GROWING up in a complex world. Navigating self doubt, exploring love, setting boundaries and finding your voice.
Ruby Tuesday, the second novel of Port Macquarie author Hayley Lawrence, is a story every young girl on the precipice of womanhood should read.
It's a story of our time.
Hayley says it's a journey of strength and how healing can be found in the wildest of places. A celebration of the joy to be found in music and creativity, and of strong, equal friendships and relationships.
Ruby was named after a song about freedom, but she's far from free, Hayley explains.
She's trapped by her mum's accident, her past as a famous pianist a distant memory.
This was never the plan - both of them invisible and voiceless in a dusty small town. And Ruby wants to be heard.
"The story of Ruby Tuesday was inspired by an article I read about a 10-year-old girl who was looking after her disabled mother and I thought, wow that's a role reversal and an interesting exploration of what childhood would look like," Hayley explained.
"Over the course of the years I wrote it, Ruby Tuesday took on all these different facets of life. My grandmother had quite an influence on it as she was a concert pianist and played in Sydney when she was young.
"I never heard her play much when she was older. The inspiration came from her passion.
"This is a story heavily steeped in music and musicians and frustrated musicians who are trying to achieve their potential. I love music and I rely on it a lot, especially in difficult times.
"Music is something that can reach to places that words can't always get - music is used in story a lot to explore difficulties, heartbreak, frustration and unrealised ambition and the expectations artists place on themselves."
Ruby Tuesday never feels like the song's namesake. That girl can't be pinned to a time or place and is a free spirit, Hayley says.
"Ruby doesn't feel like that, she feels trapped," she said.
The strength of Ruby's character evolved with every page written and Hayley soon found the young girl's resilience and determination took the tale on a different path.
"Sometimes when I write a story I have an idea of where it is going but then I can end up on a detour and go somewhere else," she said.
"I battled for a long time in this story and then it just started to write itself. In the end after months of driving myself mad with it, I had to let it go and let it go where its natural course needed to be."
Hayley says Ruby took the story on a trajectory that explored ideas of "enthusiastic consent" and what that means in today's world where young people must explore and understand and challenge the negative impacts of toxic masculinity and femininity on healthy relationships.
"In the teen years sexual encounters can be quick and brutal and the first time no-one really knows what they are doing," Hayley said.
"There are grey areas and there needs to be discussion about what's healthy and what's not healthy. It's not what I had intended to write about at all but it had to come out and it weaved its way into the story beautifully with all of Ruby's other frustrations.
"She was growing up as a young woman in a world not always kind to young women.
"She becomes a woman in the real world. It's a female narrative about empowerment and when things don't go to plan.
"It's about having the courage to buck the trend and stand up for what you want and go and achieve it."
Hayley has been lauded as one of the freshest voices in young adult Australian fiction.
Her first book, Inside the Tiger, was described as a "tentative and gentle love story that casts an unflinching look at inter-generational crime, capital punishment and justice".
Hayley worked as a lawyer in a commercial firm in Sydney before trading city life for the coast when she married a pilot.
Hayley and her husband had many adventures while she worked for a small law firm on the Mid-North Coast.
They now have five vivacious daughters who continue to bring immense joy, and utter mayhem, to their life.
Despite leaving legal work, Hayley could not leave behind the stories of the people she had encountered.
They are stories that provoke questions about the nature of humanity, and it's these questions that haunt her novels.
Ruby Tuesday will be released on September 1 with Penguin Random House.
What else is making news?
Thank you for valuing local journalism with your subscription. While you're with us, you can also receive updates straight to your inbox from the Port Macquarie News. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, sign up here.