I never know what to do with old blogs, but as an inveterately nosy flipper of vintage web-pages and lover of ageing diaries, I’ll pop them up here in three chunks to act as a reminder to me to keep my blog updated. These old ones are really only for devotees of my shamelessly sporadic waffling – which means close family, spambots and Colin from Milton Keynes who thinks I’m the Fiona Walker who once played Dr Who’s assistant in the 70s. They start from 2011 (the last time my website was overhauled):
Posted on 01/09/2011
Welcome to my brand new website! It’s like walking back into a shop that’s been made over by Mary Portas; I don’t know where to find anything anymore, it’s so glossy and slick. Being me, I want to scuff it up a bit and create a comforting mess, but that’s what this Blog is for. I hope to keep this page updated regularly, which my clever web-master assures me that even a Luddite like me can do.
While my site has been offline for its reinvention, I’ve been busy editing. My next novel is now almost ready to go into proofreading stage. It has a new title, The Love Letter, which I think is gorgeous and sums up so many themes in a book about reading between the lines in life and romance. It also reminds me of all the times I’ve poured my heart out on paper at moments of high romance and drama in my life, yet never posted the results (probably because it would have to be sent freight due to the fact I write so much, along with illustrations and even chocolates Sellotaped to the page as I recall). How differently might life have worked out had my loving outpourings actually been delivered to the object of my affection after all? And in the case of my heroine, Allegra, some things are definitely best not taken as read.
The Love Letter is also going to get a new jacket look, which I’m eagerly waiting to see. I always find it a very strange process as a writer, taking so long to create a fictional world that comes to life in one’s imagination, and then handing over the responsibility for naming and illustrating it. The jacket has such influence over whether people buy the book. I was immensely lucky with my first few novels that I had a ‘look’ which was very unique. More recent jackets have toyed with new images, from the cartoony to the glitzy, and I hope the publishers will be able to find a look that stands out for me again. As a wise agent once told me, ‘you are responsible for what’s on the inside, not the outside – the jacket is just one page of five hundred’. I am consequently running backwards and forwards through the plot making sure everything’s as tight as can be, all loose threads tucked in, the characters fully formed, the jokes punchy and the twists fast and furious.
A big thank you to all visitors to my website who take the time to write to me and let me know what you think of my books. Apologies if I’m slow replying; I have no email program on my ‘writing’ computer (one if many cunning tactics I have had to employ to try to stop myself seeking distractions), so I have to set time aside for replying to lots of emails at once, and that time often gets used up by a crisis, although I always get there eventually. Kiss and Tell has received some fabulous feedback on here and via Amazon and other sites, which is immensely cheering in such a difficult market. It’s also absolutely romped along as an eBook, which is great to know. Please do post something up about it if you can, especially in the equestrian world where I long spread the word that ‘grown up pony books’ do exist!
Life is Worcestershire remains lovely, with the children growing apace – Dora starts school next week, Winnie’s following fast behind and both are bursting through shoe and clothes sizes faster than the Incredible Hulk in a grump. Sam is teaching dressage morning noon and night in the ‘back garden’. The horses are a great joy to us all, and I’m plotting how to get lots into my next book, which I’ll start next month. I particularly long to write in some Spanish horses inspired by our Iberians here; they have such fabulous characters – all that Mediterranean heat and passion, and so much heart. As for heroes, I have an idea for an adventurer this time, all dusty walking boots, backpack and leather bushman’s hat with testosterone and charm in abundance. In fact, dreaming of him is keeping me going as I finish crossing ts and dotting is with the final The Love Letter edit, so whilst it will be hard to let go of the two gorgeous men inside those written pages, I know there’s compensation waiting. I’ll miss my heroine, Allegra, most of all. She’s such fun and she feels like a firm friend now, but of course I’m really looking forward to readers getting to know her.
Posted on 07/10/2011
There’s great excitement in the Walker household because we’ve been invited to the Horse of the Year Show VIP gala evening on Sunday 9th Oct, before which I’ll be signing copies of Kiss and Tell in the retail village at the Equestrian Bookfair stand (010A) at 5pm. If you’re going to be at the show that day, please stop by and say hello. I’ll be dressed up to the nines, although I should hastily point out that’s far from normal. The evening is black tie which threw us into a panic because, whilst I’ll can sport the one party frock that still fits me, Sam doesn’t possess a dinner suit and we’ve left it too late to hire one. Several begging phone calls later and my old local amateur theatre group have kindly opened their costume store to dig out a range of suitable satin-piped finery. These won’t be with us until just before we set off, so Sam’s now convinced that he’ll be striding into the NEC with massive flares flapping six inches above his socks and a jacket with collars wider than a Boeing’s wingspan.
My writing wardrobe is a far cry from the marabou-trimmed sequin glamour I once imagined lady novelists selected as day wear. Most often, I’m found in riding gear, particularly when I’m in the early stages of a book and still imagine I can get away with a pastime outside marathon writing sessions. This is alternated with school-run casuals in a vague attempt to look less like a horsy bag lady and more like a Boden-tastic yummy mummy at pick up time. As the book I’m working on progresses, all pretentions of elegance get jettisoned in favour of comfort and superstition, particularly in the end stages when writing all night is the norm. I used to have an ancient denim shirt that I always wore for the last few chapters of the book; I saw this threadbare coffee-stained rag as an artist’s smock meets magician’s cape, the fact that I actually looked like Bruce Springsteen’s butch drag-queen twin quite escaping my attention. When this finally fell apart, I adopted a lucky jumper which my family kindly tell me makes them think of a dead sheep. Matched with odd socks, uncombed hair and specs in place of contact lenses to enable my eyes to stay open for eighteen hour stretches at the computer, and the result is frightful. Typically, I reach this stage of the book just as another is published and needs promoting, so this swamp monster has to have an extreme make-over to go on show. In the days immediately leading up to shooting the promo video for Kiss and Tell (as seen this website), I was writing The Love Letter around the clock in the dead sheep jumper.
Thankfully that’s not yet the case as we head for HOYS, although I have been beavering away excitedly at the plot for the new book all week, and simply can wait until I really start to bring the characters to life, that magical moment in any writer’s working life when a group of imaginary friends suddenly feel real. I always know that’s happened when I can be reduced to tears of laughter talking about scenes that I would love to write them into, but in which they would be entirely out of context (my editor and I are both guilty of weeping with glee over something I threatened to do to Lough in Kiss and Tell). Once I know the characters inside-out, it’s deliciously uplifting to make fun of them; it makes them more real somehow, and stops me taking myself of the book to seriously. Right now, I’m at the shy stage where I’m still making introductions and trying to find out what they have in common, like an over-eager hostess at a party. Give me another month or two and I’ll be mentally putting them in mankinis and leotards and making them play pass-the-orange-between-your-knees.
Another focus this week has been book jackets. Sphere have now shown me the new visual approach for The Love Letter which has led to a few lively conversations as we seek the perfect ‘Fiona Walker’ look, summing up warmth, humour, romance and fast-galloping plots. Like most authors, I have a mental picture of the cover I would love, which undoubtedly goes against all the flow charts and market research demographics that the publishing industry has at its disposal of how popular women’s fiction should be packaged. One really has to take all those statistics on board, particularly in the current climate, so I’m well aware that I’m a small part of a large team who creates the finished ‘look’. However, it would be fascinating to know what readers who like my work would envisage on the book jackets if you had carte blanche? This could be something entirely original, or a look that another author already has. And which of my covers do you like/dislike most? Please do drop me a line or leave a comment if you have time. I promise to post our findings in a forthcoming blog, and to pass on any winning ideas to the dynamic Little Brown creative team.
Posted on 18/01/2012
At last, an uninterrupted hour to update my website! Writing one book a year certainly isn’t for the idle, particularly if those books come in at two hundred thousand words of romping, big cast action. Add in running a second business from home and raising a young family, and it’s starting to occur to me why I don’t get out as often as I used to, or update my blog as much as I’d like. My To Do list is now almost as long as one of my first drafts, and when my agent enthusiastically encouraged me to ‘set time aside for Twitter and Facebook this year’, I laughed slightly maniacally and pencilled it in for the 5am diary slot. The poor dog, very low down the list, has taken to lying on top of my feet to remind me that she exists and would love a walk. Unfortunately this tends to mean that when I do stand up, my feet have gone to sleep and I’m incapable of crossing the carpet let alone several stubble fields. Perhaps she should try tweeting me instead?
At this time of year, I really miss the lengthy daylight hours of summer, but winter is traditionally my most productive writing season, and this is no exception. From November to the beginning of New Year has been a creative juggle, swapping between setting out my next book, going through the copy edit and later galley proofs of The Love Letter and writing a ten thousand word short story which will come out as an e-book exclusive in March, a month before The Love Letter publication. It’s entitled Sealed with a Kiss and is an exciting new development in marketing books, a ‘trailer’ to lead up to the main novel. I’ve written many short stories and it’s a format I love. This involves characters from the book itself, in a completely self-contained mini plot. It was great fun to tackle, and I’ll post a download link on here as soon as I have details.
From now on, it’s back to my latest novel with gusto as a part of the ten week siege my family have grown accustomed to, traditionally taking up most of January, February and March, when I spend almost every waking hour in my office living and breathing my imaginary world, only revisiting ‘real life’ in small, bad-tempered doses (after falling over the dog) and occasionally enjoying a cheery weekend off. I would love to be a bit more organised and balanced about it, but this is the only way I know how to do it, and I’m absolutely dying to get back to all my new characters and their plot twists. This will therefore have to be a very brief blog update before my self-imposed exile. I can however promise to be blogging away merrily from April when the Love Letter publication date approaches and I’ll get a short burst of liberation to promote that and research new ideas. Publication date is 26th April and a sneak preview should be appearing on this site very shortly along with a first glimpse of the all-new book jacket look. Watch this space.
Finally, I must again thank all of you who visit this site and send messages through the contact page, or leave comments here on the blog. It’s wonderful to get so much feedback and to know what readers think about my work. My replies to messages tend to be sent in lovingly-written if badly-spelled doses between writing marathons, so if you don’t hear back straight away, rest assured I’m on the case. I also really enjoy reading all the blog comments left here, although my technological prowess was until recently limited to working the kettle and I’ve yet to fathom how to reply and post your comments online for others to read, but bear with me and I will work it out eventually. When my wizard-like ‘moderator’ passed over mastery of this site to his confused apprentice (me), I knew I was wholly unqualified to take on that role. There’s never been anything moderate about me for a start, and by the time I learned to program the video recorder, VHS had become obsolete. Thank heaven for books and the total escapism they provide to both writers and readers. For now, I am switching off the phones, closing the door and hoping to write almost non-stop through coming weeks until my random 5am tweets are accompanied by a spring dawn chorus not frosty winter night fox barks. At least I know the dog will keep my feet warm…
Posted on 25/02/2012
As if by magic, details of The Love Letter have appeared on the website along with its little sister, Sealed with a Kiss. Hooray! You can see a preview of the first chapter of The Love Letter here on the site, and read even more chapters exclusively when you download the prequel story.
Right now I’m writing for up to eighteen hours a day and totally immersed in the plot of my next book, so seeing the finished version of The Love Letter is a huge incentive as I’m reminded what will come at the end of this all-consuming process, a lovely chunk of entertainment bound between glossy covers that one can take to bed, on the train, on holiday or just hog on the sofa. Most writers are passionate readers and I’m no exception. We have books everywhere in this house – piles in colourful towers and spirals, climbing the stairs, three deep on shelves and toppling from windowsills. Lots are unashamedly broken-spined and bath-soaked with page corners turned at reluctant intervals indicating train stops or Sailing By. We keep meaning to organise them into some sort of system, but never find time, and I rather like the anarchy of horse manuals shouldering up to chick lit leaning against Booker nominees, with Carl Hester sandwiched between two Trollops. I’ve always been mildly irritated by people who only put their most worthy volumes on show and yet have many sets of shelves buckling under the weight of well-read paperbacks in the spare bedroom – unless, of course, I’m staying in that bedroom in which case I’ll probably be up all night reading.
Nowadays of course paper pages are rivalled by the data bytes that can fly invisibly into one’s electronic reader to be savoured at the stroke of a touch-screen. I’m embarrassed to admit that we’re still a household for which ‘kindle’ is something one does with screwed up Sunday supplements in the wood burning stove. It was on my Christmas list last year, but I got a slow cooker instead, which has enabled me to savour deeply infused flavours at the push of a button, if not carefully crafted prose. Thankfully, I also got a lot of fabulous door-step books which I’ve been happily lost in ever since. I know I’ll succumb to an e-Reader soon, particularly as author friends tell me they’re great for reading through drafts and making edit notes, which would save me acres of paper – and spare me the moment I realise my four-year-old has covered most of Chapter 4 with Crayola and pencil stab marks. Readers also tell me my novels work really well on Kindle because they’re very addictive and one can take them to places that a chunky book would be impractical, so the percentage bar clocks up like wildfire. Whilst I will always love feeling the weight and beauty of a book in my hands, I’m all for the eBook and its potential. The short story prequel to The Love Letter, Sealed With A Kiss, is the first digital-only work I’ve written. At 40 pages, it’s ‘movie length’ – in that it takes about as long to read as takes to watch a film – and is a completely self-contained story in its own right. Available for download on the 30th March for just 99p, I hope those of you with the wizardry to do so agree that it’s well worth clicking on.
Full-length and full-bodied, The Love Letter is out on 26th April when readers can choose whether to have it spirited through the ether or land chunkily in hand. I hope the narrative will last considerably longer than a movie takes to watch, although I was amazed to receive several emails saying that Kiss and Tell had been consumed in two days flat – all 900 pages of it! That’s hugely flattering because those rare books I find myself hooked on reading day and night are memorable treats, so to have created that experience for others is wonderful…even if I find myself regularly apologising for lack of sleep, neglected children/animals and grumpy husbands/boyfriends. If it’s any consolation I get exactly the same grief…
Once these eighteen hour shifts are over, I will be out and about talking about my writing life and promoting The Love Letter throughout late April and May, including an appearance at Chipping Norton Literary Festival on Saturday 21stApril in a panel event with the amazing A-list authors Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell and Veronica Henry, chaired by the gloriously funny and knowledgeable Jane Wenham-Jones. Given that ‘Chippy’ was firmly in my old stomping ground during the ten years that I lived nearby, I can’t wait to go back there. I’m also in Fowey in May for the Du Maurier Festival, appearing alongside the deliciously funny Ruth Saberton, writer of three romantic comedies, which promises to be a hoot. As The Love Letter is largely set in the South West, it will be great to be a part of that area’s loveliest literary festival. I’ll make sure all dates and details of events I do are posted up on this website, also on my Twitter stream and Facebook page, so please do keep checking. I’m here every time I surface for air, I promise!
Posted on 26/04/2012
Hooray! It’s finally time to lift the flap on The Love Letter. I was going to try to put together another video blog today, shot live from my launch pad – and may still squeeze it in if I manage to lay off the creme de menthe frappes and Mariella doesn’t make a mess of the cheese straws on the carpets as usual – but just in case time defeats me and I have to shelve my camera skills and Winnie’s latest cover designs until next week, I’m writing a quick and excitable standard issue blog to celebrate the new Walker book release.
Last time I updated my news page I was burning eccentrically bonkers writing hours, which remained the case until a few days ago when I delivered the latest manuscript – working title Hot Air to link in with its hot air balloons and steamy days – and finally got to sleep at night (although in truth I’ve been staying awake far too late playing with my new birthday treat Kindle because I’ve missed reading so much).
I’m tremendously pleased (and relieved) that I delivered the first draft in time to promote The Love Letter, although the wonder of going on ‘blog tour’ this time means that I can give interviews from the comfort of my own home, staying in my pre-deadline writer’s uniform of coffee-splodged lucky top and trews and barely moving from the computer. Watch out for the Walker Blog Tour Bus speeding through terrific book sites like http://www.onemorepage.co.uk/, http://dizzycslittlebookblog.blogspot.com/, www.novelicious.com, http://sbroadhurstreviews.blogspot.com/ and http://shazsbookboudoir.blogspot.co.uk in the coming week or two with lots of writing advice and gossipy novelist lowdown.
I’ve been out and about in person as well as virtually this month; the glorious and shiny new Chipping Norton Literary Festival invited me to share a stage with Katie Fforde, Jill Mansell and Veronica Henry last weekend, talking about commercial women’s fiction under the chairmanship of Jane Wenham-Jones. It was huge fun to be a part of such a talented line-up and share so many tips and experiences with a lovely, giggly audience. The festival is destined to be an annual must-go, and its organisers got the Walker shimmy as I headed back to my car, something between The Vicar of Dibley after a snog and Shirley Bassey heading to the microphone. You can always tell a good festival from the bounce in the stride of its participants as they head away afterwards. As I positively calypsoed up a very steep Cotswold hill to the car park, I met the glorious Julie Cohen sailing the other way bearing bags of strawberries and chocolate (props for her talk on how to write sex scenes) and had to resist a great urge to do a few high kicks. I would have loved to stay for the workshop (particularly as the newly delivered book has several margin notes to editor saying ‘shall I add a sex scene here?’) but I had an unmissable date with my former neighbour – immortalised as Pixie in the Lodes series – which I would miss for nothing. The gossip we shared could now fuel at least two more Lodes sequels, but they will have to be shelved under ‘to write’ as I focus on pastures new, especially the spectacular North Devon coast which is the setting for The Love Letter.
And I am heading even further along the South West peninsular next month to appear alongside the lovely Ruth Saberton at the Du Maurier Festival in Fowey. Here’s the link to the event which will take place at 2pm on Thurs May 10th, when Ruth and I will talk rural romps, bonk-busting comedies, horses, heroes, impossible deadlines and anything else you wish to ask of us. We are a scurrilous and friendly pair, so it promises to be a very fun day.
As soon as the blog tour bus slows down, I’ll start editing Hot Air into shape for publication next spring and begin plotting out a new book to follow, so I will keep the website updates coming, and really hope that The Love Letter cheers and entertains everyone who reads it in the meantime.
Posted on 04/02/2013
Writing can be a selfishly all-consuming profession, and living with a writer takes great resilience; I’ve lost count of the times I’ve promised ‘I’ll be up in half an hour’ as Sam goes to bed, only to find I’m still writing at two in the morning, swept up in my imaginary world. Similarly, I’m continually saying ‘I’ll write another website blog this week’, but then the novel I’m working on sucks me back in. Having always maintained that I’m easily distracted, I’ve recently realised that I’m quite the reverse. I’m obsessively driven and perfectionist. When I’m immersed in writing a novel, I’m thinking about it all the time. And on the rare occasions I can let it go, I’m mentally plotting the next one…
If this sounds nobly workaholic, it’s also a rather cowardly defence mechanism. Real life may be hammering down tough blows, but make-believe is my force shield as I bury my head in the joy of words, armed with a thesaurus and a witty epigram. Why waste sleepless tears on fate’s unfair twists when one can invent a big, raucous party with characters falling in and out of love, beds and ornamental ponds?
In the past nine months, I’ve been totally absorbed in writing and editing. This morning, I posted off the typeset proof pages of my latest novel with the final corrections marked up. It’s truly finished, hooray! The Summer Wedding, as it’s now entitled, is published in the UK on the 6th June. I believe it is amongst the most joyful novels I’ve written, and the characters have been great fun to develop, so much so that they now feel like terrific friends. Set between the Chilterns, LA, Andalucia and Kenya, it’s an unashamed romantic romp, featuring steamy summer days, gorgeous Spanish horses, bed-hopping and hot air balloons. The plot focuses on a group of four friends who studied drama together at university twenty years ago and share secrets that start to unravel when a daughter decides to get married. By the time it’s on sale this summer, I’ll have completed another novel’s first draft, for which I’ve also spent recent weeks researching and plotting, but I’ll post more about that anon.
Whilst I’ve been so busy working – and woefully neglecting this website – I’ve been enormously grateful to everyone who has so kindly contacted me via email, and on Twitter or Facebook, to write to me about The Love Letter and my other books. Receiving messages is such a lovely form of encouragement which really makes my typing fingers fly, and I hope I’ve replied to everybody personally, although I worry that I’m not very organised, especially when I’m writing feverishly. I once sent a long, enthusiastic thank you to a man who had emailed to say how much he enjoyed French Relations, not noticing that he’d added a PS saying that everything I’d written since then was total codswallop.
When I wrote French Relations twenty years ago, my life had taken a few wrong turns and I’d no idea how to make it better apart from seeking that high of total absorption in a book, and when I ran out of novels to read, I wrote one instead. To my delight, writing went on to become both the perfect distraction from my worries and the solution to them, leading on to a career that I’ve considered a tremendous privilege. So much has changed in publishing in the two decades since then that it’s hard to believe French Relations came out before Amazon existed, when mobile phones were the size of books rather than displaying them, bookselling chains lined the high streets without a Costa concession in sight, and the only e-book in circulation was by Irvine Welsh. It’s been a thrilling journey, yet the art of story-telling remains timeless. Blogging is a modern twist I’m still mastering. A wise friend tells me the secret is little and often. I’m going to try to heed her words, but if there’s nothing new on here in a few weeks time, please forgive me. It means I’m totally wrapped up in writing the next book.