It's publication day for Song for Ria by Michelle Shine!

Today we welcome Michelle Shine to the blog to give us a little insight into the thoughts and themes that inspired her wonderful novel.

Losing my soulmate one night in 2009 to a sudden thoracic haemorrhage, pulled me out of my previous hectic life and made me focus on the things I value the most. Regrets, for most people, come to the foreground during the grieving period and for me it was no different. I immediately regretted not spending more quality time and experiencing more of the world together with my love; making memories. The same as so many people, we as a couple sacrificed too much of our time and our mind space to fulfilling work obligations, worrying about petty differences with others and not trusting that the universe will provide.

After he’d gone, the planet shifted irreversibly and everything looked different. I

realised life’s too short to put things off until a tomorrow that may never arrive. No more dreaming of a time in the future when everything will be easier. It was time to live now and invest fully in relationships; with myself, those closest to me and with Earth, our home. Trying to learn from the moon’s rhythms, the sun’s benevolence, the symbiosis of animals expiring carbon dioxide in exchange for oxygen that the plants give back to us; all in a fine balance. 

In 2004, I was in Sri Lanka at the time of the tsunami and although I wasn’t at the coast, I was told by a number of survivors that many hours beforehand all the animals ran in the opposite direction.

We humans also have the ability to sense natural disasters and to instinctively know how we should respond. The night before that tragedy, a manager of one hotel called a meeting and told his guests that the sea was behaving strangely. He saved them all by taking them up to the top levels of the building and not allowing anyone to descend to the lower floors. Unfortunately for most, modernity had forced a tune-out to such a subtle message and many lives were lost that day, whilst others were left bereaved, maimed and traumatised by the catastrophic event.

Even on a day to day basis, our lives have been hijacked away from basic, instinctive knowledge that was gifted to us at birth. Too busy with our daily routines and our worldly commitments, we allow ourselves to be further distracted by politics, tv, advertisements, entertainment and artificial intelligence, as we nonchalantly turn our backs on nature and what she is trying to let us know. The human race suffers and we mitigate the pain with all manner of drugs and addictions. According to a study carried out in the UK in 2018, 1:4 people are afflicted with mental illness. 

Before I started to write Song for Ria — an exploration of one woman’s relationships after the loss of her daughter — I was actively trying to embark on a story that was genre oriented and commercial but the forces that be wouldn’t let me do it. I was compelled to go down another route, one that led me at first to listen to old Tori Amos interviews where she said things like, ‘People believe in all kinds of things but they’re not always nice to each other, are they?’ And ‘I didn’t find Jesus in church. I found him under a tree.’ And, and, and, ‘If you really want a challenge, just deal with yourself.’

Next thing, Alison Connaught, Song for Ria’s protagonist, arrived fully formed and started dictating her story. That’s how it seemed at the time, but on reflection, perhaps she had been there all the while, sitting at her piano, waiting for me.


Buy a copy of Song for Ria here.

Leave a comment