We are proud to present an exclusive interview with bestselling author Liz Byrski!
Her new book, Family Secrets, is out now and available at all QBD Bookshops for only $20.99, with free shipping available from the online store.
We'd like to say a huge thank you to Liz for taking the time to share her insights with us and her readers.
QBD: You have a very extensive career in media and have won numerous awards. Where did your passion for words come from?
I always loved reading, and any form of story telling, and used to write my own stories when I should have been doing my homework! I think it may have come from my grandmother who was a great storyteller and used to keep me amused for hours with her own stories. She never wrote anything but she made up wild and often quite blood thirsty tales of princesses, and knights and magicians that enthralled me.
QBD: As a writer in the 1980’s, when there was such a big transition in the media industry as well as the role of women in the workplace, what was the hardest challenge you faced?
The 1980s were a lot easier than the sixties, which was when I started work. By the eighties I’d grown accustomed to the battles involved for a woman who wanted to do something new or different. But all that time really it was the struggle to be taken seriously and having to fight for and defend what you wanted to do that made things so difficult. And of course there was always the work/family balance to juggle with.
QBD: Being a fiction and non-fiction writer, which genre do you find you’re most drawn towards?
From the age of twenty to sixty I only wrote non-fiction, but ten years ago I tried my hand at fiction and I’ve found it incredibly exciting and rewarding. I love writing my novels and the connection it establishes with readers. I’ve written a couple of non-fiction books in the last decade too and going back to non-fiction seemed really hard but very rewarding. I suppose I enjoy a mix of both.
QBD: In 1981 you moved to Australia with your family from England, what inspired this decision?
We’d had some setbacks and a rather unhappy time in England, and my then husband and I decided on a new start. He was offered a job here in Perth and so we came with my two sons.
QBD: With many of your novels set in different parts of Australia and the world, what type of research do you do to choose your setting?
I prefer to use settings that are familiar to me, even if I’ve only visited them once. I find it easier to create an authentic sense of the place if I have seen it for myself. And I draw a lot on places from my past. For example one of the settings in my latest novel Family Secrets, is a small fishing port in northern France, and it’s based on a place where I lived for six months as a teenager. And in this book too, a lot of the places in England, which the characters visit are in the area I lived as a child. And the part set in Tasmania was inspired by a visit there in 2011.
QBD: Your newest novel, Family Secrets (released July 1, 2014), focuses on your resilient character Connie Hawkins and her journey as a widow – where did the inspiration for this character’s strength come from?
During my visit to Tasmania in 2011, I was reading All Passion Spent – a novel by Vita Sackville West, written in the 1930s. It’s about a woman who is in her eighties when her husband dies, and who sets out to reclaim something of the life she once wanted for herself but gave up decades earlier, in order to marry. Despite the difference in time it seemed to be as story with timeless themes. Connie in younger than Lady Slane in Vita Sackville West’s book, and her situation is very different but the inspiration came from All Passion Spent.
QBD: In terms of plot and characters, what was the hardest decision you had to make while writing your latest novel, Family Secrets?
I had a lot of difficulty with viewpoints in this book and ended up with too many. It was really hard to juggle the intersecting voices and storylines and it got rather messy and out of hand. Fortunately I have a terrific editor at Pan Macmillan who suggested keeping all the characters but reducing the number of viewpoints. Once she pointed that out to me it all worked much more effectively.
QBD: As a university lecturer and a mentor for many literature lovers, what advice would you give to those looking at entering the writing world?
Keep trying, keep writing every day and don’t expect it to be easy. Be prepared to draft and redraft, not just once or twice but a dozen or more times until you get it right. And don’t be precious about your work - take advice and listen to criticism, but only from people who know what they’re talking about. Those people are rarely your family or closest friends. Don’t give up!
Here at QBD The Bookshop we tend to call many of our fans ‘book hipsters’, they’ve confessed everything to us from ‘I frequently use random objects as bookmarks and now I don't know which book I've left the electricity bill in’ to ‘as a kid I ran my own book lending business in order to buy new books from profits. Worked great 'til school shut me down’.
QBD: Do you have a book hipster confession you would like to get off your chest?
I never go out without a book in my handbag or in the car in case I get stuck somewhere. I absolutely have to have a book with me - something I really want to read.