I am pleased to welcome author FJ (Fiona) Curlew, debut author of To Retribution, on the blog today.
Welcome, Fiona. Tell us a little bit about you…
I am an animal loving advocate of human rights, child welfare and a just world (not too demanding then!) I’ve had many different jobs, from waitress to factory worker, secretary to elementary school teacher. It was while studying for my degree in education, in my mid-thirties, that my life flew off on a fabulous tangent. I was on a residential field trip in Stirling at the same time as the under sixteen world football qualifiers were taking place. Of course I had to skip class and watch the Estonian team practise! An unlikely friendship struck up with one of the players and two years later I moved to Estonia. Thus began my international teaching career, and the opening up of the world. What a life! I was led to some fascinating people and places. This unconventional life has left with with a plethora of experiences which are sprinkled amongst my stories.
Your inspiration for To Retribution?
An eclectic little mix! I was trying to come up with ideas for a short story, free-writing unusual characters I had come across. I remembered hitch-hiking during my teenage years and getting a lift from this very well spoken, successful man who had decided to turn his back on it all. He was driving up to the highlands of Scotland in a Jeep to begin his life anew. I played with reasons someone might do that and put him in the future. This sparked the idea of him giving a lift to people on the run, a military coup and a very different Britain. My short story, ‘Catharticism’, was born. I really liked the concept and decided to expand upon it. It had to be believable; based on current events. I took the rise of the right wing, anti immigration sentiments and corruption and mixed them up into a nasty volatile glimpse of what could happen…
What is the hardest thing about being a debut author?
Getting word out, publicity, all that stuff. I was so naive. ‘Of course my book is brilliant and it’ll be snapped up immediately and there’ll be an amazing blockbuster made, tra-la-la!’ Seriously though, without one of the big boys behind you it is difficult. Hours and hours spent on publicity when I would much rather be writing. What we’d do without the likes of you fabulous book bloggers I don’t know!
Where and when do you write?
I keep my afternoons for writing. There’s a little nook in my bedroom where I have a pile of cushions, my resources to hand, my dogs and cat snuggled around me.
Are you a planner or a pantser?
I am absolutely a pantser! Planning just doesn’t work for me. I love being on a journey with my characters and finding out how they’re going to react to the situations they come across, where they’re going to lead me. A lot of the enjoyment for me is the story unfolding, surprises popping up. Planning feels restrictive to me, frustrating in a way. It does, of course, mean that I have loads of discarded chapters, careful edits to do as the story changes. But I think it’s worth it.
Do you do any research?
I tend to research as I go. Everything from Google Maps to help me walk along streets, invoke a feeling of a place, to technical correctness. For ‘To Retribution’ I researched Military psych-ops, IT advancements and dozens of locations amongst many others things.
Do you read inside your genre or out when writing?
I don’t like to restrict what I read to the genre I write but do tend to fall into the style of a book that I am reading so I always have two on the go. One for pure personal enjoyment, the other to keep me on the right lines; to further my craft, if you will.
Your author heroes?
I love Ian Rankin – a master of his genre. Andre Makine is definitely up there. Leif Davidsen and Steig Larsson would have to be there too. There are many, many others, of course.
Thank you, Fiona, for joining us today.
About FJ Curlew
Fiona dropped out of school aged fifteen, because being the consummate rebel, she hated it! After becoming a single parent she decided to return to education, graduating in 1996 with an honours degree in primary education. Ah, the irony!
As soon as she graduated she packed everything she owned into her Renault 11, including her daughter, two dogs and a cat, and headed off to Estonia to become an international school teacher.
After travelling the world for fifteen years she returned home to pursue a long held ambition of committing herself to full time writing. She embarked upon the Open University’s creative writing course and was delighted to find that she passed with distinction and continued with the advanced course, again receiving a distinction. She has since immersed myself in writing both fiction and life-writing.
Whilst teaching abroad she lived in Ukraine during the time of the Gongadze affair, the corruption of Kuchma and his Militsia and the subsequent Orange Revolution. She also lived and worked in Estonia and Lithuania where she was exposed to life in post Soviet countries and heard first hand stories of the fear and intimidation experienced by the locals. This has been a major factor in her writing and choice of subject matter, as well as current and historical events in Britain. She now live on the east coast of Scotland with a rescued Ukrainian street mutt, a Scottish black lab and a Portuguese cat who doesn’t like the weather! ‘To Retribution’ is her first novel. A second is on its way.