Where do you find inspiration for your books?

44406_FirstTimeSawFace_PBO.inddI get my inspiration from all kinds of places. With ‘The First Time I Saw Your Face’, I read an article about a journalist who posed as a footman at Buckingham Palace for months and that got me thinking about how much we take people at face value and what would happen if an undercover journalist fell in love with the
very person they were trying to fool. With ‘Playing Grace’ I was in an art gallery when a woman was doing a guided tour and everyone was nodding away at what she was saying and I thought, ‘What would happen if you had a difficult person in your group … a really young, really attractive guy …’


Do you try and read the online reviews you get on say, Waterstones website?

I do – I’m absolutely delighted when I get a review that shows you’ve really moved a reader – made them laugh or cry. And that they’ve taken the time to write a review. I don’t even mind when someone says they don’t like what I’ve done, especially if they can say exactly what it is that they don’t like. You always learn from the experience, but having said all that, I feel you still have to trust your inner voice and write what you would enjoy reading.

Is there anything you wouldn’t write about?

I have a blind spot concerning very graphic writing about murder, usually involving a young woman. That might be because I have teenage daughters. I can’t imagine ever writing that.

What did you do before becoming a writer?

I worked in advertising as a copywriter – that’s why my first book was about an ad agency. I set it in London, not Newcastle though as I didn’t want anyone to think it had been based on a real agency or real events!!

Which author inspires you?

There are a few. Jilly Cooper, Richmal Crompton (love the humour in the Just William books), Bill Bryson, Jenny Colgan, Marian Keyes, Kate Atkinson, JK Rowling, David Sedaris. Authors who can write with humour and emotion really hit the spot for me.

Which genres do you read yourself?

As you can tell from the answer to the previous question, I read in all kinds of genres and I hate it when people are damning about genres they don’t read. Why they can’t just say ‘It’s not for me,’ and leave it at that, I don’t know.

What is your biggest motivator?

Panic! I am the kind of person who always did her homework on the bus on the way to school and while I might get everything in place to start to write – research, plotting, etc. – I need that deadline to actually knuckle down properly.

What will always distract you?

Someone putting on the kettle. 

How much say do you have in your book covers? 

A limited amount. The publishers come up with the idea and are open to suggestions but you usually have to bow to their better knowledge of the market. I’ve only requested two changes – one was to make Ellie more of a rounded figure on the cover of ‘Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe?’ and the other was to make ‘The Mysterious Miss Mayhew’ more representative of a country setting and the publisher was happy to do that in both cases.
  untitled TheMysteriousMayhew
As a child were you a great reader?

Yes and as I was the youngest of three girls, I’d often end up reading stuff that was aimed at older readers. I’d say I learned a lot about love and sex by reading books I wasn’t meant to!!
Which book shop is your favourite? 

I am really lucky to have an independent bookshop not far from where I live, it’s called Forum Books. It hosts great author events, is really supportive of local writers and the owner, Helen, has become a good friend.

What can you not resist buying?

I have a terrible weakness for stationery and have had to stop myself from buying any more notebooks and pens for a very long time.

Do you have any rituals on your writing days?

Not really. When my daughters were at home, my writing pattern would be dictated by having to take them to and from school and then settling down again to write when they were fed and in bed. The only thing I’d say is that I can’t write when I’m cold or when there’s any music with lyrics playing. So I’m usually writing in silence and swathed in jumpers and furry slippers.

How many books in your own to be read pile?
I have just counted them. Ten if you’re talking about ones that I’ve bought in the last couple of months intending to read. About thirty if you count longstanding ones I haven’t got around to, but will eventually. And then there’s my kindle …

What is your current read? 

‘All The Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr. It’s set in the second world war and I’m completely hooked after three chapters.

Have you ever considered writing for the young adult or teen market?     

It’s funny you should mention that … I’ve had an idea brewing for a while. I just need to start panicking about it and I might get it down on paper.

One Response so far.

  1. Hazel Osmond says:

    Thank you very much for the interview, Fiona.

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