‘Life Song’ grew out of concerns and questions about life that the women and men I interviewed shared. Many women and men had questions about plotting a course through life in uncharted territory and about what made life worth living, what gave it meaning. They were also interested in the nature of love and worried about being deceived by counterfeit love and subsequently hurt. All adult groups shared a desire to have love of the adult kind - the real version of it and not an imitation. Many found that a life without a passion is empty – be that passion cycling, gardening, gaming, fishing, surfing, art, lifesaving, work for the community – the list of passions is endless.
Women had questions about what it meant to be a woman in the modern world given the complexity of the roles they now played. Mothers back in the work force had questions about boundaries – about when and where a mother's responsibility for her children took priority over her responsibility to self, and should it.
Those questions became the starting point for my imaginative explorations of characters in a range of situations and settings. Research into the music industry continued during this time. As I considered the duality of women and men's roles in western society, I asked myself, What if ...? As a result of that imagining, the plot of ‘Life Song’ emerged.
In Life Song, I re-introduce Australian songbird Mavis Mills. Born to sing, Mavis has set her dreams aside and spent six years parenting her beloved son Dan. Then, unexpectedly, she discovers she has a choice: to accept her life as it is or to attempt to rise above her circumstances, realize her potential, and make her nearly-forgotten dreams come true.
I’m going to take a detour here to provide some background circumstance so you understand more about ‘Life Song’.
When I wrote my first novel, 'In and Out of Step', I knew that Mavis Mills was going to be the central character in the next novel although I didn't fully know where her story would lead or what the title of that novel would be. I wanted Australian names for Mavis and her family, and when I discussed the matter with my mother, she suggested the name of Mabel, a character from one of her favourite radio shows - Dad and Dave from Snake Gully.
In ‘Life Song’ and ‘In and Out of Step’, Mavis and her family are Aussie battlers, and I wanted names that echoed that experience. I varied the name from Mabel to Mavis because I discovered Mavis is a variation of Mabel and that mavis is also the name of a songbird. I developed Mavis' back-story in 'In and Out of Step' as a contrasting subplot to Cassie Sleight's story and journey. Cassie is a dancer, and it seemed fitting that Mavis, although from a different walk of life, should share the same strong creative impulse that would bond them somehow. Their lives ran in parallel at times but diverged because of the choices made.
An overheard snatch of dialogue between children at play became the stimulus for Dan's story (Mavis' son) in 'Life Song'. The little boy (the child of a single parent) in response to his playmate's comment that his father was returning home from overseas duty said, "I don't know where my daddy is, but I know he'll come home soon too." The boy's father never did.
In developing Dan's story, I was interested in exploring aspects of life when a child grows up without his father in the picture. Dan is six when the novel starts. I developed Zoey's story as a parallel and contrast to Dan’s journey. When I created Zoey, she was originally a minor character needed in the plot action, however, she stepped off the page very quickly and demanded that her story be told too. Kate’s story also looks at parent-child relationships from another perspective.
Given Mavis' back-story in 'In and Out of Step' and her musical ability, the Australian music industry was the obvious vehicle for Mavis' pursuit of a career. The music industry also forms one of the backdrops to Mavis' journey. Another two backdrops are life in a coastal town south of Sydney and the period 1996-1998 in Australia.
'Life Song' is not non-fiction masquerading as fiction. It is Mavis's story first and foremost. It is a quest story about boldly journeying down a path less travelled. It is a tale about the power of believing in self. It is a narrative about rebirth and begins at the end of a period of anguish and sacrifice for Mavis.