You can tell from the cover with its gorgeous pink flamingo, that this book is going to be fun – and it is. One of those curl up on the couch, cosy, light-hearted romantic comedies that is warm and frothy with enough going on just below the froth to give it soul and to make you care.
Check out this interview with Sunni Overend about her latest dazzling novel, The Rules of Backyard Croquet:
1: In a nutshell, what is your book about?
A disgraced fashion prodigy has been in hiding from her talents, but when a request for a wedding dress reawakens old passions, threats from the past reawaken too. Style, forbidden love, and coming-of-age in modern Melbourne.
2: Where did you first get the idea for this novel?
I wanted to give women a book that successfully married the feel-good vibes of a classic love story with the fast-paced addictiveness of great TV – a combination I love and can rarely find. At the time of starting The Rules of Backyard Croquet, I was running my own online fashion store and had the idea for a story that blended the themes of a Regency romance with a complex millennial protagonist, and was set amongst the world class cool of my home town.
3: What were you reading/watching/listening to during the research and writing process?
I was reading the memoir Grace by Grace Coddington (Vogue’s creative director) and The Dressmaker. I was re-watching The Devil Wears Prada and Downton Abbey, and listening to Lana Del Ray.
4: Who is your favourite character in the novel and why?
I have a soft spot for Charlie Beauchamp. He’s a rare breed of good man. He has power but he’s also vulnerable, open-hearted and kind. He’s the kind of man we need more of.
5: Which character (if any) do you identify with most and why?
I find myself identifying with small parts of each. Villain or hero, there’s something about each character’s ambitions or failings that I can relate to.
6: Both The Rules of Backyard Croquet and your previous novel The Dangers of Truffle Hunting explore creativity. What is it about creativity or the creative process that interests you as a subject to explore in fiction?
I consider that I’ve had a few creative lives in my own lifetime so far (acting, writing, designing, styling, photography) and I still enjoy exploring these interests in life and fiction. Moreso, though, my books are about the interior lives of the modern woman and I think creativity is directly linked to a woman’s sensuality, confidence and soul. Every part of a woman’s life comes alive when she finds a satisfying creative outlet, and many a female writer and poet has written of the passion unleashed when creative juices flow. This makes “creativity” a great ingredient when writing love stories.
7: Do you think it’s particularly important to tell women’s stories?
Incredibly. It’s also important that we cease to demarcate them as such, eg. “women’s fiction”. For a long time male stories have been positioned as central and normal while stories about women have been labelled a subgenre. Now, women buy significantly more books than men and we make up half the population, so it’s farcical and insulting to cordon off the lives of women as though our interests and experiences were secondary. Women have come to understand men well because male stories are what have been written and read forever. Now it’s time that stories from the other half were positioned as just as central and unmissable, because that will be an important part of achieving mutual understanding and equality.
8: What’s your favourite place to write?
Where it feels familiar, which is usually my home office. I do get fantasies about going on lush holidays to ignite my writing day to day, but realistically it’s discipline and routine that get the work done. When I’m not writing though, nothing beats travel and new places.
Do seek advice, but not too often – be careful to protect the precious, naïve internal world that nurtures creation. Don’t give away too much about what you’re writing until you feel strong enough about it to hear criticism – people can be careless. And don’t read too much “how to”, just do. Reading, watching, listening and seeing things that move you will be most likely to draw out what you need: inspiration and motivation.
10: What are your top favourite books of all time?
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
Vagina by Naomi Wolf
The Bride Stripped Bare by Nikki Gemmell
Atonement by Ian McEwan
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
11: What was the last book you read and loved?
Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch
12: Do you have a favourite author?
For fiction right now it’s Maria Semple. To date she’s written three novels with mad, creative female protagonists and let’s just say that I can relate. She’s an ex-sitcom writer so I know I can count on her for page-turning wit and lunacy.