PROFILE: SUNNI OVEREND
Author Sunni Overend (aka the genius behind The Dangers Of Truffle Hunting) talks to us about her fave reads, Kit Gossard and kindly parted with some sound writer advice.
Describe yourself in three words:
Creative, perfectionist-y, thoughtful.
How do you find your next read? Eg. New York Bestseller, recommendation, goodreads etc.
Sometimes it will be via a review in the newspaper, but often it will be via a rabbit hole I’ve fallen down on Goodreads – “if you liked this, you’ll also like …”
I admit that I don’t have the patience to read a book that hasn’t grabbed me by the first few chapters, so I’m guilty of mowing through many books without having passed the first fifty pages – naughty, I know!
What book (other than your own of course) do you recommend most:
I’m going to give a shout out to Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. This book helped me through a difficult period by reinforcing that the creative process should be light, exploratory and free, whilst reminding me that cultivating your art is an obligation that you owe to world. It essentially reminded me to take myself less and more seriously. It’s helped a lot of people that I know.
The best advice you've received:
Don’t give up. My father is tenacious and driven, and has had the biggest influence on me in this regard. I also read a Harvard study recently that found that the #1 common contributor to success was grit – grit being defined as courage and resolve, strength of character. Of course there’s nothing wrong with throwing in the towel, unless you’re giving up on your dreams – why would you do that to yourself?
What was your intention with The Dangers of Truffle Hunting?
a) To make the reader hungry
b) To have the reader wishing they grew up on a winery
c) To show it's okay not to have your sh** together
d) All of the above
e) Other. If so, please elaborate.
Ooo, well it’s a bit of a combo of D and E! I don’t think I “intended” to do A, B, or C but they’re all good results!
What I set out to do with The Dangers of Truffle Hunting was to create a world that was both real and escapist, that took readers on a sensuous, intoxicating adventure, while at the same time being grounded through genuine characters with genuine concerns. In fiction, I enjoy reading stories that are honest and real enough to keep me interested, but also elevate my day to day – offer me a view into another world, a daydream. I wanted this to exist in The Dangers of Truffle Hunting.
Kit is as flawed as she is talented. Why was it important to share both sides of her?
I never really set out to create a flawed protagonist, I set out to make a real one. These days I find it irksome the thought of making the “perfect” character – i.e. the lovable, flawless, soft, faultless victim. The “likeability” scale that people seem to apply to female characters in also concerning. I think all a reader needs is to sympathise with and care for their protagonist, even if they can be frustrating or “wrong” at times – this is exactly what real friends and family are like. Of course it’s hard to root for someone who has nothing going for them, so highlighting a character’s unique brilliance and worth is as important as illustrating their general humanity.
What can we expect next from you?
I signed a two book deal with HarperCollins in 2015. The first book was The Dangers of Truffle Hunting which came out at the beginning of 2017, and the second book (The Rules of Backyard Croquet) will be out in February 2018. I can’t wait to share it with you! Thanks for having me.
What are you currently reading?
Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple. Her first novel Where’d You Go Bernadette was an all time favourite of mine.
What's your favourite book?
I have a few, but as I’ve already mentioned Where’d You Go Bernadette, I’ll elaborate: it’s one of the sharpest, funniest books I’ve ever read, by an ex sitcom writer. I’m addicted to good shows, so reading a book that had the pace of great television was an absolute page-turning treat.
Who are some of your favourite authors and why?
Tina Fey is a fabulous writer and her memoir Bossy Pants was a hilarious, feminist game-changer, I love her work and I wish she’d author more.
I find most of his work difficult, but I loved Atonement by Ian McEwan – the pace and setting was sensational, the plot crafting flawless, as was the characterisation.
Maria Semple (as mentioned!) is one of the few I can rely on to consistently entertain. She’s only written three books, but I trust that she understands how to be funny and how to pace things – the undercurrent of insanity in her work also speaks to me.
Got any honest guidance for aspiring writers?
I’d have to pay forward this same advice: “Don’t give up”. The journey is long, full of unexpected turns, be prepared for blood, sweat and tears and then you might be pleasantly surprised. Don’t forget that you’re doing it because you want to. Writing is a serious job, but it’s also a magical, blessed fantasy job. If you’re ever bogged down, ask yourself: what would you prefer to be doing?
What qualities do you and Kit Gossard have in common?
Kit and I are similar in age, enjoy visuals and aesthetics (photography in Kit’s care!), we’re both sensual, passionate food-loving women, and we both grew up in the Yarra Valley – so quite a bit it would seem!