We’re very excited to have Freya North in the house this week, talking everything from inspiring landscapes to juggling a writing career with single parenthood. Freya’s latest book, The Turning Point, is out now.
Set partly in North Norfolk and partly in British Columbia, The Turning Point tells the story of Scott, a Canadian musician and Frankie, a British author, both in their early 40s. A chance meeting between the two of them strikes a profound connection and, against all advice, they decide to see where it might go. Over oceans and time zones they make sacrifices and take risks, discovering along the way new truths about love and family. For the first time in a long while, it seems life could be very good. But fate has a tragic twist in store, one that could destroy all that was hoped for…
Where do you find inspiration for your books?
The inspiration for The Turning Point came from a very deep place. I never feel like a puppeteer when I write – in fact, with this, my 14th novel, I take little ownership for the story. To me, it felt as if the whole story existed out there in the ether – and I was the author fortunate enough to be the one to write it down.
I love landscape – Thomas Hardy is my favourite author because he so skilfully uses landscape as a character in its own right. So to set this novel in the contrasting worlds of mountainous British Columbia and coastal North Norfolk was both a pleasure and something of a logistical challenge! My research trip to Canada was utterly life enhancing.
Can you tell us a little about your average writing day?
Being a single-mum to Felix 14 and Georgia 12 – and the owner of 2 dogs (Twig and Bee) and a horse (Nathan) there is a lot to be crammed into the precious hours between the school runs. When I start a novel, I write from my local library, as I have to have utter focus and discipline. Once the novel is underway, I write from home – not from inside my house (too tempting to rearrange my socks or wash the inside of the dishwasher) but from a converted stable in my garden (I live in the Hertfordshire countryside). It’s like a monastic cell, really – no adornment and I sit with my back to the views. I am fastidious about ergonomics so I’ve been taking Alexander Technique classes to ensure my sedentary career doesn’t play havoc with my posture and my health. It’s utterly maximized my productivity!
I would have to say I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith.
What female writer has inspired you?
So many – Rose Tremain, Jane Gardam, Barbara Trapido, Mary Wesley, Charlotte Bronte, George Elliott…
What books have you been recommending recently?
North of Normal by Cea Sunrise Person
The Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J Ryan Stradal
The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf
What is your writing process? Do you plan first or dive in? How many drafts do you do?
I don’t plan. I carry the whole novel in my head as if it’s an entire film that I’ve had the privilege to watch at breakneck speed. My process is to then scrutinize each scene, beat by beat, and write down what I ‘see’. My editor and agent get the third draft – and after edit, copy-edit and proof reading it’s the 6th draft that’s published … Somehow a typo or two always sneak in!
What advice can you give to our readers who want to write a novel of their own?
You’re desire should always be ‘to write’ – not ‘to be a writer’. It can be a lonely, frustrating career – but telling stories is what should drive you, not a romanticized idea of wafting around waiting for the muse to alight …
What are you working on at the moment?
Though I finished The Turning Point in the New Year, I still think of the characters every day. I’ve never known a book like it. I have started researching my 15th novel though – it’s about a pair of botanists. I’m also frantically busy at the moment organizing the Hertford Children’s Book Festival which I run every October.
Thanks, Freya North!