Journalist Fiona, 50, is the author of five novels including bestsellers The Secret Life of a Slummy Mummy and The Good Girl. She lives in London with husband Ed and their three teenage children
I was brought up on an isolated farm in rural Norfolk, and books gave me a sense of a world of possibility beyond the fields outside my bedroom window. I would often lock myself in toilets on big family holidays so that no one could disturb my reading. I devoured anything from Enid Blyton to Little House on the Prairie.
When I was 10, I was sent to a local boys’ school that had just started taking girls. For our first homework the teacher gave us WB Yeats’ poem An Irish Airman Foresees His Death to learn. It was a revelation. I spent time in Latin America while taking Spanish and Latin American studies at university. In Nicaragua, a whole literary movement was inspired by the revolution. When I went back to university, I wrote about it for a student newspaper – my first foray into journalism.
I don’t think I’d have become a writer if I’d not been a journalist first. I spent two decades in the industry, initially as a foreign correspondent and later as an editor and features writer. But journalism and fiction are totally different disciplines, and fiction is way more difficult. It’s a long, lonely process that tests the limits of your self-belief.
The idea for my new book, The Betrayals, came from reading a letter to an agony aunt from a woman who had married her best friend’s husband after an affair. I was fascinated by how this relationship might have started, and what motivated the letter-writer to apologise after so many years.
My writing habits have remained consistent over the years. I have around five notebooks for each book, where I jot down ideas for characters, dialogue and scenes, and collect newspaper clippings. I have a playlist of music, which I add to. Music helps me to find the emotional beat of characters and capture the mood of a particular scene.
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