Fiona Roberts, author of three innovative novels, talks over her work and how she creates unique plots.
Tell me about how you came to define your writing style.
I thought about the things that I liked and didn’t like in books I had read. I wanted my stories to flow and made a decision to have a couple of basic rules when writing. I wanted lots of short chapters so that readers could dip into it and not get stuck in the middle of a 30-page chapter! I understand the need for description but it is sometimes used as a filler. I only put in what was necessary so that it wouldn’t hold up or interfere with the narrative. Whilst initially a bit wary of how to do dialogue, I got over that worry because it is vital to give your characters a voice.
What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally? How do you draw on your past when writing fiction?
I was born in London but have spent most of my life in Poole. I worked in the banking industry for many years and once I stopped working I took the plunge into writing. I had been cultivating an idea for many years, Ebb and Flow, and had even written the first paragraph. The only way you can find out if writing is for you is to give it a go. I started and have not been able to stop since then. I thought that I would write one book but the floodgates have been opened and three have now been published with more to follow.
Friends often ask “Am I in your book?” No one is in a novel in a recognisable way but elements of people go into the characters that I create. My books so far have included a mystery, middle aged ladies as vigilante killers and a body swap tale. None of these things, you will be glad to hear, is taken from a past experience.
Talk to me about your books. What do you think draws readers to them?
The stories I write are not formulaic and explore different genres. Ebb and Flow is a tale of a woman’s dramatic change in personality and the reasons behind it. Everyone who has read it has said that they did not expect the ending. Just Des(s)erts is the story of three ladies aged 52, 55 and 60 who have been conned by a fraudster. They are infuriated by the fact that conmen get short prison sentences and then offend again once they are released. A chat over Sunday lunch leads them to plan a more permanent solution to these criminals. They begin a purge of fraudsters in their area and Detective Mike Nash is given the task of catching the killer.
My latest book is entitled The Dog and The Girl. Ellen has had a disappointing life and is finally ready to make changes. She will leave her penny-pinching husband and start again. Unfortunately, she dies before she can put her plans into action. Her body has gone but Ellen’s consciousness is now in Barney, her pet dog. She leaves home and finds a new family who have problems. Lara, who is 16 years old, is mourning her mother who died the year before and is suffering with depression. Ellen can still understand language and can read but what can she do to help the teenage girl who is so sad?
The books I have written are very different from many of the others on offer. When you read one of my books you will be discovering a tale that you have not seen or imagined before. This is the appeal of my stories and the feedback I have had has been wonderful.
Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?
As I said the idea for the first book had been with me for years but subsequent inspiration has come from many places. I had been reading Stephen King’s Mr Mercedes, which is about a serial killer. His protagonist was a white male in his twenties, which is the standard description of this type of murderer. My thought was what if it was a woman? What if it was a group of women? And so Just Des(s)erts came to be written.
I had watched the television series Sleepy Hollow and liked the idea of a person being in the wrong time. How do you cope when the language, behaviour and advances in technology are alien to you? This thought led me to going one step further, and putting someone in the wrong body.
When I finished The Dog and The Girl I had no ideas for a new book. I opened a newspaper and stabbed my finger onto a page. The word I had pointed at was “Crate”. Ruth and her Aunt Loretta were born and their story revolves around a crate full of mementos which is bequeathed by Loretta to her niece Ruth. As the story of her aunt’s life is revealed through the artefacts she collected Ruth begins to make long needed changes to her life. This story will be published next year.
There are times when you lose enthusiasm for your project. That is okay and there is no need to panic. I take a few days off to recharge my batteries and then go back to it. Editing is the most difficult part. Reading what you have written and then embellishing or changing things can be a bit of an ordeal but when you get it right and you are happy with the result it is all worth it.
If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?
There are many writers that I admire. My choice of reading material tends to be crime and mystery books although I have enjoyed books as diverse as The Hair with Amber Eyes, Pure, The Historian and sci fi and sci fantasy.
I do like Stephen King. His books tell great stories in an accessible way so he would probably be the one I would like to sit down and talk to. I’m not sure about collaborating though as I, and other writers I’m sure, get quite proprietary about our characters and ideas.
Twitter gives me a chance to get a glimpse of what other writers are working on and how they go about their craft. We all approach writing in different ways so I would think you would have to know someone very well to consider collaborating.
Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?
My next release will be Crate, which will come out in February 2018. I have written a couple of crime stories which will come after that. I am happy to tackle any genre and have recently been working on a horror novel which will be titled Anthony. I do like the horror genre which gives the opportunity to explore the supernatural and create your own folk lore and demons.
Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?
I have bought a couple of books for my holiday reading. I have got the popular book He Said She Said as I like to find out what makes a best seller. I have also got a book called Adversary, which is based on a true story of a man’s massive deception, which led to tragic consequences. I did get a James Herbert novel The Ghosts of Sleath at a car boot sale for 50p as well.
I have read many Margaret Atwood books and really enjoy them. I also look out for books by Harlen Coben and Jo Nesbo.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to feature in your blog. Authors love talking about their books and writing so I’ve loved answering your questions and hope people will enjoy reading them.
Thanks to Fiona for taking the time to answer my questions, it’s been fascinating to hear more about your intriguing work. You can find out more about Fiona and her books HERE.