Writer Wednesday: F J Curlew

Fiona dropped out of school aged 15, because being the consummate rebel, she hated it! After becoming a single parent she decided to return to education, graduating in 1996 with an honours degree in primary education. Ah, the irony!

As soon as she graduated she packed everything she owned into her Renault 11, including her daughter, two dogs and a cat, and headed off to Estonia to become an international school teacher. After fifteen years of teaching, predominantly in Eastern Europe, she returned to the UK to focus on her writing.

She now lives on the east coast of Scotland with a rescued Ukrainian street mutt, a Scottish black lab and a Portuguese cat who doesn't like the weather!

1. Why did you want to become a writer? 
I had found myself in a crisis situation. My career (teaching) was no longer possible due to illness and I had to find something else to focus on, to occupy my mind, other than being ill. I turned to the Open University, choosing their Creative Writing module. My initial thinking was that I could write my biography. My life as an international school teacher had been exciting, unusual, perhaps people might be interested. I soon discovered that I had a bent for writing fiction. After the first year, and a distinction, I took the advanced course. This was great. Something I discovered that I loved doing. I could do well. Something that took me out of my skin, my situation, and gave me hope. 

2. What's the toughest part of the writing process for you? 
There is honestly nothing in the writing process that I don't enjoy from the spark of an idea to the 12th edit and subsequent proof reading. I love it all. Creating something, refining it, improving it, finally saying. Yep. It's finished. The whole thing is so rewarding. What I don't enjoy however is all of the other bits...the admin, publicity, technical aspects (formats and creating covers had me tearing my hair out!).

3. What's the most enjoyable part of writing? 
It's hard to choose one particular thing but I do get an immense kick out of having struggled with something, a scene, a relationship, a piece of dialogue and having it suddenly fall into place. Magic! The whole getting lost in a world of your own creation is just a little bit special too.

4. Out of all the amazing books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?
That would be Andrei Makine's Life of an Unknown Man. I think Makine's writing is sublime in general but the concept of this one is so clever. The way he deals with old and new Russia through an old man who has been left to die in a room in the middle of all that is 'New Russian', his heartbreaking story. Beautiful, thought provoking and, in my opinion, simply brilliant. Having spent fifteen years in former Soviet countries the story also holds a particular relevance for me. 

5. If you could only save one of your characters from fictional calamity, which would you pick and why?
Aargh! That is really hard! I love all of my good guys. I think it would have to be Ranulf from To Retribution. He is such an interesting character with so many sides to him. A depth. I suppose he is the ultimate hero. A man who fights the good fight and doesn't let anything get in his way. He is also completely wacky, which I like!

6. If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character (not from your books), who would you spend it with and what would you do? 
That would be Carl Hiaasen's creation, Skink. We would do something completely illegal to some dodgy politician who thoroughly deserved it, exposing dirty dealings, righting wrongs, that sort of thing. And, of course, we'd get away with it, leaving the world a better place!

7. What can we expect next from you?
I have learned not to say too much here. My stories keep changing and life throws curve balls so...we shall wait and see.

8. Is there any particular writing advice you wish you'd been given at the start of your writing career? If so, what is it? If not, what advice would you give to someone starting out? 
I started writing late in life and had the support of an amazing tutor which helped greatly. The most important thing I have learned is that as a writer you should be yourself, to write what you want, what you feel and most importantly, to enjoy it!

9. Tell us what a typical writing day involves for you.  
Mornings are for huge dog walks followed by admin. Afternoons are when I write. I try to get three or four hours of hard writing done though will admit to the odd wander into the Internet.

10. Finally, what are you reading at the moment?  
I am reading The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski and absolutely loving it.


FJ Curlew To Retribution book
The military is in control. Tight control. Media is censored, movement restricted. There are re-education camps for trouble makers, repatriation camps for non-nationals. Jake, Brian and Suze, three idealistic young journalists, are used to hiding as they try to keep their online news channel open. They publish the truth about the repatriations, the corruption and the deceit. 

New Dawn, the feared security force, is closing in yet again. The trio run, yet again. This time, however, they are pursued with a relentlessness, a brutality which seems far too extreme for their 'crimes.' A trail of death is left in their wake as they try to escape New Dawn and find out what is really behind this hunt. They are drawn into a web of human trafficking, child abuse and murder. Only it's closer than they think. Much closer.

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