Australian fiction author
Ayla Simone is my guest this week, Ayla is a contemporary fiction author and digital copywriter and a mum of 2 from Brisbane , QLD, Australia.
Ayla grew up writing, but like many creatives, couldn't see how writing was going to be full time job. She turned instead to marketing, content creation and copywriting to utilize her creativity.
She began writing her debut novel Marigold Milk when her her son was a baby, he was a contact napper and she would write while he was napping on her lap, using her phone to write.
Marigold Milk drops the reader into a tumultuous and trans-formative time of Mariella Gold’s life. Grief-stricken by the loss of a child, Mariella loses her floristry business and applies for a nannying position with a twist. The unusual and lucrative role sees her helping care for the baby of widowed local doctor, Dr Jamie North. The job is a welcome escape from the despair of her lifeless marriage, but Mariella is surprised to even find joy and purpose with Jamie and his son, in a way she couldn’t have expected.
Ayla has 2 more books in the works and her work aims to examine themes of modern life that are often silenced within us; with a particular focus on women and motherhood.
**This episode contains mentions of pregnancy loss and wet nursing**
If today’s episode is triggering for you in any way I encourage you to seek help from those around you, medical professionals or from resources on line. I have compiled a list of great international resources here
Music used with permission from Alemjo my new age and ambient music trio.
When chatting to my guests I greatly appreciate their openness and honestly in sharing their stories. If at any stage their information is found to be incorrect, the podcast bears no responsibility for guests' inaccuracies.
Podcast transcript at the bottom of the page
Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode of The Art of Being A Mum Podcast. I'm beyond honoured that you're here and would be grateful if you could take 2 minutes to leave me a 5-star review in iTunes or wherever you are listening. It really helps! This way together we can inspire, connect and bring in to the light even more stories from creative mums. Want to connect? Take a screenshot of this episode and share it on Instagram tagging me in with @art_of_being_a_mum_podcast
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Alison acknowledges this Land of the Berrin (Mount Gambier) Region as the Traditional Lands of the Bungandidj People and acknowledge these First Nations people as the custodians of the Region.
Welcome to the Art of Being a mum podcast, where I Alison Newman, a singer songwriter, and Ozzy mum of two enjoys honest and inspiring conversations with artists and creators about the joys and issues they've encountered, while trying to be a mum and continue to create your hair themes like the mental juggle, changes in identity, how their work has been influenced by motherhood, mum guilt, cultural norms, and we also stray into territory such as the patriarchy, feminism, and capitalism. You can find links to my guests and topics we discussed in the show notes, along with a link to the music played, how to get in touch, and a link to join our supportive and lively community on Instagram. I'll always put a trigger warning if we discuss sensitive topics on the podcast. But if at any time you're concerned about your mental health, I urge you to talk to those around you reach out to health professionals, or seek out resources online. I've compiled a list of international resources which can be accessed on the podcast landing page, Alison Newman dotnet slash podcast. The art of being a man would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land and water, which this podcast is recorded on has been the Bondic people in the barren region of South Australia. I'm working on land that was never ceded. Thank you so much for joining me. It is a pleasure to have you here from wherever you are all around the world. My guest today is ala Simone. ALA is a contemporary fiction author and digital copywriter from Brisbane in Queensland, and she's a mom of two. I grew up writing but like many creatives couldn't see her writing was going to be a full time job. She turned instead to marketing, content creation and copywriting to utilize her creativity. I began writing her debut novel marigold milk when her son was a baby. He was a contact Napper and she would write while he was napping on her lap using her fine marigold milk drops the reader into a tumultuous and transformative time have Mariela gold's life. grief stricken by the loss of a child, Mariela loses her floristry business and applies for a nanny position with a twist. The unusual and lucrative role sees her helping to care for the baby of a widowed local doctor. The job is a welcome escape from the despair of her lifeless marriage, and she is surprised to find joy and purpose with the new doctor and his son. In a way she could never have expected. Ayla has two more books in the works. And her work aims to examine themes of modern life that are often silenced within us, and a particular focus on women and motherhood. This episode contains mentions of pregnancy loss and witnessing.
Hi, Isla, thank you so much for coming on the podcast. It's such a pleasure to welcome you today.
Thank you for having me. I'm so excited.
So we're about to you leaving.
I'm in Brisbane in the suburbs. Lovely. Yeah.
My sister spent a bit of time up in Brisbane few years ago, and we went to visit it the first time I'd ever been up there. I just loved it. It reminded me of like, be like Adelaide with it sort of easygoing, but the weather being a lot better. I just found everyone was so friendly. And it's just a really lovely place.
It is quite like a small town. Most of my family's in Melbourne. So going to Melbourne. It's like wow, this is a big city. Brisbane, you probably feel similar seems Adelaide. It's more laid back. Yeah. Very hot out here though.
Yeah. Now and because you guys don't have daylight savings. Do you know? Yeah, because that was something I noticed when I was up there. How it got early. So like got bright and light so early. And it was just that okay, we're up. Yeah.
On the flip side, you go to some of these daylight savings and the kids don't want to go to sleep until like nine or 10 o'clock because it's bright.
Yes. That's that's us at the moment. It's like half past eight. Oh, maybe even caught nine before it gets dark. So they're just like, but it's too late outside.
We don't know like I've got nothing left. You have to do it.
Yeah, that was literally my last night because the bubblegum back to school today. Down here. So last night, the day please just go to sleep.
I see a great day for you that it's a
wonderful day is such a nice day. It's just nice to have done the school drop off and then just go do something that doesn't involve looking after other people.
And the silence when you leave them and it's like I don't have to talk to anyone for a little while.
Yes. Gosh, yeah, you take it for granted. You really do. Yeah, yeah.
You're an author, can you tell us a little bit about how you got into writing? Is it something that you've always done? Like as a kid growing up?
Yeah, writing has always sort of been my thing, I guess I remember in primary school, going to little writing camps. And in high school, I was in, you know, the kind of extension English writing thing. And that was my thing. Like, I could not do math to save my life at all. Writing has been, it's like, probably close. Next, I was like, Oh, I can do this. Yeah, and I've always loved writing, I always wanted to write a book. Yeah, and I've just finally now done it, I think some probably other people in the arts can relate to this, you have an interest in something creative. And growing up, there's a lot of noise around, okay, but you've got to kind of make that a job where you can actually make a living, you know, for the kind of consumer society you can't, you know, you can't cut off into the woods and write a book. Like, that's not what you're going to do. So yeah, I've done marketing and content creation and copywriting. So I guess that's how I kind of made it a job. And then, yeah, recently got to what I wanted to do originally, which is writing a book,
congratulations. That's pretty exciting. Yeah, that that theme of, of sort of putting your passion on the back burner, or like, in your case, in many others, to finding a way to sort of slightly incorporate that into their, like, paid job. It's such a common theme, just, you know, parents will be like, oh, you know, how you're gonna pay the bills, you know, that's not a real job, all that sort of stuff. And then they find themselves coming back to it, you know, as an adult, because you just cannot you get to where we cannot not do it, you know, it's like, yeah, it just makes you do it.
So, tell us about your book.
Well, my food, I feel like this is a common theme with authors. Or it might just be me because I'm a shy author. But when someone asks, What's your book about? That's like the worst question. Oh, amazing. Like hard to condense? Yeah, probably. So in like internal. But basically, it's about a main character. And she's just lost a baby. And then she's lost her business, and her husband of 10 years has turned on her and become a really awful person in her life. So she's desperate to find a purpose. And she decides that she wants to donate her breast milk online after hearing about it from a friend. And then she meets with a widowed man who's just lost his wife. So he has a baby to feed, and he's desperate for help as well. And he asked her to fulfill the quite unusual position these days of being a witness for his baby. And the reason behind that is the baby has a lot of allergies, and he's really struggling, you know, to find something that will help his baby be healthy. So she's sort of propelled by her grief and wanting to escape her household situation, and she accepts it and joins his family. And she starts to find purpose and happiness again, but then sort of the truth of her own motherhood. And what has happened in her past starts to unravel slowly, she has to kind of face her demons and see if she can overcome them to find her own purpose in life again.
Yeah, right. That's a really cool storyline, like, Yeah, that's really cool.
I don't usual when I started writing it, I, it was kind of the whole point was, you know, I was at home with my baby nursing writing. I was just thinking, I've never read a book, really, where there's a character, even books that have mothers, there's not really a character that mentioned, you know, the breastfeeding the nursing or, you know, feeding the baby. It's not something that's mentioned that often and for me, at least, it's like a huge part of being a mum, like, I mean, no matter how you feed your baby, especially at the start, you're spending hours every day, like feeding your baby, whether it's a bottle, you're breastfeeding them to hear. So I sort of wanted to incorporate that and I started writing it as historical fiction, because, you know, witnesses that was an old time. Yeah, but then I think it was like 20,000 words, then I'll say is this isn't gonna really help Modern mothers like this is, you know, a historical story. But if I was to kind of juxtapose that with modern times, where it actually makes it something a little shocking to some people, I'm sure. I think it has more value for mothers to kind of read it in a modern setting.
Yeah, cuz I was gonna ask you sort of what you said. Yeah. And for those who don't know, a witness, basically is it's a mother who's lactating who feeds another mother's child,
basically. Yeah. And in my story, I've been very careful to not not to say this. It's not just, I wouldn't even say it's the central theme of the story. And I think that was important. For me, for Mother's reading it, it's not the hero of the story is not that she breastfeeds a child. And it's definitely not the villain of the story. And it doesn't ruin anything for her. It's something very special. And that's highlighted. But yeah, it's not the be all end all, she has so many other facets to her other than that she's feeding a baby. But the fact that her client kind of needed her to do that to help him. But it also very much helped her because she was grieving the loss of a child. You know, if you lose a baby quite late, you may lactate. So this is what's happening to this character. And I think it's just been a huge comfort for her that she could use that milk.
For your identity was important for you to keep that writing process going when you had your children.
Yes, it definitely. I mean, I write quite a lot in my job. But to have that sort of also, hobby creative writing is so important. And I feel so much better. You know, I've had a bit of time to write, and usually, actually always my writing time, like, in bed with a baby on me writing on Google docs on my phone, how I wrote this book, the whole thing. So you know, it's just fit in somewhere. But then the rest of the afternoon is like, ah, you know, I've done something for myself. Yeah, it can be a better mother for it. Definitely. And I have a, I have a baby, but I also have a seven year old. So it's been pretty cool. telling her about the book and her seeing it and see like, oh my god, I'm gonna write a book. Like she's so excited. So that yeah,
that is awesome. That is really cool. Do you sort of feel like it's important that, that your seven year old sees you as something else other than as a mother? You know, you're still you're still a person that does things in the world?
Yeah, definitely. And maybe that's why it was even more surprising to her. I sort of said to her while I was writing it, like, oh, I mean, writing this story. I think I might actually get it published into a book. And it's that sort of an abstract idea or seminar or like, What do you mean? Like, you know, not Roald Dahl. You can't write a book. And then when it arrived nice, she showed her Yeah, cuz you're gonna face like, wow, my mom like does stuff other than look after us? Yeah. Yeah. Especially for a little girl. Like, I don't want her to think she'll have kids one day. And that's it, like hanging off your cowboy boots. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Other aspects to a woman obviously.
Didn't know that. That's really cool. I love that. And I sort of feel like that with my sons. It's like, it's for them as they grow up to be able to respect a woman as other things apart from just having children. You know, like, I feel like there's, there's certainly a, you know, that misogynistic sort of element to society that, you know, like you said, you take a few breaks, you're done. Yeah, it's really important. Yeah, absolutely.
So How old's your youngest? He's 16 months. So he actually a toddler is probably my last one. So it's me. He's a baby. Yeah,
love. So when did you start writing when just when he was really, when he was really a baby?
Both my kids have been contacted snafus. So, you know, stuck in bed for hours. And I think he was just a few months old me scrolling Facebook, whatever. It's like why why don't I do something that's actually going to benefit my mental health and you know, if I can turn into something my future So yeah, I just started writing the story and I just loved it and every naptime occasionally after bedtime, that's just what I've done. Yeah.
That's awesome. So sorry, I didn't say the book's title. It's Marik old milk. So I'm guessing marigold is the main character.
Her name is Mariela gold. Right? Yeah, that's very gold comes up because she had a floristry business that gets shut down. And one of the other characters says to her, Oh, like, Why didn't you call it you know, something like marry gold, because your name makes up Mary gold. And that's sort of a pivotal moment. And then after that, marigolds kind of pop up through the story as symbolism for how her story is unfolding. So yeah,
let's go. How did you come up with the idea? Was that just something that came to you? Or are you like, are you really into flowers and
flowers? And I love symbolism. So I think it didn't come quite organically. I wrote her in as a florist. I think I've always been fascinated by forestry. Like, it's just such a beautiful art to work in. Yeah. And then as kind of the marigold play on words came up, it all just started unfolding. And I've planned out my next few books, and they're both flower related as well.
Sort of like the same, the next two books? I mean, I don't want you to give any secrets away. Are they an extension of marigold story? Are they just brand new characters?
Well, I didn't want to write a sequel. I'm not sure why I just prefer a standalone story. And it is quite closed books. And when it finishes, it's kind of like, okay, this story is done nice and late, really tied up. But I have made the next few books have a slight overlap in characters. So there's sort of like a very sideline character in Marigold, milk. And then the next book is her story. So they sort of mentioned each other, which I think is a cute little tie in. But that I mean, the stories are not related at all. The next book is actually got nothing to do with motherhood, or babies or anything, which has actually been really fun. It's like, oh, this is really an escape. I'm writing like a 30 Something single spinster with a cat and like I'm on it.
Anything. It's sort of like you're living in
this universe, what could have happened?
You're listening to the art of being a mom was my mom, I was. What's it like the process to get a book published?
Well, I mean, it's different for everyone, there is the traditional publishing route, which I dabbled with. And then I think I read so much about it from other authors. I was just scared out of it. And it might be something I pursue in the future. But it's a very lengthy process, you've kind of got to find an agent. And then once you've got an agent, they contact the publishing houses and then even if you do get a deal, you usually have to wait like two or three years before your book is actually out there. Yeah, and I think because I spent just like day after day, hours and hours writing this book, when it was finished, I was like, No, I'm getting this out there. This on me anymore. I need to get it done so I can move on to the next thing. No, I ended up self publishing my book which has been really interesting and exciting thing. Yesterday it's amazing how accessible it is to publish a book now.
Yeah, quite simple.
This we have this topic that I love to talk about to all my guests and I put it in air quotes, the old mum guilt. What is your take on that?
I do remember after I had my first baby, another mum made a throwaway comment something like Oh, yes, you'll you know, you'll have mom guilt. It's always they're always going to feel guilty, you know, doing anything, right. And I remember at the time, my baby was about six months old, and I was I really couldn't relate to what she was saying. Maybe just the naivety of it. You know, as kind of like, I know, I'm doing everything I can for this baby. I don't feel guilty. Everything's great. But sort of since I've had the second and it might be about you There's more of a juggle, because you know, especially with the age gap, I have this seven year old that wants to chat all day and make bracelets and little intricate things. And then I have this 16 month old boys just destroying everything. And I yeah, I have definitely found now a bit of mum guilt. This is like, there's not enough of you to go around at all. But I wouldn't say ever feel guilty about writing or doing things like that for myself. And it might be because it's so limited. Like, you know, I'm not going down to get a pedicure. And you know, I haven't much time. And that's my little bit of time that I do that. So I think I feel pretty good about it.
Now good on Yeah, I love hearing those answers. And it's the sort of thing, everybody has a different take on it. And I think that's why I love talking about it, because I just love hearing, you know, the differences in the variances and yeah, I love that I had, I think I've had two guests that didn't even know what it was at all. And as the hell no, I can relate to that. They is sort of the age gap. You have to I've got seven years between my two. And they have their moments they they fight like cats and dogs sometimes.
Yeah, they both have cute moments. They don't they? Ah, yeah. is lovely to
watch it really? Yeah. I think it's nice having a child that's old enough to remember their sibling getting born and things like that. I reckon that's pretty cool
is lovely. Although I don't know about your children, but my older child remembers being an only child. So she's sort of like, she brings me photos of us just my her dad and I and her together on holidays. She's like, so can we leave Leo somewhere? And like do that again? Probably not like his duty a little brother.
Oh, God. That's hilarious. I love that. Yeah, that's good. I've never actually thought about that. I should ask I'll make a note to ask at least. Yeah. Yeah, it's good fun.
So something else I'd like to talk about is sort of the cultural norms of, you know, the traditional roles of the mother and the father and who goes to work and who stays home? And what role modeling did you have about what a mother could look like when you were growing up? Didn't sort of inspired you to do what you're doing?
Well, I would say my family unit when I was growing up is quite different to probably what my now family unit is in that it was very traditional. So my mum was basically home with us, I think, till I started primary school. So we very much had, like the mother at home and the dad, you know, that went to work. And my mom was just excellent at being you know, a stay at home mom is baking and cooking and my memory always seem to be cheery and happy to play with us, which is a hard thing to aim for. Yeah, whereas it might be a little bit because of what my job is like, I know I can do my job on my phone or on my laptop home anywhere. With both kids. I've gone back into some kind of from home work within six months to a year of having them. So although I am staying at home, just like my mom did, I think yeah, I'm I don't have the mental space to be like babe. Yeah, if anything. Yeah, I wish I was a bit more like my mum. But I think the times have very different now. You can't really you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't now, basically, you know, if I was staying at home not working, I'm sure someone would have something to say about that. Or if I was working full time putting the kids in daycare, you know, that would also be mortifying for some people. So yes, just trying to strike a balance in these crazy modern times, isn't it?
Yeah, I think yeah, we're all just doing the best we can out we like have no there's so much. I think that's where a lot of people do feel the mum guilt is like the judgment of others that someone's comment will make you feel bad about yourself. But you know, deep down like you said before, about you know, you you know you're doing the best you can you know, you you're giving your children everything you can. So it's these sort of offhand flippant remarks, and really make us question ourselves and it's like social media makes it even worse when you see your people doing whatever and you think, oh, I should be doing that or I shouldn't be doing that or whatever. You know that Yeah, should Africa.
Yeah. And that's a big part of, I guess why I wanted to include a little like reality about motherhood and breastfeeding, that sort of thing in my book, because also similar with that breastfeeding, sort of damned if you do damned if you don't, as well, you know, as a mother, you might feel so ashamed to try to breastfeed your kid in public. But then you'll be, like, equally ashamed to go and buy it in a formula. There's no winning in our society, you can't do the right thing. So yeah, I just wanted I guess, to include a little reality where kind of bubbles under the surface of the rest of her story. And it's not the be all end all, but it's quite, I would say, it's quite realistic for the story, which I think is helpful for young women because, like, I'm a 90s, baby my, like growing up seeing moms in media, it was like Rachel on friends. Yeah. Babies represented like they would come into the apartment and just look at this baby sleeping in the cot by itself and like, Oh, that's a cute baby. Like, that is so not what happened for me, baby. Well, why wasn't Rachel contact? Nothing? Or like having vomit all over her? Like,
where was your reality? Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
Yeah, I'm having my first baby. I just was so oblivious. I had no idea what to expect. So, yes, a bit of reality, I think is nice.
Yes, I can relate to that. It's like you see people with babies and you hear you hear stories and and you just have no, you really have no idea, do you? Like even if someone tells you, you don't really even listen, because you're just not even in that headspace. Like, you just don't take it in.
And that's probably how human race continues to reproduce. If you really took it in and you knew what it would be like, you might not want to do that. That's just surgery.
Want to ask you just you just piqued my interest with something with marigold in the book. Does she copy any flack from other characters in the book about her choice to be the witness?
Yes. So she does not actually tell her husband, her husband and her have quite a toxic relationship. So she's sort of jumped at the opportunity to move in with this doctor to help his child. But she tells her husband, she's just a live in nanny, because she knows he would be, you know, really weirded out by that. And within the actual household that she moves into. He also has a sort of housekeeper that helps with cooking and stuff while he works. And she's very judgmental of marigolds. So she's, you know, sort of like, you're getting paid, you know, this obscene amount of money to lay around breastfeeding a baby. So she thinks it's just ridiculous and thinks they should have tried harder to find the right formula and all this sort of thing. So yeah, she definitely faces quite a lot of backlash. And also sort of she has an inner dialogue going, this is just bizarre, like, what am I doing? I've just lost a baby. And now I'm in someone else's house, breastfeeding their baby who's pretty much the same age as what her baby would have been at that point. So yeah, it's a very conflicting position she's in.
Yeah, that would be Yeah, like she she would she'd just think this is really weird. What am I doing and made me feel really uncomfortable physically about doing it, but then at the same time, it would just give us so much. I don't know, comfort, I guess. But at the same time, could be also then. A bit weird to that she's imagining it's her own child. I don't know. There's so many. Yeah, there, isn't it?
Yeah, there are definitely little moments like that. And it's been so touching. I've had a few reviews from mothers that have read it. And you know, I've had one who is breastfeeding, I believe her toddler. And she was just like, oh my gosh, I feel so seen like, I've never read a book where that you actually, you know, the actual latching on and everything like you actually know what the baby's doing. I've never read that. And I was like, that's amazing. And I had another review, which just made me cry or mother that has two healthy kids, but she lost a baby in between them. And she was just, you know, so thankful that I included that in the story and I've been careful not to. I guess I didn't delve too deeply into it because I haven't experienced it myself. So I was really hesitant to go far into one What happened, you know, kind of doesn't really say exactly what happened. It's really in the background. But I have tried really hard to include, you know, the emotions of what she's gone through. And the most important part for me was giving her a story where she finds purpose again, she finds happiness. And although you know, the pain of that will never go away. She does continue on in her life, which hopefully is comforting for people. Because it's such such a common thing that women go through. And it's not. Isn't I've never read it in a book personally. So yeah, just
think that argument is fantastic. Good. Only fintona? Did you did you feel torn at any stage about not writing it in that way? Would you think that this is I'm doing it like this?
I was told there was a little while where I thought, you know, I haven't experienced this. Maybe it's the wrong thing to write about it. You know, maybe she gave her baby up for adoption or something like that. But then I thought, you know, there's, there's a lot more women that can relate to this story. And it would be I think, a lot more helpful for women, if that's just what happens. So just stuck with it. And hopefully, I've done it justice.
It sounds like from the from the feedback you've had that's really positive. Well done, that's awesome.
So tell us where people
can get the book. Yes. So right now it's available on Amazon. So it's available as a Kindle ebook, or it's available as a paperback so you can get either format. And I'm this year, I'm getting it into a few more physical stores in Brisbane, it will be available at a little shop called marigold house coincidentally. So that was a very happy coincidence and that it'll be available from next week there that's in the gap in Brisbane. And then yeah, hopefully a few more physical bookstores as the year goes on, which is exciting. Fantastic. Marigold milk, buy a list of mine on Amazon. Yeah, that's where it is.
Awesome. Well, I'll put some hyperlinks in the show notes so people can click away and Oh, great. Awesome. Thank you so much for chatting with me today. It's really lovely. It
was lovely. To talk to an adult.
It's really it's been a lovely experience for me just to be able to do something about my children.
Happy first day of school.
The music you heard featured on today's episode was from LM Joe, which is my new age ambient music trio comprised of myself, my sister, Emma Anderson, and her husband John. If you'd like to learn more, you can find a link to us in the show notes. Thanks for your company today. If you've enjoyed this episode, I'd love you to consider leaving us a review, following or subscribing to the podcast, or even sharing it with a friend who you think might be interested. If you or someone you know would like to be a guest on the podcast. Please get in touch with us via the link in the show notes. I'll catch you again next week for another chat with an artistic mom