GUEST OF THE MONTH - APRIL 2017
We're addicted to the pages of Sunni Overend's latest novel The Dangers of Truffle Hunting. Travel, lust and love will have you ensconced in a book that you just cant put down. We chatted to Sunni about how her own travels inspire her writings and why travel plays such a huge part in her books.
Your latest novel, The Dangers of Truffle Hunting, is set in the sweeping Yarra Valley region in Victoria, Australia where you grew up. Do you have any hidden gems in this area? Wineries, cafes, walks?
One of the most tranquil winery vistas in the valley is at Meletos on the way into Healesville. Cruise past plump apples hanging on trees as you drive in, visit the brewery, buy picnic provisions and flowers at the produce store, stay the night at the boutique hotel, or have lunch as you look out at mountains and vineyards from the restaurant. At TarraWarra Estate, architecture by Allan Powell houses the worthwhile TarraWarra Gallery, and afterward, you can step across to the the cellar door by architect Kerstin Thompson and have a wine or coffee overlooking the rolling grassy hill & lake. In the Healesville itself, Kitchen & Butcher is stocked with artisan kitchenware, meats, cheeses and produce. For an elegant cum rowdy lunch or gin tasting, head to the cellar door of Four Pillars gin. An insider’s tip: the new Innocent Bystander Bakery is due to open this year as a standalone venue on the Healesville main street – and it’s tipped to be a hit!
Travel plays a huge part in your books, with the protagonist often jetting off to another country on a journey of self-discovery. Why do you think travel has such a profound effect on finding oneself?
Distance from home is one of the most powerful ways to reflect on one’s life, views and circumstances. Putting yourself in a new context can be redefining – it can make you realise what you do and don’t like about yourself, what you do and don’t like about where you’ve come from, and can help unveil what matters to you. Quite simply, how can you know what you like or where you belong when your experiences of self and place are limited? Travel takes most people out of their comfort zone and resets one’s outlook. From a storytelling point of view, travel is a nice way to transport readers to places they’d rather be, and is also a wonderful way to inspire and/or prompt a change in a character.
Where’s your ultimate spot to curl up and read a good book?
Tricky. I don’t think that place is in my house, but I’d like it to be. Wherever it is, it has to cosset my body so that I’m completely absorbed and not having to fidget. I’m thinking perhaps a hammock in the shade on a warm day, or a cocoon-shaped chair covered in a sheepskin in front of the fire!
You recently returned from the USA where you travelled to the deep south. This is becoming a hot destination – what were your highlights?
I think my favourites were New Orleans and Marfa. New Orleans had that classic, sweaty, city-built-on-a-swamp vibe that I’d hoped for. We went from learning about voodoo amidst the lacey iron-work of the French Quarter, to spying gators in the bayou, getting a drink at The Ace, having chargrilled oysters covered with cheese, and scoffing jambalaya and gumbo. I didn’t stop sweating the whole time I was there but it was worth it. Marfa is a tiny town three hours from El Paso which is on the Mexican border. Artist Donald Judd moved there back in the seventies and the town is filled with his sculptures. Now artsy pilgrims take flights and three-hour drives to get there. It’s all tumbleweeds and mesas in the distance, dusty and desert-y. The Texan hospitality was something else – on our first night, the locals sitting next to us shouted us our meal.
What destination can you see your next book taking us?
The upcoming book will see us visit Melbourne, as well as an exclusive island off Sydney’s north coast, with pit stops in Paris and New York. The subsequent manuscript, however, will find the action tucked in the northern hemisphere, to find out where you’ll have to stay tuned!
What books do you think make the best travel companions?
Page-turners. Travel finds me tired and when there’s a screen to compete with, it can be hard to want to put in the extra effort to pick up a book, especially if the story isn’t carrying me along at speed. To be honest, this is the kind of book I need most of the time and they’re hard to find!
You can find Sunni's latest novel The Dangers of Truffle Hunting at all good bookstores.
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