Inspiring stories of success, joy and refusing retirement from renegades rocking life after 50.

Episode 7 Unfiltered and Unstoppable with Jane Caro

Featuring Jane Caro

Episode 007 Unfiltered & Unstoppable

Fasten your seatbelt for a bold conversation with this Australian activist, author, and cattle farmer about everything from cyber-bullying to effective copywriting, and how her passion as a champion for women’s rights led her to writing best-selling novels. This is like having a lively heart-to-heart with your best friend, who isn’t afraid to tell you exactly what she thinks. Without a strategy…without spending a bunch of time in mental wrestling matches about “should I or not”…Jane Caro simply does her very best to be fully herself. But fair warning, we also delve deeply into the important subject of the insidious and potentially life-threatening issues of domestic violence.



Favorite Quotes

“You can’t stand still in life. You can shrink or you can grow. But you can’t stand still.”

Favorite Moments from the Interview

Jane’s fire and determination have taken her to some amazing places. During the interview she tells the story of how she used a perceived failure as fuel and to write her book. This was such a potent moment and I can’t wait for you to hear it.

Why the Renegade Boomer Community will love it

Sprinkle in ample servings of humor, frankness, and her fearless commitment to saying exactly what she thinks, and you’ve got a recipe for a savory and memorable feast.

Frankly, speaking with Jane is like a breath of fresh air, without being weighed down by artifice or carefully skirting politely around important issues.

We eventually delve into serious issues of domestic violence, the misuse of power, and coercion…and how we might all feel or react in precarious situations.

And how one particularly shocking news story led to her teaching and raising awareness about coercive control through her best-selling novel, “The Mother.”

Frankly, I unexpectedly ended up sharing a bit of my own journey through domestic violence. It is my hope, this will also be helpful to you, dear viewer.

And even with all that, we still encountered plenty of moments to share laughter along the way.

Because that’s real life, living us every day.

And life can be challenging, complex, and absolutely beautiful too.

Raising a glass of sparkly water to toast the amazing Jane Caro today!

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View Transcript

[00:00:00] Tina: Hey, this is Tina Lorenz and I wanna welcome you to the Renegade Boomer™ Podcast. Today, my guests all the way from Australia is Jane Caro, and I’m just so excited to have this conversation with you today, Jane.

You know, Jane is a member of the Order of Australia, and if that doesn’t sound official, I don’t know what does.

It’s an honor that recognizes Australian citizens and other persons for outstanding achievement in service, and she’s an award-winning Australian columnist, author, novelist, broadcaster, documentary maker, feminist, and social commentator. A lot.

And she spent 35 years as an award-winning copywriter. So of course, that’s close to my heart. And seven years teaching advertising creative in the School of Communication Arts at Western Sydney University. So she’s well-known for her activism. She’s been on television. She works for the fair treatment of refugees, indigenous Australians, anyone who’s routinely being marginalized and overlooked, unjustly treated, and really has been doing this for decades.

This isn’t anything new for Jane. And from what I know of her, I think she’s, you know, the acorn doesn’t fall too far from the tree because her mom is very, very active still as well. And Jane has published 12 books, including three novels, and her most recent one, I believe was called “The Mother”.

And we’re gonna talk a little bit about that today too. So, welcome, Jane. So glad to see you today.

[00:01:16] Jane: Thank you, Tina. I’m thrilled to be here. I’m very excited to be talking to the US. That’s great.

[00:01:21] Tina: Awesome, awesome. And we didn’t plan this, but we’re both wearing our reddish, pinkish glasses today. So we’re well-matched, very well-matched.

And I know that you’re on your cattle property, and I had to laugh because when I was asking Jane about it, she said, “Well, it’s only 300 acres.” And I said, “Well, that’s pretty big for a lot of us. But for you it’s just a little farm,” right, Jane?

[00:01:45] Jane: Yeah, just a little farm. Well, Australia, you know, we have some very big properties, particularly at farther West than where we are. And so, there are cattle properties that are thousands of acres in the Northern Territory and WA and places like that. So yeah, 300 acres.

[00:02:01] Tina: Yeah, no big deal. She did tell me there’s lots of kangaroos, though. So that fits right into my image of Australia. I’d love to visit there someday.

But I’d like you just to talk a little bit about kind of your journey through all of this. You’re a copywriter. You’re a journalist. You told me you are a panelist on television show. You were on what you call the breakfast television, what we might call morning television.

And I know there was a point at which as a woman in this business, you just started finding that you were gonna have to find a different path. So can you tell us a little about what your journey’s been through your career?

[00:02:31] Jane: Sure. I have only ever had one skill. At school, I was a fairly average performer, but I was really good with words.

So English was always my favorite subject. I was in the debating team. You know, I liked to read and write and use words. And like anything else, if you like something and you do it a lot, well, you get better at it. So that’s basically been the theme.

And so I did a straight English literature degree at a university and unlike my contemporaries, I didn’t wanna be a teacher. Although I have a great love of schools and teaching and many in my family are teachers, I felt that I wanted to do something else.

And in the end, I got into advertising. And I started out in account service and I can’t tell you how bad I was as an account service person cause I’m just not good at admin. I’m just not good at admin. I know it’s lazy. It’s self-indulgent. Anyone can do admin. But my mind would just wander off, and I’d forget things and I’d transpose addresses and I’d always get into trouble.

And eventually, I managed to get myself a job as a junior copywriter at a time, this would’ve been about 1980, I suppose, when there were hardly any women in creative. The way to get into creative departments in Australia at that time was to go through dispatch, which was the part of the agency now completely disappeared, where they would send out the great big, cumbersome artwork to the newspapers in brown paper parcels, and women weren’t employed because of course we couldn’t carry great big brown paper parcels, squirming four-year-olds, no problem.

[00:04:12] Tina: Yeah. Right.

[00:04:13] Jane: Brown paper parcel, apparently, our uteruses would fall out. So, there were hardly any women in creative, but I was very lucky. And nepotism is a terrible thing, but sometimes it works in your favor. My father at that time was in charge of Australia’s biggest advertising budget. He was the CEO of a large package good company.

And so my last name is Caro. It’s not Smith. So people went, “Oh, Jane Caro. Any relation to Andrew Caro? Oh yeah. Oh, maybe we will give her a job in a creative department.” So that really helped me a lot and I’m kind of ashamed of that, but you know, you gotta grab your opportunities where you can then.

[00:04:55] Tina: I don’t think, no shame, no shame involved, especially at a time where it was very difficult for you to even get your foot in the door.

[00:05:02] Jane: Yeah, there were almost no female copywriters. There were a few female art directors cuz they could do art school, and then they could get in that way. But at that time there was no copy schools or anything like that. So it really had to be word of mouth or dispatch brown paper parcels, and I dunno, get drunk with the creative director until he finally hired you.

So when I finally got a job, I found at last something that I was kind of good at. You know, I was quite good as a copywriter and I had good interesting ideas and so I progressed quite well. I went from the big boring agency with the great big clients that makes lots of money but doesn’t win any awards to the small kind of boutique hot shop, very big in the 80s, where you don’t make a whole lot of money, but you win lots of awards, and so on and so forth.

In the end, I got a job, and I think we were the first female team ever hired there at an agency in Australia called The Campaign Palace, which was very, very famous in its day.

And that was a really interesting experience. I yearned to get a job there, but actually when I got there it was incredibly boysy, like really. You know, the 1980s boysy? Now for younger listeners and viewers, you won’t know. Tina and I know.

[00:06:19] Tina: Yeah, it’s what we call the Good Old Boys Club, you know.

[00:06:22] Jane: And unreconstructed. I mean, the feminism hadn’t made any inroads at all. So that was the really interesting experience. It’s really stood me in good stead now though because I do a lot of stuff on Twitter. Elon Musk has ruined it, but I’m sticking in there. So I have quite a lot of followers, and that occasionally gets me work.

And I get trolled a lot because I’m an outspoken feminist woman and I tweet about politics and that kind of thing. And I have a standard line I go back to them, and I spent 35 years in advertising creative departments. I have been bullied by the wittiest men in Australia.

[00:06:56] Tina: That’s a good one. You don’t hold a candle the way I’ve been bullied by these guys, right?

[00:07:01] Jane: Exactly.

[00:07:02] Tina: So what do you think about that? Let’s just pause for a moment here, but I know, especially for women, with all the social media now, I’ve spoken to a lot of people that are afraid, right? They’re afraid to even appear on social because of the kind of comments they might get or people coming out of the woodwork that want to connect to them in a way that they have no interest in.

And also there’s just the aspect of the polarizing messaging we might have if we do actually speak about something we believe strongly in. And so, I’m thinking your advice may be very straightforward and abrupt. What’s your advice to women about that as far as stepping out of the shadows and finding their courage when it comes to showing up?

[00:07:39] Jane: Well, the first thing to remember is that trolling on social media is just a new form of bullying. That’s all it is. And bullies want the same thing. All bullies want the same thing from their victims. They want to control your emotions, and they wanna control them in a negative way.

Bullies are really sad people. They want to make other people feel worse than they do. And they must feel really bad because, gee, they work hard to make you feel bad. And the thing to recognize is they don’t have any power to control your emotions unless you give it to them.

Now, that doesn’t mean that if you get a nasty bullying, horrible message, you won’t feel bad, you won’t feel hurt, you won’t feel pain. But never let them see it. Never, ever, ever let them see it because as soon as you do that, you’ve given them the thing they’re after. That’s what they want. They wanna see that they’ve upset you. Never let them see that.

Look, most of the time, I’m not madly witty on Twitter, and I’m not always in charge and get the right answer, but there are two times and only two. And I’ve been on Twitter for a very long time, but that’s why I remember them, and that’s why I keep telling people these stories so I sound fabulous. But remember, it’s only twice I managed it, that I gave the exact right answer to nasty trolls, and I use them because it gives you an idea of how to not engage with the topic they’re on, but leap over the top of them.

So the first one was someone who came at me and said, “One day, I’m going to take from you everything you hold dear.”

[00:09:19] Tina: Oh geez! Lovely!

[00:09:20] Jane: And I went back and I said, “Oh, and when will that be?” And he said, “Soon.” And I said, “Lovely, I’ll pop the kettle on then.” That was the last time I ever heard from him.

The second one, I suspect, may have been an American or may have been pretending to be an American, but he said, “I’m a Marine and I know 70 ways to kill you with my bare hands.” And I went back and said, “Well that’s very impressive, but surely one would suffice.”

So you may not always be able to come up with that sort of answer. I certainly only managed it twice. But if you refuse to engage, like refuse to make yourself the center of the interaction and in fact keep the focus on them and what their problem is because it is about them, it’s not about you.

[00:10:14] Tina: Totally.

[00:10:14] Jane: They’ll leave you alone because you’re no fun. You’re not gonna play the game. You’re not gonna give them their sweet spot, which is knowing they made you feel bad. And the block and mute keys are your best friends. Just use them all the time.

[00:10:26] Tina: Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve noticed that on Facebook that if you get negative comments, another interesting little game you can play with yourself is go look at their Facebook page, and usually you’ll see a very sad story unfolding with what they’re about on their page. And it really is about the other person, not about you.

So I just think it’s kind of having to grow that thick skin a little bit too because I feel like there’s so many of us that will just kind of like retreat rather than have the feeling. So, you know, you may feel the feeling, but then realize where it’s really coming from and you can choose to think something different. You know, that we can choose the path of, are we gonna let that control us? So just exactly what you said, are we gonna let them dictate who we are and our own self-worth and our own self-identity? No, I think not.

[00:11:10] Jane: And also, the more you don’t allow them to, the more you actually don’t do what they want. Because the ultimate thing these guys want is to get women off the internet. And to close their voices down. When you don’t give them that and you push through that fear barrier, which I completely understand, and nobody likes being piled on or insulted. Nobody gets such a thick skin unless they’re a psychopath, like Donald Trump, that they don’t respond to it. And he has a really thin skin, actually. Nobody.

So don’t be hard on yourself because you feel it. But when you don’t give them what they want, every time you push through that and you come back in a way that holds onto your power and doesn’t give it to them, you feel stronger. So that in actual fact you become more impervious by acting as if you’re impervious.

[00:11:55] Tina: It’s kinda like flexing a muscle. I mean, you just kind of develop more strength. You actually develop more strength and telling yourself that you are strong enough to withstand, and you deserve to show up in life and you deserve to have your voice be heard.

So in your copywriting journey then, didn’t there come a point where suddenly you weren’t as marketable in the agency?

[00:12:13] Jane: Well I got fired from The Campaign Palace when I was four months pregnant. So I’d say being pregnant.

[00:12:17] Tina: That’s gotta do it.

[00:12:19] Jane: But then I came back after five years doing a bit of freelance but mostly parenting. And I got hired just temporarily as a freelancer to partner with a woman who’d been hired in an agency and art director. And they were looking for a full-time writer. And I said, “Well, I can come in and help out three five hours days a week. My youngest daughter’s preschool hours.” And they went, “Yeah, yeah, that’ll be fine. Just as a stopgap measure.”

And at the end of four months they said, “Well, we’ve seen a whole lot of people, but we haven’t found anyone we like as much as you. Would you like this to be a permanent situation?” So I think I pioneered permanent part-time work in creative departments in Australian advertising agencies because I took that.

And my art director and I went on to win international awards all over the world for a washing powder. And I used to say to people, get your target audience to write the ads. I do a load of washing a day. So I know that while doing the washing is boring, the people who do the washing are not. So let’s treat them as intelligent, interesting human beings. And lo and behold, that worked very well.

So then my career really took off. And, you know, once you win a bunch of awards for a campaign internationally, particularly in Australia, you become sort of a star. They like to call us a guru or a legend. I hate those words.

So I did really well for a while, but I wanted to do more than write ads. I liked writing ads. Don’t get me wrong. I really enjoyed it. It was an enormous amount of fun. But I felt I had muscles I wasn’t using and I couldn’t get promoted for love nor money because I’m not a man.

And so I got offered an opportunity completely- Well, not completely out of the blue. I occasionally get called on to represent the advertising industry, particularly if there were issues, as you can imagine, there often were, about the portrayal of women in advertising, and the Advertising Standards Council knew that I was a feminist and outspoken, and they thought, “Oh, we’ll trot her out just to show them that we’re not all unreconstructed.”

[00:14:18] Tina: Show how open-minded we are. Yeah.

[00:14:20] Jane: Exactly. “Look who we hire.” So, they liked me. The breakfast TV show that I appeared on thought I was quite amusing and, you know, reasonably good TV. So they kept asking me back and then they gave me a regular spot commenting on marketing and advertising and things. And that was all mostly on weekends and that kind of thing. So it was an ad hoc.

And then out of the blue, the producer of the program rang me and offered me a job reviewing the newspapers every morning, five days a week, which would mean I had to get up at 4:00 AM because obviously you had to get the newspapers and then you had to work on what you’re gonna say about them, blah, blah, blah. And the pay was pathetic. I mean, pathetic.

And I looked at it, talked to my husband, and he said, “Go for it. This is a great opportunity. You’ve been very discontented. Can’t get anywhere. You’re bored. You need to do something else.” So I jumped and the job only last three months, but that was fine. And it gave me the opportunity to start doing other things cuz I couldn’t work all day in an agency and get up at 4:00 AM and that wasn’t-

[00:15:29] Tina: Right.

[00:15:30] Jane: So I gave up the agency job and that kind of liberated me in a way. From there, I just started doing things. I’d write opinion pieces for the Sydney Morning Herald, and people seemed to like them. And so that kind of grew. And I took the skills that I’d learned in advertising, which I think advertising people think everybody knows what we know, but in fact you find out they don’t.

And one of them is that the most important person in any communication is not the center of the message but the receiver of the message. The audience is the most important group. And so you learn about how to engage. I mean, you know, we have to make the driest, most boring, mundane products engaging. That’s a real skill to be able to take complex or dull or mundane stuff and turn it into something that is really, you know, interesting and engaging. And so I started to use that in other areas and I think that really helped push me forward.

And I also had one other thing. I’ve always been very passionate. I’m a product of public school education in Australia. Now you think to yourself, “Well, isn’t nearly everyone?” No, not in Australia. We alone in the world give ridiculous amounts of public money to fee charging private schools. Absurd. Ridiculous. We’re blind to the damage it does. Nevertheless, I went to public school and that kind of gives you a bit of a chip on your shoulder cuz you’ve gotta keep proving yourself because people are snobby.

[00:16:58] Tina: “Oh, you went to a public school,” kind of a thing.

[00:17:01] Jane: “Oh, where are you sending your children?” “To a public school.” “Oh, what’s wrong with you? Bad parent.” No, I’m a thoughtful one.

And I started writing about public education and what was happening to it, and I started to learn about it and I wrote my first book about it, co-writing with a principal of public schools. And there was a hole in the market as it turned out. I didn’t do this strategically. I did it from the passion.

[00:17:23] Tina: Right.

[00:17:24] Jane: But there was a hole in the market. And so that took off. And of course teachers are a huge profession. And so that gave me kind of a bunch of supporters who just like what I did because I stood up for them.

[00:17:38] Tina: So, at this point, when you were doing all this work, this was more freelance kind of on your own writing for these various things. Is that correct? It wasn’t like you had a job for someone?

[00:17:47] Jane: Nope. I haven’t had a job for someone. I mean I haven’t-

[00:17:51] Tina: Go apply for the job with your resume kinda a thing, you know.

[00:17:54] Jane: It must be 16 years. I mean, I did have the job for seven years at Western Sydney University. And they employed me 2.5 days a week. Yeah. So I taught one day a week and then I had one and a half days to mark and prepare. But that was fine. But the rest of my time was my own. And indeed that started to become the only rigid thing in what was a really flexible kind of life.

[00:18:22] Tina: Mm-hmm.

[00:18:23] Jane: And I was getting paid a lot more by that time to speak than I was to teach. And so, in the end, I had to make the difficult decision to give up the university job because it was literally cutting my income, and it was immovable. I couldn’t be flexible with it.

So for me, in the end, flexibility has become the most important thing. And I’ve been lucky enough that for the last 16 years I’ve been able to just take the next opportunity, the next opportunity, the next opportunity. But none of them have been actual jobs. Thank goodness.

[00:18:59] Tina: And I see you as a person that will continue to do that. One of the things I wanted to mention when you’re talking about, I took those skills, the copywriting and marketing skills, that’s one of the things that I’ve always been a proponent of that copywriting is one of the most important skills you could learn because it’s really the foundation for all forms of communication and probably even entered into at some level, I suspect, into how you’ve written your books because you knew there had to be a storyline, something kind of embedded in the middle of all of that, that kept a person moving along with you, and you took that, it sounds like, into other forms of writing that you did.

So, I mean, it’s just super valuable skill that can stand you in a very good stead for all of your life when you understand the mechanics of it. And also then the heart of it, which is what I’m sure you have brought to how you do it with your own opinions and your activism, all of those things. Does that resonate for you as far as how you have been able to leverage those skills?

[00:19:50] Jane: Absolutely, a hundred percent. And I think it teaches you the importance of narrative, the importance of personalizing, of finding stories that people will be interested in and including stories.

So for example, when I wrote my first book, “The Stupid Country: How Australia Is Dismantling Public Education”, I insisted that we put in boxed little narratives about people we knew, stories we’ve been told that illustrated the point we were trying to make in the kind of, you know, guts of the book.

And I know that those were super engaging for people and that they would read those often and then go and read.

[00:20:26] Tina: I was gonna say that. I bet people went just to see, “Oh, I wanna-“ I’ve done that in various types of books of, “I wanna read the story. I wanna read that personal interaction or that case study or whatever it might be,” and then, “Okay. Now I’m-“

Have you ever read a book backwards? I just kind of did that in a book I’m reading where I went to one part and I just started working my way back in the book, you know.

[00:20:45] Jane: Oh, yeah.

[00:20:46] Tina: Yeah. I think that’s really important. And so a couple of points I wanna hit on here is one is you’re talking about how you’ve been doing this really entrepreneurial style of working.

So it’s really a blend of your life, your lifestyle, because I know you’ve told me you have the cattle farm and then you also own another property. So you go between the two. And it’s really, I mean, aside from the drive, it’s kind of seamless. You can work from either place, right?

And so how do you feel about the opportunities for women and especially cuz, you know, I’ve got the Renegade Boomer™ Anti-Retirement Movement, I’m all about finding your voice, finding that maybe just a little trickle of an idea or maybe it’s an actual full-blown bonfire if you know where you wanna go with your life instead of the classic retirement, just gonna sit and do nothing. So, what are your thoughts about that, especially for women?

[00:21:35] Jane: Well, look, if you wanna retire, absolutely go for it. If you hate being a wage slave, you’re sick of it. And lots of people, it’s a very privileged position that I’m in, lots of people work for their wage all their life. They never have a job they like. They work to live. They don’t live to work. And I totally get that, that you’re just hanging out for that check at the end of it and being able to finally do what it is you really wanna spend your time doing which may have nothing to do with paid work. And that’s fine. I won’t judge anyone for doing what they want.

[00:22:06] Tina: Absolutely. Absolutely.

[00:22:08] Jane: I think that if that’s not what you wanna do and you wanna keep contributing in some way, and you know, there’s nothing wrong with earning money, it’s a good thing. Then all I did, and people sometimes say, “Can we have a coffee? I wanna pick your brains cuz you changed your life and you’ve made a success of it and I want to know what strategies you used.”

And I went, “Uh, none. I’m not that sort of a person.” I’m impulsive, spontaneous. There’s something someone’s offering you, say yes. I don’t do a lot of agonizing. So I don’t do a lot of “should I, shouldn’t I’s.” I decide does this feel like a good thing to do? Then do it.

Sometimes, I think I don’t wanna do that cuz I’m afraid of it. And then I think, “Well, that’s the very good reason why you should do it.” Because that’ll push you out of your comfort zone and that’s what you’re afraid of and that’s how you grow. I believe, and I believe this for a long time, you can’t stand still in life. You can shrink or you can grow, but you can’t stand still. If you try to stand still, you will shrink. That’s what you’ve decided to do for yourself.

So you’ve gotta keep moving forward. As long as you’re alive and you’re healthy, keep moving forward. It doesn’t matter what your age is, what your gender is, none of that matters. Do the next thing. And all I ever do is I do the next thing, and I’m not a massive preparer.

I mean, obviously when I’m writing a book, I do the research and I do all of that. But again, I don’t have the preparation stage and then the-

[00:23:29] Tina: Yeah. “What’s your process? What’s your process, Jane?” “I don’t have one.”

[00:23:35] Jane: I will write. Then I will think, “Oh, I don’t know enough about that. I better go and find out more about that.” And so then I pause and go and find out what I need to find out. And I find by doing it that way, I don’t bore myself. I’m interested.

And when I’m interested and I’m engaged, it’s like basic of selling. You know, you aren’t gonna be able to sell anything to someone that you don’t believe in, that you don’t feel passionate about yourself. You’ve gotta believe in what you’re selling. Same with me. I’ve gotta be engaged and interested in what I’m writing, otherwise I’m not gonna engage or interest anyone else.

So I think I’ve spent the last God knows how long, and I did a lot of therapy when I was younger and I recommended do therapy where I learnt how I was living a bit of a false life. I was trying to live up to other people’s expectations of who I should be and what I should want and how I should behave. And I had to get back to who I was and what I wanted.

And I really feel like for the last few decades, my major project has been to become more and more myself. And that’s all I ever try to be. I don’t try to be what I think the audience wants me to be, even though I talked about engaging the audience. Yes. But engaging the audience in a way that engages me. That I feel as, and I hate this word too but I can’t think of a better one, authentic, you know.

[00:24:52] Tina: I use that word too. But it’s true though because you know, when you’re saying the engaging the audience, the part that by being truly who you are, authentic and truly being Jane all the way, right, you’re attracting the audience that resonates with your message. And so in on any of our communication, especially in marketing, anything we’re doing, it’s supposed to attract and repel.

We want the people that it’s not for, “Bless you and goodbye. Have a nice life, but this isn’t for you.” And we’re not trying to be for everybody cuz then you’re for nobody, right?

[00:25:24] Jane: Well, that was interesting when you said some people are afraid whether they go on social media that they might polarize if they put their point of view. Well, you will.

[00:25:30] Tina: Yeah.

[00:25:31] Jane: You will polarize, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people really won’t agree with you. They’ll think you’re dead wrong. So? Forget them. They’re entitled to think that. They’re not entitled to abuse you or insult you or try to shut you down because they think differently from you, but they’re certainly entitled to have a different view. And there’s, there’s no reason for you to hate them or them to hate you.

[00:25:51] Tina: Exactly. Yeah. I mean, we’re all kind of made up of the same molecules of energy, you know, so to speak. I mean, there is sort of a connection between all of us globally, right?

And I say the polarizing thing, I don’t mean intentionally. Like, “I think I’ll do this thing cuz it’s gonna really stir things up.” But just your own true messaging, whatever that may be, some people will judge it as a polarizing thing. “Well, no that’s not for me.” And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just don’t be afraid of it, right? Don’t try to please everyone, right?

[00:26:18] Jane: Yeah. I don’t go out there to upset people. People say to me I’m so forthright or so blunt. Yeah. I was brought up in a family that said what we thought. There was straight talking. So that’s my style. And my family migrated to Australia and my parents were both brought up in Manchester. Well, Manchester and England is famously blunt spoken. It’s the most left wing city in England, you know. So that’s my heritage. That’s who I am.

[00:26:39] Tina: And you still have your parents. You mentioned something to me about your mom who does not stop to please anybody, right? I think you wrote something about how she’s not acting like your typical at the point, I dunno if that’s still her age, but 91-year-old, right? She’s still very active and vociferous in her expressing her beliefs, right?

[00:26:58] Jane: Always comes right out and says what she thinks. And when she gets one or two glasses of wine under her belt and she gets on a feminist rant, stand back. It’s great.

[00:27:08] Tina: I’d like to meet your mom.

[00:27:11] Jane: She and my father, cuz he’s very similar, she and my father keep all the residents of this somewhat upmarket, very nice, we call it the “retirement resort”, on their toes cuz a lot of them are much more conservative than my parents. So they’re sort of become the red-ragers in the retirement village, which is great.

And absolutely don’t be afraid of people thinking differently from you. I think women are very much conditioned to be nice, to placate, to be afraid of conflict, and to facilitate a kind of happiness. You know, everyone’s gotta be happy, make the family happy.

So a lot of people go around pretending they’re happy, particularly to their mothers, which is a great shame because it means they have a false relationship and that makes- As a mother myself and a grandmother, I’d hate my children to do that. I wanna know the s#!% as well as the good. And I wanna, you know, if you think I’m doing the wrong thing, tell me. I might disagree with you, but tell me, because I wanna have a real relationship with you. I don’t wanna have a bull&#!% relationship with you.

[00:28:09] Tina: Right.

[00:28:09] Jane: And I feel a lot of bull&#!% relationships in families where people pretend to be a different person with their relatives than they do outside. That’s such a shame.

[00:28:19] Tina: I think that happens even in business. I see that as I work with especially people who have been in professional capacity one way or another. And as they’re moving into what some people would consider “retirement age”.

I mean, I kind of laugh because I didn’t even start what I’m doing online until other people were thinking about early retirement. And I was just getting started. And if I’d put that limitation on myself of, well, it’s too late, that would’ve been that instead of really doing a very life-changing transition in my own life when I discovered freelance copywriting.

And I’ve moved into now more working with professionals that also wanna transition to something different. It might be that they’re doing it in volunteer capacity. They’ve already made a lot of money. They don’t need to worry about that. Or they may want to continue to increase their revenue, absolutely great to earn money, but in a different way.

And what I find a lot of times is they don’t quite know who they are anymore. And it kind of goes along with your comments about being a people pleaser or doing the thing you were supposed to do in that capacity and possibly working with people that didn’t even resonate with you because you were kind of putting on the artifice that you needed to do what’s required in your job. And the result of that often is that both men and women, sometimes they kinda get lost in that process.

And so, we do the work to kind of get down to who are you really, you know, who’s really in there? Who are you being, right?

[00:29:36] Jane: It’s self-destroying. I think it’s when people get very depressed. And if you’re not being yourself, then it’s lonely because nobody knows you and if you don’t even know you, well that’s devastatingly lonely. That’s a really isolated place to be. And yeah, you will have really annoying characteristics. I don’t.

[00:30:04] Tina: Oh, I don’t have any, Jane. I have none. Yeah, absolutely. Was it Oscar Wild who said, “Be yourself more or less because everybody else is taken,” something along those lines?

[00:30:15] Jane: Yeah. And also people worry too much about not being liked. And my experience is that you will not be liked, but you will also be liked. It’s what we were talking about before. But if you can accept not being liked as to do with the person who doesn’t like you rather than to do with you, that doesn’t mean you can’t listen to legitimate criticism that’s kindly meant, and that is lovingly meant often. Of course, that’s great. But to allow the fact that someone might not like you to change who you are, it’s devastating.

But I do understand why women do it. I mean, men do it too, but women do it more. And the reason they do is because we are the subordinate culture. And the subordinate culture survives by pleasing the dominant culture. That’s how we get through. I mean, when I first started out, I didn’t get a single opportunity without persuading some man to give it to me. So I had to learn how to work around the dominant culture. We all do.

And I’ve just been luckier as I’ve gotten older, and feminism has had more effect that now often, it’s women who are hiring me or getting me to speak. Or I get still a lot of resistance from men because I am blunt and outspoken and I don’t pussyfoot around them. When somebody gets up and says, “I’m really worried about the men,” I go, “Are you? I wouldn’t be. Clueless lots.”

[00:31:45] Tina: They’ve been okay. They’re doing okay.

[00:31:50] Jane: But frankly, individual men. Yes. Some individual men have a terrible time and it’s very unfairly treated and you know, racism is a real thing and you know, all those kinds of things. Absolutely. But men as a group, no. Being a man is not a disadvantage. Really, is it?

[00:32:08] Tina: Well, let’s talk about your book, because I mean, you’ve written, how many, did I say 12? You have written 12 books, I think that was the number. And “The Mother” is that your most popular as far as your novels? Has that been your most?

[00:32:20] Jane: Yes.

[00:32:21] Tina: And I wanted to really spend a few minutes on the theme of the book that has to do with domestic violence, right? But in the sense of coercion, the power that someone has over someone else, and then what happens to that individual’s mother when she realizes what’s happening to her daughter, right? So can we talk a little bit about that? How did you decide to write about that?

[00:32:42] Jane: Well, I don’t wanna actually name the event that triggered the idea because I just don’t feel that that’s appropriate.

[00:32:49] Tina: Okay.

[00:32:49] Jane: But there was, just as there are the world over, constant headlines in this country of horrendous domestic murders where often a woman and her children are killed sometimes horribly by their ex-partner or estranged partner, or current partner.

And there was one such incident, it was very dramatic and you know, the sort of press coverage followed the usual trajectory. He was a good bloke. He just snapped, you know?

[00:33:24] Tina: Oh yeah.

[00:33:25] Jane: Please, stop that crap! And then, there were lots of photos that were out there about the woman and her kids, and I saw one. And in it, there was an older woman next to her. Now, the older woman’s face was pixelated. I knew it wasn’t her mother because I’d seen photos of her mother. I thought it might have been her grandmother. And I was looking at her as a grandmother myself. And I thought to myself, “Oh my God! How must she be feeling that poor woman?”

And then I thought, how would I feel if that was my daughter and my grandchildren in that situation? I mean, what would I do? And then I suddenly thought, well, I know what I’d want to do. And that was the beginning of the idea. And slowly over time, it kind of kept banging away in my head.

And eventually, I got myself a literary agent because I’ve done all the other books, mostly non-fiction, direct to publisher. But a friend told me off and said I wasn’t getting enough money, and I should get a literary agent. It was very good advice. I’m now making more money out of my books.

And she pushed me to write the first eight chapters and then she pitched it to publishers and I got a very good advance for Australia. It wouldn’t be anything in America, but it’s good here. So that forced me to write it. You know, nothing like a deadline. That’s another thing that copywriters are so well.

[00:34:41] Tina: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

[00:34:42] Jane: Nothing like a deadline to make you do the job. And I had a wonderful editor who made a big difference. I was very lucky in that when I realized I wanted to write about coercive control in particular, I wanted to make sure that that was okay, that I wasn’t invading something. I mean, cuz I’ve never been the victim of abuse. And so I went to see someone who runs a domestic violence agency here and spoke to her and she said, “I think it’s a brilliant idea.” We’ve got some really good non-fiction books. There’s a brilliant one here called “See What You Made Me Do” by a woman called Jess Hill, which is really fantastic and if you can get ahold of a copy, do. I use that very much in the novel.

But she said, “I think with a novel, you get to a different audience and you get to them in a different way. You disarm them emotionally on the journey with you and the story about these people. So they can start to incorporate ideas and understandings through that mechanism perhaps more powerfully.”

And I indeed am a great believer in fiction as being a really powerful communication tool because of that.

So, that was great. And then she gave me a judgment from a famous case over here from a guy who threw his girlfriend off a multi-story building. And she said, “This is the clearest and most concise summary of coercive control and how it works that I’ve ever read.”

And so I used that as a kind of skeleton and it was a difficult book to write because I had to go to places that I’d never imagined.

[00:36:09] Tina: Yeah, I would think that would be very difficult.

[00:36:11] Jane: But at the same time, a creative process kind of protects you because you have, I guess it’s a bit like being a therapist. I mean, I was a group leader for a while, so I do have some knowledge of that. I’m not a therapist by any means, but you have to develop a membrane and it’s your professional hat that does that.

So while you’re writing a novel, you’ve got a professional technical side of your brain that’s saying, “Right, you need to do this. You’ve gotta up the ante here because the audience has to feel sympathy for what she does.” And that in a way gives you a kind of level of detachment that allows you to be useful to write a reasonable book about it, or to be in the therapy room with someone who’s going through something horrendous, but you don’t collapse in a heap of a puddle of tears, which wouldn’t be useful. So I think that is in operation, and that was really useful.

But also, the reason I made the main character, the protagonist, not the woman who was going through the abuse but her mother was partly because I haven’t been the victim of abuse. So I felt that I couldn’t perhaps do justice to that experience as directly as that.

But also I felt that Miriam, my main character, was really us, most of us who read about coercive control or domestic violence or might see it in a neighbor or a friend tells us a terrible story or whatever, and we observe it and we don’t really understand it.

We have thoughts like, “Ooh, why don’t you just leave?” Or, “What attracted you to this bastard in the first place?” All these judgy kind of thoughts. So I wanted her to be that and do that. And then slowly, slowly, slowly, the scale’s falling from her eyes.

And the realization that this is so much more complicated than that, and I deliberately set it in a very middle class, prosperous environment because people have this stereotypical view, “Oh, that happens to marginal-“

[00:38:10] Tina: “Those people, those people have that happen to them,” right? Yeah.

[00:38:14] Jane: Those people who went to public schools. Ah, no.

[00:38:16] Tina: Yeah. Right.

[00:38:18] Jane: And that also is not true, not born out by any evidence, but also I wanted to throw that away and get rid of that stereotype as well.

And, yeah, it’s been a bestseller and one of the most rewarding things has been the number of women who have come up to me at talks or sent me Facebook messengers messages or, you know, gotten in touch through DMs on Twitter or whatever it is, and said to me, “You’ve written my life.” “You’ve written what happened to me in my first marriage.” “I can’t believe how close this is to exactly what I see my daughter going through.”

You know, so many women telling me that I got it right. Well, that’s very rewarding from a novelist point of view. It’s also devastating to think how many women are living in these coercive controlling relationships and how afraid so many of us are of the men in our lives. I’m very lucky. My husband’s fabulous, and I’ve never been remotely afraid of him, which sometimes he may regret. But I think, you know, the fear in a relationship is devastating. And my advice, I also lay out the red flags as to how to know when coercive control is starting to happen.

[00:39:41] Tina: When it’s happening because it can be insidious. It can be very insidious.

[00:39:45] Jane: I want young women, in particular, if they read it to go, “Oh &#!%, my boyfriend does that,” and have that red flag go up. You know, be concerned and be a bit warier because as Jess Hill says in her great book, “It’s almost as if they’ve read the same manual.”

[00:40:04] Tina: The playbook, right? Yeah.

[00:40:06] Jane: Yeah.

[00:40:07] Tina: Well, we haven’t really discussed this, but I’m just gonna say, as far as those preconceived notions, I don’t talk about this a lot, but before I was married to my current husband, very happily, I was in a domestic violence scenario and I had to run for my life. And there’s so many things that go with that. I had to run with my children and that this was not their father, it was someone else. And so, what happens to you then personally afterwards as far as beating yourself up, blaming yourself, guilt, shame, post-traumatic stress, all those things, I’ve been on that path. I’ve walked. So I do know what that feels like.

And I think it’s so important that you have a book like this that was written in fictional form but really resonates with the true experiences that many women have and don’t talk about or never thought they would ever be dealing with. That certainly was me. I never in a million years but yet, it did. And it was quite dramatic to the point I was on national television over it.

So I thank you for writing “The Mother”, Jane, and helping other women avoid hopefully having any kind of an experience like that in their own lives.

And for me, when I went through what I went through, I knew right then that I had to make a decision about whether this was going to become my identity or whether it was going to propel me, make some kind of meaning out of it that would help others.

And that’s part of what’s been my mission when I learned how to be a copywriter, is to help especially other women develop a skill that could keep them moving forward in life and hopefully help them with other mindset aspects of this too, of how they think and what they deserve and all of those things. So there’s so many layers to it, but I really appreciate what you’ve done.

[00:41:37] Jane: Well, thank you for telling me that. That’s a privilege to hear it cuz I know how difficult it is to talk about. It’s ridiculous that those of us who’ve been abused carry the shame that should belong to the abuser. They’re the ones who should be ashamed, not us. I think that’s partly what the “Me Too” movement was about. And now, we’re experiencing the backlash to that because it was very effective.

But I hope that women will start to shed the shame that has been totally unfairly put on their shoulders. And I’m really hopeful that the book will help other women avoid that situation, but for those that it doesn’t offer those like you and so many other people I know who’ve had that in their past, if it helps relieve that sense of shame and guilt, you know, because one of the things we often think is, “I’m the only person this has ever happened to. I’m the only person who’s stupid enough to have got herself in this dumb situation.” No, you are not!

And just normalizing the fact that this happens so often and that the predators out there who are often, the man who does this in the book is clearly a narcissistic psychopath. The men out there who do this stuff are terribly damaged, obviously, but they know. They are working to a strategy and a playbook that feeds back to them, and they are very clever and insidious. And I don’t think there’s a woman alive who could just walk away and not become a victim easily if she had no idea of what to look out for.

[00:43:12] Tina: Right. And I had actually people in law enforcement said to me when I was going through that how did I let this happen, right? That was my immediate reaction. And it was like, how did I not see it? And they said, “Because you’re not that kind of a person. Because you don’t think like that,” right?

[00:43:28] Jane: It’s not your fault. They’re weird.

[00:43:30] Tina: Yeah. It’s like you’re assuming that we have good intentions here in forming this relationship. So, I hope what this does for anyone watching this now, if it gives even one woman that feeling of, “You know what? I can overcome this. I can move through this.” To me, I’ve never called myself a survivor. I haven’t even talked about it all that much, but I do call myself a thriver and I knew I was never going to take on the identity of a survivor of this. And we moved forward and didn’t look back.

It took me two years to get disentangled cuz I was also stalked by this individual afterwards. And so, it was quite a journey. And, I was actually homeless in my 40s because of it. I had to go into a shelter for protection.

So it’s such an important thing to know that no matter what has happened to you in your life, you can overcome, continue to move forward, thrive, be successful, and feel at peace with yourself and know that it was not because of something that you did but that you can truly love yourself and help other people by sharing the message.

And that’s what you’ve done with your book, “The Mother.” And so, again, I just really, really appreciate that you have done that for so many women.

[00:44:38] Jane: Well, thank you. This is a really terrible thing to say right now, but I’d love a US publisher.

[00:44:45] Tina: It’s okay, you know, it’s okay. Be successful with your book. And it came from such a heartfelt place. And so, I’m actually embarking on a journey where I wanna be able to get involved with the domestic violence shelter here where I am in Arizona because I’d like to start doing some kind of scholarships for women that have been through something like this with one of my copywriting programs, you know, that type of thing. And just help them start to realize you can still move forward, you know. This doesn’t have to stop you in your life, no matter how horrendous it was at the time. You can always recover from that.

But I just think the work you’re doing is amazing. Are you having another book in the works? What’s your next one gonna be about?

[00:45:21] Jane: Well, I do. I’m struggling with it at the moment. I’m at that stage where I think this is bull&#!%. I shouldn’t be writing this.

[00:45:26] Tina: I have a feeling that there’s a pattern to this.

[00:45:28] Jane: Yeah, absolutely. Again, what I really like, like they call “The Mother” a thriller or a domestic noir or something. And Yeah, sure, that’s great. But what I always really like writing about, I think, in a fiction form is a moral dilemma. Because there is a moral dilemma at the part of-

[00:45:44] Tina: Yeah. We won’t give away, you know, what happens there, but there is a moral dilemma in that book. And so now you’re gonna develop a new one. Are you willing to share the concept or is it still in the works?

[00:45:54] Jane: Well, I ran for the Australian Senate last year. I wasn’t successful and didn’t get in and that’s fine. It was a really interesting experience to do that. So out of that experience, cuz all experiences good, bad, failure, success comes more grist for the mill, is I got an idea.

Because I was thinking one night, I mean, it was always a long shot to get in. I did it because I was asked and I thought if I say no, it’s because I’m afraid. So that’s silly, say yes. And I also got to shine a light on some issues I really care about.

And I was thinking, okay, just for a minute, imagine the almost impossible happens and you get in, what would be the worst thing that would happen as a result of that?

And I suddenly knew exactly what it would be given who I am and kind of work I’ve done. It would be that women would start to disclose to me about powerful men and their behavior, wanting me to do- We have a thing in Australia, I don’t know if you have it in the US, called Parliamentary Privilege. It’s part of the Westminster system where a parliamentarian can stand up in Parliament and say things and name people that would be libelous and defamatory outside of the Parliament, but in the Parliament, they are protected so they can say these things.

So the working title of the book is “Privilege”, and it’s about a woman who gets into the Senate. She’s the head of the Women’s Party. She’s tried a number of times to get in. There is no Women’s Party. All the parties are made up. All the people are made up. But she gets in and exactly that happens. People start to disclose to her, and she doesn’t wanna be judge and jury. She doesn’t want to name names and what if she’s wrong and she hasn’t got investigative arm. You know, all those doubts and fears, which I think are fully reasonable and rational doubts and fears, overwhelm her.

But there’s one guy who’s very powerful politician who she can see for herself is doing terrible things and getting away with it and has been for a long time. And it’s so egregious that eventually she decides, no, I can’t just stand by. I’m the head of the Women’s Party. What am I here for? I can’t just stand by and let this happen. I’m going to name him under Parliamentary Privilege. And she does. And a few days later, he kills himself.

[00:48:08] Tina: Oh my. It’s another moral dilemma, right?

[00:48:11] Jane: Moral dilemma because all my books are about women and power. So in “The Mother”, Miriam takes back the power. That’s coercive control is a power dynamic. She takes the power back in a very dramatic way. In this book, a woman gets power, but it’s about, “Okay, you got power. Hooray!”

[00:48:33] Tina: And what are you gonna do with it, right? Yeah.

[00:48:35] Jane: What’s the downside of having power? Why are we afraid of having power? Are we right to fear having power? How do we handle power? What can go wrong? So I’m looking at all of that.

[00:48:45] Tina: Oh, yeah. That ought to keep you busy for a few minutes. Have you actually started writing or just kind of have the concept laid out for yourself?

[00:48:53] Jane: Oh, I’ve started writing. I’ve got about 20,000 words done. I’m having to rejig them all, though, because I suddenly saw that I’ve spent a lot of the book as so often you would do when you teach copywriting, I’m sure I’ve spent a lot of time writing my way into the book instead of starting the book.

[00:49:09] Tina: Quit clearing your throat, Jane, and just get to it.

[00:49:12] Jane: Just get to the bloody point. Yeah. So I’m in that process at the moment and once I get that sorted out, once I know how it starts, then I can get on with writing the rest of it. But yeah, it’s a big challenge getting it right. I’ve been doing research.

We have some lovely things in the Westminster system. The head of the Senate, which is our upper house, our House of Representatives is the lower house which makes the laws and has the Prime Minister and all that kind of thing. The Senate is the House of Review, the state’s house. The person who runs the Senate from a procedural point of view is called the Usher of the Black Rod. It’s wonderful, very medieval. And I was lucky enough to get in touch with a retired Usher of the Black Rod who is the most lovely man you could ever wanna meet. He gave me so much great info on how the Senate works and you know what would happen.

So the research side of things I really enjoy. I mean, three of my novels are about Elizabeth Tudor, Elizabeth I, and I just love doing the research. So, I’m having fun doing that as well.

[00:50:13] Tina: Well, this is also, it sounds like a case of that saying of things don’t happen to us, they can happen for us. And so you didn’t get elected, but look at the door. It’s open now for your creativity and a whole wonderful story that you are creating from that experience. So fortunately for all of us.

So, this has been such a great conversation. Went down a path I wasn’t even really expecting as something today on certain fronts. But I just really have enjoyed and I’m sure that the viewers are enjoying it as well. And hopefully it sparks some introspection for some of us about what’s possible no matter what, no matter what you’ve been through.

So how can people find all of your books, not just “The Mother” but all the rest of them as well? Where can they learn more about what you do and your speaking and your books? Where can they go?

[00:50:56] Jane: I’m very lazy and don’t have a website cuz I’d have to update it, and I can’t be bothered. But you can certainly Google me and you’ll find my manager Peter Wall. He has a bit of information and if you just Google Jane Caro books, they’ll come up, and you can order them from Amazon and online if you want to, which would be wonderful. “The Mother” would be great because that’s the one I’m selling most at the moment.

But I did wanna finish by saying the one thing I think that women do, we are very hard on ourselves. We punish ourselves a lot and we find it hard to accept our weaknesses. We feel weak, but we can’t quite accept that, and we blame ourselves for it.

Like I, I’m allergic to the expression “a strong woman”. I get called a strong woman all the time. I loathe it because the implication is so sexist. The implication is you are strong, but most women are weak. No!

[00:51:47] Tina: Yeah. That it’s unusual, that you’re unusual in being strong, right?

[00:51:51] Jane: Absolute rubbish. When you look at what women have done throughout history, you wouldn’t do any research into that and how they’ve survived. Oh my God! We are made of high tensile steel. We are, all of us, strong women. But that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to be weak sometimes. It doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to feel hopeless and helpless. And I do all the time and you know, doubt yourself. Get upset by your failures. The relentless positivity sometimes gets me down.

It’s okay to feel your pain and, you know, feel negative and wonder how it’s gonna turn out. I mean, that’s fine. And sometimes you need to do that. So I just wanna end on a- I don’t wanna leave people thinking, “Oh, I can never be that.” Bull&#!%! I’m not good. I’m just ordinary and I just keep going and doing the next thing.

And also, I let myself feel bad about myself quite a lot of the time. Sometimes, I wallow in self-pity. Go ahead.

[00:52:49] Tina: Point well taken. You know, it is okay to cry. It is okay. All these things are okay, you know, as far as feel our feelings, right?

[00:52:57] Jane: And sometimes you can’t do the right thing. Sometimes, you can’t leave the bastard. Sometimes, you haven’t got enough money. Sometimes, you haven’t got the courage. That’s okay too. You’ll get there or you won’t get there. You’ll find your way as best you can, but no one should judge you and you shouldn’t judge yourself.

[00:53:14] Tina: That’s the biggest one, not judging yourself but love yourself and know that whatever it is, you will get through it.

So thanks so much for being here today, Jane. I hope we’ll have some more conversations and I would love to come visit you in Australia.

[00:53:26] Jane: I’d love to show you the kangaroos at the cattle farm.

[00:53:28] Tina: Amazing, right? So thanks so much and I look forward to the next time we have a conversation.

[00:53:33] Jane: Me too, Tina. Thank you for having me.

Copyright 2023 Tina Lorenz

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