It’s Australia Day and we’ve invited Sydney author Lisa Heidke along to help fly the flag. Here she reveals how her novels explore the depths of female friendship…
One of the major recurring themes in my novels is that of female friendships, and how those relationships shape our lives, wellbeing and attitudes, etc.
In Lucy Springer Gets Even, upfront there was Lucy’s relationship with her ten-year-old daughter and mother but the relationship that intrigued me the most was between Lucy and her best friend/agent Gloria. I wanted to test their friendship, to see how far and how honest Gloria could be with Lucy before Lucy snapped. There were also the peripheral relationships between Lucy, her neighbours and the school mums that I had great fun developing.
In What Kate did Next, the story is very much about family and Kate’s relationship with her teenage daughter, pregnant sister and mother. With this one, I pushed the idea that you can love someone, say your daughter, but not love or like their behaviour. I also enjoyed writing about the special love and bond between a grandmother and granddaughter.
With Claudia’s Big Break, I stepped away from families and focussed on the long-time friendship between three friends. These women have known each other for over twenty-five years and while they were close at high school, this story is about when they reconnect on a two-week holiday in Santorini years later. Sometimes you think you know a person so well but when they get married, have children, are climbing the corporate ladder, whatever … values change, priorities shift and things that meant so much when you were fifteen don’t seem as important when you’re nudging thirty-five and older.
In my latest book, Stella Makes Good, I again explore the emotional depths of female friendships. The story begins with best friends, Stella, Carly and Jesse sitting at a pub discussing their New Year’s mantras.
It’s a similar scenario played out across the world by friends talking about New Year’s resolutions. At the beginning of a new year everyone is keen to wipe the slate clean and usher in fresh, positive thoughts and promises. I do it with my friends most years and a couple of years ago whilst doing that it struck me that it would be an intriguing beginning for a novel…
Given that they’re best friends, what happens when Stella and Carly find out a scandalous secret involving Jesse?
Do they tell her?
The simple answer is that if by not telling her, Jesse could be harmed, then yes. But, then again, would Jesse be emotionally better off if she didn’t know?
I have also thrown Jesse’s sister, Louisa, into the mix. The sisters have been estranged for six years and exposing the secret will also mean that Louisa has to confront her past. Complicated!
I really enjoy writing about relationships and I love reading about them too. Marian Keyes is brilliant at dissecting not only female relationships, but friendships in general. I have just read The Help by Kathryn Stockett who does a brilliant job at that too. Jane Fallon’s The Ugly Sister is another book that dissects flawed familial female relationships.
I don’t think I’ll run out of tales because everywhere you turn, conversations are taking place. Inside every cafe and pub, bus or train, in the school yard and in the papers, relationships are falling apart, hearts are being broken while new romances are just beginning – and there’s an opportunity for a story … just waiting to be explored, written and read, especially if you’re good at eavesdropping.
The secret is crafting a story compelling, relatable and real. If the reader doesn’t emotionally connect with the characters they won’t believe or care about them. And if they don’t care about the characters, they’ll stop reading and you definitely don’t want that!
I hope that when people read Stella Makes Good, they can relate to at least a couple of the characters and that the experience brightens their afternoon. That’s the best I can hope for!
Lisa Heidke writes contemporary women’s fiction. Lucy Springer Gets Even (Allen & Unwin, 2009), her first book, was quickly followed by What Kate Did Next (2010). Claudia’s Big Break, was published in January 2011 and in February, was listed in the Sydney Morning Herald as one of the Top Ten Australian Best Sellers. Lisa’s fourth novel, Stella Does Good, has just been released. You can find out more about Lisa at her Facebook page – Lisa Heidke – author; and read her sporadic weekly blog, at http://www.lisaheidke.com You can also follow her on Twitter @lisaheidke.