Kath and Kate

I’m a relative newcomer to the world of podcasts but now that I’ve worked out how to navigate the netcast, I’m hooked. Any spare moment, I’m tuned in, whether that’s in the car, at the gym, in the bath, or cleaning the house—why waste precious hours (minutes if possible) doing housework when I can be simultaneously dosing on story, especially if the podcast is about writing and books.

I’m pleased to say my appetite for podcasts was triggered by my good friends, Kate Mildenhall and Katherine Collette—the duo behind The First Time; a podcast about the first time…you publish a book.

Launched in August 2018, the podcast is one part reality show, one part writers’ master class, where each episode Kate and Katherine speak to an Australian writer or industry insider about the excitement and logistics of publishing a debut.

Kate and Katherine both live in Melbourne with their husbands and young children. They met at RMIT while studying the Associate Degree in Professional Writing and Editing, which is where I met them too! Kate published her debut novel, Skylarking, in 2016 with Black Inc. and Katherine published her debut novel, The Helpline, in 2018 with Text Publishing. Both women are currently working on their second books, while podcasting, working and raising a family.

I caught up with Kate and Katherine to talk about what it’s like being a podcaster and what pearls of wisdom they’ve gleaned from guests. Enjoy the read and be sure to check out the The First Time.

1. What inspired you to create The First Time?

Kate’s novel was published in 2016 so when Katherine got a book deal in 2017, she started asking Kate for advice on what to expect.  It became apparent there’s no ‘one’ experience.  It’s different for everyone. 

And that’s the premise of the show. The first season followed Katherine through the publication experience, and now in the second, listeners get to hear how both Kate and Katherine are going with their second books. 

It’s also a good excuse to meet with other great Australian authors.  There are so many!

2. Who are the behind-the-scenes people who help with the podcast?

We’ve been very lucky.  Before we started, we set up partnerships with Writers Victoria, the ACT Writers Centre and RMIT School of Media and Communication. RMIT provides the studio and helped with tech support and production in season one.  The writers centres’ promote the podcast to their members and help recruit guests.

Now, in season two, Phoebe Ady looks after our production and tech stuff. 

3. How do you find guests?

Early on, we begged favours from authors we knew.  Also, our partners helped us recruit.  Now, as our listenership has grown, publishers pitch us potential guests to interview.

We put a lot of effort into making sure there’s diversity in our interviews.  We do a mix of more and less experienced writers, different genres, people from different backgrounds, larger and smaller publishers, and so on. 

4. What process do you follow to create an episode?

Each episode we have an initial catch up with the author, followed by an interview. 

We focus on a particular topic for the catch up and this is loosely scripted.  We tried not scripting but we found things worked better if we prepared. Not surprising! 

We take turns to interview.  Whoever is interviewing does all the research, reading and coming up with questions. 

5. What pearls of wisdom have you gleaned from guests?

Oh, God.  So many.  We get something out of every one.  You do see themes in what people say but there’s a real breadth in responses.  Like, some authors will say social media is so, so important.  Others say it’s a complete waste of time. Both are valid views. 

6. What have you learnt about podcasts since starting The First Time?

Audio is temperamental!  We’re lucky we (usually) record in a studio, but even then so much can go wrong.  You get a greater appreciation for good sound quality. 

7. What is the hardest and best thing about podcasting?

The best bit is getting to meet so many great Australian authors.  It’s also pretty great working on something together.  Writing can be such a solitary pursuit.

The hard bit is time. At the moment, we’re releasing episodes fortnightly.  We could easily do it weekly if we had funding (anyone? Anyone?), both to pay Phoebe (our producer) or, God forbid, ourselves.

8. What’s the best piece of advice you could give other podcasters?

Putting effort into creating partnerships paid off for us tenfold.  It’s helped so much to find an audience. 

9. Apart from The First Time, what are your favourite podcasts?

We’re both big listeners. 

Katherine loves Good One, The Garrett, Chat 10 Looks 3.  Also, The Dream, S-Town and The Drop Out.  All AMAZING. 

Kate likes the excellent interviews to be found at On Writing, Conversations & This American Life. The Pineapple Project, No Feeling is Final and the Fitzroy Diaries are also great. But…ALWAYS on the lookout for more!