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Women Who Dare: Lia Weston

On May 2, 2017

Lia Weston's debut novel, The Fortunes of Ruby White, was published by Simon & Schuster Australia in 2010.

Those Pleasant Girls, Lia's second novel, is out now, published by Pan Macmillan with a third book to follow in 2018..

In between wrestling with plot points and procrastinating instead of writing her synopsis, Lia runs a bicycle shop with her husband Pete.

We are delighted that Lia is able to join us today.

What makes a daring woman?
We are generally raised to be peacemakers rather than instigators so I admire any woman who stands up for what she believes in and lives on her own terms. Anyone—regardless of their gender—who stays true to their principles has my respect, but women in particular face a different level of judgement when they do it publicly. I’m inspired by women such as Rosie Batty, Clementine Ford, Tara Moss, Lindy West, Malala Yousafzai, Charlotte Wood, and Anita Sarkeesian. To challenge stereotypes, break new ground, shake up people’s ingrained assumptions and risk alienation in search of the truth—what could be more daring?

What has been your most daring move?
I know my answer to this should be ‘writing a novel’ but it never occurs to me that writing fiction is a daring thing to do until it’s actually published and then you realise people you’ve never met are going to judge it, which is mildly terrifying. My back-up answer, therefore, is starting a business with my husband, Pete. Bio-Mechanics Cycles & Repairs—a bicycle servicing and repairs workshop—began in 2004. Originally Pete was working on his own, but after 3 years where we barely saw each other, I chucked in my job to join him. It’s been 12 years of intensely hard slog (we work a minimum of 60 hours a week), but it’s a business we’re really proud of. It was terrifying to leap into the abyss—firstly to open the shop, and secondly for me to leave the safety net of steady employment to join it—but it would have been far worse to stay comfortable and then wonder for the rest of our lives what would have happened if we’d taken the risk.

Tell us about the daring woman in your novel?
Evie Pleasant was a child hellion growing up in a small town. Ignored by her parents, she was bored and therefore bad. Intelligent, resourceful, and looking for trouble, she enlisted her childhood sweetheart Nathan into her exploits, and the duo spent their days breaking into houses, stealing sweets from the local shops, and generally getting up to no good. After the death of her father, Evie moved with her mother to the city, much to the relief of the town’s residents. She was swept off her feet several years later at university by the charming Gabriel, and quickly found herself pregnant and married. Ensconced in domesticity but still rather restless, Evie channelled all her creative energies into the culinary arts, until she presented her husband with a croquembouche and he told her she had too much time on her hands. Their marriage—for several reasons—did not last. Evie is now forced to return to Sweet Meadow, and has reinvented herself into the perfect domestic goddess, hoping that the residents will accept the new and improved version of herself, especially Nathan, who is now the local priest. Unfortunately, the residents are not so easily forgiving...

Why did you choose a female protagonist?
I wanted to tell the story of a leopard which had—apparently—changed its spots, and I felt it would be much more interesting if the former neighbourhood terror was a girl rather than a boy. Evie is extremely smart, but since falling into motherhood has found that her natural skills (e.g. breaking and entering, shoplifting) have been curtailed into more traditional domestic arts. Her return to Sweet Meadow forces her to draw on her old skillset in ways she doesn’t anticipate.
I’ve also watched many of my friends struggle with the transition to becoming mothers, and how it’s played on their identities and sense of self, so I was intrigued by the idea of someone who was prepared to completely reinvent themselves in order to revisit their past. I was always suspiciously ‘good’ as a teenager (e.g. I never snuck out, went to wild parties, or set fire to anything) and am interested in the psychology of why people do these things, and whether it carries through into adulthood. That being said, if the story had felt more interesting to be written with a male protagonist, that’s the way I would have gone. I don’t tend to consciously choose the protagonist’s gender; they pick me to write them that way!

Tell us a bit more about your latest book …
Those Pleasant Girls is the story of Evie Pleasant, who returns to Sweet Meadow, the small country town she terrorised as a child. Reinvented as a 1950s pin-up, Evie’s divorce and impending poverty have made her desperate enough to seduce her former partner-in-crime and start again. She’s made a promise to herself: ‘No swearing. No drinking. No stealing. No fires.’ The town residents, however, have long memories; no-one is keen to have a vandalising, cat-kidnapping, confectionery-shoplifting ex-local back, no matter how well they can bake a triple buttercream hazelnut sponge cake. With her reluctant gothic gardening daughter Mary in tow and her childhood sweetheart—now the local priest—in her sights, Evie has a job to do.

thosepleasantgirlsThose Pleasant Girls is published by Pan Macmillan. You can purchase the book here in Australia.

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