it’s not because she doesn’t care, it’s because she knows that she has to move through her pain, can’t afford to stop and let it engulf her. I hope that comes through in the book!
3. What did you learn about life and suffering through writing your novel?
I learn more about suffering every time I write a novel- mainly mine ;). That’s a huge question, and one I could give many answers to... but something I am always reminded of, is how much each of us have going on under the surface- all the little fears, hopes, past experiences and needs we all harbour and that make us react the way we do. I plot my novels quite carefully and I always think I know what my characters will do or say- but they still surprise me. None of us is as straightforward as we’d like to believe.
4. If you were the only person with 25 hours in your day, what would you do with your secret extra hour?
Read! I *love* to read, and between my writing and my kids and my work I simply don’t get enough time- I’d spend that entire extra hour just devouring novels. I love the escape of a story, but I also find that good writing feeds my own work, inspires me to be better, try harder, reminds me again of all the many ways a fabulous book moves and transports you.
5. In terms of worldview, what do you believe?
Lots of stuff that is too boring or that my children might see (my 12-year-old son has started Googling me occasionally- the horror). But here’s one- that euthanasia should be legal and accessible. My day job is as a neuropsychologist in the aged care setting, and almost every day at work I see someone and know that if that was me, I wouldn’t want to be alive. Of course, the appropriate checks and balances need to be in place (read Ian McEwan’s Amsterdam to see what happens if they aren’t), but I would love to be able to make a living will stipulating that if I develop mid-stage dementia, or become incompetent (in the legal, cognitive sense) or have an incurable illness that I have the right to be assisted to die. As a society, we are very concerned with our rights, Why not this most basic one?
6. What do you doubt?
That I can write. I battle that demon every single day that I sit down at my desk- sadly, I suspect it is a war I will be waging the rest of my life. The only way to win it is to start putting words on the page and to hope for the best.
7. Is your worldview different from the worldview you were brought up with?
Yes!! Enough said.
8. What’s in your “too hard” basket?
The question above. Plotting a new novel. Sewing my daughter’s swimming awards onto her towel. Thankfully, there is a man at the local shopping centre who can help me with the latter. I’d really wish he’d deal with the other two as well.
9. Can you give a little snapshot of the novel you’re currently writing?
I’m between books at the moment- my third novel is currently being read by my publisher, and I’m just plotting out ideas for my fourth (in an exercise book. I’m quaint like that.) The fourth is so new and shimmery that I’m afraid to talk about it in case I scare it and it disappears... the third is about family, how we make and find it, and whether blood matters. It’s provisionally titled “Into My Arms” and will (fingers crossed) be out late next year or early 2013... But, I should probably wait until my publisher reads it before I start planning my launch. It could be a dud.
10. Kylie’s Favourites:
Book: A tie between The Great Gatsby and The English Patient .
Film: Gone With The Wind, mostly for the staircase scene.
Music: Radio National’s “The Book Show”. (Sorry. I am a nerd.)
Motto: Don’t die wondering.
Charity: The Hotham Mission Asylum Seeker Project: http://hothammission.org.au/ Provides financial and emotional support to asylum seekers living lawfully in the community while they await the outcome of their Visa application. A more humane and committed group of people you’ll never meet.
Thank you, Kylie, for being the brave first author to be interviewed for Galvanize Press. It was great to get to know you a little. I look forward to reading your next novel at book club. Best Regards.
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