Louise Allan would never call herself a writer.
But with her debut novel The Sisters’ Song hitting bookstores all over the country this month, that is exactly what she is.
Set in rural Tasmania, the novel explores the strengths and flaws of motherhood through the relationships of two very different sisters.
In the case of art imitating life, Allan said she never set out to write a novel about women’s dreams but inevitably, her own personal struggles were painted into the picture.
“I can’t help but write about women’s issues,” she said.
“It has been the bane of my existence and something that has always been really important to me.
“We [women] want a family and we biologically are designed for it. But we also have a brain and other talents.
“I never wanted to accept that, but it is really hard for women to have a career and a family.”
Born and raised in Launceston, at school Allan excelled at maths and science and would go on to study medicine at the University of Tasmania.
As she explained, becoming a published writer was the last thing she thought she would achieve.
“I didn’t even do English for my final exams, because you didn’t have to back then,” she said.
“For me writing wasn’t easy. It was just too much effort and I didn’t think I was any good at it.”
Now living in Perth, the mother of four said she always battled with the pressure of maintaining a career and the responsibilities that came with motherhood.
“I was working in medicine, running a breast cancer clinic and it would be 11pm at night and I would still be working,” she said.
“At the time I had four children, the oldest 14 and the youngest seven. It was too busy.
“I decided I would stop work to be with my family. I felt I wasn’t doing a very good job of mothering or doctoring.
“I realised I couldn’t do both anymore.”
Allan said it was her children who inevitably brought out her creativity, through playing games or reading them stories.
It was this new-found creativity that motivated her to enroll in an online writing course.
Here she would have her own “light bulb moment”, sending her down a new and unexpected path as a writer.
“I knew I needed to do something to exercise my brain, so I thought I would give writing ago,” she said.
“Our second assignment was to light a candle and write about it.
“As soon as I did that I thought, right, I have found what I want to do.
“I got really good comments about the poem and that is really what I needed and I haven’t looked back.
“The candle assignment was the first creative writing I had done since primary school.”
What would eventually become her debut novel, The Sisters’ Song evolved from a short story Allan wrote in 2010.
This manuscript was awarded a Varuna residential fellowship in 2014 and went on to be shortlisted for the City of Fremantle-TAG Hungerford Award.
The book tells the story of sisters Ida and Nora, who move to live with their grandmother after the death of their father in 1926.
Nora, a talented musician, eventually follows her dream of a brilliant musical career, while Ida takes a job as a nanny.
The two sisters are reunited when Nora's life takes an unwelcome direction and she finds herself, embittered and resentful, isolated in the Tasmanian bush with a husband and children.
Allan said she thoroughly enjoyed researching for the book, which included searching through old archives of The Examiner – Australia’s third oldest newspaper.
“What I found in my research, is really the paper was the lifeline of the community,” she said.
“That is how they reached people and the language was very inspiring.
“A lot of it ended up in the book and there are a few fictional excerpts from The Examiner.
“It was very important to me to be as accurate as possible to the way of life in that era, in Tasmania. Everything from how they used ration cards.
“It is just fascinating.”
Now working on a second novel, Allan said there was nowhere else but Tasmania where she could have set the book.
“Wherever you grow up, I think it just gets into your soul,” she said.
“It is part of all of your memories and the memories passed on by your parents.
“Hopefully that transcends onto the pages.”