'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Friday 17 September 2010

Author Interview: Fiona Wood

We welcome author Fiona Wood to Kids Book Review. Fiona previously worked as a scriptwriter for several popular television shows and has just released her first novel for teenagers, Six Impossible Things.

Tell us a little about you: what’s your background, your story? I live in Melbourne with my husband and our two university student children and a naughty old dog called Teddy. When my younger child started school, I started studying screenwriting at RMIT. Before writing Six Impossible Things I’d been working for ten years writing television scripts. Before that I wrote freelance journalism, and pr material for film and television. Straight after school I went to Melbourne University, where I dropped out of Law and finished an Arts Degree in which I did sub-majors in english and drama, and a double major in fine arts. I worked in arts management before I had children.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? Not one in particular, but I do remember writing and illustrating a number of ‘books’ in primary school which were big on fairies in pretty dresses and small on narrative. In the first year of secondary school I wrote an extraordinarily bad boarding school ‘novel’ with many extremely short chapters.

What genre do you write in? Six Impossible Things is young adult fiction in a humorous, realist vein, set in the present day.

What other genres have you written in? In television I have written adult drama such as MDA and The Secret Life of Us, children’s programs such as Sleepover Club and Silver Sun, and soaps including Home and Away and Neighbours.

What do you love about writing for kids? I clearly remember loving reading when I was in this age group, and have enjoyed seeing my own children develop as readers, so it is a thrill to write for this readership. There is a real willingness to enter a narrative and suspend disbelief which is harder to experience as an older reader.

What was the inspiration behind your new book, Six Impossible Things? I have to say it was the main character Dan, an angsty fourteen year old, who just started suggesting himself to me. I decided that it would be fun if this shy boy got to go to the ball – year nine social – and from that point I used some elements of the Cinderella story. I also had in mind the visual image of two terrace houses, identical from the outside, but very different inside with a shared attic space.

What would you deem as six impossible things in your life?
Walking every day. Three or four times a week seems to be the best I can manage.
Remembering the content of last week’s French class.
Getting the builder to start minor work on flood repairs.
Keeping up with my reading. Those piles grow taller during the night.
Getting my kids to cook dinner once a week. Their social lives get in the way.
Finishing the current manuscript by the end of the year. Although you never know.

Tell us about your path to having your books published. It was relatively straightforward, though pretty slow. Lovely Simmone Howell (Notes from the Teenage Underground, Everything Beautiful), whom I met when we both worked on The Secret Life of Us, read my manuscript and suggested to her publisher Pan Macmillan that they might like to read it. They loved Dan, but thought the manuscript needed some more work. So with their notes, and some of my own, I did another big draft which I took back to them a year later. They offered me a contract then, but it was nearly two years between signing and the book being released.

What are the greatest blocks or obstacles you have experienced on your book-writing journey? Initially it was giving myself permission to attempt writing a novel. (That took a long time.) Then it was finding the headspace and time to do the work while I was also writing tv scripts. Now it is more the day to day challenge of trying to get what is in my head onto the page.

What’s a typical writing day? I write every day. But I can never do more than about three or four hours of actual writing. Sometimes I need to be in my office for a full day to do that. Once I’m into the writing phase – as opposed to plotting, for example, which I take a long time over – I try never to write less than a thousand words at a sitting.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers? Read, read, read. And try to finish something – whatever you’re working on. It’s possible to have lots of good ideas, but it’s hard to learn the craft until you complete something, figure out what’s not working and then start on the second draft.

What books did you read as a child? Some of my favourite writers were Enid Blyton, Joan Aiken, Edith Nesbit, L. M. Montgomery, Louisa May Alcott, Susan Coolidge and Noel Streatfield.

What else do you like to do, other than write books? I love reading, films, cooking - eating - and spending time with my family and friends.

What would be your perfect day? There are so many very different possible perfect days – staying in bed with a good book - managing to write five thousand words - walking around a city I’ve never been to… But in general a perfect day would include, work, reading, coffee, good food, family, friends.

What five words best sum you up? Mild catastrophist. Sense of humour.

What’s next for Fiona Wood? Finishing my second novel Pulchritude (what an ugly word for beauty) and, through Booked Out Agency, getting out into schools to talk to readers.

Read our review of Six Impossible Things