Fiona McCallum was raised on a farm in South Australia. She now lives in suburban Adelaide, but remains a country girl at heart. Fiona writes ‘heart-warming journey of self-discovery stories’ that draw on her life experiences, love of animals and fascination with the human condition. She is the author of ten Australian bestsellers. A Life of Her Own is her eleventh novel.
Words // Fiona McCallum
Women have endured a long history of being treated as second-class citizens, including putting their individual needs, dreams and aspirations aside in favour of men. The result is much unhappiness and frustration for many – men and women alike.
Through my down-to-earth stories and relatable characters, I hope to encourage readers – particularly women – to find what makes their hearts sing, chase their dreams and ultimately change their lives for the better if they’re not already truly happy. It’s a successful journey I’ve been on myself. While there’s been trauma, difficulties and heartbreak, I’m still here and I’m stronger, more independent and happier for having stood up for myself and my aspirations and faced and overcome challenges instead of settling for less and the life originally laid out for me.
I was raised in rural South Australia with some staunch beliefs – namely, daughters got husbands and sons got farms, that you worked hard and being happy didn’t really come into it. I wasn’t encouraged to have dreams or ambition beyond a secure office job and getting married and having kids. At the heart of it all was men provide and you need one to survive. Hard to believe this was the nineteen-eighties and nineties and not the nineteen-fifties!
I’m grateful that as a child my dad treated me equally with my brother in the sense of mucking in and working and the skills he taught. But despite my close bond with Dad and working well together, my career after leaving school would not be on the family farm. Maybe if my dad hadn’t died at the age of forty-five when I was nineteen, things might have turned out differently…
I did as conditioned and what seemed the next best thing and married a local farmer. I thought he appreciated me for my strength and independence, skills and work ethic. Realising what he really wanted was a subservient wife and not a business partner came as quite a shock!
The trauma around my marriage ending was heightened by being labelled a failure by my family. Particularly galling was struggling to start over alone when my brother had been given a livelihood and a rent-free, mortgage-free house for life. I remain disappointed about the inequality and lack of familial support, but something good came out of it too – leaving the small district where I’d been raised.
Like all of my novels to date, my latest, A Life of Her Own, draws on my life experiences and includes a main female character who gains the knowledge and empowerment to make difficult choices to change her life for the better.
Alice Hamilton has been conditioned to fall into line and keep the peace. She’s with a man she cares about and respects and who, on the surface, looks to tick most of the right boxes. Especially in the eyes of her mother. Most importantly, he’s everything her ex-husband wasn’t. Or so Alice thought. But when she’s faced with the first emotional upheavals since being with David, she’s stunned and heartbroken to find a lack of empathy and support. Alice is forced to reassess her past, her present and her future and face making some tough decisions. But can she find the courage to stand up for what she wants and needs if it means leaving a secure and comfortable life for one of uncertainty and financial hardship?
It’s a choice that I and plenty of other brave women have made and will continue to make. Only we can truly know what’s in our own heart and what our best life looks like. Others may think they do and plenty will have an opinion. I learnt the hard way that trying to live the ideals of others can mean a life of angst, frustration and ultimate disappointment. There’s huge satisfaction to be found in even the smallest victory towards a goal that is truly your own. And proving people wrong in the process is pretty fun too!
It’s important to me to encourage others via my characters and stories to live a life that fulfils them on the inside because happy people are kinder, more generous and more compassionate, and the world needs a lot more of each of those things right now.