Interview With Fiona Dunbar!!

Hello Fiona, how are you today? Thank you so much for letting me interview you.  First up, how many books have you published so far and which is your favourite out of them?
I have to count every time I'm asked this! Thirteen – but the first three were picture books that I wrote and illustrated years ago and are now sadly out of print. I don't have a favourite! But my current favourite is always the one I'm working on at the time, so that would be Kitty Slade book four, Raven Hearts

So Fiona, where did you first start? What was your inspiration? Did you have a role-model?
Well, where my novels are concerned, that all started seven years ago, and my main source of inspiration was reading to my children. No, definitely no one literary role-model; I have taken inspiration for my writing from many and varied sources, both for adults and children – films, too. Of the books that I read to my kids, the ones that stand out in my memory vary wildly, from Roald Dahl to The Secret Garden. I loved reading them Charlotte's Web, as well: we'd read it in school when I was a kid, and I'd thought it merely 'OK' – that's what reading in school can do, unfortunately. But re-reading as an adult was a great piece of re-discovery; it is wonderful. 

Did you ever feel like giving up when writing your stories? How did you stop that feeling?
Yes! Before I was published and I'd had a few rejections – that is very hard to deal with. Most of us go through it: you have to develop quite a thick skin. There's a fine line between self-belief and self-delusion: that's what you have to find. If you know in your heart that you're writing something other people are going to want to read, you stick with it and constantly ask yourself, 'how can I make this better?'

What was the first book you've published? How long did it take you to publish?
My first book was a picture book called You'll never Guess, which I wrote and illustrated; I was lucky that time around, because it was accepted by the first publisher I showed it to – and that was before I had an agent! Second time around, with the novels, took longer; the first of those was The Truth Cookie. Once I had a draft I felt was good enough to submit, I started sending it to agents. It took a few months to find the right one, because I was being a good girl and not sending out multiple submissions – agents hate you doing that. They can also take a long time to get back to you. Then I guess it was about a year until the final book came out.
Does it cost much to publish? How much did you earn at first?
I have the sort of brain that doesn't retain numbers, but I think my advance for The Truth Cookie was something like £4,000.
How long have you wanted to be an author for?
For years it seemed I was meant to do art – and I did used to be an illustrator. But I've always liked writing too. When I wrote my own stuff as a kid, it was always words and pictures. I don't know why I didn't become a graphic novelist, to be honest.  
How long on average does it take you to write a book? How long on average does it take you to get a good idea?
On average – 6-9 months. I wrote Chocolate Wishes in just three months, because I had a tight deadline, a set of characters already in place, and I kind of knew where the story was going. Pink Chameleon, on the other hand, took a year. How long to get a good idea?? Blimey, there's a question. I don't really think it's measurable in that way. An 'idea' is so much more than just a concept; much of what makes it good or bad is how it plays out as you write it. I spend a lot of time developing my characters before I start writing a story.
What is your favourite book written by somebody else?
I can't answer that! I love so many books. Have a look at the 'fave reads' section on my website for some children's books I love . I do have a bit of a thing for 19th-century novels, and I'm a huge fan of Dickens. And the Brontes, and George Eliot, and Thackeray…
Have you had any other jobs, or wanted to have another job?
I liked my part-time job at the local Odeon when I was at school. I knew the whole of Saturday Night Fever and Grease word-for-word – a skill for which there has been no end of applications, none of which I can think of at the moment. After a (very) brief stint at Art College, I got a job as a commercial artist, which mostly consisted of doing storyboards for TV commercials, overnight. Later, as mentioned, I got to do Proper Illustration. Some day I might get around to writing and directing a film. 
Have you ever wanted to be somebody else?
Er, no. Next?
How did you cope as a teenager, I mean, how did you do with spots and stuff?
I was horribly insecure as a teenager. My brother was at boarding school, and I was in an all-girls' school, so I thought boys were from the planet Mars. I had no idea how to talk to them, so I was always very relieved when conversation was dispensed with in favour of snogging. At age 14 I plucked my eyebrows into such a thin arch, I had a permanent look of surprise on my face. I was so fed up with the spots on my forehead that I once went to bed with Dettol-soaked cotton wool plastered to it. The Dettol had a kind of burning effect, and I woke up in the morning horrified to find a massive brown scar across my face. The spots were a bit better after the scarring healed, though.
What is your most treasured possesion? Why?
My collection of books signed and dedicated to me by the authors; they are unique, irreplaceable and some are quite rare.
Who is your favourite author (apart from you?)
That's another really hard one! I'll go for Philip Pullman; he has the most astonishing range of ideas, and he is a great storyteller.

Have you ever got any fan-presents?
Someone sent me a bracelet once; I still have it. 

How many pets have you got? Have they influenced your writing in any way?
Unfortunately I can't have furry pets as my son is allergic; I wish I could have a cat. Somehow non-furry pets don't appeal.

What do you do when your stuck on what to write?
Spend masses of time on the internet. Read. Doodle. Listen to music. To write imaginative fiction you have to get really good at 'wasting' time.

Do people chase after you in the streets and beg you for autographs?
Constantly. I need two bodyguards, and I wear a wig as a disguise. I was once in a room with Lady Gaga, and they completely ignored her, and were all over me. I had to apologise to her.

Do you have a special writing place?
Boring answer: my study. It's a nice study. It's got a golden chicken in it.

Do you wear a writing uniform?
I find a sequinned evening dress and high-heeled sandals good for every day beginning with a 'G'. On the other days, I wear jeans and a T-shirt.

Have you got any tips for young writers?
Yes: use a REALLY BIG PEN. Having a big pen means you're an Important Writer. Alternatively, use a feather quill pen and Indian Ink on real parchment, and do lots of big, loopy y's and g's; your writing may not get any better, but it'll look LOVELY. For more (dare I say it, more sensible) suggestions, take a look at the Writing Tips page on my website,
Thank you Fiona, for having this interview with me, I most appreciate. Hope to speak to you again some time!

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant interview! I love the advice on Fiona's site... but this is good too! :)