We’re very happy to welcome Kerry Fisher to Novel Kicks. As part of her blog tour to celebrate the release of The School Gate Survival Guide, Kerry talks to us about her new book, her writing rituals and The Famous Five.
Hi Kerry. Can you tell us a little about The School Gate Survival Guide and how the idea originated?
The idea came to me years ago when I lived in Italy and noticed that social snobbery was mainly confined to job title and geographical location – north vs. south. I was often introduced as ‘Dottoressa (Doctor) Fisher’ even though I’ve got a degree in languages! (I was always terrified there’d be some medical emergency and I’d have to say, ‘I can’t help with the heart attack but I can give you a hand with the subjunctive’.) When I came back to Britain, I noticed that there were all sorts of little social judgements constantly taking place – where you came from and your job was just the beginning. So I decided to write a humorous book about class and thought that the school gates would make a perfect comedic vehicle – a kind of Downton Abbey in a contemporary school setting.
If you were told you were only allowed to pick three things to survive, what would they be?
I’m not going to count my family as they’re a given. My needs are very few, but I couldn’t survive without the friends I’ve know for years. I don’t think anything can compete with that feeling of flopping down with a glass of wine and bouncing from topic to topic without having to fill in any back story. The dog is pretty vital – I love walking her and seeing the changing seasons. If I didn’t have her to exercise me, I’d have to spend even more time being ridiculed by my children when I hula-hoop on the Wii Fit! I don’t care about ‘stuff’ – I hate shopping and am still dinosauring about with an ancient mobile, much to the despair of my daughter. If I were really pushed for something else, I’d have to say, as a service to humankind, I should continue to have pedicures to avoid contaminating the environment with my aesthetically displeasing duck-billed platypus feet.
Which fictional character would you like to swap places with?
It’s pretty feeble that someone who makes a living out of writing fiction doesn’t have enough imagination to want to be someone else. It’s a cliché but I’m happy where I am, though as a child I always wanted to be George in The Famous Five.
What sort of planning do you do when writing a novel?
I know how it starts and ends, plus about fifteen things that happen in between but not necessarily in which order. At the risk of sounding all ‘struggling artiste’, my books tend to be character driven so I don’t really ‘feel’ the story until I’ve written a few chapters and get a grip on how my characters react in their roles.
I edit a little bit each day…look back over the previous day’s work to check I’m heading in the right direction but basically, I aim for about 110,000 words, then edit down.
Do you have any writing rituals?
Yes – I drop the children at school then drive straight to Starbucks to escape from the dog. If she sees me sitting down, she decides I have time to play and keeps dancing around, barking. I write 1000 words in three hours because that’s how long I can park for.
Which three words would best describe you?
It feels very immodest to describe yourself, but I hope people would say I’m generous-spirited and loyal, though they probably have no idea how ambitious I am!
Is there a book you’ve read that has made a big impact on you and why?
The Help by Kathryn Stockett. It made me realise a skilful author could deal with a serious subject without killing the comic element. Racism. Prejudice. It’s difficult to get more real than that and not funny at all. But the humour in The Help was a brilliant conduit for showing how ridiculous the white women were in their treatment of their black maids. The funny scenes didn’t undermine, rather they underlined, the serious message. Until then, I’d always felt slightly embarrassed to write characters with socially unacceptable opinions, as though by writing them, readers might judge the opinions to be my own.
Five tips for new writers?
• Learn your craft – read books, go to workshops, attend festivals, listen to authors speak. Very few people can just sit down and write a publishable novel, most have to learn.
• Commit to a certain number of words a day, even if it is only 100.
• If you’re struggling to write the next bit, choose a scene you want to write and go back and join the dots later.
• Don’t ask people to critique your work, then stick your fingers in your ears and sing when they try to give you feedback. Sift through their comments with an open mind – it might be that you still believe your version is right but at least allow for the possibility that they have a point. If more than a couple of people make the same observation, sit up and take notice.
• Start networking at festivals, publishing days, author events, anywhere you can meet agents. You’ll get a feel for who might be a good fit for you when the time is right and it will also make the process less daunting.
You can find out more about Kerry at her website – www.kerryfisherauthor.com
Follow Kerry on Twitter.
The blog tour continues tomorrow over at Dizzy C’s Little Book Blog.
The School Gate Survival Guide is now available from Amazon. It’s published by Avon (3rd July.)