Kylie Kaden believes writing helps save her sanity while raising boys.
Until it was sold to Random House, Losing Kate was my secret. A file on my laptop. Something I did for me in-between the morning-rush and afternoon-hum that comes with managing a sticky brood of boys.
I didn’t think much of it at first. It started out as a housework avoidance strategy really, and was the perfect creative outlet to put some variety in my life whilst housebound with a new bub. It’s cheap, quiet, can be done anywhere in nothing but yoghurt-stained PJs. You can do it breastfeeding, while your baby naps – you can even do it in your head while stirring risotto. But unfortunately it’s also a hard job to come by. So when I announced I had a book contract, the first thing people asked was “You work, have three kids, where did you find the time to write a book?”
But to be honest, it didn’t seem that hard, because I enjoyed it. My characters, Frankie and Jack, wormed into my head, and I loved filling in the gaps to see what came next for them. I find writing a little like reading; you feel like you’ve paused their lives when you stop engaging, and want to get back to see what they’ve been up to.
I write when my youngest naps (and the washing mounts). A lot of my writing process is thinking up scenes to prove a point, and I can do that on the train from work, whilst burning risotto, or watching swimming lessons. When no one’s watching, I skulk away to my laptop (sometimes in the bathroom so I can’t be found), and purge out the product of the day’s fermented thoughts. It’s not ideal; piecemeal snippets of stolen time. The process lacks any continuity and planning (I can cut a paragraph, defer-world-war-three, and return to find I forgot where I was pasting it). But it was the piece of the day I owned. The piece that was only for me.
It’s a little like the sand around the pebbles in the glass jar of life.
There’s the essentials (work/family/chores), these are the pebbles that fill up our jar. Then there’s the small stuff that filters around the substance in our lives. The left overs. The gaps. The twenty minutes here or there when no one notices me escape the real world. The scribbled idea on the back of a receipt whilst jostling for a seat on the train. The ad breaks (there’s enough of them to write a series!). That hour of think-time before the whinge-fest commences over who ate whose toast, and where’s your library book? Even if the essentials in your life are boulders, they all have curves and crevasses that grains of sand can meander through if you let them.
But jars, as with life, are not infinite, so there are plenty of things I can’t fit in.
I’m no Wonder Woman. My children’s drawers have been replaced by a perpetual pile of unfolded washing. My house looks like it’s just been burgled. My 3yo is rarely wearing pants. I have boycotted ironing, rarely watch the news (I usually can’t hear it above the cacophony of noise) and scrambled-egg-and-ham is a regular for my kid’s dinner.
It can be hard to keep that lid on. Parents especially find it difficult to find time for the “luxuries” and it’s often laden with a side helping of guilt when you do. And sometimes, it just doesn’t seem like there’s anything left to give. But without that little something for you, that glass jar of life can seem like a bunch of rocks weighing you down, and leave you out of balance and feeling empty.
I’m thankful I let writing back into my life, and have a supporting family that allows it to stay.
Whether it be marathons, music, cooking, or alpaca farming, if you haven’t already found your thing, I hope you do soon. It can be found in whatever gives you balance, and I believe it’s essential to maintain a sense of humanity, and stop the whole thing from crashing down.
I’m the most authentic version of myself when I’m around Jack. We’ve known each other since we were kids, and our relationship was always one of mudpies and mocking.
Then everything changed.
Beautiful Kate, my best friend, disappeared on a moonlit beach after Jack dumped her for me. Jack was a suspect and, sure of his innocence, I lied to protect him. I know Jack didn’t kill her. Our betrayal did.
Thirteen years later, I am thirty, childless and single, attempting to renovate my life rescuing a rundown worker’s cottage. All is as it should be in my safe little world – until Jack buys the vacant lot behind my house … and the feelings that we buried all those years ago – the guilt, the love and the pain – resurface.
We can’t keep running away from the past – and to move forward we have to know what really happened to Kate.
Brisbane writer Kylie Kaden is a self-diagnosed bookworm and recovering chocoholic. Raised in Queensland, she spent holidays camping with her parents and two brothers at the Sunshine Coast, where much of Losing Kate was set. She now lives in Brisbane with her husband and three young sons. Kylie graduated with an honours degree in psychology from Queensland University of Technology in 2000, but cites it helps little with meeting the challenges of parenting in the real world. She shares her frazzled parenting experiences in her regular column in My Child magazine, and is a strong advocate for telling it like it is when it comes to the struggles (and joys) of raising kids. After postgraduate study, Kylie went on to train and manage staff in both the corporate and government arenas, where she met her surfer/lawyer husband at an end-of-year function (at the pub). She wrote her debut novel, Losing Kate whilst on maternity leave from an executive role in the Australian Public Service.