Yes. I am, in effect, talking to myself. Enjoy.
🔸 Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I’m working on a series of five books, following Fiona Weaver-King, a middle-aged, highly successful artist, finding her way out of the closet. Fiona lives in a small, intensely gossipy village in Dartmoor, Devon.
Having endured a pretty dreadful marriage to Roland, a mean-mouthed philanderer, Fiona and her friends find themselves in the locality of a murder, both victim and assailant are unknown to the people of the intensely quiet and middle-class village of Amberleigh, but the ladies hit upon an idea and settle down to a series of dinner parties.
There’s a lot of suspicion, and not everyone will make it home alive.
I’ve just sent the first novel off for its final proofread, and I’m working on the sequel. I have a sketch plan for the third and fourth books. The final novel, at this point, stands to be a surprise to me as I have no idea how many of the characters will still be standing at that point. (If I had to guess, not many.)
🔸 If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Don’t give up. I started writing a novel when I was twenty. On reflection, it was a deeply self-indulgent, overly purple piece, and I can’t really remember if I got beyond the first draft. Certainly, I never edited it at all. All I can think is, even if that book had been lousy, it would have been experience. And there’s nothing to say I would have had to publish everything I wrote in the years in between, but I’m sure my confidence would have grown exponentially if I’d continued on a creative path since that first real attempt.
Instead, I wound up working in retail and taking bar jobs, however, I do think that those experiences taught me a lot about people. I just should have been writing as well.
🔸 What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Without a doubt, that was on my editor. I had a deeply uncomfortable relationship with the Oxford comma, she sorted that out straight away. I have a tendency to waffle, so there was no question I would need an editor anyway. Where I felt quite clever was in my selection of editor. I chose an American editor.
I was raised and educated in the UK and my story is set in the UK, too. However, I felt quite sure there would be nuances, words, expressions in my work that might need translating, and given that America is such a huge reading market, it was important to me that the work be intelligible to an American reader.
As well as fixing my punctuation and pointing out terribly English wording, Liz also managed to reassure me that I wasn’t wasting my time (I’m a delicate little thing, so that mattered to me), while simultaneously explaining where I was spiralling.
I hadn’t realised but I have a real talent for head-hopping, which sounds terribly exotic but is, in fact, confusing and almost-certainly anyone not currently inside my head.
There’s no question for me. Liz Borino, has made me a better writer.
🔸 What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
On my first day of school, a teacher was telling off a group of boys. I was new, clearly, and didn’t know where I was supposed to go or what I was supposed to do, so I tapped the teacher on the elbow. She turned to me.
“How dare you?” she shouted.
My heart nearly stopped. No one had ever shouted at me before. Of course, she wasn’t yelling at me, she was yelling at the boys, and they were only three little words, but they scared the life out of me.
🔸 What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?
Not a blessed thing. Most of my characters are differing shades of me. I’m pretty sure there will be people I have known who will identify with my protagonist, but the only one who’ll be certain that she’s Fiona, is in fact the antagonist.
🔸 What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I read a lot. Thankfully, with google, some smaller details can be discovered fairly quickly, but for more in-depth knowledge, I read. For the ‘Sex, Death and Dinner’ pentology, I have read a great number of books including: ‘Bullies, Bastards and Bitches’ by Jessica Page Morrell, ‘Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us’ by Robert D. Hare, ‘Forensics’ by Val McDermid, ‘The Real CSI’ by Kate Bendelow, and ‘Keeping Quail’ by Katie Thear, as well as several books on self-publishing and marketing.
I have spent rather longer thinking about the series than I have researching, however, there have been months spent on reading. Thankfully, I can speed-read and have a pretty good memory.
🔸 What period of your life do you find you write about most often?
A time that has yet to come. My protagonist is older than me. Most of my characters are. It’s something I have known about myself for some time. I’m drawn to the older woman. I suppose it’s because I like people who know who they are, and what they want. The irony is, Fiona Weaver-King is only just finding this stuff out, but I love her anyway.
🔸 What did you edit out of this book?
Recipes. There are several dinner parties in the first book, and much as the dishes are still mentioned, now there aren’t thorough enough descriptions to classify the novel as a cook book. I also snipped out around five thousand words, leaving the final manuscript at around 59,000 words.
🔸 What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Explaining what the book is about. I was pretty lucky, and found a business page on Facebook for a blurb writer. She is known as The Blurb Bitch and she did an amazing job with what I gave her.
I suspect it’s a difficulty for a lot of writers. After spending several months thinking, sketching, leaving half-remembered notes to myself, writing several drafts, and getting sidetracked by Solitaire, I couldn’t think how to describe the book without giving away the ending, or thinking too much about side characters. The Blurb Bitch cut through all of that and left me with a short, snappy invitation to read.
🔸 Where did your love of books, storytelling, reading, writing, etc. come from?
My mother was in hospital a lot when I was growing up. When the doctors didn’t really want me in the room, I spent a lot of time in the hospital library with the French librarian, Jacqueline. She was married to a surgeon and got me into the Brontës.
🔸 Who are some of your favourite authors that you feel were influential in your work? What impact have they had on your writing?
I may be kidding myself, but I like to think of my writing style as a slightly smutty Daphne Du Maurier. I have a lot of time for the dark and brooding side of things. Throw in some obsession, an echo from something long forgotten, and a countryside setting and I’m in my element. I just pepper it with some leering.
🔸 What projects are you working on at the present?
Book two. The artist is currently working on the cover for the first in the series, the editor is proofreading book one, so now is my time for starting up book two.
I have a plan. I rarely keep to a plan, but I do try. My hope is to work on book two while book one is with the editor. When book one is back, I’ll fix any remaining changes, and finish book two.
Then book two will go to the editor, and I’ll start work on book three. When book two is back, I’ll make the necessary changes and, having been away from it for a little while, will hopefully read it with fresh eyes, and add or deduct scenes as necessary. Once book two is back for its second round of edits, I’ll finish up book three. And so the cycle begins again.
I intend to have three books ready to go before I hit ‘publish’. Everything I’ve read on the subject suggests that a stockpile of books for rapid-release is the best way to get noticed by readers who don’t know my name, my work, or what they’re letting themselves in for.
🔸 Name five favourite movies. Why?
‘Cloud Atlas’ – an absolute cracker. I know flash-back-flash-forward work can be hard to follow, but I love it. I thought the use of the same cast in every era worked really well, and the lesson that we are all linked, through love, revenge, justice and passion really resonated with me.
‘Hairspray’ – I like fluff, too. I am talking about the remake here, but it’s my go-to film on lousy days. I don’t think it’s possible to watch it without feeling better within the first song. Also, I basically was Tracey at school. Right down to planning the wedding based on a nudge. I understand her.
‘Cookie’s Fortune’ – dark, it deals with some serious themes set against the prim and proper backdrop of a community theatrical production. Right up my street. Throw in Glenn Close and I’m happy.
’84 Charing Cross Road’ – beautiful. I read the book after watching the film. I don’t think anyone could beat Anne Bancroft for timing. I really loved the idea of a relationship of letters, between people who would never meet, talking about books.
‘The Hippopotamus’ – now, I love Stephen Fry, and I loved the book when it first came out. The film might have been a little tricky in places. When you read a book, your own imagination can blur the lines and fuzz out the details – you’re not offered that opportunity in film. It is as you see it. So, some of the scenes were rather uncomfortable. The reason ‘The Hippopotamus’ absolutely gets on this list is Fiona Shaw. I’ve been a fan for a very long time, and I suppose I’d grown accustomed to her playing funny and kooky and a little uncertain, but I’d never heard her shout before. In one scene, her character lost her temper and she was incandescent.
🔸 Are you a morning person or a night person?
I’ve always been a night person. I admire morning people but it’s never been something I’ve had a talent for. I enjoy the quiet and the dark. Night suits me. It also means I have some time to myself, to write. The rest of the household is asleep, so I get a chance to really work.
🔸 Name one thing that drives you crazy.
This question has given me the most to think about. It turns out, I’m quite easy to annoy. The worst thing, for me, is people who speak with authority about things they know nothing about. I had a friend who tried to explain exterior wiring to me. He stated, with absolute certainty, that one could run an interior cable through a water hose and it was basically the same level of protection as afforded by the use of steel wire armoured cable (it’s not, don’t do it).
When he told me this, I’d recently qualified as an electrician.
I’ve had a straight man explain to me how acceptable it is to be a lesbian these days.
I have been told that anyone who can write a birthday card can knock out a novel.
It’s really quite maddening.
🔸 If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
I think I’d start out with the best of intentions but like anyone else, I’d probably start using the power of flight or super speed to get the shopping more easily. I suppose super-villainy would be something of a temptation if I knew I couldn’t be caught. That said, super-villains have cats and I’m more of a dog person.
Invisibility would turn too quickly into a neurosis. Telepathy could be quite disturbing. Telekinesis – I would never leave the sofa again. Time travel – I don’t get bored, so I’d probably go back to the eighties and stay there; not because the fashion was so great or the world much different, mostly because I knew everyone and I had no bills. Okay. Time travel it is.
🔸 If you had your own talk show, who would your first three guests be?
Fiona Shaw, Gillian Anderson and Stephen Fry. They’d have to talk amongst themselves though, because I’d probably spend the whole show just looking at them.
🔸 You are chosen to make dinner for a special guest. What will you cook?
This ties in to the titles of my books really remarkably well.
I’d have to have canapés, maybe something with filo pastry for when they arrived.
A starter of scallops, maybe with chorizo, main course of venison, roast potatoes, carrots, asparagus, and for pudding – lemon posset.
If they happen to be vegetarian, I make an earth-moving Quorn lasagne.
I hate washing up, but I love cooking.
🔸 What literary character is most like you?
To be frank, if I don’t make sure to get out of the house from time to time, it’s questionable whether I’ll turn into Mrs. Danvers or Miss Havisham first. I tend to think of myself more as the lead in ‘Jane Eyre’.
🔸 What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
Booker prize or a film deal. I’m not greedy.
Blog – binneyblog.wordpress.com
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‘Sex, Death and Canapés’ will be available on Amazon on 20th July 2018.
Wish me luck 😊