The Letters, Fiona, who’s it for and what’s it about?
The Letters tells the story of workaholic divorcee Violet who leaves her old life behind to go and live by the sea, where she starts receiving mysterious letters written by a girl in a mother and baby home in 1959. This novel happens to have female lead characters and so may appeal more to women, but that was never my intention – it depends if male readers are comfortable enough with their masculinity to be seen reading it in public!
Do letters play a significant part in your life?
They used to – I had a good pen friend from the age of 13 until we were 20, but we tend to meet up instead these days. Email certainly plays a significant part, and some of my emails are longer ‘letter-like’ ones. I feel very comfortable writing my thoughts down and use journals a lot. But there’s nothing like a face to face chat with coffee with cake.
You’re a therapist by day – does that help with your writing?
I never use anything my clients tell me in my novels (that’s a very strict rule) but I’m sure the privilege of hearing about people’s hidden lives acts as a kind of ‘compost’ for my muse. It also reassures me about some of the things that my characters think or do – if I think it’s a bit far fetched, I just remember some of the things real people have told me over the years. We never really know what’s going on inside another person.
And with such an involved day job, how do you find the time to write?
I see clients from 3 until 8 so it fits perfectly with a writing life – as long as I remember to take a bit of time for myself in the middle of the day! I’m very lucky to be able to make a living doing something I love, and also have plenty of ‘free’ time to write.
You’re also a poet. Could you talk to us about that? Do you see it as a break/release from fiction/your job?
I haven’t written any poems for a while now, unless you count the mini-poems on a small stone. I’ve been too busy for the poems to find any gaps in my life to slip through. I’m sure they’ll return.
Is writing poetry a different process to prose?
In some ways it is. You have to hold less in your mind if you’re writing a poem – it’s all there in front of you. You need to make sure every single word is working hard. You become immersed in a novel over time – I like that. But in other ways it’s the same – stepping out of the way and letting the words come, then polishing them up until they shine.
Why do you blog?
I love the immediacy of blogging – have a thought, write it down, and it’s out there! I really enjoy making new connections with people, and blogging has facilitated that for me. And I’m also always on the lookout for people who might enjoy reading my books, and blogging is a way to let the world know what I do.
You’re coming to the end of a (fantastic and extensive) blog tour – how’s it been?
Great fun! I’m constantly amazed at how different people have different responses to The Letters and Violet, and I’ve been asked some very searching questions! I also feel very grateful to everyone for their time and support.
A little bird told me that you’ve an interest in Buddhism and meditation, would you say that’s evident in your writing or is it something that has more to do with your writing process?
My spiritual practice helps me learn to pay attention, which is exactly what my writing helps me to do. Telling the truth also feels very important – the truth about who I am and where I am, whether I like it or not. That’s where we need to begin.
What do you imagine your ideal reader looks like?
I used to think I’d like a clever male critic type to approve of my work, but now I think I’d say ‘ordinary people’, whatever they are! Maybe people who don’t read very often, or who would never touch poetry with a barge pole. I hope people will enjoy the language in my books (and I’m not talking about the bad language!). I hope people will be touched.
What’s next for you? What can we expect from your next novels? (I’ve heard there may be a couple…)
Yup – 62 year old Leonard will be reluctantly investigating a mystery in The Blue Handbag in August, and then Ruth will be deciding whether or not to end her life in her three month diary in Thaw in Feb next year. I can’t wait!
Anything to add?
Thank you very much for having me Nik – great questions!
There’s little nicer to read as a writer than a good review of your work, and when that work’s for children, as my book I Met a Roman Last Night, What Did You Do? is, and the good review is from someone who isn’t a proper grown-up (quite yet!) then that’s even better. So, yes, reading Jacob’s intelligent and thoughtful review here made me very happy.
A question for you folks: What do you write on? And I mean in a laptop sense. It’s getting to the stage where mine’ll need replacing soon and I was hoping you’d be kind enough to share your laptop experiences, good or bad.
Goodness, but these antibiotics are making me feel rotten. I’ve been shovelling in prebiotic yoghurt by the bucketload – any other suggestions of what I might do?
This has not been a good few days. I’ve had the most painful rejection ever. And today I’ve learned that the cellulitis I had last summer never went away, which would go a fair way to explaining why I’ve not felt myself for far too many months. It came back, and how! yesterday. So I’m in pain again and feeling sick on antibiotics.
My very short story, The Boy Who Wished He Was a Cloud is now live over at Lit Up.
About eighteen months after my book was published I was informed it contained a typo. Where it should have said reins it said reigns. Now, I’ll not lie to you (how could I – and why would I want to?) – I was gutted. And embarrassed. I’d missed it – and not through being illiterate or sloppy. My book was not perfect. That editors had missed it too, and readers (as far as I’m aware) was no comfort. It really stung.