I have the pleasure of welcoming Kate Mildenhall today 🙂
For those who don’t know already, could you tell us about yourself and your book(s) please?
I’m an Australian writer and teacher. I have two young daughters and live with them and my husband in Hurstbridge, on the leafy outskirts of Melbourne. My debut novel, Skylarking (Legend Press, 2017), is the story of best friends, Kate and Harriet, growing up on a remote light station on the rugged coast of Australia in the 1880s. As daughters of the lighthouse keepers, the two girls share everything, until a fisherman, McPhail, arrives in their small community. One moment in McPhail’s hut changes everything.
Where did/do you get your ideas from?
Well, Skylarking is based on a true story, and is actually inspired by a grave I stumbled upon during a camping trip! The grave belonged to Harriet Parker, a young woman who grew up at the Cape St George Lighthouse. I was interested in finding out more about the story of Harriet and her best friend, Kate and what life might have been like for them. Writing this story meant I could explore ideas around friendship, desire, and the place of women in this colonial society. Skylarking reimagines the lives of these two young women, and the tragedy that befalls them.
Are any of your characters based (however loosely) on anyone you know?
At the heart of this book is the friendship between Kate and Harriet, and so I did draw on some of my own experiences of wonderful and very long friendships I’ve had. My best friend and I have been so since we were 12, and now our children are best friends! Having said that Kate and Harriet are very much fictional characters, ones I hope resonate with many women as they recall their own experiences of childhood and adolescent friendship.
How do you pick your characters names?
This was easy in one sense because I kept the girls’ first names in Skylarking. Although it has been a little awkward that my character shares my own name!
Can you share your writing process with us, in a nutshell?
Coffee. And no internet!
Besides those two key ingredients, I’m a binge-writer – so I’m most prolific when I can grab a couple of hours down at the local library, or even better, when I’ve been lucky enough to have residential writing retreats for uninterrupted time and space and quiet! It’s all very messy and chaotic, but also just a little bit magic as things start to take shape.
Who are your top 5 favourite authors?
Ooh – too hard! Here are some faves in no particular order!
Were you a big reader as a child?
Yes. Voracious. My first memory of reading independently is falling in love with Anne of Green Gables when I was six.
When did you start to write?
Like many writers, as a child I scribbled poetry and wrote terribly dramatic stories that I adored sharing with anyone would listen. I had a story published in a collection when I was thirteen, my first taste of publication, and, as it turns out, quite addictive.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
Just recently – Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West.
What are you working on right now?
My second novel tells the story of a mother forced from her home and looking for a safe place for herself and her kids. It’s a contemporary novel and it’s my way of exploring some of the ideas and political issues that have confronted me over the past few years.
Do you have a new release due?
Watch this space!
What do you generally do to celebrate on publication day?
I’ve only had one so far, but that was incredibly exciting and nerve-wracking and involved nervously signing books as my youngest daughter unpacked them from boxes at a local independent bookshop. There was also champagne. And lots of pictures from proud friends standing in book stores all around the place. And, of course, some tears.
How can readers keep in touch with you?
I’d love for readers to get in touch via my website https://katemildenhall.com/ or on
Is there anything else you would like us to know?
Thanks for having me! I hope readers enjoy reading Skylarking and being part of Kate and Harriet’s world for a little while. Kate x
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Kate 🙂
Thanks also to Imogen Harris, at Legend Press, for arranging the interview.
Publisher: Legend Press (3rd July 2017)
Kate and Harriet are best friends growing up together on an isolated Australian cape. As the daughters of the lighthouse keepers, the two girls share everything, until a fisherman, McPhail, arrives in their small community.
When Kate witnesses the desire that flares between him and Harriet, she is torn by her feelings of envy and longing. An innocent moment in McPhail’s hut then occurs that threatens to tear their peaceful community apart.
Inspired by a true story, Skylarking is a spellbinding tale of friendship and desire, memory and truth, which questions what it is to remember and how tempting it can be to forget.
‘[Mildenhall’s] research of life on a remote cape in a young colony manifests in lovingly drawn descriptions of the natural landscape … the novel’s strength lies with following Kate’s and Harriet’s stumbles and skylarking from childhood to womanhood; and their close, sometimes stifling, friendship.’ –Thuy On, Sydney Morning Herald
‘It’s no surprise to learn that debut author Kate Mildenhall counts Geraldine Brooks and Hannah Kent among her favourite writers. Inspired by a true story, Skylarking recreates a particular time and place as evocatively as they do…this is a beautifully written book, with lyrical descriptions of the desolate yet beautiful landscape.’ —AFR Magazine
‘It’s testament to Kate Mildenhall’s skill that you become so immersed in the lives of best friends Kate and Harriet you feel the dread, but hope it will not be so … fans of Emily Bitto’s The Strays and Favel Parrett’s Past the Shallows will find much to admire here.’ —Herald Sun
‘Mildenhall is at her best when she is exploring the complex relationship between these two young women as their burgeoning sexuality begins to cause problems within their tiny community.’ —Books+Publishing
‘Kate Mildenhall’s impressive debut novel takes an historical case and re-imagines it with such sensitivity and insight that we feel this must be how it truly happened.’ –Emily Bitto
‘It is hard to believe that Skylarking is Kate Mildenhall’s debut novel, as her ability to create both character and atmosphere is impressive.’ –Annie Condon, Readings Monthly
‘The storm-lashed coastline of the Great Southern Land is the setting for this poetic, slow-moving tale of the friendship … an evocative yarn.’ —Australian Women’s Weekly
‘Skylarking is a strikingly real and deeply moving meditation on adolescent friendship in all its complexities – a heart-wrenching work.’ –Olga Lorenzo
‘A brave, beautiful and richly textured book that delicately explores the fault lines in love and friendship.’ –Lucy Treloar
‘Author Kate Mildenhall evocatively brings to the mind’s eye the lives of two young girls in Victorian-era Australia.’ —Better Reading