Robert Lukins lives in Melbourne and has worked as an art researcher and journalist. His writing has been published widely, including in The Big Issue, Rolling Stone, Crikey, Broadsheet and Overland.
The Everlasting Sunday is his first novel.
1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?
My family emigrated from Wales a fortnight before I was born, so I held on just long enough to be an Australian. I grew up in Buderim on the Sunshine Coast, which I now realise was a stroke of amazing luck. It was all very free and idyllic: billy carts, tree houses, running through rainforests, swimming beneath waterfalls. I moved to Brisbane for university, then later to Melbourne after everything went wrong.
2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?
Novel Writer, Novel Writer and Novel Writer. I don’t remember where it started, though it was likely the encouragement of my parents. My elder brother and sister both worked at the local library and books were always around. It seemed a natural impulse to want to make some of these things – someone has to.
3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?
Not to get too dark, but probably the belief that I wouldn’t still be around by the age I am now. I never saw myself as likely to have a long or happy life. Now, I intend to have both.
4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?
Unbearably tricky, so I’ll cheat slightly and name three that relate in some way to my novel. Book: A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh. Beyond all the dazzling prose and humour, the heart of this story is a person trying desperately to anchor themselves to the world. The Everlasting Sunday looks at how we tether ourselves to keep from floating away into oblivion. Painting: I had a print of Snow Storm (J.M.W. Turner) pinned to my wall during the writing of my novel and to me the story exists in the centre of that swirl. Piece of music: Fern Tree by Andrea Keller. This was something of a theme song for the book. If I ever needed a shortcut into the story’s atmosphere I could put this on and find my way in.
5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?
It’s the version of art I’ve been practising the longest. I play music and paint, but I have a weak voice and haven’t clocked up nearly enough brush-time. That, and writing gives me the greater feeling of euphoria.
6. Please tell us about your latest novel…
The Everlasting Sunday is set during the catastrophic British winter of 1962, The Big Freeze. Radford is sent to Goodwin Manor, a home for those who have been ‘found by trouble’. It is about freedom and connection, and what it takes to survive.
7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?
To consider that if you have friendship and a safe place in the world then you have a lot.
8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?
So difficult to say but I’ll settle on Julian Barnes. The first book of his I read was Talking it Over when I was eighteen and I fell in love with his style, compassion and insight. He has covered so much territory with his books, taking on such varied assignments, but retained his unmistakeable voice. It’s something I aspire to.
9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?
I want to write books that are in some way works of art (and as a state school kid from the Sunshine Coast, trust me, that is a difficult thing to admit to). I want to try my hardest and have good intentions.
10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?
If you’re completely lost in the dark then you’re on the right track.
Thank you for playing!
The Everlasting Sunday
During the freezing English winter of 1962, seventeen-year-old Radford is sent to Goodwin Manor, a home for boys who have been ‘found by trouble’. Drawn immediately to the charismatic West, Radford soon discovers that each one of them has something to hide.
At once both beautiful and brutal, The Everlasting Sunday is a haunting debut novel about growing up, growing wild and what it takes to survive.