Meet the author: Jacqueline Lunn

  1. for her second novel, the sydney-based author and mother of three, Jacqueline Lunn writes about motherhood, marriage and the lies we sometimes tell ourselves to get through the day. actress and fellow writer, sophie lee quizzes her on the book's inspiration

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  3. Photographed by Rene Vaile | Interview by Sophie Lee
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  5. Congratulations on your new book The Unknown Woman, it’s a wonderful novel – it can’t have been easy to write whilst studying psychology and looking after three daughters. Talk us through the challenges:  They were immense. I actually Googled second novel and read all about second novel syndrome. With your first book, you’re unaware of the process, you don't really understand that you’re going to be judged; it's not in your head. With the second, there's a lot more pressure. So at the beginning, I struggled. I had a main character in mind but it took me more than six months to dig deep and work out who she was and how I would write her – she's a middle class white woman, a mother who quit her career to raise children; the book looks at how society perceives that.

I found it interesting that you write about the guilt a lot of women feel and the daily battle they face within themselves, what prompted you to explore that? The main character is complex, she's quite unlike me and yet there is something of me in the book too. I stepped out of journalism when I became a mother, it was a job that I was very good at but then digital techonology came along in the meantime and changed the landscape. In my book, this woman has given up her job and devoted ten years to raising children, then when the kids get to an age where they no longer need her, she has become a woman desperate to feel needed, appreciated and validated.

And that's the other theme you explore so successfully: the subject of abandonment: Some of the most outrageous scenarios in the book were inspired by real observations. We once had neighbours who we thought were childless until we realised the baby was being taken off by a nanny early Monday morning and being returned Friday evening. The child was being outsourced and yet this man had golf clubs in the back of his car; they seemingly had little responsibility yet they were always exhausted. It fascinated me because I was living next door with three kids, sometimes highly overwhelmed, sometimes totally failing, but it was much less of a problem for me than what they had going on. Each to their own, of course, but I couldn’t understand it. That led me to explore the idea of missed connections, too. I see a lack of modern day connection because of technology. A generation back, we used to sit and watch the same television program together, whereas now you have teenagers with laptops disappearing into their bedrooms. We have a rule in our house, no closed doors.

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There are so many books out there about men searching for answers, this was a fresh perspective: Yes, we’ve read lots of stories about men who get lost in the middle part of their life, they search for answers in the bottom of a Scotch bottle or trek deep into the desert in search of answers whilst pushing people away; they self detonate and maybe that’s a gender thing. I wanted to make it absolutely clear that this woman was seeking answers from the people around her in order to feel validated and needed again, she longed to reconnect and interact with people. 

What is your advice to women who are feeling guilt-ridden about the work-life balance? I don't know that I have the right wisdom, but one thing I do feel is that we should stop apologising for ourselves so much. I think we have to try and attain some kind of equilibrium in our lives in order to be happy and then stop justifying our actions. It’s about having more confidence and not getting caught up in other people’s expectations. It’s also about saying, ‘I’m a good person, I’m trying my hardest’, and then allowing yourself just to be happy.

“I think women have a tendency     to apologise too much, perhaps because in our minds we've convinced ourselves that we haven’t reached our full potential. So what? Who has?”

– author, jacqueline lunn

  1. The Unknown Woman is published by Vintage Books, Random House and is available from Booktopia. Lunn (pictured right) and Lee were photographed at Watsons Bay Boutique Hotel, 1 Military Road, Watsons Bay, NSW. Tel: +61 2 9337 5444.