Claire Halliday has been a writer for about 19 years – a lifelong dream which she turned into reality. Her writing journey included three of her own non-fiction books published, plus a few more which she ghost-wrote for other people.
In 2016, Claire celebrates with publication of her new and fourth non-fiction book, Things My Mother Taught Me, published by Echo Publishing (a division of Five Mile Press).
Despite her busy schedule with the launch of her new book, Claire managed to grant us a quick interview about her life as an author and a mum.
Tell us about yourself and your family?
I’m based in Melbourne (although I’m from Adelaide originally) and I have four children. it’s a big spread of ages – my 17 year old daughter is in year 12 this year, then I have a 13 year old son, plus two other daughters, aged 9 and 7. Life is BUSY and running a couple of businesses adds to that but it’s great.
Tell us about your new book – Things My Mother Taught Me.
Things My Mother Taught Me is non-fiction. It’s a collection of 20 stories – including my own about life as an adopted person who searched for my birth mother – and I interviewed people all about the impact and influence their mum had on their lives.
The mix of people is really diverse and the stories are too. Some people have incredible bonds with their mums and tell really heartwarming stories of how much they love and care for each other but there are others in there that are more heartbreaking. The relationship between mums and children can be very complex and sometimes challenging.
What inspired you to write this book?
This is my fourth non-fiction book and it’s the one I have enjoyed the most – absolutely. I came up with the idea because, as a mother, I get caught up in those typical worries about how my own impact on my children will be looked back on by them.
I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I think most mums think about all the interactions they have with their kids and how our children might remember the things we talk to them about – the things we try to teach them.
I love hearing people’s stories and so I came up with the idea of interviewing a range of Australian identities to ask them about their own mums – and how that really important relationship helped shape the person they are today.
Photos of Claire’s mum
What has writing this book taught you about motherhood?
Everyone’s experience of motherhood – and of being the child to a mother – is incredibly different and personal. I found the interview process pretty confronting because it made me think even harder about the idea that had inspired me to do the book in the first place. Listening to the way people remembered seemingly insignificant things from their childhood and the lasting impact comments or action from their mums had made motivated me to look at myself and the way I mother my own children with fresh eyes. In a way, I think it’s made me a better mum – I have been trying harder. Childhood is such a fleeting thing but the memories that are made within it are so important. I’m making an extra effort to do make some special memories that I hope will last a lifetime.
You had a range of contributors – who was one of the most interesting and why?
Mums aren’t supposed to say they have a favourite child and I think, in the same way, I’m probably not meant to say one interviewee was my favourite. Am I? Well…I have always had a fascination for the old Melbourne art scene and all the stories about artist Mirka Mora have always been intriguing so, for me, interviewing Mirka’s son, Tiriel Mora, was an absolute thrill. He had such an amazing, interesting childhood – although there were times he found all that drama embarrassing and just wanted to be a normal kid. I’ve been a fan of his acting for ages too, so sitting and chatting with him was fantastic. He is intelligent and articulate and thoughtful and I could have listened to his stories for hours.
Tracy Bartram is another stand-out. She’s just funny. She tells a story about a childhood that wasn’t always easy but she does it so engagingly – the skill of a talented comedian!
Shaynna Blaze is another stand-out. Her mum has been in a nursing home with alzheimers and is completely unaware of any Shaynna’s brilliant career success on TV so I found that really sad. The fact that my own mum was going through the early stages of dementia and has moved into a nursing home as this book was coming out made Shaynna’s story resonate with me even more.
What has been your favourite part about interviewing the contributors?
I just love listening to people’s stories. That’s why I love being a writer.
It’s a real privilege to hear the ins and outs of people’s personal lives and having them trust you with their story. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried – it’s been a journey. I’m so excited now that it’s out in stores and people can share the stories with me.
Advice for others about becoming a writer?
Listen. Look. There are stories all around us. They say everyone has a story so the trick is to find it and give people the confidence to share it with you.
What do you hope your children would say in the future about what you taught them?
My kids have seen me in a completely different light since this book came out, which has been fantastic. They knew I was a writer and I’ve been doing it their whole lives but I’m not sure they really knew what that meant. This time around, they’ve been old enough o come to book launches with me and see me interviewing people about their mums in front of the audience – plus they’ve sat there listening to my own story about my feelings as someone who was adopted an tried to reunite with my birth mum.
I hope they remember me as someone who was honest, and caring, and loving. I also hope they remember that I always followed my dreams and worked hard to make them come true. That’s what I want for them to do in their own lives too – just follow their passion and make it happen.
Things My Mother Taught me is available online or at any good book retailers.
Image source : Claire Halliday