Well hello there darling reader, how are you? It’s a lovely #Orentober day isn’t it? Smashing! Now that’s the small talk out of the way, welcome back to The Reading Closet for today’s bite of the #Orentober festivities, this time i’m joined by the wonderful (and hilarious) Helen Fitzgerald, author of two Orenda reads, you can check out my reviews here – Worst Case Scenario and the most recent, Ash Mountain.
So welcome Helen, thank-you for joining me on this wonderful day and for answering this bloggers questions. It is always great to find out more about the author behind the books. Let’s start of light, a bit of a fire round of either – or. GO!
Tea or Coffee
Wine, historically, but not so much now.
Wine with a side of cereal, didn’t sound too bad at the beginning of lock down!
Bookmark or corner folder
I’m a folder. And all-round wrecker.
*Happy dance* welcome to the fold of folders (get it? Fold of…. Oh Nevermind!)
Tidily organised or Organised mayhem?
I inherited a good dollop of OCD from my dad, who had log books recording how many eggs each chook laid and how many miles each tank of petrol took him. We had a library of hundreds and hundreds of video tapes, each one meticulously referenced in a big notebook. He had a system for everything. I love a good system.
If you’re anything like me, you can’t relax unless everything is in its rightful place!
Could you share a photo of something that makes you happy please?
My garden mirror!
That mirror is beautiful!
What is your favourite childhood book?
The Story of Ping. It’s a beautiful, illustrated children’s story about a little duck called Ping who gets separated from his parents and siblings on the Yangtse River. Coming from a really big family, something about Ping really resonated with me. I’ve kept a copy of the book near my all my life. I also adored The Magic Faraway Tree.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Was it always an author?
I wrote a long essay for school at the age of seven – about 20 pages long – about how I wanted to have lots and lots of babies like My Mum and just look after them all day and all night. I realise now that my Mum was doing lots of other things as well, and that it was writing the 20 pages that exhilarated me.
If you could choose only one season to last forever, what one would it be?
Summer in Scotland. It currently lasts twelve days.
I could happily live with just 12 days of summer – heat is not my friend!
What is your current read?
Nothing at the moment. I think I’m still traumatised by Hinton Hollow Death Trip. Will Carver is a mesmerising genius, there’s no-one like him.
Oh gosh, he’s brilliant isn’t he?!
What do you enjoy doing outside of writing? Hobbies etc.
I’ve become one of the army of COVID GARDENERS who have really connected for the first time with nature. My husband likes me to watch him feed the goldfish. It’s not too boring.
How many books have you written? Do you have a personal favourite?7 What is it and why?
Ten – I don’t trust myself re favourite – it’s always the last one I wrote until the goodreads reviews start coming in. Then I have to start another – WAY better – one!
When writing a series, how do you keep it fresh? Is the second in the series always more difficult than the first?
You need a proper story engine right from the start. You have to KNOW it might be a series, and write it with that in mind. If you just write a one-off in which something massive happens to an ordinary person, it’s very hard to turn that into a series. What happens in book 2? If it’s Massive Thing Number 2, the reader won’t believe you. You’re relying on somebody having really bad luck – unless you have a story engine that NATURALLY and believably creates crises for your hero.
When researching for a novel, do you always have all the research before beginning or do you research as you go? What is the process?
I do most of my research online. YouTube, Google Earth – anything and everything. I’ll find the street my fictional character lives on in Google Earth then wander round the neighbourhood on Street View. I’ll watch dozens and dozens of documentaries. And the research never stops – it carries on until the final draft.
That is an amazing and methodical way to research, you get properly down to the gritt of the book, I think that’s what makes them and the characters so believable, gripping and tremendous!
Describe your typical writing day
My typical writing day:
6am: Get up to wave daughter Anna off to work.
6-8am: Drink two or three strong coffees, listen to BBC Good Morning Scotland, watch husband feed the goldfish and bemoan the latest slug-attack on his lettuces. Catch up on Married At First Sight Australia/USA/ UK; eat two slices of toast – one Vegemite, one honey.
*I’m going to stop you there, that show is just the best kind of reality TV!*
8am-18.00pm: Wander the house and garden wondering how we’ll stave off penury and starvation. I physically cannot sit down and write any more. Nothing helps. Watch three back episodes of Gardener’s World. Carry out major earth works on the garden pond. Tell Sergio we’ll have to sell the house and get real jobs.
18.00-18.30pm: Eat dinner with Serge and Anna in front of The Office USA. Agree that eating dinner in front of the television is perfectly okay.
18.30: Get an idea while watching The Office USA. Write it in my notebook. Add further notes while watching The Office USA. Start writing stuff in my head.
19.30 – 06.00: Open laptop and write between 500 and 1,000 words in fits and starts, punctuated by sleep, chocolate, Netflix, and chat.
That sounds like such a great day, and oh you’ve made me chuckle! I also would like to know, why your husband likes it when you watch him feeding the goldfish!
Describe your publishing journey in 3 words
Screenwriter… Novelist… Scrovelist
Do you have any writing quirks / needs? What are they?
If I don’t watch at least two hours of reality TV a day, my writing suffers.
A woman after my own heart!
If it gives no spoilers, what is the hardest scene you’ve had to write?
The moment Jo and Alistair realise what’s happened to their baby in The Cry. It was a whole chapter of questions. I’m very proud of that piece of writing, but it squeezed me dry. I was a mess.
I have to admit, I have had this on my shelf forever, I bought it after I binged the TV series and if that was half as raw and emotive as the book, I’m still not quite ready!
What do you find the most enjoyable / difficult thing about writing?
The most wonderful thing about writing is coming up with a great idea – that feeling almost of discovery… Like finding a piece of gold in a river bed or a truffle under a tree. The most difficult thing is everything else.
What is a publishing highlight for you?
I was writing Ash Mountain while Australia was living through a particularly destructive fire season. A friend of mine shared an extraordinary photograph taken by a man living near one of the outbreaks – it showed his daughter standing at the front door, silhouetted by the light of the flames. My wonderful publisher Karen tracked down the photographer and the photo ended up as the book’s cover. I was so incredibly happy about that.
Can you give a one sentence teaser for anything you’re working on if you’re allowed?
As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous insect.
Wait, what?! You can’t just tease us like this! We need more please!
There you have it, today’s Meet The Author with open book Helen Fitzgerald – thanks everyone for jping us and now I eagerly await Helen’s next book!
What questions do you wish I’d asked Helen? Have you read her books? Fabulous aren’t they?!
Until next time,