The Mother Fault Author Kate Mildenhall on Writing a Mother-Hero

The Mother Fault Author Kate Mildenhall on Writing a Mother-Hero

In a NYT review on her wonderful memoir of motherhood and writing, Making Babies, Anne Enright says:

I think it’s very odd and difficult that in fiction, motherhood generally ends the narrative… In terms of contemporary novels, it’s hard to think of a great fictional heroine who’s also a mother.

While I don’t necessarily agree that there are not great mother heroines in contemporary fiction (The Glad Shout by Alice Robinson and Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar just to name a recent couple), there is certainly a dearth of them, and one of my main goals in writing The Mother Fault was to write a mother-hero.

Let’s not for a second think that the lack of mother-heroes in fictions represents a lack of them in the real world, because mothers are outrageously heroic all the time. I think it’s partly just because including the kids in a novel can be tedious (give me some escapism already!) and many authors who write realism can’t get away from the fact that they would move into speculative fiction if their mother heroes didn’t have to constantly think about where the kids are at.

I’m a mother of two young daughters. The question that burned in me as I began writing this book was What would I be prepared to do to protect my children? The answer is, of course, anything and everything, but that raw instinct is often in conflict with the daily work of mothering – the tedium, the resentment, the loss of self.

The writer Anna Downes, recently (very generously)  called The Mother Fault ‘a love letter – from a mother to her children, a human being to her world, a woman to herself.’ It thrilled that a reader (especially another writer!) recognised this beating heart of the book, because yes, I did want to write a love story between a mother and her children. Mim’s eleven-year-old daughter, Essie, is itching to untangle herself from her mother, to get back to her normal world, to blame her mum for the chaos and uncertainty that they find themselves in. And Mim is still struggling to know herself, so upended has she been by the experience of motherhood, of post-natal anxiety, of the replacement of the self she knew by this new model – of mother.

In Things I Don’t Want to Know, Deborah Levy writes:

Now that we were mothers we were all shadows of our former selves, chased by the women we used to be before we had children. We didn’t really know what to do with her, this fierce, independent young woman who followed us about, shouting and pointing the finger while we wheeled our buggies in the English rain.

Don’t we all have a fierce younger self, following us around and reminding us of everything we have failed to be? In The Mother Fault I wanted to explore how a woman might draw on that fierce younger self along with her new mother self – in fact all of her selves – daughter, lover, mother, sister, wife – to do what needs to be done.

In The Mother Fault, I hope readers find a thrilling tale, an exploration of surveillance and desire and sacrifice, and a great fictional heroine – who is also a mother.

Reviews

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14 September 2020

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                  Synopsis

                  You will not recognise me, she thinks, when I find you . . .Mim’s husband is missing. No one knows where Ben is, but everyone wants to find him – especially The Department. And they should know, the all-seeing government body has fitted the entire population with a universal tracking chip to keep them ‘safe’.But suddenly Ben can’t be tracked. And Mim is questioned, made to surrender her passport and threatened with the unthinkable – her two children being taken into care at the notorious BestLife.Cornered, Mim risks everything to go on the run to find her husband – and a part of herself, long gone, that is brave enough to tackle the journey ahead.From the stark backroads of the Australian outback to a terrifying sea voyage, Mim is forced to shuck off who she was – mother, daughter, wife, sister – and become the woman she needs to be to save her family and herself.
                  Kate Mildenhall
                  About the author

                  Kate Mildenhall

                  Kate Mildenhall is a writer and education project officer, who currently works at the State Library of Victoria. As a teacher, she has worked in schools, at RMIT University and has volunteered with Teachers Across Borders, delivering professional development to Khmer teachers in Cambodia. She lives with her husband and two young daughters in Hurstbridge, Victoria.

                  Books by Kate Mildenhall

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