Love is patient, kind, not jealous… the list goes on.
Zail, who left her job as a solicitor to raise her three children, previously wrote children’s books and a memoir about her relationship with her father, but was drawn to love when she wrote a collection of stories about motherly love.
In Smitten, a collection of love stories featuring 12 very different Australian couples, Zail looks at romantic love and how it can endure enormous obstacles.
The stories feature one couple where the man became a quadriplegic but they went on with their wedding and live happily together, and another couple where the husband underwent a sex change seven years into his marriage.
What made you turn to romantic love?
I so enjoyed interviewing these incredible people for my book on mothering that it opened me up to other forms of love and I wanted to explore love in a different way, through couple love, which is so different from mothering.
How did you find the people who feature in your book?
Mainly through support groups and the Internet and word of mouth. I wanted couples who had enduring love and were also challenged by such things as infidelity, separation, illness, and family opposition. It was hard to find people when I wanted to explore an open marriage but everyone was very honest and opened up about their love life and their history as you have to go back to understand what their life is about.
Which story did you find the most moving?
They are all moving in different ways. Louise and John fell in love and were engaged and he had a brain aneurysm and became a quadriplegic. Louise retrained as a nurse and married him in a nursing home. She took him home and years later they are incredibly content. Then there was a refugee from Somalia who has been in Australia for five years waiting for her husband to get a visa to join her. There were so many stories that were moving.
There was the couple who had never been in love and met on an HIV ward and found love in their fifties. I think all the stories were inspiring.
What did the couples have in common?
All of the couples were very proud of their relationships. They have been through incredible challenges, like Gillian, who had to find a new way to love her partner when he became a woman (changing from Andrew to Mandy). But they are very proud of it.
Is there a message to learn from the book?
I think the main message is that there is no formula to follow to find everlasting love. It has to fit the people. Love makes people courageous, generous and kind and forces them to take risks. Love and marriage and commitment mean different things to different people.
Was it hard to trim down to just 12 stories?
I had many others. I had a relationship where there was a great age difference. It was hard to stop at 12 as there are so many incredible stories out there. A couple who survived infidelity. A couple married for 63 years. A couple with an open marriage … who had worked out rules that work for them and ensured their relationship was paramount.
And what did you conclude was the main difference between motherly and couple love?
With motherly love it really is totally unconditional. There would be nothing the children could do to make them leave. These couples were committed to staying but there would be some point when a partner does something that you can’t accept and you won’t move forward with a relationship. I think that is the main way in which motherly love is different to romantic love.