Today, I bring you an interview with author Fiona Blakemore. Although I write and enjoy reading light hearted fiction, every now and then, I enjoy delving into a god thriller. Fiona's psychological thriller titled 'Love Until It Hurts' is on my kindle waiting to be read, and I very much look forward to it. This book is Fiona's debut novel. Lets find out more about Fiona, and her work.
Tell me about yourself
Hi, Hayley. First of all may I say ‘thank you’ for hosting me on your website! I love connecting with other writers and it’s great to be part of a supportive, creative writing community. I guess you could call me a Geordie lass because I was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the North of England. I have always remained close to my roots, even though I have been lucky to have worked in many parts of the world- India, Canada, Australia, and Peru. I studied medicine in Scotland and spent many years as a family doctor. Writing has always been an integral part of my career, albeit in non-fiction. A long-held desire to write fiction spurred me to complete a Masters in Creative Writing and this gave me the discipline to finish my first novel Love Until it Hurts.
How long have you been writing?
For as long as I can remember. I can certainly recall keeping diaries as a child and filling exercise books with scrawl that was mostly unintelligible. Hopefully that progressed into something more meaningful as I got older! I once had a fun gig writing restaurant and motoring reviews for a national publication. This involved me eating and driving my way around the country while being paid, but was far too short-lived for my liking. I have also been a weekly medical correspondent for a regional newspaper, an agony aunt for a national women’s magazine, and a presenter of medical television programmes for GPs. In 2018 I completed a Masters in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and completed the first draft of my novel Love Until it Hurts, which was shortlisted for the Janklow and Nesbit Bath Spa 2018 prize. A highlight of 2020 for me was that Love Until it Hurts received an Honorable Mention in the US 2020 Writers Digest Awards.
Do you have a favourite book?
It tends to be the one I’m reading. I’ve read some great books in 2020, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell, The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne, and Wild Fire by Ann Cleeves, to name just a few. I also love classics like Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. However, if I had to save one book from a fire it would be my Winnie the Pooh collection by A.A Milne. His stories are touching and entertaining, appealing to children and adults alike, and each one is a masterclass in observations about friendship and character traits. We all know an Eeyore, a Kanga and a Tigger, don’t we? I know I do!
Who are your favourite authors, and how have they influenced your work?
I love a good psychological thriller and really admire Nicholas Searle as a writer. His first book The Good Liar was written after he completed a Creative Writing course, following a career in the British Intelligence service. It was subsequently adapted into the film starring Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren. I read his second novel A Traitor in the Family this year and it was equally good. Ruth Rendell is another author I admire. In terms of my own writing I have found books by Louise Doughty (Apple Tree Yard, Whatever you Love) and Elizabeth Haynes (Into the Darkest Corner) useful in terms of observing pace, time lines, and building tension. Emma Donoghue’s Room was also helpful in observing how to write from a child’s point of view.
Can you describe your writing process?
If procrastination was an Olympic sport, I’m sure I’d win a Gold Medal! I have lots of good ideas but it takes me ages to get them down on paper and I am easily distracted. I also tend to go down long rabbit holes of research to make sure I get all my facts right. However when it comes down to the plot I am a panster. rather than a planner (as so aptly described in your publication Write That Book – Helpful Ramblings of a Self-published Author). I do spend a long time thinking about my characters, writing down everything I know about them even down to their favourite breakfast cereal. Then I leave it up to the characters to write the plot themselves. The other observation I made after writing my psychological thriller Love Until it Hurts is that the ending often informs the beginning. In other words, once I knew how the book was going to end I wrote more clues in at the beginning in subsequent drafts and rewrites. I hope that makes sense!
Like you, I was inspired to include my professional experience into one of my stories. How much did your own career as a family doctor influence the development of your character, Dr Ruth Cooper?
Human stories interest me the most. As a doctor it has been a humbling experience to be witness to many and that is a privilege I don’t take for granted. I preserve confidentiality at all costs. My fiction is just that – pure fiction- although I am very lucky to have had a long career in medicine which, I hope, both informs and lends credibility to the narrative. It is also important to me to write under a pseudonym to make a clear distinction between my life as a doctor and that as a writer of fiction. The only thing I have in common with Dr Ruth Cooper is, perhaps, a touch of Imposter Syndrome as a writer!
Are you working on anything at the moment?
Gosh, yes, I have lots of projects on the go. In 2020 I contributed to lots of podcasts, radio interviews and YouTube videos on books and the writing process, which I hope to continue. I have also being doing lots of research on my next book, which has a historical flavour. A global pandemic has meant that there have been lots of distractions and I have found it difficult to concentrate at times (can you hear the procrastinator in me talking?) but 2021 is looking more hopeful.
What advice would you give a new author?
Read, read, and read. Books open up new worlds and broaden horizons. For me they are also a bridge into writing mode. Writing can be a lonely and isolating occupation so I would also advise new authors to find, or start, a writing group. Engaging with like-minded individuals who share your love of writing and books can be very uplifting and supportive. It is also invaluable to have constructive feedback from fellow writers you trust.
Lastly, what do you like to do when you are not writing?
I love travelling but, for understandable reasons, my activities have been curtailed over the past year. Instead I have enjoyed being outdoors, whether in the garden or in walking my dog, and my bees have kept me busy. I’ve also spent some time learning new skills while setting up my website fionablakemore.com and I have loved connecting with other writers through social media. The internet has brought us all much closer at a time when that feeling of connectedness has resonated even more strongly. It has been a pleasure to talking you, Hayley both as a writer and a fellow healthcare professional. Good luck with your writing in 2021.
Thanks to Fiona for sharing her writing journey with us. Like me, she gets a lot of inspiration from her profession. My nursing career has inspired many a story, and my upcoming novella titled 'Not Dead Yet', was inspired by a story I heard in my day job as an Aged Care Clinical Nurse Consultant.