Historically, men have power over the lives of both nations and women. Commerce and politics are traditional realms of masculine influence in cultures worldwide. The latest Australian historical fiction by S.C. Karakaltsas (see my review here), The Good Child explores the public and private aspects of how the behaviour of some influential men affects their loved ones as well as the rest of the community.
Author S.C. Karakaltsas answered some of my questions about writing this fascinating novel. And congratulations on Release Day!
What inspired you to write The Good Child?
Sylvia: There are good powerful men and there are bad ones. And I’ve always wondered what the mothers of bad powerful men must think and feel. What sort of relationship do they have with their child? That led to the characters of Lucille and her son Tom. Lucille’s reflections about her life and what part she played in shaping her son drives the narrative — one I really wanted to explore.
The excesses of the eighties and the consequent fall out for ordinary hardworking people drew inspiration for Quin. She’s an ambitious and hardworking young woman who falls into the trap Tom sets for her.
I also wondered what would happen when Lucille and Quin met. And indeed they do, on a train, which makes for an interesting trip.
It certainly does! A gripping Australian historical fiction, The Good Child spans a number of decades, charting the everyday existence of ordinary Australian women across the 20th century.
How important is it to you that the stories of ordinary Australian women are told?
I think there’s more appetite to hear women’s stories: their voices, what they endured, how they lived, their aspirations and challenges. And that is largely coming from the number of wonderful women writers and the huge audience of women readers.
In the case of Lucille, born in 1920, she lived her life under the control of males. That was largely how life worked for women of her generation. Women’s aspirations centred on the need for financial security by being married and being a home maker.
For example, the challenges of having children during war time and the medical care at the time had an enormous impact on women whose husbands were away at war. What women wanted was never particularly given any attention.
The plot revolves around Tom, the man at the centre of the action, a man we always see through the eyes of others. Was this a deliberate story-telling decision, or
Did the women demand to tell the story from their perspective?
It wasn’t important to give Tom a voice as I wanted his character to be slowly revealed from the perspective of the two women he had affected the most. I thought they deserved to tell their side, to explain the choices they made and how they lived with the consequences. In Lucille’s case her love for her son is severely tested. In Quin’s case it’s her loyalty.
The financial excesses and frauds of the 1980s – mostly not uncovered until much later – lie at the heart of The Good Child.
How much research went into developing this story? Was it easy to find out how the fraud schemes operated?
As with all historical fiction there is always lots of research. It’s hard not to wander down rabbit holes.
But backing that research was my own experience and having worked in the financial industry at the time. I could draw on my own recollections of what was an extraordinary, tumultuous time.
I saw first hand what happened to everyday people whose fortunes changed suddenly through no fault of their own. That had an enormous impact on me.
It also surprised me that the most unlikely people commit fraud which just goes to show that if they can get away with it, then people will do it.
The ending of The Good Child carries a strong note of hope for women to (learn to) manage their own finances.
Do you have any examples of whether the financial aspect of life has improved for women? And is there still work to be done?
Legislation as well as banking codes of conduct were put into place in the nineties in order for consumers to be better prepared about what they were getting into. Yet the recent Banking Royal commission in Australia has disappointingly highlighted issues where consumers have been adversely affected by the wrong doings of some financial institutions. I guess like many other people, I’m tired of the lack of accountability and the power imbalance.
I know of women today who are financially controlled. Interestingly, since I started this book three years ago, there’s more focus on improving financial literacy and understanding.
But I think there’s a long way to go. I suspect that we may see history repeat in the next few years.
The emotions in this Australian historical fiction complement and expand on the action, helping us to see the personal impact of business-as-usual.
What strategies did you use to keep the story on a personal level?
I think when a story is told from a personal perspective the reader should feel every part of it. Dealing with the everyday challenges of love, loss and survival are more relatable if told from the character’s point of view.
I hope readers will feel that they know Lucille and Quin, that they can relate to them, feel for them, be hopeful and yearn for them to find their way through.
You write about things and events that are relatively unknown. Your first two novels were quite different – one set on a phosphate island and the other about the Greek Civil War.
What are you working on now?
I’m half way through another split timeline novel set in a small town in Northern Queensland. It’s historical crime mystery with two main characters, a missing man and environmental damage in the sixties causing long term generational health problems.
The working title is The Palace Hotel. I’m very excited about this project.
So am I! I can’t wait to see it. Thanks again for sharing so much interesting background to The Good Child.
See more great fiction from SC Karakaltsas
The Good Child is released on November 15th 2021.