Kris Radish's tenth novel, The Year of Necessary Lies, follows an eventful year in the life of budding ornithologist and activist, Julia Britton, who learns through the beauty and power of birds the skills to change her own life. I spoke with Radish about the powerful women behind this novel, ways to create and stoke the fires of female friendship, and the power of transformation.
Who are some of the foremothers that built the character of Julie Britton for you? How did you get exposed to their contributions?
History is littered with brave and bold women who were not afraid to take chances and make their own lives and the world a better place. I never want to forget them and what they did that has allowed me to live with such freedom and with so many choices. The Susan B. Anthonys, Sojourner Truths, Emma Goldmans, and Margaret Sangers of the world were followed by the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Mother Theresa, and hundreds of other brave hearts I have always admired. I have always paid attention to women like this, and the Audubon Society's backbone was carved by the real women in my novel like Minna Hall and Harriet Hemenway. History books are littered with the accomplishments of women like this and inspired by their bravery. Julia appeared to me as a tribute to all they have done.
As much as there is love between Julia and the men in her life (I won't give any spoilers here), The Year of Necessary Lies, captures the beauty of female friendship. What do you think it takes to find and nurture relationships with other women?
The joy of female friendship has always been one of the major foundations of my life and wow, have I ever been lucky! Being open and able to share feelings and what is inside of your heart is crucial to all relationships but especially so with female friends. I have always felt that all women are connected by an invisible string and that we have common denominators that keep us linked. Whatever you are feeling, someone else is feeling and has felt so there is a link there that sustains all women. Be nice, be brave, and put yourself out there, and you can also feel the joy that I have felt with my amazing friends. And be willing to take the good and the bad because it's part of the deal.
The Year of Necessary Lies features an interesting frame with Julia's great granddaughter, Kelly, adding her own layer to the story. What do you hope this element of the narrative adds to the story? Why did you add Kelly's reflection and growth?
I have an amazing daughter who is now a young woman, and I wanted to create a special place for celebrating and understanding the gifts that the women who went before us gave us. It's important to remember and to honor and to also know that everyone gets to have their own YEAR, but sometimes it takes longer then 12 months to get there but that's okay. And sometimes our inspiration for what we can attain may be living right next to us.
The phrase "moment of resurrection" is a powerful one. Have there been times when you needed to redefine yourself? What gave you the power to move your life in the direction you choose?
I sometimes feel as if I've had so many resurrections that I should start my own church! Many of my huge life changes have come about with the help of other women who held my hands and showed me the way and that is something I celebrate in my work. It's also so important to know that there are reserves inside of you just waiting for your hand and heart to dip into them so you can move forward and live the way you want to live and not the way someone else tells you how to live. I have stumbled and there have been many dark days, but I take comfort in my past victories, in knowing that I still have miles to go (and books to write!), and that I took the moment, held it close, and then bravely stepped forward myself.
This is your tenth book, and you work in both memoir and fiction. What is your writing process? How do you decide which ideas to go all the way with?
I think a great Pinot Noir helps! Hells bells my mind is a tornado and I often just look into the mirror and see my new face lines and think, wow, I know how that got there; I bet other women have the same lines, and I need to write about that. I'm always working on a non-fiction book and fiction book at the same time, but I am also to the point in my career where I am having lots of Moments of Literary Resurrection. Historical fiction is new for me, and the next novel is REALLY new also, but I will always focus on female empowerment as my starting point. The book that springs to life is the one with a character who will not let me sleep, eat, pushes me into walls, and demands that I get on with it. Wait until you see this next woman! She's standing right next to me now!