(Inside the mind of the author …)
Q: What do you do when you’re not writing?
A: Don’t tell anyone, but I watch a lot of television! I spend all day doing a lot of analytical and creative thinking – not just with my books, but because I am a teacher as well. So TV is perfect – it’s all done for you on the screen and you don’t have to think much. And if it makes me laugh, all the better.
Q: What was the first thing you ever read?
A: The words ‘TAP ROOM’ etched into the window of the local pub! Aged 3.
Q: What are the books – and writers – which inspired you as a child?
A: Dr. Seuss, A.A. Milne (especially the poems) and the poet Pam Ayres. I adored ‘The Famous Five’ by Enid Blyton (I wanted to be George and live in a den!) Later on I read some of H. Rider Haggard’s adventure stories, which gripped me completely. ‘I am David’ by Ann Holm was the first book that made me cry.
Q: What do you like to read at bedtime?
A: Nothing. I do a cryptic crossword instead. Books keep me awake; crosswords help me to nod off.
Q: What is the first thing you ever wrote?
A: Early bits of creative writing include: ‘When my Daddy went to work, we had a new house’ (We didn’t) ‘I went to see Princess Ann’ (Never happened) and ‘I went bopping bees in the rain’ (No. Nice bit of alliteration, though) … So, as you can see, I was good at making things up! Unfortunately my teacher didn’t recognise my potential. She just told me off a lot for fibbing.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?
A: I think I always wanted to be one. I just didn’t get the encouragement to pursue it. When I was training to be a teacher, we were told to write a lot so we could understand the writing process better. That’s when I got the writing bug again, although it wasn’t until I stopped teaching full time that I had the energy to do it seriously.
Q: You used to be a professional musician. Does being musical affect the way you write?
A: Definitely. The rhythm of sentences is particularly important – but so is the melody: words need to ‘sound right’ together.
Q: You write adventure books. Are you an adventurous person?
A: Absolutely not! I am scared of everything. I hate feeling uncomfortable, I don’t like feeling too hot or too cold, I hate being hungry or thirsty, I dread not getting enough sleep, I don’t like loud noises or crowded places. Essentially, I am a cowardy custard and a complete drip. But, weirdly, I am extremely calm and capable in a crisis.
Q: So, how did Fierce Resistance get started?
A: Sometimes I have apocalyptic dreams where I travel on foot, alone, to a place of safety. That was the starting point: I wanted to write a quest novel where the heroine goes on a long journey. Then I asked myself: what would have motivated the 13-year-old me to go on such a quest? My deepest, in-built loyalty at that age was the desire to protect my younger brother – so I created Peter’s character. Then I had to decide why he had gone missing – and I invented the Malvanians. (It helped that Britain was making massive cuts to the army at the time, and there was a lot of talk about the UK being dangerously vulnerable). The rest just grew out of my brain as I started to write, fuelled by my interest in spying, military history and resistance work. I love the idea of the righteous subversive, thwarting evil behind the scenes.
Q: … And The JASMINE Portfolio?
A: I loved writing Fierce Resistance so much that I knew I had to write another dystopian adventure novel with a strong, teenage heroine who saves the day! Then I heard about Nellie Bly, a young American journalist. In 1889, at the age of 25, she became the first woman to single-handedly travel round the world in less than 80 days (she only took 72!) – and she did many other fearless things besides. So I decided to make my central character a daring and spirited wannabe newspaper reporter. My first novel focused on strong family bonds, so I wanted to make the second one more about close friendships. And for the dystopian setting – I was fascinated by how our definitions of wealth and poverty have changed so much in recent times. So I created a greedy Britain where everybody had completely lost sight of how rich we are compared to most of the countries in the world.
Q: … And Mouse?
A: I’ve wanted to set a book on the Isle of Wight for years. I knew that a) the island was the last region in the UK to be converted to Christianity, and b) that it was the only place in John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids that was triffid-free and safe. So I thought it would be the perfect place to create a secret cell of rebels who work right under the noses of an unsuspecting enemy! I also wanted double agents and double-crossing in my book. So I had the premise and the setting … but what about the lead character? Beth Hardy is brave and capable, Jac Stryder-Jones is feisty and impulsive … so how was I going to make the third girl different? And then it hit me: I must make her quiet and shy, someone who has to dig deep to find her courage. And, as soon as I decided that, I knew that the book was ready to start.
Find out more about Fierce Resistance here.
Find out more about The JASMINE Portfolio here.
Find out more about Mouse here.
If you want to book Fiona for a Writing Workshop, click here.