CHRISTINE M. KNIGHT

An Australian author who provides insight into the human condition.

Feature Article

Good Reading Magazine, February 2015

The Songstress of Oz

Stardom is a complex and taxing experience, compounded by paparazzi scrums and constant media attention. In Song Bird, Mavis Mills – who has taken the stage name of Nikki – must battle the challenges of fame while caring for her son and family, and searching for love while surrounded by the misleading and manipulative personalities of the music industry. ANGUS DALTON asks novelist CHRISTINE M KNIGHT about the experiences that allowed her to write convincingly about her character’s whirlwind rise to fame.

‘Did you know,’ Christine M Knight asks, ‘that in the original stories of The Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man was once a character made of flesh and bone?’ I admit that, despite being coerced into watching the movie multiple times in my childhood that I did not. She explains that in the book series by L Frank Baum, on which the classic movie was based, a woodsman named Nick Chopper has his axe cursed by the Wicked Witch of the East. The bewitched axe turned on him each time he swung it, severing his limbs in quick succession, which he replaced with prosthetic appendages forged from tin. All his flesh and organs were eventually hacked away – including his heart – to be replaced with cold, hard metal.

‘In order to survive and succeed and prosper as the woodsman,’ Christine says, ‘he became a manufactured man, a tin man. In the process of pursuing his career, he lost his heart.’

‘It’s never ceased to amaze me that the brighter and more talented the girl, the more likely it is that she will tend to be insecure.’

Christine explains that in her novels she explores the Faustian choices that many people make in their lives that cause them to go astray. Faust is an infamous character in German folklore, popularized by Christopher Marlowe’s play Doctor Faustus in 1592, who makes a pact with the devil; he offers up his soul to Satan in return for limitless pleasure and knowledge. Faustus and the ‘Faustian choice’ are now synonymous with a decision made by a person who forgoes personal morality and integrity in order to achieve a certain ambition or success, just like the Tin Man.

It’s this kind of choice that songstress Mavis Mills struggles with in Christine’s novel Life Song, and it’s recently released sequel, Song Bird. In Life Song, Mavis is torn by a tug-of-war choice between succumbing to the consequences of bad choices she’s made in her life – abusive relationships, insecurity, drug abuse and the challenges of pregnancy and motherhood – or stepping above the challenges and rising to success and fame by pursuing her talent as a musician, a path that is plagued with pitfalls. Mavis was an immensely talented teenager, brimming with promise, but, heartbreakingly, she lost her way.

‘It’s never ceased to amaze me that the brighter and more talented the girl, the more likely it is that she will tend to be insecure,’ Christine says. ‘Teenage girls don’t know about the women’s movement – they want a partner. They want someone to belong to, and they want the status that comes from having a boyfriend and from being popular. So I gave these qualities to Mavis: she’s bright, talented, came from struggling but supportive parents, but she hides her light and downplays her talents.’

Song Bird picks up two years after Life Song, and Mavis has now well and truly found her path (or ‘the golden road’, as Christine describes it). She’s a gold recording artist, well on her way to hitting platinum off the back of a world tour that has reached success that would be unfathomable to her younger, insecure self.

‘To me she was very much like Sleeping Beauty. She had a sleeping talent. But she’s not awakened by a prince.’ Christine says that she’s not interested in those kind of stories; men can be an important part of a woman’s life, but in her stories, they are pointedly not the central aspect of a woman’s existence. ‘Instead of the kiss of a prince that brings her to life, it’s the kiss of life, the kiss of talent, the kiss of music.’

The most glaring demarcation between the Mavis we meet at the beginning of Life Song and the Mavis in Song Bird is her decision to be referred to exclusively – save for a small group of immediate family – by her stage name, Nikki.

The names of the characters in Christine’s books hold significant symbolism and meaning. The reason behind Christine’s particularity with names is explained through the backstory of the mysterious ‘M’ initial that stands between her first and last names. Christine’s father wanted to pay homage to his mother, Anne, by endowing Christine with the middle name of Mari-Anne. Fortunately, her father had a hearing problem, and didn’t realise his mother’s name was actually Agnes, a name that Christine isn’t particularly fond of.

‘I’ve always wondered if I would be different if I was named Christine Mary-Agnes. There’s an awful lot of research about how names shape the way we perceive and think about ourselves.’

Mavis’s decision to relinquish her original name, which is a reference to a European songbird, and be known as Nikki is therefore a monumental step in her growth, and a major theme in Song Bird is the continuing duel between her old and new selves.

‘Mavis represents to her the person she no longer wants to be – the woman with poor judgement, the woman who stuffed up her life, the woman who got trapped and abused, the woman whose heart was broken. Her life changed when she became Nikki Mills.’

The two names the character is known by also distinguish between her personal self, still referred to as Mavis by her close family, and her public persona, lead singer of the Nikki Mills Band and a freshly discovered celebrity with a rapidly rising media profile.

Christine herself had a taste of a musician’s largely nocturnal gigging lifestyle when she was younger and played keyboard for a rock band. She sang in the band too, but admits that she was only tuneful in a very specific range – the other band members used to wait until their audience was appropriately intoxicated before surreptitiously allowing her microphone to be plugged in.

‘I would love to be able to sing,’ she sighs, raising her arms theatrically, her eyes closed. ‘I would love to be a female version of Andrea Bocelli. I would love to be able to soar …’ She returns abruptly from her brief flight of fancy. ‘So I gave the voice that I wanted to Nikki.’

The passion of playing live music translates to the page in the descriptions of the live performances expertly delivered by the Nikki Mills Band, as do Christine’s darker experiences. The lead guitarist of her band was tragically lost to a drug overdose, so she knows that the pursuit of success in the music industry is not the idyllic and romanticised lifestyle often portrayed. She’s watched many movies and TV shows about music and dance, including reality programs such as The Voice and The X-Factor. With a little help from an auto-tuned microphone and a carefully fabricated backstory tailored to be as tear-jerking as possible, new stars can be produced overnight on these shows, albeit ones that burn out quickly. ‘They all make it seem so easy and don’t really give an honest look into what trying to break it and make it in the music industry is really like. They’re all about short-cutting the journey.’

Christine believes that many talented people are reshaped into clones, and that everything that makes them uniquely wonderful gets cut away. It’s that Faustian choice, the dilemma of the Tin Man – how much of themselves are they willing to give away before they make it?

Christine views Nikki’s story as a more accurate, Aussie-battleresque portrayal of the fight for creative success, as someone who never had the artificial leverage of a reality TV show or affluent parents. Nikki is resolute in the face of the paparazzi. She unyieldingly stands up for herself, her family, and her son, Dan, who is particularly vulnerable to the invasive effects of his mother’s fame. Another subtle reference to The Wizard of Oz acts as a metaphor for Nikki’s determination to stay grounded and true to herself. Whenever she is overseas or away from her family and in performance mode, she wears red shoes. It’s a nod to the magical ruby shoes sported by Dorothy that eventually whisk her back to the safety of Kansas. Whenever Nikki has the red shoes on, she knows her way home, back to her coastal town of Keimera, back to who she truly is, safe from being eroded by egotism or whisked away by the whirlwind of media. She refuses to sell her soul. She refuses to become the Tin Man. But can she really survive the tribulations of stardom, motherhood and love with her heart intact?

Song Bird by Christine M Knight is published by Highlight Publishing, rrp$24.99. Order it online or from your local bookshop. You can follow Christine M Knight at christinemknight.com.au.


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LATEST BLOG POSTS

    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. Long before Nikki met Rick, his song 'The Flame' resonated with Nikki.

    Flattered by Rick's interest in her and impressed by 'The Flame', Nikki embarks on a relationship with Brody.  A subplot in the novel explores the ramifications of that decision. Can she help Rick find the heart that his music once had? Does the singer really represent the ideas and values of the songs he sings? Will the relationship with him injury Nikki?

    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

    Saturday, May 20, 2017

    The Story Behind the Country Rock Song 'Sunshine Days'

    Saturday, May 20, 2017

    'Sunshine Days' is the most recent of my songs to be released. It features Rachel Thorne (vocals) and Milo G (performer, arranger and producer). As with all of my music, I am the composer and executive producer. 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.

    'Sunshine Days' is an intimate song of disillusion, longing, and hope that is relevant to world-shaking events that generate fear as well as being a song about personal moments of disillusion, loss, and pain. Although the singer feels oppressed by her current circumstance, she does not seek escape into a fantasy land. She recognizes that life - past and future - had and can have golden moments even though the present is tainted by disillusion, isolation, and the pain associated with loss.  The song is about facing reality and committing to reclaiming what has been lost.

    'Sunshine Days' features in chapter 1 of my novel ’Life Song' and later in its sequel, 'Song Bird'.

    Initially, it is sung by Mavis Mills (aka Nikki Mills – the girl from Oz). My songs 'Life Song' and 'Sunshine Days' provide the backstory for Mavis' choices and the motivation underpinning her narrative journey. She chooses to boldly travel down the road less traveled and is determined not to let trouble get the best of her. Easier said than done though.


    Although music and a career in the music industry function as a portal into a better life for Mavis and her son, Dan, it also adds complexity to Mavis' life as she works to balance her personal needs and the demands she faces as a single parent.

    When 'Sunshine Days' recurs in 'Song Bird', it is sung by Zoey Blake (a secondary character), the illegitimate daughter of Susie Blake and Max Ryan (rock musicians). Susie and Max had a passionate relationship until Susie fell pregnant. While Max supported Susie's right to choose abortion, he opposed her choice to have a baby. As a result, the couple broke up.

    Zoey sings 'Sunshine Days' in her late teens. Having lost the innocence of her childhood and confronted by the knowledge that her biological father did not want her, Zoey struggles with her loss of innocent hope.  In that context, 'Sunshine Days' is a turning point in Zoey's personal journey.

    OVERVIEW OF MY NOVEL ‘LIFE SONG’
    My novel 'Life Song' picks up Mavis' story six years after the end of 'In and Out of Step' in which Mavis was a significant secondary character. 

    There are many harrowing stories of violence against women but a lesser number of stories address how some women rise above the trauma and move on in life. 'Life Song' does the latter.

    A character-driven novel, 'Life Song' explores the choices Mavis Mills makes as she balances competing demands and responsibilities with her desire to find an identity beyond motherhood. A survivor of domestic violence, Mavis discovers unexpectedly that she has a choice: accept her life as it is or try to rise above her circumstance, realize her potential, and make her nearly forgotten dreams become true.

    The novel does not focus on the abuse – that is in the backstory - it traces the ramifications of it as Mavis strives to put her past behind her. The novel's uplifting plot is very much about the woman that Mavis becomes and the influences that shape her rather than being a novel about a ‘chic-musician on the road to fame story’.

    In terms of its appeal, readers agree 'Life Song' is a blend of wry humour and vivid storytelling. The general feedback from readers is that the characters are memorable and inhabit the imagination long after the reading of the novel is finished.

    OVERVIEW OF MY NOVEL ’SONG BIRD’
    In 'Song Bird', Nikki (aka Mavis) has become an international singing sensation - the Girl from Oz. Determined not to be caged by the media circus, she travels down the golden road through a land of glitter and gloss, facing challenges on the way while struggling to leave the demons from her past behind. In ‘Song Bird’, Nikki continues to grow into the woman she wants to be, not the one others expect her to be. She forges ahead with the support of men, not because of them. 

     

    ONLINE SITES WHERE YOU CAN BUY THE SONG
    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 about one cent per one hundred plays. 

    Read more

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NEWS

  • 'Garysong' and 'The Real deal' in production

    08-Jul-2017

    Christine has two more songs in production: 'Garysong' and 'The Real Deal'. More updates in the near future...
  • Avastar runs Lauren Scott's interview with Christine M Knight

    23-Jun-2017

    A USA East Coast press syndicate, Avastar Entertainment Network ran Lauren Scott's interview with Christine M Knight recently. Here is the link (http://www.avastar.tv/features/ChristineMKnight1.html)...
  • 'Masque' hits the rock charts

    23-Jun-2017

    Berkshire Media Group recently collated its Rock Chart data for May 2017. Christine's song, 'Masque', hit the #1 position on their charts and held it for May 2017. In Australia, the Internet radio ..

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