the equation for why

an interview with Kaneana May

The Equation for Why blog series is about the idea of ikigai, or “the happiness of always being busy”. In it, I talk to inspiring women writers who honour their joy, one word and one story at a time.

Kaneana MayWho is Kaneana May?

Kaneana May studied television production at university, graduating with first-class honours in screenwriting. She went on to work in television, including roles as a script assistant on All Saints, a storyliner on Headland and a scriptwriter on Home and Away. Since becoming a mother, Kaneana has turned her attention to fiction writing. Kaneana loves to read—mostly YA, romance and women's fiction—and also loves watching TV and films. Writing, boot camp, coffee, chocolate and champagne are just some of her favourite things. Kaneana lives on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales with her husband and three children. For more about Kaneana, check out www.kaneanamay.com or join her over on Facebook or Instagram where you'll see her sharing loads of her life, loves, and writing.

Her debut novel, The One, is out now. Check out my review here.


The One by Kaneana MayWhy The One? Why was this the story you wanted to tell?

Inspiration for The One came after conversations with friends about their perceptions of reality television. I have a background in TV and can’t help but think about ‘behind-the-scenes’ when watching shows, particularly that of reality TV, where I’m imagining what the producers are saying, noticing how things are edited together and questioning what we’re not seeing. I started thinking, ‘I wonder what it would be like to work on a show like that’. Very quickly the character of Darcy Reed formed in my head; a young producer on a reality dating show, who wants to climb the ladder but under great pressure from her boss to ‘make’ a good season and attract high ratings. From there, different elements of the story continued to form, including that of Bonnie, an unlikely contestant but in desperate need for her happily ever after. I couldn’t help but continue to build on the initial idea. I don’t think it was ever a ‘I must tell this story’ thing, as at the time I wasn’t writing for an audience. I was writing it for me. I had three young kids and writing was ‘my out’; it was my ‘me time’.

Why do you write?

Because I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.

How did you know that writing is your purpose? Did you have to search for it, or have you always known?

I have loved writing for as long as I can remember. When I was in primary school, I would have little notebooks I’d love to fill with stories. One of my favourite classes was in Year 7 at high school; on Monday afternoons our English lesson was dedicated to creative writing in our journals. I always loved this, along with empathy tasks in History, but I didn’t grow up wanting to be a writer. In high school I remember wanting to be an architect or a businesswoman.

I developed a passion for film and television after visiting my cousin who worked on the set of drama program E Street, which grew when my parents bought a video shop and I had an entire shop full of movies to watch. I studied television production at university and always chose creative writing electives, but it wasn’t until an internship with the script department of Home and Away in my third year of university, that I knew I wanted to work in ‘story’ and be a writer.

How would you describe your relationship with writing?

It’s something I want more of! I wish I was able to spend more hours doing it, but I also want to dedicate time to other parts of my life. My children are still only young, and the years are already flying by at rapid speed. So, for the time being, I’ll write when I can and try not to be annoyed when other things get in the way. That’s the good thing about writing too; it’s always waiting for you!

How does writing make you feel?

Writing, quite simply, makes me feel happy. When I sit down at my laptop to do creative writing or with paper and pen, I get the rush of endorphins. While I feel content, I also feel excited about the possibilities. Even though writing is quite isolating, I don’t ever feel lonely when I’m writing; hanging out with my fictional characters.

What are your writing routines?

When I started to write The One, my eldest was in kindergarten, my middle child was an adventurous 2.5-year-old and I also had a newborn baby, so my writing routine was ‘write when I could’. This happened when the baby slept and the my middle one would watch a TV show. Some days I might have only gotten 40 minutes, other days I’d get nothing and on preschool days I might manage two whole hours (broken of course into 40-minute cycles as my kids did love a 40-minute cat nap). The whole novel was written in baby ‘sleep time/ TV time’ or at night.

Last year I gained one writing day a week (six hours between drop off and pick up), and then this year I’ve had two writing days. These days are golden and treasured. For the majority of my writing, I have written with Ninja Turtles or Paw Patrol or Barbie playing on the television in the background, so it feels like the biggest luxury being able to write in silence and not have someone ask me for more food or to tell me what’s happening on the screen (which is still what happens on the ‘other’ days of the week).

Why is it important for you to connect with others through stories?

We read books to learn, to be entertained and to escape. I write for the same three reasons. I always learn things when I’m writing; whether it be story craft or about the subject matter in my story. While I might be trying to entertain potential readers of my work, I’m entertained by my characters too – sometimes they do things I had no idea they were going to do! And writing is definitely a way to escape for me. Going into my fictional world gives me the same thrill of reading a good book or watching a great movie.

I think it’s important for us to be able to connect with stories so we can understand not only the world around us, but the people in them too. Stories allows us to be educated, but also to have empathy for others.

What advice would you give to women who are looking to find their "why" in life, be it writing or something else—how can they find it, and what tools can they use?

When my first born was only seven months old I was given the advice that motherhood was hard and that I needed to make sure that I did something ‘for me’ every day. The advice highlighted the importance of my wants and needs. I was told that for one sleep a day (my son was having two at the time), make it about me; this could have been to read a book or watch tv, to do yoga or scrapbooking – anything that was going to make me feel like ‘me’ and not just ‘someone’s mum’. I quickly decided that I was going to dedicate the time to writing; I was going to write a book. It took me three manuscripts, along with three children and eight years before I signed a publishing deal. But that initial advice became the key to me establishing a writing routine. It also allowed me to do something for myself and find a balance between being a stay at home mum and still having my big dreams and aspirations.

I wish I had better advice on how women can find their ‘why’. For me, it was looking for that happiness. What made me feel contentment, peace and excitement all at the same time. In you’re searching, I’d say to try new things, don’t be afraid and embrace the unknown.


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