Delighted to be talking all things books with FJ Curlew today. What did she read as a child? Which author’s books does she just HAVE to buy? Read on and find out…
Thank you so much for inviting me to do this. I love the idea!
Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?
My absolute favourite and oft read was ‘Doctor Dolittle’ by Hugh Lofting. My childhood was spent fantasising about being able to communicate with animals with the dream of becoming a vet or some such thing when I grew up. I was also intrigued by ‘Boy with a Golden Louis’ by Agnes Ashton.
Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?
I would love to be able to say, ‘Yes! I had an amazing time with teachers who triggered my creativity,’ etc. etc. But that was very far from the truth. I didn’t like school full stop, despite being a head teacher’s daughter. Sitting in rows regurgitating what was expected of me without question just didn’t work for me! I was something of a misfit and can still remember being deeply hurt by caustic comments from thoughtless teachers. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons I decided to become an educationalist myself, to prevent other children from such misery! Inspired, I was not.
What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?
I read a wide variety of genres from political satire to humour, literary fiction to gritty thrillers. In fact, there’s nothing I won’t read as long as it’s well written. I have read some great autobiographies which have influenced my writing as much as fiction has. I do find that I have to be careful about what I’m reading as I write, however. It is not uncommon for styles, content, to slip unnoticed from one to the other. There has been more than one occasion when I’ve been reading over something I’ve written and I’ll be thinking, where did that come from? Ah yes, that book! So, if I’m writing a thriller that will be what I try to be reading, or something in a style which I am trying to emulate.
If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?
I think I might like to have a stab at something very light and uplifting. A romantic comedy type affair, or at least something less serious than my normal thriller/political, dark and serious work. I find that writing overtakes me in everything I do and I go to sleep humming and hawing over where my story is heading, what my character is going to do, etc. It might aid an easy, comfortable night’s sleep if I could nod off thinking happy thoughts! When people who know me hear I’ve written a book they assume, due to my background, that it will be young adult or for children. Perhaps that could also be an avenue to follow.
Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?
No. There were several I read as I was writing that encouraged me to continue because I could see a similarity, an appreciation perhaps. Yes, I would have written it that way too. The person who encouraged me to take writing seriously was my tutor who kept, telling me I could do it, I was good.
Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?
Carl Hiaasen, because I know it will be enjoyable, make me have a good giggle and learn something about American politics all in one superb bundle. I love Hiaasen’s character, Skink. He showed me just how wacky a character could be whilst remaining plausible. I must confess he pointed the way with my character, Ranulf from ‘To Retribution.’
Donna Tartt because I simply have to read a book that has taken the author ten years to write, which is her average so far. The depth, the perseverance. Brilliant!
Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?
Andrei Makine’s ‘The Life of an Unknown Man’ because the writing is sublime and the concept so very clever. Perhaps because I lived in Eastern Europe for so long the ‘Novyy Russkiy’ theme running through the story, the old man left to die alone in a room surrounded by ‘New Russian’ opulence really connected with me. His story moved me to tears.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s ‘Shadow of the Wind’. This is very much a love it or hate it book and I fall completely on the love it side. Some of Zafon’s descriptions make me sigh with pleasure and awe. The idea of there being a specific book for everyone in the cemetery of lost books is sumptuous.
Pete McCarthy’s ‘McCarthy’s Bar’ because it had me guffawing inappropriately and chuckling almost constantly which is a fine thing to do, is it not?
Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)
Yes, absolutely! To Retribution uses current events to create the setting, though taken a step further by placing it in the future. One of my heroes, Jake, is based on friends. I won’t say which ones! The truly despicable politician, Richardson, is the composite of one or two real life TDP’s (hmm, have I just coined an acronym here?) of course, fictionalised…And the child abuse, domestic abuse by powerful people? I don’t need to expand on that, do I?
A huge thank you for taking part Fiona and for the brilliant responses.
About FJ Curlew
Fiona dropped out of school aged 15, 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 fifteen years of teaching, predominantly in Eastern Europe, she returned to the UK to focus on her writing.
She now lives 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.
Connect With Fiona
Facebook: F J Curlew