Interview: Liz Byrski talks about A Month of Sundays
Liz Byrski is the author of nine novels and a number of non-fiction books. She has worked as a freelance journalist, a broadcaster with ABC Radio and an advisor to a minister in the Western Australian Government. Liz has a PhD in writing from Curtin University, where she is the Director of the China-Australia Writing Centre.
Tell us a little about A Month of Sundays.
A Month of Sundays is about four very different women: Ros, Adele, Judy and Simon. They are the remaining members of an on-line book club, who have met at a distance once a month for several years but never face to face. When Adele is invited to house-sit for a few weeks in the Blue Mountains she invites the other three to join her. It’s a chance to meet at last, in a beautiful location; to relax, read and talk about books, and each one must choose a book through which the others will get to know her better. As they head for the hills and meet for the first time each one is facing a turning point, and wondering too, whether four weeks under the same roof will make or break their tenuous book club connection.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always been interested in the significance of women’s reading. I suspect that the reasons we read are often different and more personally introspective, than those of men. We know that women read considerably more books than do men, and that they share them with friends, set up and run book clubs and exchange books. I feel that for many of us reading helps us to make sense of our lives still so often lived in ways largely determined by male ideas and structures.
What research was involved?
Because I have never been to the Blue Mountains I had to do some research on that region to get a feel for the landscape. But the main part of the research involved going back through my own reading, and trying to find and then re-read books that would help my characters to tell their own stories in a way that would strike a chord with the others.
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
I can’t honestly say that I had much of a routine in writing this. It was a year of my life in which had a serious fall with some nasty outcomes. I had to cope with that, and also the fact that I was extra busy in my ‘day job’ as an academic. So my preferred routine of starting writing early in the morning, taking a break in the middle of the day, and then writing again through until early evening fell into chaos. I simply had to go from day to day, doing what I could when I had the time and the energy. It was an exceptionally difficult time.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?
I would cast Judi Dench as Ros, Julie Walters as Judy, Noni Hazelhurst as Adele, and Juliette Binoche as Simone.
A dream cast of fabulous women!
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
Nothing! I never celebrate finishing a book because as soon as it’s done I start panicking about it. My celebration is always when I hold the published book in my hand, and see copies in the bookshop. Then I will go out for coffee or lunch with some women friends.
What is favourite book you have read so far this year & why?
My favourite book this year is The Only Story by Julian Barnes. Barnes recreates middle-class life, in the home counties England of my own childhood and teenage years. I was captivated by a sense of being back there in that familiar scenery, and among the characters who made up my world. It was wonderfully familiar and soothing while also being immensely disturbing and alienating. It confronted me with both the best and the worst of that time, that place and that social environment and what it meant for anyone who broke the rules.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I am currently writing another novel, and heading off in July to speak at a conference in Barcelona.