An Australian author who provides insight into the human condition.

Author Christine M Knight's Blog

Monday, April 22, 2013

Blog 9 - Wanting to Belong

There are different kinds of belonging and differing motivations for wanting to belong. This complexity is explored in the subplot dealing with Kate Patricia Denford's membership in the Surf Life Saving Movement and later through her relationships with the younger generation at Madison House. Characterisation as well as place and situational contexts are techniques used to examine this theme.

This blog will discuss Kate's decision to join the Surf Life Saving Movement and the consequences. Key words for the Area of Study are highlighted in bold & blue. Kate's decision was made with her attention focused on the purpose of the movement and related activity, that is: saving lives and community service, rather than on the relationships that would be forged there. I've used forged rather than formed because forge has connotations of a material changing shape and state when extreme heat and pressure/power is applied to it.

Although accepted as a member by the Surf Life Saving Movement at an organisational level, Kate is faced with resentment and rebuff by the male members at the Keimera club. The intensity of male animosity to her membership is reflected through the behaviour and language of Gary Putnam, an otherwise easy-going man, who insists on calling her Ken. The nickname attributes masculine qualities to Kate, denies her gender, and denies her a place in the club on her own terms. It reinforces the view that only men should be in the club.

Readers first meet Kate when Michael brings her home. Cassie meets Kate after having her curiosity piqued by Minna and George Madison's negative reaction to Kate's arrival. Gary appears on the scene for similar reasons.

'Cassie closed her book. She told herself that she was thirsty and walked around the verandah to the rear of the house.
The girl, a brunette bombshell, was flirting with Michael over a sponge cake and iced tea.
"Oh, hi," Cassie said, pretending to be surprised, "I got a bit thirsty outside."
"Cassie," Michael said from his seat, "this is a good friend of mine ..."
The interior door swung open, and Gary entered. He came up short, obviously surprised.
"Didn't realise anyone was here." He gave a Mickey Mouse laugh and struck a casual pose. "What are you doing here, Ken?"
"G'day, Mike and I are mates. He used to be my dance partner."
Dancing? Cassie looked at the woman. "Where do you -?"
"Does that mean you'll be dropping out of the club?" Gary spoke over the top of Cassie.
"Surf Life Saving is in my blood. I can do both"
"Oh," Gary did not attempt to disguise his disappointment.'

Later at the pub, when Cassie asks Kate about the source of Gary's hostility Kate's explanation provides the background context or back-story.

'A few years back, one of the women in the movement used the Anti-discrimination Act to force the Life Saving Club to open up the senior ranks to women."
"Whoa!" Michael said and then after consideration added, "That must have made them feel emasculated."
"It didn't exactly endear women to them."
"And they're still resentful?" Cassie asked.
"Yep." Resignation and an element of defiance coloured Kate's response. Then more upbeat, she added, "My dad's favourite saying is 'You might as well stand and fight because if you run, you will only die tired.' I am my father's daughter."
Cassie liked Kate's courage and the philosophy underlying her action made sense. Was that the way, she wondered, for women to achieve acceptance in a male-dominated institution?'

The use of contrasting perspectives from Michael and Cassie regarding Kate's situation reinforce gender divisions regarding the pathway to inclusion and acceptance in domains that were once exclusive, in this case, previously male arenas.

Earlier in the story, Michael was portrayed as a contemporary man who accepts gender equality. His shocked reaction to Kate's explanation focuses the reader on the outcome of compelling a person or group of people ( in this case, men) to a course of action that they otherwise reject. Emasculated is used metaphorically rather than literally. It highlights that the men concerned were rendered less male by humiliation. His insight emphasises the reduction and removal of male power through the legislation.

Cassie's workplace experience in one of the last bastions of male supremacy (the local high school) enables her to appreciate the depth of the male reaction - lingering resentment which is very hard to dislodge. As an aside, if you have ever tried to get glitter off your face/hands/clothing, you'll appreciate the power of such resentment.

Cassie'a experience as a first-year-teacher adds further dimension to Kate's situation. Although tacit resistance to female membership is not discussed in this pub scene, the reader brings contextual knowledge to it and is able to see the juxtaposition of female character experiences and the similarity in situations albeit one is a high school workplace.

This subplot explores the multi-dimensional aspects underlying a desire to belong. For Kate, membership in the Surf Life Saving Movement is as much about

  • her enjoyment of surfing
  • her skill and strength as a swimmer
  • her enjoyment in community service
  • continuing a family tradition,
  • reinforcing shared interests and experiences with her father, a single parent, thereby strengthening that bond
  • displaying courage and retaining her father's pride because she didn't 'run away', and
  • satisfying her belief that membership in any group should be based on ability and attributes and not on gender.

For Gary and his male cohort, Kate's membership, and by extension that of other women, is on sufferance and does not reach acceptance. This is clearly demonstrated by Gary's reasons for nominating Kate for the Surf Club captaincy (p325)

' ... to see Big Dave about nominating Ken for the captaincy. I wanted his support. It'd be an act of protest over the captain's failure to organise meets, schedules, and surf patrols.'

Gary's attitude towards Kate ultimately evolves into acceptance when he comes to recognise her competency and through their mutual interest and commitment to having the surf club function effectively.

You will detailed analysis in Belonging: A Related Text Companion: In and out of Step. You can buy the companion from this website or fromAmazon



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The Month's Posts


      Saturday, August 12, 2017

      Life Song - a story of metamorphosis

      Saturday, August 12, 2017

      Twenty-two-year-old Mavis Mills first appears in my novel In and Out of Step. Outgoing, gregarious, and confident, Mavis is a significant secondary character in that novel.  Mavis' story - a subplot - is used to provide contrast to and insight into Cassie Sleight's (the central character) journey. 

      At one point in the novel, effervescent Mavis is severely injured – physically, emotionally, and psychologically - by domestic violence and the fire of her partner’s rage. He also destroys her guitar and the copies of her original songs. Part of  the subplot from In and Out of Step explores the context of the domestic violence and provides insight into the psychology of it. Excuses are not made.

      At the start of Life Song, Mavis is twenty-eight-years-old and very different from the young woman who shone throughout most of In and Out of Step. She is the central character in Life Song. She has become subdued, distrustful of her own judgement, and an echo of her former self. Unexpectedly, she discovers she has a choice: continue to live a life tainted by domestic violence or seize the opportunity before her and try to rise above her circumstance and, like the phoenix bird, leave the ashes of her past life behind.

      'Could she live the rest of her life as she'd been living. She couldn't, not now she'd glimpsed another world, fleeting though that vision had been.'

      Life Song is not a cliche 'chic musician on the road' story and is definitely not a romance. It is about the woman Mavis becomes and the people who stand by her as she undergoes transformation – physical, psychological, and to an extent spiritual. She does not solve her problems in the arms of a man but makes the hard choices herself.

      The drama comes from the tugs-of-war that Mavis has to work though. It is made all the harder because Mavis' heart is in conflict with itself. One person, no matter how strong, cannot win a tug-of-war alone. The same applies to Mavis.

      Readers learn about the things that give Mavis strength and that enable her to boldly embrace the inevitable changes coming into her life as she becomes Nikki Mills, the Song Bird from Oz.

      I recommend you listen to two songs from that novel: Sunshine Days and Life Song (A Vision Splendid) to get a feel for this story.

      There are many kinds of wins in life, most of them personal rather than widely acclaimed. It's those personal 'brave heart' moments that define Mavis. Reader feedback through my publisher and website is that Life Song is a gratifying read.

      As part of your journey in reading this blog,  I suggest you listen to Move On.  In my imagination, it is first sung by Mavis' support network, but ultimately the song becomes her personal mantra.

      Australia is a diverse landscape and has diverse communities. Life Song gives readers an opportunity to spend time in some of those communities. The title alludes to the fact that each character's life has its own melody and when sung in concert become the symphony that is Life Song


      Life Song is one of four novels in The Keimera Series. Each novel is a standalone narrative and has the backstory woven into it.  The Keimera Series is an opus.

      Keimera does not in any way allude to chimeraa monstrous fire-breathing hybrid creature from Greek mythology.

      If you would like to lend me your support so that I can produce more music from my novels, you can buy any of my songs from CD Baby.  Each of my songs can be purchased for the very small price of $1.69. My music is also on iTunes and other major online music sellers as well.

      Read more

      Sunday, June 25, 2017

      The story behind my song 'The Flame'

      Sunday, June 25, 2017

      'The Flame' features in my novel ‘Song Bird’. In the novel, it is sung by rock legend Rick Brody who serenades Nikki Mills (the central character in the novel). In real life, it was sung by Funnie Williams and Thanapat Yarchartoen (aka Film). I produced the song through Karma Sound Studios in Thailand.

      BACKSTORY TO 'THE FLAME' - The Singer or the Song?

      In ‘Song Bird’ and its prequel 'Life Song', Nikki Mills - the Girl from Oz - is a survivor of domestic violence. Once an innocent, she believed the very convincing serenade of her first significant love, Terry Kikby. Long before Nikki met Rick, his song 'The Flame' resonated with her.  She believed that Rick's songs really expressed his own ideas and values.

      Having been at the top of the music industry for sixteen years, Rick finds his music is dropping in the charts. Defined by his 'bad boy' image, he has lost sight of his real self. Consequently,  his music has lost its connection with his fan base. Interested in Nikki as a woman as much as in her skill as a lyricist, Rick collaborates with Nikki on a new album. 

      Flattered by Rick's interest in her and impressed by 'The Flame', Nikki embarks on a relationship with him.  A subplot in the novel explores the ramifications of that decision.  Can she help Rick find the heart that his music once had?  Will Nikki be hurt or healed by the relationship with him?  The answers are found in my novel 'Song Bird'. 

      Readers of this blog may also find the pop rock song 'Masque' and interesting insight into Rick and Nikki's relationship issues.

      I currently have 8 songs on CD Baby and iTunes. You can help me raise the money to produce the rest of my songs by buying one or more of my songs at the very small price of $1.69 per song. They are on sale at CD Baby and  iTunes. Online music streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer promote my music, but I only earn approximately one cent per one hundred streams. 

      Read more

      Sunday, June 25, 2017

      The Story Behind Pop Rock Song 'Masque'

      Sunday, June 25, 2017

      'Masque' is a duet between charismatic rock star, Rick Brody, and singing sensation Nikki Mills (the Girl from Oz). They are fictional characters in my novel, ‘Song Bird’, which is on sale through Amazon, Book Depository, and other online booksellers as are my other novels' 'Life Song' and 'In and Out of Step' - in paperback and eBook formats.

      'Masque' features the vocal talents of Australians, Skye Elisabeth and Nic James. I am the composer and executive producer for all of my music. Although I am a musician, I no longer perform publicly but use talented session musicians.

      I use music as part of my writing process when developing a novel as it allows me to explore character perspectives, challenges, and personal journeys.

      My song ‘Masque’ evolved out of my exploration of Rick and Nikki’s relationship when developing 'Song Bird', the novel . The song helped me better understand rock legend Rick Brody, the impact of being a rock star on Rick's relationship with Nikki, and the core obstacles they faced. Rick Brody is one of four pivotal men in Nikki Mills' life.

      Wider Relevance
      The song has relevance for anyone who feels compelled to be what others expect the person to be rather than being true to self, something that is much easier said than done.

      'Masque' also has relevance for a diverse number of people. For instance, I play many roles: wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, author, musician and so on. I understand how the expectations and demands of others put me under pressure not to let others down. In trying not to short-change others, it was so easy to forget about who I was separate from those roles and what my being real meant.

      The context behind the song 'Masque'
      In ‘Song Bird’, Rick Brody is charismatic rock star who has been living the cliché - sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. Like the Tinman from Oz, Rick is injured by his trade. For the Tinman, it was his axe. For Rick Brody, it was his status as a rock star and image of 'bad boy’. He became defined by those roles. Life became a masquerade.

      In both cases, the Timan and Rick become manufactured men in want of heart.  Rick’s preoccupation with living the cliché meant that his music lost its heart and the appeal that had drawn audiences to him as he rose to the pinnacle of the music industry.

      By contrast, Nikki refused to sell out in order to achieve success. She was determined to get to the top on her own terms and to not be treated as a commodity in the industry.

      At the Australian Recording Industry Awards, Rick asked his manager to connect him with Nikki after seeing her perform. Rick claimed his primary interest in Nikki was musical collaboration, but his libido and history of conquests shaped his reason for collaborating with her and definitely shaped the way he interacted with her.

      Although Nikki pretended not to be attracted to Rick, she was flattered that he was ‘interested in her of all people. Unlike his fans, Nikki did not have an urge to flash her breasts, hand over her panties, or suggest a threesome.’  She maintained a mask of cool indifference and stayed work-focused throughout the early stages of their musical relationship. Consequently, Rick viewed Nikki as a challenge. Committed to the long game in winning her, he courted.

      A survivor of domestic violence, Nikki was cautious about the men with whom she mixed.  ‘Song Bird’ explores the ripple effect of her decision to work with Rick. Can she help Rick find the heart that his music once had? Can he become real with her? Will Nikki’s relationship with him injure her?

      You can read more about 'Song Bird' here and on other pages at my website.

      You can help me raise the money to produce the rest of my songs by buying one or more of my songs at the very small price of $1.69 per song. They are on sale at CD Baby and  iTunes. The online music streaming services such as Spotify and Deezer promote my music, but I only earn approximately one cent per one hundred streams. 

      Note: As the novels are set in Australia, I use the British spelling system and language conventions. There are minor differences to the American system.

      Read more

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