Fiona Neill

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

The Sunday Telegraph - Stella - - MY BOOKSHELF -

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.

Or­der your copy of The Be­tray­als by Fiona Neill (Pen­guin) for £7.99 plus p&p. Call 0844 871 1514 or visit books. tele­graph.co.uk

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