Author Interview: Lisa Heidke

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Lisa Heidke is an Australian author and her latest novel What Kate Did Next is in stores now. She took some time out to chat with Beauty and Lace –

Tell us about your book “What Kate Did Next”

What Kate did Next is about Kate Cavendish, a married mother of two, who rediscovers her passion for life amidst dealing with a distant husband, a rebellious thirteen-year-old daughter, a heavily pregnant and neurotic sister and parents who reunite after twenty years apart. Kate has a lot to deal with and her life quickly spirals out of control.

I wanted to create a snap shot of typical suburban life where the mother’s career has been sidelined in favour of keeping house and raising a family. Then ask the question: What happens when she wakes up one morning to discover that the dreams she had for herself at twenty aren’t any closer to becoming a reality at the age of thirty-six? I wanted to write an essentially realistic but optimistic story. However, I felt there wasn’t enough mayhem so threw in a pregnant, neurotic sister and aging parents reuniting after many years apart.

A core theme centres on the sometimes difficult yet loving relationships between mothers, grandmothers, daughters and sisters. This theme is really at the heart of What Kate Did Next – Kate has an all-consuming love for her mum, sister and daughter, despite the heartbreak that such closeness brings.

Lisa Heidke

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Yes, I think I probably have, although it wasn’t until after my third child was born in 2000, that I got serious about writing a novel.

Was it difficult getting your first book published?

The short answer is YES!

I started writing my first manuscript in 2000 and finally got a publishing contract with Allen & Unwin in August 2007. During that time, I entered competitions, completed four manuscripts and received rejections from every mainstream publisher in Australia as well as several overseas ones. My biggest mistake was sending manuscripts to publishers before they were polished. The key to good writing is re-writing, and of course, persistence, commitment and a very thick skin.

How long does it take you to write a book?

For me, the first draft (approximately 70,000 words) takes about seven months – and then there are the subsequent drafts which involve weeding out superficial characters, plot lines that go nowhere, as well as creating layers to make the story a rounded, entertaining, three dimensional read. All up, it takes me close to two years.

What were you doing before you started writing?

I wrote for Practical Parenting magazine for several years and prior to that, I worked in sales and marketing.

Where do you get your inspiration?

Good question! I get my ideas and inspiration from everyday life – the news, magazines, eavesdropping on mothers at the school gate, eavesdropping on strangers in cafes. I have very big ears.

I write contemporary fiction so my novels usually reference to pop culture and what’s going on in the wider community/world.

Are you anything like your lead character, Kate?

Like Kate, I am a mother, and I have sometimes felt that my career has been sidelined in favour of raising a family. In that respect, I can understand her frustration and feelings of inadequacy. However, that’s where our similarities end. I am not a photographer and I definitely don’t have a daughter like Lexi. (Thank goodness! My daughter is only ten…ask me again in three years time!)

What are you currently working on?

I have just finished the revisions on my third novel, Claudia’s Big Break, which will be released in January 2011. It is a humourous coming of age adventure about three girlfriends who are all at a crossroads in their lives. They take off to Santorini for a two week holiday and find themselves in all sorts of trouble.

Do you have any advice for those wanting to start working on a novel?

Yes! Start writing now! Make a promise to yourself to write every day, even if it’s only for half an hour. There’s no magic formula. The single most important thing an aspiring writer can do is WRITE. You also need to be disciplined, persistent and be passionate about what you are writing. If you are not passionate about your subject matter, you’re not going to be able to sustain your enthusiasm for 80,000 words. If you’re not passionate about your writing, readers won’t be passionate about reading your novel.

I would encourage anyone who wants to be published whether it’s a novel, short story, poetry or memoir, to go for it but to also keep in mind that it’s a long, hard road. You have to have a real desire and passion to write and keep writing no matter how many rejections you get. Persistence and patience – you need both of these in abundance.

Ask yourself the question, am I writing because I love creating interesting characters and stories or am I writing because I want to get published? If it’s the latter, you may lose your enthusiasm after the first ten rejections.

What does being a writer mean to you?

Freedom! I love that I get to create real but flawed characters who often behave appallingly and say and do things I’d never dare to in real life. I have a lot of fun writing and thinking up plot twists and turns. It’s great seeing a story come together. I start with a blank page and think, ‘how am I going to fill this with 85,000 words?’ I love disappearing into a world of make believe. The possibilities…

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