What’s your favorite place in the entire world?
As a regular traveller and travel writer, I have too many to mention so I’ll go with something safe like Amsterdam, where we currently live. Aside from all the beautiful canals and architecture, I love this city for being a place where people can be themselves – whatever that may be – and I love how safe it is for children. Every summer you see kids drawing chalk on the pavements outside their houses, often unaccompanied. Sadly that doesn’t happen so much in London (where I’m from).
How has your upbringing influenced your writing?
My upbringing definitely influences my writing. My mother is an avid reader and she always encouraged me to read as a child. Later, she was one of my biggest supporters when I moved away from a more corporate career to become a freelance writer and now I’m writing books and stories, I can see how very deeply proud of me she is. My father on the other hand is a much slower reader, but he is a born storyteller who would make up all sorts of weird and wonderful stories for us as children (“The Ambitious Rice Crispie” was a favourite!). He is also very passionate about music and I definitely think the varied types of pop and classical music I grew up listening to has influenced my writing; I love how music makes me feel.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’ve always loved writing and as a child I was very quick to learn new words and I was very good at spelling and reading. I think learning to read and write is the greatest freedom for a child. I was also very artistic in other ways – I loved theatre and art – and so even before I was at high school I was creating illustrated books out of pieces of paper stuck together with tape. I found some of them recently and while my drawings are terrible I was relieved to see I actually finished many of these stories. Because that was my biggest problem as a teenager and young adult; I had so many great ideas for stories or a novel and I would sit down and tap away for hours and days and weeks, but I sadly never finished anything. I suppose life got in the way. Also my love of theatre and drama grew and for a long time I wanted to be an actress. It wasn’t until long after I gave up this dream and I became a freelance copywriter that I realised my writing had value and I felt encouraged to start a project and finish it. The result is my first collection of short stories, Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel.
What inspires you to write and why?
My mother, because I know a part of her would have maybe liked to have been a writer or done something more creative, but she actually trained as a doctor and spent all her life caring for people. I’m very proud of her! I’m also inspired every November by my fellow NaNoWriMo-ers because they make me realise that I’m actually incredibly lucky to work freelance because that gives me so much more freedom and flexibility to write. I always remember reading a forum post by a single mum with three children and a 9-5 job, and she was still finding time to write her 1667 words a day; that was when I realised I had it very easy and I had no excuses not to finish!
What genre are you most comfortable writing?
This is an interesting question because I haven’t really experimented much with genre yet. Shy Feet – my first short story collection – is very much contemporary fiction though it touches on humour and romance. Right now I’m working on a collection of short stories all about London and a few of them are a little supernatural – there’s a ghost story! – and there’s also a story that is a real detective mystery, and I’ve really enjoyed writing these different types of fiction. I’m also 50% of the way through my first draft of a novel and while it’s very similar in writing style to Shy Feet – contemporary fiction with very modern prose - it also has more suspense and mystery. So in short, I think these are all the genres I enjoy writing in, but I’m not afraid to try others in the future.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve been putting off and finding excuses to not write a book for years – almost all my adult life – and this was very easy when I lived and worked in London. I was often travelling for work or I was in the office for 10+ hours a day and then had a busy social life to maintain. So when I left London and changed to a freelance career I could manage while travelling, I began to realise how much time and freedom I really had. Suddenly I had no excuses and so I got to work writing my first book, determined to finish it, which I did thanks partly to NaNoWriMo. I also felt encouraged by the life-changing decision I made to leave London and travel indefinitely; once you face one fear, I think facing another is a little bit easier.
What do you consider the biggest challenge about writing a novel, or about writing in general?
I find keeping track of everything so difficult in a novel. I’m currently a little bit lost about 50% way through the first draft of my novel and I’m realising how much more planning would have helped me, particularly when it comes to documenting the background of my characters, especially because in the novel an event in the past is very central to the present story.
When it comes to writing in general, I think the hardest part is fitting it around the everyday activities I have to do. Right now I need to focus on keeping up with freelance work in order to pay the bills, but at the same time if I focus too much on this, then I will never finish another book. It’s all about balance, but honestly speaking, this is a lovely problem to have!
Did writing Shy Feet teach you anything and what was it?
I went on such a journey writing Shy Feet, in particular when it came to editing it. I actually dreaded the editing process, but in fact, it was during the months I spent chopping, adding, changing and re-writing that I saw my stories really grow. Towards the end, I was so focused on the language and on polishing the reading experience that I didn’t fully realise which themes were emerging in the stories. But about a month after I published Shy Feet, I revisited the book and re-read some of the stories. I realised that in addition to travel (which links all the stories) a few themes really stood out; loss and motherhood. This was really interesting because as I was editing the stories my family suffered a horrible loss that really shook me up and also over the last few years I’ve been really thinking about my relationship with my mother, mainly because I was travelling so much and I missed her! It’s so funny that my subconscious made these themes so prominent in the stories because they definitely weren’t intentional. So to summarise, I’ve learned that you may not always realise the power of your own subconscious and the influence of you current life experience on your writing.
Did you intend to make writing a career?
Not really! I actually really enjoyed my previous role, which was as a corporate researcher and consultant doing investigative due diligence for multi-national companies. That said, I’ve always loved reading and writing, and publishing a book was always my secret dream. In 2009 I started blogging (about my local area in London) and people began to not only compliment my writing but also – and perhaps more importantly - people really enjoyed reading my words. This was when I started to think about writing as a career. Four years later, I am a freelance writer and author. I write over 2000 words a day for clients and I also try to write at least another 2000 for my own purposes be that my fiction or my blog. I’m very happy that writing is my career.
What is your greatest strength as a writer?
I think my greatest strength is that I enjoy editing and I believe passionately in the importance of editing and re-writing in order to strengthen a story. Some writers are a little reluctant to identify changes or chop what they’ve already written but I know how important this is and I’m very committed to doing this before I then ask a professional editor to review my work. You can never be too thorough!
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’m currently editing a collection of short stories called “A to Z: Short Stories Inspired by London”. The stories are all connected because they are set in London and the city is very much a main character in many of the stories. I am very proud of this collection because I have tackled some themes that are quite heavy – religion, death, racism - but I’ve tried to do it in an unusual and uplifting way which prompts discussion rather than sadness or judgment. I’m also about halfway through the first draft of my novel which is about a young woman in the 29th year of her life. It’s a part-mystery, part-family drama about the problems she faces and the unusual ways she goes about solving them.
"This collection of stories is like a blanket woven from 100% wanderlust under which you can hide as Frances M. Thompson tucks you in with her words and keeps you warm with her descriptions of characters you'll love and places you can tell she knows by heart." Gesa Neitzel, www.bedouinwriter.com
Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel is a collection of twelve quirky, charismatic and touching tales of travel.
The inquisitive Ruth tells the story of The Lost Children of Gatwick Airport and in Max's Holiday we learn what a seven-year-old boy considers a "proper holiday" to be. In The Flowers Sleep Tonight, we meet Thomas and Carly, two solo travellers whose paths keep crossing... because that's exactly what Thomas wants. A spontaneous plan to elope is revealed in The Runaways and Homes from Homes is about the lessons Patricia learns from the hotel bellboy she has a fling with. Oh, Henry is the story of how a dream holiday can mean two different things to two lovers and Katie's Maps is an offbeat love letter to a vast collection of maps. Extracts from a travel journal tell one woman's life story in All the Beaches are Made of Pebbles and find out what Australia and underpants have to do with Claudia wanting to leave her husband of forty years in The Road is Long.
From the unforgiving Australian Outback to the jagged beauty of the Amalfi Coast, along the pebbled beaches of Brighton & Hove and down the busy streets of late night Barcelona, this collection of short stories highlights how travel intersects and enriches all of our lives, often without us realising it...
"Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel transports you to exotic locales without leaving your armchair and leaves you wanting more... Frances M. Thompson has a novel in her and I can't wait to read it." Nathalie Harris, www.acooknotmad.com
Genre – Short Stories, Contemporary Fiction
Rating – PG13
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