Monday, May 31, 2010

Character spotlight with Fiona


Hi. I’m Fiona from The Path of Innocence. I’m at St Andrews University and I’m so proud to be here, determined to make the most of the opportunity.

I s’pose I’m quite feisty and opinionated—actually, I prefer strong-willed, but the author keeps interfering. Although I’m pretty focused on work, there’s time for all the clubs and societies, too. I s’pose I’m different from a lot of the others in that I’m not really a party animal. I imagine people think that I’m really sorted, that I know my own mind, but sometimes I ache inside…

Well, like I said, it’s great to be here, a dream come true, and I want to savour every moment. Sometimes, I’m so busy that my feet don’t seem to touch the ground. I’m really fulfilled, really I am…it’s just that these urges inside keep coming back to torment me, struggling with me like a beast waiting to be unleashed.

My advice to the author?

Get therapy. She is so mean to keep putting temptation in my path. Everything will be going along fine and then WHAM she hits me with another testosterone-fuelled boy. I try so hard to be good, to save myself for true love, but she’s determined to make it as difficult as possible for me. Like I said, she’s twisted and needs help.

Everybody thinks I’m so sorted, but sometimes I feel that I am trapped inside this stereotype and I’m just yearning to break free. Sometimes, I wish I could be more like Lucy, my roommate, flitting around like a beautiful butterfly, taking pleasure wherever she chooses.


Studying her reflection in the mirror, Fiona turned this way and that. Her figure wasn’t bad. Everything was in proportion—medium height, medium build, and her face, whilst not exactly beautiful, had a certain character. She ran her fingers through her hair, admiring the threads of natural copper highlights that gave it a burnished glow. She was attractive enough, but not, she knew, exceptional. Perhaps her whole persona was too intense, anyway, to attract men in the way that Lucy did. She sighed longingly. Yet, being fickle or flirtatious was not in her make-up. Her role within a group, she knew, was to help maintain harmony rather than to stand out by virtue of any remarkable qualities. Not that she was a wallflower, she straightened her shoulders squarely. She could assert her presence when necessary, but mostly she was happy to be one of the crowd, an affable companion and certainly not a threat.

She stared hard into her own eyes, blue-grey with flecks of green, and silently admitted that she would never be the type to set men’s hearts alight. Behind the veneer, however, she also knew that there was a heart beating wildly. Flopping on to the bed, she gazed sightlessly toward the ceiling. An alluring Venus she might not be, but there were times when she lay in bed at night yearning for someone to engulf her in a passionate embrace. She cradled herself in her arms, knowing that her lascivious thoughts were never more than fantasy and that, in the cold light of day, she would wake up a prisoner, still trapped within the boundaries of her own stereotyped behaviour, still aching to find a release for the emotions pent-up inside her. Glancing at Lucy’s bed, empty yet again, she let out a weary yawn and resignedly turned out the light.

Other characters who have influenced me?

When I first started, I went round in a small group led by Donald, a mad Scotsman. He was such fun and made sure that everything we did turned out hilarious. Yet, I can’t look at him now, not after walking in on his sordid ménage a trois.

My world?

It’s beautiful here at St Andrews and I’ve joined the Ramblers club so that I can get out to really appreciate the environment. Unfortunately, the wimps have cancelled for the winter, so I’ve been going out on my own...that’s how I bumped into Roger again. He’s really easy to get on with, but so detached…

My dark secrets?

Well, they won’t be secrets if I tell, but I will say that the author has got a lot to answer for!

How does Roger deal with my adventures?

When I first met Roger it took ages for him to make a move. Everything was great for a while—he’d had a pretty disastrous past, too, so that wasn’t an issue. However, fate—or that twisted author—intervened and dealt a blow neither of us could have foreseen, not in our wildest dreams. It really hit hard and we both fell apart.

Do I think I’m a superior being?

No, but other people think I do. I met this dishy guy on a train once and he really laid into me for being high and mighty. Can’t win them all!

The oddest thing I’ve seen?

The raisin Monday parade when Donald turned up in a tutu dressed as a fairy queen with us all following him dressed as fairy helpers. Like I said, he was fun, but, boy, was I wrong about his character!

Spending a day with me.

I guess a lot of people would find it exhausting. I can’t bear to sit around doing nothing, so I tend to pack in as much as I can.

What would I change about myself or the one I love?

Well, I wish that I could be more easy-going, not so buttoned-up, but I wouldn’t want to change anything about Roger. *Sigh* Except for his horrible father.

How do you deal with stress?

I take it by the neck and strangle it.

Tell us about that party…

Okay, you keep pushing me for more info. All I will tell you is that I’d met this guy before and he seemed fine. And, yes, I did fancy him, but although I thought I was ready, I wasn’t. Maybe it was the drink, but he turned into a complete beast… Actually, that was the first time I met Roger. I was throwing up on the grass outside at the time.


Something about the gentleness of tone penetrated her flimsy defences and a loud sob erupted, despite her efforts to suppress it. Suddenly her hands began to shake uncontrollably and a river of teardrops spilled down her cheeks.
“I…I’m sorry,” she choked. “Making a fool of myself.”
“It happens to the best of us. Look, I don’t want to interfere, but are you sure there’s nothing I can do?”
“My jacket,” she sobbed. “It’s so cold.”
“Where is it?”
“In there,” she nodded toward the flat. “In one of the bedrooms.”
“Can I get it for you?”
“No! You can’t go in!”
“Well, perhaps I could ask somebody else to get it?”
She raised her bleary eyes to meet the stranger’s face and forced a tight smile.

What do I wish you’d asked?

Did Roger and I manage to get over our problems and make it to the end?

Answer—not telling!

Purchase The Path Of Innocence

Monday, May 3, 2010

Author spotlight with Sally Odgers

What makes a book great in your eyes?
Shine! So many books don’t have it, but my favourite authors do. Shine is difficult to define, but it has to do with originality, writing style and character. Not every book by a shiny author will have it. In some cases, quite flawed first books have shine, which is often lost in the authors’ more technically-proficient later books. Originality, to me, is inbuilt in an author. Some people come up with ideas that are unmistakably their own.

It is impossible for me to imagine Deep Secret or Black Maria being written by anyone other than the brilliant Diana Wynne Jones. Her characters are equally brilliant—rounded people with real faults and virtues. For anyone wanting to learn style, I’d say get hold of Margaret Mahy’s The Changeover or read the passage at the beginning of the Blossoming Stones chapter in Monica Edwards’ Hidden in a Dream. I am probably biased, but I think the best of my own books have shine…at least, for me. That’s probably because I wrote them to my own taste. Under the Waterfall is one of the books I wanted to write, and I think it shows.

What is the biggest piece of your advice you can give a beginning writer?
Learn to write proper grammar and get your structure and characterisation right before you send anything to a publisher. Then decide if you’re going to write purely for yourself or for the market. Some lucky people get to do both, but most don’t. Therefore, you should decide what is most important to you and write accordingly.

Name one thing readers don’t know about you.
That I know the obsolete plural of toe!

Who is your favorite all-time author?
I have three—Diana Wynne Jones, Elizabeth Marie Pope and Margaret Mahy. I love about 1/3 of the output of two of them. EMP is a bit different—she wrote only two novels. One is good. The other is brilliant.

How do you deal with the dreaded writer’s block?
I don’t get it. To me, it’s like saying a teacher gets teacher’s block or a farmer gets farmer’s block. Just imagine if a dairy farmer got up one morning and claimed he couldn’t bring himself to milk the cows! You’d give him a sharp kick in the pants and say get on with it. He might not do the most stylish milking of his life, but milk there would be.

If you had the opportunity to say one thing to your readers, what would that be?
Buy lots of copies of my books. You know you want to!

To find out more about me and my books—the books are more exciting—check out my website at