Fenella Forster: Heather, thanks so much for inviting me. It’s a real thrill with you being on the other side of the pond, yet here we are, talking to one another.
H: First, I would love to know how you discovered IndieBRAG.
FF: It was through my friend and critique writing partner, Alison Morton. Being a year ahead of me with self-publishing her first book, she sent it off to IndieBRAG. I didn’t know anything about it at the time until I read on her website that she’d been awarded the BRAG Gold Medallion. Of course I wanted to know all about it.
When the time came I quietly sent Annie’s Story, Book 1 of The Voyagers trilogy, to IndieBRAG without mentioning it to Alison – if I didn’t achieve the award I wouldn’t have to own up. I was so excited when I had the email telling me Annie’s Story had won through, and Alison was delighted.
H: I would have probably done the same thing!!
Your novel, Annie’s Story, is mostly set in Australia. This is not the most common setting in historical fiction. What led you to tell this story and set it in this location?
FF: My grandparents were in-service in Norfolk, at neighboring country houses, Pop as a waiter and Nana as a cook. Pop had an adventurous streak and persuaded Nana, who was only nineteen, to emigrate to Australia. (All very Downton Abbey.) After seven years they came home, bringing their two-year-old son who eventually became my father.
Nana used to tell me stories occasionally about life in Melbourne and although I enjoyed hearing about it I didn’t realize at the time how important it would become. So when I decided to write my first novel I knew I was going to have my heroine, Annie, emigrate to Australia with her fiancé, Ferguson. There’s very little truth in the novel, though there are one or two real incidents, but the characters are not like my grandparents at all. Well, certainly fictitious Ferguson isn’t!
I liked the fact that it was a more unusual setting and might intrigue readers both in England and in Australia. (Not forgetting the US, of course!) And it gave me a marvelous excuse to visit Australia – all in the line of research, you know!
H: A wonderful excuse to travel if there ever was one! Your grandparents sound like they had a fascinating life.
Are you a full-time writer or do you have to find time to write around a 9-5 job? How do you find time to write?
FF: When I first started writing The Voyagers trilogy a mere ten years ago I was running my own estate agency chain – you would call it Real Estate. I sold my business in order to write full time, but unfortunately sold it to two conmen! So instead of writing my first novel I wrote: Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business and it was immediately taken up by a traditional publisher. I went through three miserable years trying to get the money they owed me, and I’m sure that immersing myself in a fictitious world stopped me from going crazy. I was then forced to buy the business back, so once again I had to write very early in the morning. I was always too tired to write late at night.
However, I sold my share two years ago and joy of joys, I’m now a full-time writer again. Every morning I pinch myself having such luxury! Trouble is, when you have the whole day in front of you, you don’t always make the most of it.
H: What an experience/struggle! I'm glad to hear that you have been finally able to get back to doing the thing you love everyday!
Have you had any struggles with the writing/publication process? How have you worked through these? Any words of wisdom for aspiring authors?
FF: Every author struggles. The worst is when you send off your manuscript to an agent or publisher and they say they really liked your work, but hadn’t fallen in love with it. That phrase drives me mad. I’ve come so close several times to being traditionally published, and that’s even worse when you think you’ve just missed it by a whisker. Then I do shed a few tears. But running a business for 25 years doesn’t half toughen you. You have to pick yourself up and get writing again. That’s the most important piece of advice I can give. Don’t wait for rejection or dwell on it when it comes. Take no longer than two minutes to swear or cry, then that same day send it to three other agents/publishers and carry on writing the next book. If you give up too soon you might just lose that opportunity you’ve always dreamed of.
HC: I think those are some excellent words of wisdom.
For those who have not read your work, how would you describe your writing style in Annie's Story?
FF: That’s the most difficult question you’ve asked me so far! Writing style. Mmm. Annie’s Story is a historical family saga, and I think a fairly straight read, though I do try to dig deep into my characters’ souls to give the reader a richer experience. People fascinate me. Bad or good, I want to know why they act the way they do; what they are concealing when they speak; what does their appearance say
H: Finally a use for people watching!
I believe Annie’s Story is the first book in the series, The Voyagers. What can you tell us about what is to come next and how this series is structured?
FF: Annie’s Story begins in 1913 and finishes in the late twenties. Juliet’s Story is set in the present, where Juliet follows in her grandparents’ footsteps, but is really desperate to uncover a secret she’s held for thirty years and thinks the answer may lie in Australia. When I first wrote these two novels they were together in one very thick book. I wanted a dual timeline with every other chapter about Annie, and the ones in between about Juliet. ‘No agent or publisher will touch you with a novel that long (150,000 words) and being a debut author as well,’ I was told over and over. ‘Pull them apart,’ a couple of agents advised me. I was already writing Kitty’s Story, set in Cairo 1941, as the sequel. I was terribly upset and didn’t know what to do. ‘Split the two you’ve written and Kitty becomes the third in a trilogy,’ Alison said firmly. As soon as I heard the word ‘trilogy’ I got quite excited, and immediately rose to the challenge. Annie now has her own more layered story because of it.
Juliet’s Story was published in January this year, and Kitty’s Story is written, but not had the final polish. It should be out in spring of 2017. They are all standalone books, but I think the reader will get more pleasure reading them in the sequence I’ve written them, even though it’s not chronological. Kitty’s Story finishes in the present, which I believe nicely rounds off the trilogy.
H: I can't even imagine how difficult that must have been, but I'm SO glad that you were able to find a way around the problem!
When you are not reading/writing, what types of things do you like to do for leisure?
FF: Travelling. Don’t mind if it’s total relaxation, cultural, a study tour, or researching the next novel. I just love packing my suitcase and going. I’m equally happy if I’m with a friend or on my own. I also belong to an operatic society – in the chorus! – and decorating my house. I absolutely adore my white fluffy rescued cat, Dougal, who often keeps me company on long writing sessions by lying on the manuscript, then changing position so the papers slide off the worktop, all out of order, of course.
Heather, thank you so much for interviewing me. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.
H: I love traveling and we have now 3 rescue cats so I know that experience well! Thank you for stopping by today and it was a real pleasure having you here!
Back home in England, Denise reluctantly began her training as an estate agent – and loved it! Juggling the running of her chain of eight offices in Kent with taking an Honours Degree with Open University, Denise had difficulty finding the time to pursue her life- long passion for writing.
To give herself the freedom to write she sold her business after 17 years, but unfortunately to the wrong buyers, namely a couple of tricksters, which resulted in a second, more serious, memoir. Buying back the business and after six years selling it once again, she is now able to resume her love of fiction writing, under the pen-name, Fenella Forster.
Find Fenella Forster: Website | Blog | Goodreads
'We're going to Australia to better ourselves, Annie...'
Hearing those words from the lips of her fiancé, the dashing Ferguson, housemaid Annie's heart is filled with both excitement and trepidation at the thought of leaving England and her family to sail with him to a new life on the other side of the world. But Australia doesn't turn out to be the land of Annie's hopes and dreams when she discovers that those closest to her have betrayed her. A betrayal devastating enough to destroy all of their lives.
However, Annie unexpectedly encounters Alexander Townsend again, the handsome doctor she met on the voyage to Melbourne. Although she tries to deny it, when Annie looks into Alex's eyes she can't help wishing there might be a second chance of happiness for her. But she's a married woman with a secret nobody must uncover - least of all, Alex.Buy the Book: Amazon | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble
A Message from indieBRAG:
We are delighted that Heather has chosen to interview Fenella Forster who is the author of, Annie's Story, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. MedallionTM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Annie's Story, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.
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