An Australian author who provides insight into the human condition.

Author Christine M Knight's Blog

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blog 2 - Exile


Belonging is a deep genetic drive. We are herd creatures first and foremost. You can see this in even the smallest of children who may not play together but like to play near each other.

The decision to leave the familiar circle of family and friends and move to a new area where you don't have any connections or any knowledge of the area rates high on the stress and isolation. The word bereft comes to mind for a person in such a situation. Bereft has connotations not just of a gnawing sense of loss but of an emptiness tinged with resignation to the new circumstance. That sense lingers on the edge of consciousness even when you're having a good time in your new landscape.

The theme of Belonging in 'In and Out of Step' is explored through characterisation, place context, the juxtaposition of perspectives and experiences, ritual, language, and through the extended metaphor of dance.

Part A

Focus: central character or protagonist

Techniques: characterisation, choice and use of context (place and situation), plot action, language, dialogue, use of flashback sequences, imagery, symbolism, the use of parallels and contrasts.


Cassie Sleight, a championship dancer, in seeking a seachange at the start of her teaching career, chose exile from her familiar circle of family, friends, and the dance world for compelling, personal reasons. Finding herself in an impossible situation, she opted to remove herself from the pain of it. Her pain stemmed from a change in relationship dynamics. She had found herself ousted from what had previously been a close relationship between three friends, one of whom she had considered as her soul mate (affinity). Feeling alienated and bereft, she left.

This is shown in the text by the use of contrasting characterisation and the back-stories (contextual information) of Cassie Sleight, Jake Dominguez, and Melissa Pratt. That characterisation and those back-stories show how personal values and expectations can cause conflict and result in the breakdown of relationships and alienation.

All three characters grew up in patriarchal homes - male dominated with women in traditional subservient roles. Cassie rejected the adult male and female role and relationship models of her parents' generation. She had seen the pain and disempowerment the women in that world experienced.

As children, Cassie had an affinity with Jake Dominguez and grew up with him as 'best mates'. Melissa, though a member of the friendship group did not share the close bonds held by Jake and Cassie. This is shown in the text through a flashback scene to their childhood:

The bite of winter certainly had little effect on Cassie and Jake’s games. Matched in indomitable spirit and rugged in woollen jumpers, they scaled monster trees, teeter-tottered on bikes along dam edges, and gallumped through paddocks, startling rabbits while cattle ruminated in the bending grasses. Melissa, timid and more interested in playing Barbies than adventure, lagged behind them, complaining. Under pressure from Leonie, Cassie and Jake modified their games to Hide-and-Seek so Melissa could play.

Immersed in her novel, Leonie knew little of the children’s friendship beyond the daredevil spirit of the duo and their resentment of Melissa’s intrusion. In later years, Leonie knew only that dance forged Cassie and Jake in partnership with Melissa an envious outsider (page 84).

Cassie and Jake's affinity is demonstrated by their like-mindedness in games, their shared desire for adventure, their inseparable friendship, and indomitable spirit. The word indomitable refers to a fearless and unconquerable spirit. Their relationship demonstrates the values underpinning the concept of belonging.

By contrast, Melissa's desire to be included in the friendship group demonstrates Melissa's perception that she belongs in the group. This is also the perception of Cassie's mother, Nancy, and her sister, Leonie. Melissa's perception is reflected by her complaining which represents a form of protest that her participation and interests were not considered and should have been. The fact that the children's games change to accommodate Melissa is a reflection of her claim on group membership and that she has a place within the small friendship group, albeit as a fringe member.

The excerpt clearly shows the difference between the concept and perception of belonging. It was Leonie's perception that Melissa belonged to the children's group that led to Cassie and Jake accommodating Melissa in play. Leonie was able to make Cassie and Jake include Melissa because of Leonie's role within the children's group and because the children were a subset of their respective parent's friendship group.

The excerpt also shows that from an early age, Melissa accepted and acted the role models and values in her world through Barbie games. The Barbie games symbolically represent preoccupations with body image, attractiveness, and acceptance of traditional female roles. Those interests and preoccupations place young Melissa as a potentially traditional female.

Jake's affinity with Cassie was also demonstrated in their teenage years when Cassie at sixteen experienced the grief associated with the death of a grandparent.

When her grandfather died a few months before her sixteenth birthday, she had not cried. At his funeral, the rest of the family had been awash with emotion. Her mother had been inconsolable and leant on her father. Leonie, her older sister, make-up tear-tracked and mascara running, had tried to provide support to Cassie who looked ill, but as the emotion of the service built, Leonie’s grief had given way to sobs. During the wake, Jake, Cassie’s soul mate from childhood, had found her sitting silently in her grandfather’s closet, inside Pop’s dark blue overcoat. (page 17)

Their affinity in the above excerpt is demonstrated by Jake's recognition of Cassie's emotional need, his subsequent search for her, his understanding of where she would seek solace, and his desire to comfort her. These behaviours are aspects of characterisation selected by the author to show the close bonds shared by this pair.

Cassie and Jake's relationship became increasingly contaminated by the transmitted values and expectations of the adult world around them - contextual aspects of place (physical, social, and psychological). Cassie and Jake increasingly clashed in the teenage years because Jake unthinkingly accepted the values of the male adult world around them while Cassie rejected them. In particular, Jake accepted his father's values and tried to live up to his father's expectations which were shaped by his father's culture (Spanish) and the attitudes of his father's generation. This is shown in the novel by:

Cassie knew all too well Mavis’ look. Jake’s mother and hers assumed the expression whenever their husbands flirted. Cassie had guarded against it when Jake followed his father’s lead. She knew even more the feeling: acid eating away the inner core of confidence. Was it always this way? Once possessed, always insecure?(page 146)

The metaphoric comparison to 'acid' emphasises the destructive impact of unfaithful male behaviours on women and their relationships. The use of the word 'possessed' equates marital relationships to male ownership rather than a relationship based on a mutual sense of belonging. Therefore, shared qualities that predispose people to belong together are not the sole determinant of whether or not a person ultimately feels she or he belongs. The values and attitudes of the world (place) in which a person lives also shape notions of identity, human relationships, and a sense of belonging.

You will find the complete discussion in Belonging: A Related Text Companion: In and out of Step. You can buy the companion from this website or from Buy from Amazon



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The Month's Posts


    Wednesday, October 10, 2018

    Reflection on 'In and Out of Step'

    Wednesday, October 10, 2018

    Set between 1988-1990, In and Out of Step’s thesis picks-up on a period of significant change in Australian social and cultural history which mirror the wider western world. The novel reflects the popular perceptions of the era and explores reaction to changing roles and values, the relationship between generations, gender dynamics, and power in society through contrasting character perspectives.  

    The novel charts Cassie Sleight's (rhymes with slate) and her generation’s journeys in new and uncharted territory in their relationships: personal, social, and work after the second wave of the women’s movement.

    Life forces the women in my novels to reassess what they are doing, how they are doing it, and to evaluate who they are and want to be.

    Through Cassie’s experiences, the reader is entertained and provoked to consider the perceptions held and dualities of women’s roles in western society. That may suggest that this is a non-fiction work masquerading as fiction. However, this aspect is firmly set in the external world of the story and Cassie’s experiences.

    In and Out of Step explores:

    • how identity and relationships are shaped by the way gender operates and gender differences
    • how place—geography, attitudes, values, and culture—shape people’s lives and actions
    • the culture that supports and promotes sexual harassment in the workforce and social spheres
    • changing perceptions of gender roles
    • adapting to change in oneself and the wider world
    • the personal, social, and workplace influences that contribute to change.

    My novelsIn and Out of Step, Life Song, Song Bird portray the diverse and changing realities of women in the time the novels are set: 1980-1990, 1996-1998, 2000-2002.  The stories are anchored in the social and historical context of each period.

    Read more

    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

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  • Christine's music update


    Christine’s admin team are pleased to report ‘Life Song’ has continued to receive an increasingly strong response in its latest month of rotation on numerous radio stations targe..
  • Christine's music on Unearthed Triple J


    Help Christine cross over to commercial radio by following this link (, playing her songs, and giving them a star review. Yo..
  • 4 out of 4 stars review for 'Song Bird'


    Another 4 out of 4 stars for 'Song Bird'. Click here ( the review...

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