I first came across Australian author Sophie Green when I was lucky enough to receive a copy of her debut novel The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club for review in 2017, and she immediately became a ‘must-buy’ author for me. Green’s fifth novel, Weekends with the Sunshine Gardening Society was released recently (I loved it – you can check out my review here) and today I’m delighted to be able to share a little peek behind the scenes of Green’s writing and inspiration through a Q&A. Big thanks to Hachette and Benson PR!
In a sentence, please tell us what Weekends with the Sunshine Gardening Society is about?
A group of four women who are all slightly rootless find connection and community by joining a gardening society on the Sunshine Coast.
As always in your novels the setting really shines through, almost as a character in itself. Why did you choose to set this book in Noosa QLD?
The Noosa area has remained relatively undeveloped compared with other parts of Australia. Local people and organisations like the Noosa Parks Association ensured that preservation of the natural parts of Noosa Heads and its surrounds remained a priority. So, while changes have inevitably taken place the national park is as it ever was, a prominent feature of the area, and enables residents and tourists to be in the bush a minute after being on the beach.
My research showed me the beauty and breadth of plant life on the coast as well as demonstrating how much care there has been for them by the people who live there. When I chose the Sunshine Coast as the setting for the novel, I knew very little of this – as I found more books, I realised that the coast was, in fact, the perfect setting for this story.
Your books are generally focused around social and recreational clubs/groups/societies (Choirs, swimming circles) – why is that? And why make this one about a gardening society?
When planning a novel I try to think of an activity that can bring people together, as that’s the lynchpin for the story. Many people garden, and love it, and gardening is also a creative act – not just designing or planning a garden but tending to it. There are decisions that gardeners make which are practical in nature but also creative, because they’re deciding how their garden will look. I also know that there are gardening clubs and societies around Australia, so it’s clearly something that people do in company (as I know now, too, due to Bushcare). Those elements made gardening ideal as an activity that brings together women who need something useful and stimulating done in the company of others. So that meant I had the perfect set-up for a new story.
Have you ever been part of a society? If so, what have been the benefits for you?
I haven’t been part of a society but I’m currently a Bushcare volunteer and that has been an unexpectedly glorious addition to my life. I never thought I’d love weeding so much! And spending time scrabbling over the earth. It’s a very peaceful way to spend time. I also very much appreciate the friendships I’ve made.
Was there a character in the book you most enjoyed writing?
I don’t identify with any particular character – none of the characters I write is ever based on me, although sometimes the things that happen to them are drawn from my life. The character I most enjoyed writing was a secondary character, Shirl, who wasn’t in the story originally but who I came to realise is the lynchpin of the Sunshine Gardening Society and, by extension, the whole story. We see glimpses of Shirl’s life and earlier life and I considered making her a main character but realised she probably had too much life to handle in one book!
What does your writing process look like?
Each novel begins with the ‘device’ that will link the characters – in this case, gardening. Then I settle on a place and a year. After that I sit quietly (some may call it meditating) and ask for whomever is around at that time and place and would like their story told to show up. This practice stems from my belief that the characters don’t belong to me, I’m just the person charged with taking their stories to readers.
Once I know roughly who the characters are I start to interrogate the details, like their ages, the people who are in their lives, what they’re doing at the start of the story. I’m helped in this process by the ’12 Questions’ framework developed by American writer Francesca Lia Block. I need to do all this planning because I write around a full-time job so I don’t have much time to daydream – the daydreaming mainly happens in one lot, at the start, and in occasional spurts throughout, but the planning helps me deliver to a deadline.
What is the most important thing you’d like readers to take away from reading your book?
I always say that I hope the books provide meaningful entertainment. We all have a lot of things pulling on our time and entertainment is important to give us some relief, and joy, hopefully. If someone finds meaning in the stories as well, that’s wonderful. I hope to offer readers something that can be read either way – light if they want light, with some substance if they prefer that.
I’d like to send a huge thanks to Sophie Green tfor answering these questions so I could share this extra insight into her book here on my blog. I absolutely adore finding out a bit more about from behind the scenes, and really appreciate the time taken to respond!
If you’d like to know more about Weekends with the Sunshine Gardening Society, make sure you check out my review! I’d love to know if you’ve read this one – drop me a comment below so we can chat!
Weekends with the Sunshine Gardening Society by Sophie Green
Noosa Heads, 1987: Newly divorced Cynthia has returned to her home town from Los Angeles to reconnect with her 19-year-old daughter, who is pregnant and determined not to listen to her mother’s advice. Cynthia’s former best friend, Lorraine, has been stuck mowing lawns as part of a business she shares with her husband – his dream, not hers. When Cynthia convinces Lorraine to join the local Sunshine Gardening Society, they meet young widow Elizabeth, and rootless, heartbroken Kathy.
The four women soon discover the society is much more than an opportunity to chat about flowers. Rather, it offers them the chance to lend a helping hand to people whose lives need a bit of care and attention right along with their gardens.
Between pulling up weeds and planting natives, the women learn from each other that some roots go deep, and others shallow; that seeds can lie dormant for a long time before they spring to life, and that careful tending is the key to lives and friendships that reach their full potential.
Thanks to Hachette Australia for sending me a paperback copy to review!
Check out my reviews of Sophie Green’s previous books:
- The Bellbird River Country Choir.
- The Shelley Bay Ladies Swimming Circle.
- The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club.
Keep up with Sophie Green on her website here.