This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
A lush English country retreat, a romantic daredevil, a charming playboy – multimillion copy bestselling author Fiona Walker’s latest novel, The Country Escape, sounds like the perfect summer romp to us. Here, the author joins us to talk bookish and real-world inspirations and what it was like to achieve a three book deal at the tender age of 22.
My mind is constantly on the case, and I always read to the news, listen to the radio or watch the television with my mental research pad open, but it’s most often in real life that I find a plot, usually through the tiniest snatch or a conversation or anecdote. I’d love to say plots come in a ‘lightbulb’ moment, but it’s probably more cumulative, as people and ideas come together to form a whole.
The following banner is an affiliate one. That means Writing Tips Oasis receive a small % of the sale if you purchase The Novel Factory, but at no extra cost to you:
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
When I’m writing, I’m totally absorbed in it and can’t stop. It’s a terrible all-consuming process that I’ve always struggled to timetable better. I’ll start straight after the school run and then I’m lost to it, breaking off only briefly to make random (late) suppers. I tend to stay up very late into the night working, however many times I promise I’ll be ‘up in five minutes.’
When you are writing, do you use any famous people or people you know as inspiration?
My social circle inevitably finds its way into books – I see my characters as friends, and so my own friends influence them, at least in the early stages, after which they take on personalities of their own. I don’t tend to use celebrities, although I often use news stories as the kern of plots, and therefore people in the public eye.
What is your favourite Women’s Fiction book of all time and why?
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons is book that I’ve always adored and can revisit any number of times for the glorious, eccentric characters and Flora’s indefatigable positivity.What female writer has inspired you?
Jilly Cooper has always been a huge inspiration – she’s a naughty national treasure, and her ability to combine such humour and insight with a really rollicking, sexy romance is a very rare skill. Sue Townsend is another brilliant humourist, along with Wendy Perriam whose books I read in awed admiration when I first started writing.
Can you give us three book recommendations?
The Night Rainbow, Claire King. This is an utterly charming story told from the perspective of a young girl waiting for her mother to have a baby in a summer heat-wave. It totally captivated me, and the French setting was so real I could taste, feel and smell it as I read.
A Hundred Pieces of Me, Lucy Dillon. I loved this book which sums up the sort of life-affirming fiction that’s a great comfort; it made me feel as though I was sharing another person’s life from the privileged position of being a best friend as I followed Gina de-cluttering her life after divorce and finding her heart again.
The Parasites, Daphne Du Maurier. Du Maurier is just so brilliant at capturing the strange emotional angles between people and this book is amongst my favourites of hers, telling of three half-siblings from a theatrical family who speak with one voice and yet are pulling in different directions.
I plan an overall plot – usually a ten page outline – then dive in and deviate from it wildly despite my best efforts, although I know from experience that this often leads to the best plot twists, which are impossible to see at the planning stage, but make so much sense once the characters are alive on the page. After I’ve finished the first draft, I’ll rewrite it significantly – usually one big ‘jugular edit’ which reworks entire sections, loses entire characters and reinvents the book. This can be the most exciting stage. Thereafter it’s small tweaks and working more closely alongside my publisher’s editorial team.
What was your journey to being a published author?
I was 22 when I wrote my first book, French Relations, and it was intended to be no more than occupational therapy because I hated my job and took advantage of a break from it to do something self-indulgent before finding another career path. Instead, I ended up with a full-length manuscript, a brilliant agent who spotted it on her ‘slush pile’, then within weeks a publisher and a three book deal. It seemed so simple then; it was only afterwards that I realized that mine was a very rare good luck story.
What do you think is the biggest myth about being a novelist?
That we are part-timers who lounge around all day tweeting one another while we wait for inspiration to strike. I work crazy hours, am embarrassingly hopeless at social media and put everything into my fictional world, often at the expense of my real one. The hours are unforgiving, and it’s not at all glamorous. It’s not a career for people afraid of hard work.
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
Don’t lose heart or stop trying until you reach the end; enjoy the process as much as you can because that way your reader stands the best chance of enjoying it. If you believe totally in your plot and characters, so will they. And never stop reading for inspiration. Remember, writers are fuelled by reading.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently editing my next book, The Woman Who Fell in Love for a Week, which focuses on one passionate love affair rather than a huge, romping cast of cross-crossing plots, although it has all the elements that I bring to every book I write. It comes out next year.