An interview with talented local author Fiona Collins

Your Community Hub are delighted to bring you an interview with talented local author Fiona Collins.

Welcome to the Community Hub Fiona! Before we find out about your writing background and new novel, tell us a little about yourself?

I live in Little Waltham with my husband, three kids and a split personality cat (part wildlife-killer, part lap-snuggler).

I went to Sandon School, onto Sixth Form in South Benfleet, then did a degree in Film Studies & Literature at Warwick University. I used to be a TV and radio presenter: TV was in Hong Kong; radio was off junction 6 of the M25 where I sat in a little booth and did traffic reports — not quite as exotic.

I love reading, fashion and going on holiday — favourite destinations being Thailand, Mauritius and the Maldives, not that I’ve been to those places for years; I now go to Spain. Favourite film? I love romcoms like How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days, 50 First Dates and Working Girl, though I do enjoy a Tarantino and a Scorsese and every now and again love hiding behind a cushion to Cape Fear.

fiona collins, author

When did you realise you first wanted to write?

I’ve done loads of different jobs over the years, but I’ve enjoyed those where I could incorporate writing ie. TV and radio, where I wrote my own scripts and voiceovers. Then a few years ago my mother-in-law gave me a book - Marian Keyes’ The Other Side of the Story, about two ex-friends who get publishing deals - and I thought, ‘I wonder if I do have a book in me…’ and gave it a go.

Which authors have influenced you?

Marian Keyes, Adele Parks, Sophie Kinsella and Helen Fielding. I also love Stephen King, and a bit of Dickens, who is often very, very funny!

If you didn’t write what would you love to do for a job?

I’d be an international fashion designer and jetsetter.

What traits do you think are important to write a novel?

Patience, diligence and confidence in your abilities.

Would you describe yourself as an introvert or an extrovert and does this make a difference in writing?

Introvert, with bouts of extroversion (I love a good party!) Writing is the perfect job for introverts as they love nothing more than shutting themselves away on their own and not talking to anybody…

Are you naturally observant in everyday life? Looking for any dialogue or situations that you may use in your books? Any examples..

Yep, my eyes and ears are always open. I don’t think I’ve ever recreated a particular conversation I’ve overheard or a situation I’ve witnessed, but everything goes into the blender of my brain…who knows what will come out!

Do you set yourself a daily word limit when writing? Do you have a favourite writing place?

I set myself 2000 words minimum, 4000 words maximum. Whatever I set, I am strict with myself. I’m lucky to have a dark, dingy study where I can lock myself away and write, occasionally listening to George Michael.

What first gave you the idea for the book ‘A Year of Being Single?’

I had the idea, what if three friends all became single at exactly the same time, and it grew from there…

Did you draw on any of your own experiences of living with a man?

Of course, though some of the more ‘testing’ elements of that are pretty universal, I believe. Don’t all men leave laundry on the floor and refuse to shut cupboard doors?

Have many of the experiences described in the book actually happened to you?

Some…and a lot haven’t. I’ve been to Ascot; I’ve never called upon the services of a male escort. I’ve walked around Paper Mill Lock; I’ve never snogged anyone in a Tesco car park …oh, I have dated an American (or two. Ahem).

Would you say that any of your own personality is in the characters or are they based on people you know?

Nope, I made them all up. But I would love to be like Imogen!

They say that an author should feel a little embarrassed when their book is released as they may have revealed some intimate secrets about themselves. Is this true with you?

No. No secrets, but releasing a book is incredibly exposing: it’s your baby you’re putting out there in the world and asking for criticism on. I’m getting a bit better at it now, but at first I just wanted to shriek and hide in a cupboard.

Do you find it hard writing about the male characters in the book, do you consult your husband or male friends?

No, not at all, and I don’t consult the men in my life. I’ve been on the planet long enough to know plenty about men and their wonderful foibles!

Have you had many silent scream moments yourself! And what causes them (will you explain what is meant by silent scream!)?

Of course! Anyone with a relationship, or kids, or a job, or a family, has had a silent scream, where they just want to go ‘aaarghhh!’ but can’t, so they do it silently. Aren’t people having them all the time??

One of the characters in the book Frankie just had to get away for a night. What would be your idea of a perfect getaway lodge?

I wouldn’t ask for much…I’m thinking huge Jacuzzi bath, bed with fifteen squishy Egyptian cotton pillows, room service, a telly and a well-stocked (free!) mini bar.

If the characters Imogen, Frankie and Grace were real are they the sort of girls you would love to hang out with?

Absolutely. I wrote them in the hope my readers would feel that way about them.

What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What’s been the best compliment?

You get criticism all the time in the form of negative reviews, but you can’t please everyone and not every reader is going to like your books (in an ideal world they wouldn’t mention that though!). Best compliment? That my book Cloudy with a Chance of Love had a reader skipping!

Would you ever attempt a different genre?

I don’t think so. I sometimes think, ooh, I could have a go at a psychological thriller, but I’d just end up trying to make it funny and stick jokes in it, so it wouldn’t really work.

Are you working on anything now?

Yes, I’m writing my fourth novel, about two sisters who swap lives.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Write what you would like to read and in the words of Dory, ‘Just keep swimming.’

fiona collins, author

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