Interview with Fiona Wood, author of Six Impossible Things

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fiona Wood is the author of the terrific, hilarious Six Impossible Things. Read my (fabulous, numbered) review right here (and you ought to read the book, too! You really should). I'll wait a sec while you go read it, if you haven't already...

Okay, I'm waiting.
Getting a cup of tea.
Okay, if you're not back already you're just going to have to miss out on the interview.

Fiona herself is very lovely, and this is her website. Six Impossible Things is her debut novel, but she's written for TV for the past ten years. Here, I ask her about writing SIT, writing for TV vs. novels, her characters, time travel, what we should expect from her next (awesome things! Is that a spoiler?) and I think that's about it.

Steph: Dan is a fabulous and hilarious character, and I loved the Cinderella theme to the novel. Can you tell me a bit about the process of writing this book?

Fiona: It started with Dan. I wasn't really thinking of writing a book - I was working on a feature film script - when this fourteen year old boy character, who had nothing to do with the film, kept suggesting himself. By which I mean that ideas for his character kept interrupting the thing I was supposed to be writing. So I gave in, and wrote him a story. Because he was a bit shy and a bit lonely I really liked the idea of him getting to go to the ball - or year nine social in his case. I gave him a name that is an anagram of Cinderella, and incorporated a few other elements from the Cinderella story. I wrote the first draft over about nine months. And I wrote four more drafts over a couple more years - a couple were biggish rewrites, and a couple were lighter edits. I don't show very many people work-in-progress, but the few readers I had were really helpful.

Steph: You've also written a lot for TV - what are the major differences between script-writing and novel-writing? Do you prefer one over the other?

Fiona: I like both a lot. But I enjoyed writing the novel more for three reasons: first, it was a form I hadn't written before, so because it was new and a bit scary that made it exciting, the second reason is that it is entirely my own work, whereas in TV writing you are usually responding to someone else's brief, and the third reason I preferred it is that it was a more absorbing, more difficult and longer-term piece of writing. One of the things I prefer about TV is the tight deadlines, to which I respond well. When I'm setting my own deadlines, the pace is harder to keep up.

Steph: Of all the characters in the book, who do you feel you're most alike? Or does every character have a bit in common with you? Or are they totally separate entities?

Fiona: They are all totally separate entities, but they inevitably all have a bit of me in them as well. So, to be specific, I have for example some of Dan's tendency to over-think things, some of his mother Julie's affection for the 'serious talk', some of Estelle's inability to get on with her mother, some of Ali's impatience, some of Lou's preference for direct communication, and so on.

Steph: What part of the writing and publishing process do you enjoy most? Writing the first draft, editing, holding the finished book in your hands?

Fiona: The first draft is fun, like freewheeling down a hill - exhilarating. Editing is more like pedaling uphill, hard work, good for you, satisfying when you get there. Book in hand is a great feeling, but very transitory, because that's the point at which you hand the book over to readers and it starts its own life.

Steph: Imagining you could travel back in time and meet yourself without tearing the fabric of the universe apart, what advice would you give your 16-year-old self about life and/or writing?

Fiona: I would definitely be giving myself the 'serious talk'. I'd tell myself it is deeply uncool to smoke. I'd try to convince myself to exercise more sooner. I'd warn myself off a couple of relationships. I'd tell me to love my fair skin, stay out of the sun and never ever use fake tan! I would try to persuade myself to work harder at university. I'd suggest that I have my babies sooner, maybe starting at 25 rather than 30. And I'd certainly encourage myself to start writing sooner than I did.

Steph: I would absolutely love to know what you're working on at the moment... but if it's super top secret I understand if you can't tell me. What can we expect from you next?

Fiona: I'm writing another YA novel, called Pulchritude - what an ugly word for beauty. It's a story about friendship and betrayal. And I've just decided to restructure it. I don't seem to be any more 'efficient' writing this than I was writing Six Impossible Things - by which I mean I still have to write into a certain direction for a while to find out if it's the right one for this story. For some reason I can't seem to makes those decisions theoretically - I have to try it out and look at it. Pulchritude's main character is called Sibylla Quince, and Lou from 'Six Impossible Things' is in there, too. And I've started very early work on a middle-grade novel.

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