As a break from the usual showing off, today’s blog isn’t about me, but fellow début novelist Fiona Robyn, whose novel, The Letters is out now with Snowbooks. As well as being a writer, Fiona also edits the ‘literary blogzine‘ A Handful of Stones – currently accepting submissions for haiku sized poems that celebrate the ‘extraordinary in the ordinary’.
My favourite part about The Letters was finding another book with an unsympathetic female narrator – one who manages to win you over anyway – and of course chatting to Fiona. As part of her blog tour I asked her a few questions, and stalked her on her blog for a while.
But we aren’t talking about me today. Here’s Fiona.
Tell me a little bit about your writing process?
If I’m writing novels, I have to force myself to sit down at my desk before I do anything else, especially opening email. While I’m doing the first draft I’ll only spend a short time every day bashing out the words, and I’ll use the rest of my time to do research, related reading etc. I usually do around four drafts – the fourth might just be changing words here or there.
One of your books promises tips for the reader to ‘slow down’ and fall in love with life– – and yet you’re publishing three novels in less than a year, which sounds like a hectic schedule. How have you found the time?
Ah – the trick is to spend five years trying to find a publisher – by which time you’ve already got three novels ready to go! They usually take one or two years each, depending on what else I have going on. I have made an effort to arrange my working life over the past ten years so I have my mornings free for writing – I work afternoons and evenings to earn my daily bread.
How was the order of publication of your three novels decided? Are they a trilogy? Do they deal with the same themes?
The novels all stand alone. My novels arrive via the main characters, who ‘turn up’ in my head and tell me their stories. So far I’ve had Violet, a divorced woman who moves to the coast and starts receiving mysterious letters (The Letters), a 62 yr old gardener called Leonard (The Blue Handbag), and Ruth, a suicidal microbiologist who has her portrait painted by a Russian artist (Thaw). They don’t deal with similar themes on purpose, but I do seem to write about secrets, and my characters are often seeking more meaningful ways of living. The order was decided by Snowbooks – you’ll have to ask them!
I have absolutely loved the fact that someone other than me is working away on my writing’s behalf – designing covers, printing them out, sending them out into bookshops… imagine that! I’ve also loved working with Anna and Emma at Snowbooks – a very different experience to working with a huge publisher, I’m sure. It has been difficult to ‘let go’ of complete control over the books, as I am a tiny bit of a control freak. Although it’s been good practice for me – maybe we’re not really in control of much anyway, and I certainly won’t have any say in reader’s reactions – all I can do is do my bit as well as I can.