A Guest’s Book Chat: Fiona McNeill talks about her book, Last Chance Salon and other stories,

Welcome to Clubhouse Chat page. Those of you who are not a member won’t be aware that the location of the Clubhouse is shrouded in mystery. The only way to visit it is via membership or an invite to the tearoom. Every few days, I’ll be sharing a conversation with all sort of writers and authors at different levels of their writing careers. Over tea and cakes, or maybe a glass of something stronger, I shall be chatting with my guest about their work in progress, or latest book release.

Photo by Toni Cuenca on Pexels.com

Today, we’re here to chat about Last Chance Salon and other stories. Welcome Fiona

Thanks you for inviting me to your tearoom, Paula.

Let’s order our drinks. What would you like? What’s your favourite?

Hmm, my favourite drink? I would love to choose gin and tonic. Though in real life, I can’t touch alcohol. It gives me a migraine! I miss the days when I could enjoy a drink so a virtual G & T is the next best thing.

Now we have our drinks could you tell us whether you write a synopsis first, write the first chapter, or do you let the characters lead you?

I don’t plan anything – I like to see what emerges!

Choosing only five of your favourite authors. Can you list them in order 1 begin the top of your list and say how have they influenced your writing?

It’s very difficult to choose just five writers, let alone putting them into an order! Writers I admire include the following – Tove Jansson – ‘The Summer Book’ and ‘The Winter Book’ are really original, quirky and understated. Alice Thomas Ellis – ‘The Clothes in the Wardrobe’ has a tight plot and lots of subtly-suggested themes. Elizabeth Strout – ‘My Name is Lucy Barton’ is subtle, deceptively straightforward and moving. Poet Hugh MacDiarmid – ‘Crystals Like Blood’ is such a clever poem. It shows that plain words on a seemingly everyday topic can still evoke strong emotions. E.L. Doctorow – a short story called ‘The Writer in the Family’ is an all-time favourite. Again, it’s understated, cleverly put-together and very moving.

Fiona McNeill

Were any of your characters inspired by real people?

All my characters are inspired by real people. Sometimes a particular person is the starting point for a character which then ‘mutates’ into their own person, at other times, a character is an amalgam of different people I’ve met. The lead character in the title story of this collection, ‘Rafe Bunce’ was inspired by TV designer Laurence Llewelyn- Bowen, for example. I remember watching him on telly one day and noticing how he seemed genuinely concerned that a client didn’t like one of his designs. It was that combination of flamboyance and sensitivity that inspired the invention of Rafe – but I have no idea what LLB is like in real life!

What did you learn when writing your book (story, play or poem)? In writing it, how much research did you do?
I didn’t do any formal research but when the book was being prepared for publication, the editor pointed a few things out to me that I didn’t know – for example, I hadn’t realised that you couldn’t quote a line from a song without paying for it. This was a bit of a blow as I had to take them out!

Is there anything about you your readers might be surprised to find out?

Some friends and acquaintances don’t know that my stories have been published – I’m too shy to say! In a strange way, I feel this allows me to keep writing and doing my ‘thing’ without feeling self-conscious. Perhaps other writers can relate to that?

Did you uncover things about yourself while writing your books (or stories, play, poem) whether that be a long forgotten memory, a positive experience etc.

Writing this collection, I realised how much south London had influenced me over the years – people and the way they talk and behave, as well as the place itself.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

I don’t have a schedule when working on something creative – I fit writing in where I can and when I feel like it.

How many hours in a day do you write?

I work as a journalist so I often spend several hours a day writing factual stuff.

Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?

I’m quite shy and I always thought that if my books were ever published, I would use a false name. Once this collection was accepted for publication, I decided to use my real name. I think it was about wanting to be brave. Pushing myself forward and answering these questions has also taken a lot of courage!

Tell us a little about your latest writing project. Is it a new idea, or one you have been mulling over for some time?

I used Rafe Bunce, the main character from this collection, in a novel which I finished a few years ago. He’s a big kid and a self-confessed ‘ham’ and I felt I’d enjoyed his company so much that I wanted to see what he got up to next! I’m thinking of going back to the book to make some changes.

Thank you for joining me for a chat, Fiona.

To find out more about Fiona and her writing please click on her Amazon link

If you want to find out more about Clubhouse Members’ Books, don’t forget to check out the Clubhouse Bookshops, too.

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