In their youth, lovebirds Elizabeth and Ray had to fight to be together. Their future was full of promise and, blessed with children and careers, their happiness complete. But a twist of fate changed their lives forever.
Now in her sixties, Elizabeth is desperately lonely. She rarely sees her two adult sons and her closest friend is a talkative budgie. But when her grandson, Zach, gets into trouble with the police, she decides to take him on a road trip to find his grandfather, her lost love Ray, in the hope of mending their broken family.
Two less compatible travelling companions would be hard to find, as they set off on an unlikely adventure into the wilds of the northern NSW hinterland. What they discover along the way, about Ray and each other, has the power to transform them all. In trying to save Zach, Elizabeth might just save herself.
Warm, witty and wise, Lovebirds is an astute and uplifting novel about the power of love and family.
About the author:
Amanda Hampson grew up in rural New Zealand. She spent her early twenties travelling, finally settling in Australia in 1979 where she now lives in Sydney's Northern Beaches. Writing professionally for more than 20 years, she is the author of two non-fiction books, numerous articles and novels The Olive Sisters, Two for the Road, The French Perfumer,The Yellow Villa and Sixty Summers.
Author: Amanda Hampson
Penguin Books Australia
Question: What originally inspired the idea of Lovebirds?
Amanda Hampson: I've reached a stage in life when I can look back and see the transitions that women of my generation have had to make over the years. When we were young, the attention we got was based entirely on our attractiveness. In our middle years, we were valued for our usefulness but, once we reached an age when we were no longer considered attractive or useful, we were referred to derisively as 'little old ladies' " harmless and powerless. Many older women feel resentment at this stage of life and my character, Elizabeth, is one of them. I wanted to take her on a journey to find a new way of being and some contentment in her mature years.
Question: Are the characters based on anyone you know, in real life?
Amanda Hampson: The character of Elizabeth evolved from the realisation that friends, who I have known for decades, are sometimes perceived as difficult or prickly. I know the obstacles they have had to overcome in life and the truth of who they are, and I wanted to show one such woman's story.
Question: How much of your inspiration comes from real life and real people?
Amanda Hampson: I'm always intrigued by the way people respond to situations; change, success, failure, tragedy. When I create a character, I might draw on responses I've observed. Occasionally, I have created a character's back story that had its genesis in someone else's story "the source long forgotten. It's as though everything I see and hear is composting and something fresh springs out of it.
Question: Was it difficult reliving certain aspects/times of your life, whilst writing Lovebirds?
Amanda Hampson: The novel is entirely fictional so while I felt empathy towards the characters, the experiences are not mine. I did have great fun writing a 15 year old boy and remembering some of the things my younger son used to come out with at that age. I have also owned a couple of goats in the past " so that helped with Vladimir's antics " but never a budgie.
Question: What's the main message you hope readers take from Lovebirds?
Amanda Hampson: I aim to engage and entertain but also want the story and characters to be authentic and thought-provoking. I hope that readers might take a fresh look at older women around them and be more curious and less condemning. Perhaps older women may draw inspiration from the transformation of Elizabeth's life and how vital it is to adapt and keep an open mind.
Question: What is the best thing about creating a character like Lizzy?
Amanda Hampson: It was very entertaining pitting her against her 15 year old grandson and seeing who came off best " usually him. It was also enjoyable travelling back in time to recreate her early years during the sixties; delving into my own memories and jogging the memories of friends.
Question: What advice do you have for aspiring writers or artists?
Amanda Hampson: A family member once cautioned me that if I continued to pursue a writing career, I would end up 'living in a caravan and eating cat food'. I remember thinking at the time (cat food aside) that I was prepared to risk it. You have to be committed and tenacious, and keep creating to your heart's content.
Question: What or who inspired your love of reading/writing?
Amanda Hampson: I grew up in rural New Zealand where nothing much went on from one year to the next. The highlight of our week was driving into town on a Friday night to get our library books. I loved the experience of escaping into other places and other lives and knew I wanted to create that experience for other people.
Question: What's next, for you?
Amanda Hampson: I'm currently working on a mystery that is set in 1965, in the rag trade in Surry Hills, about four tea ladies who get together to solve a crime. It's great fun setting the scene of a very different time in Sydney and developing the characters of the tea ladies, their relationships with each other and the twists and turns of a mystery story.
Interview by Gwen van Montfort