Monday, 23 March 2009

Fiona Writes Back

I sent Fiona Robyn 'How We Were Lost' while I was reading her wonderful debut, 'The Letters'.

Fiona not only read my novel, she has also written a review!
(Thank you Fiona)

You can find the review on her 'planting words' blog, over here . . .

Thursday, 19 March 2009

An Interview with Fiona Robyn

Fiona Robyn’s debut novel ‘The Letters’ has been recently released by Snowbooks.

It is a compelling and finely written story, which links a contemporary woman’s unique, mid-life journey of self-discovery with a series of mysterious letters from the past.

I really enjoyed this novel for its beautiful detail and its atmosphere, for its sense of intrigue and quiet wisdom, and for its warmth.

Fiona has been kind enough to answer my following nosy questions about her writing . . .

M: First things first, where did the initial ideas for ‘The Letters’ spring from? How did the novel begin?

F: My novels always begin when the lead character 'appears' in my head and I start getting to know them. Violet materialised as a tall, skinny character with a brusque manner - I knew she was a workaholic, and I knew that her life was about to change in a fundamental way. As time goes on I 'get to know' my character better, and the story emerges from there. Sometimes I think I know what a novel is going to be about (I thought The Letters might be about feminism, and bodies) but it turns out to be something completely different.

M: Although this novel is far more complex and challenging than any simple ‘comfort’ tale, there is a wonderful ease about your writing, almost like stepping into a warm bath. On your blog, you have talked about ideas of being 'the typist’ - channelling words and scenes as if from somewhere outside yourself. Could you tell me a little more about this?

F: Oh, what a lovely image! I am pleased you think so. When I speak about 'just being the typist' I'm not implying that I have a direct connection with my great great aunt Jessie on a spiritual plane... It's more that the characters and the story come from my subconscious, and that my subconscious knows better than 'I' do how the characters hang together, and what their journey might be. You could also compare it to the 'small mind, big mind' concept in Buddhism, I suppose. I see my job during the first draft as getting my small mind 'out of the way' so the story can come through me. 'I' come back during later drafts to make decisions about structure, clarity, dialogue etc., but I haven't found it helpful to get this part of me out too early. It can freeze me up completely if I'm not careful.

M: I especially loved the vivid and finely wrought descriptions in ‘The Letters’ and was hugely impressed at the extent of detail surrounding your main character, Violet. How deeply did you ‘live’ Violet during the writing?

F: I suppose I carry my lead characters around in my head while I'm writing, but I'm not thinking about them all the time. Sometimes details will come to me when I'm not expecting them - I'll be driving the car and I'll realise that my character hates cheese. But often the details arise when I'm writing a scene. Sometimes the details don't seem to fit the character when I read them back, and so I'll search around for one that feels more authentic.

M: I see that there are two more forthcoming Fiona Robyn titles on Snowbook’s website ‘The Blue Handbag’ and ‘Thaw'. Would you like to talk a little about what’s coming next, or perhaps what you are working on right now?

F: The Blue Handbag follows a 62 yr old gardener, Leonard, who becomes a reluctant detective after discovering some mysterious facts about his late wife. Thaw is about Ruth, a microbiologist, who gives herself three months to decide if she wants to carry on living or not - the book is her diary for those months. And my work-in-progress is about Joe, a nerdy boy who goes to visit his aunt in Amsterdam - I'm off there this Summer to get some research done. What a lucky person I am.

M: Thank you Fiona very, very much!

To find out more about lucky, clever Fiona and her writing, please visit

About Last Night

Hurrah! We did it!!
My heart was banging, but I managed to sneak in there amidst lots of Proper Authors, including the very fabulous Shanta Everington (as above).

And I didn't fall over. Or even spill my wine.

Last night's 'Exclusively Independent' reading event was an interesting, varied and enjoyable evening. I'm especially grateful to Lauren at Legend for taking charge of us all. And to Sean at Flame too, for (among so many things) submitting How We Were Lost in the first place.

Please visit the 'Exclusively Independent' site if you'd like to learn more about last night . . .

Sunday, 15 March 2009

The End is (almost, sort of) Nigh

So – I’m coming to the end of the first draft of novel number three. There are only two more chapters left to write, I know (more or less) what needs to happen and I’m even still in first-draft-love with it. Nonetheless, I’m struggling.

In fact, my typing fingers seemed to have transformed into snails. And not just any snails. Obese, elderly snails in a going-backwards race.

This is probably partly because I have quite an ending in mind, which I’m a little scared of writing, but I also suspect that I’m on go-slow because I don’t actually want to finish. I’m aware that I’ll need to hide this one away for as long as I can possibly help it before I go back in again, on the editing attack, for draft two. And, as infuriating and disturbing as the writing has sometimes been, it’s also been such an exhilarating pleasure that I don’t want to say goodbye. Not just yet.

But there are a lot of things about to happen around these parts. There are more job things and children things that I need to focus on, and other-book things too (including finally finishing my creative writing MA and practising reading for next week’s Exclusively Independent event). I really should complete this draft – if only to begin it all over again, sooner.

But instead, what am I doing? I seem to be thinking about snails still, about how generally beautiful their trails are, and how strange their eyes and mouths, and about the snail hospital my sister and I ran when we were kids . . . And I’m even blogging about them too.

Please help.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

'Exclusively Independent' Guest Blog

The lovely people at Legend Press asked me to write a guest blog in the run-up to next week's 'Exclusively Independent' event - so today I am blogging over here, discussing the journey of my first novel, 'How We Were Lost' from publication to selection in this inspiring new initiative . . .