As an author, copywriter and blogger, Frances writes to inspire, share knowledge and for her own happiness. So, who is she?
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I write contemporary fiction as Frances M. Thompson but most people call me Frankie or Bird, on account of my travel blog As the Bird flies. I am 32, originally from London but left in October 2011 to travel indefinitely and in order to do so I also changed careers so that I could become a location-independent freelance writer. Prior to this I was a corporate investigator, which in essence means I worked for corporate clients investigating employee theft and fraud, conflicts of interest and other issues that arise in the private sector. It was a great job and I am drawing on the experience for the novel I’m writing at the moment, An Invisible Girl.
My previous two books, Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel and London Eyes: Short Stories, are obviously collections of short fiction and it’s quite hard to pinpoint what genre, if any, they fall in. Contemporary fiction is possibly the easiest term to use!
I am still location independent but I am currently based in Amsterdam where I live with my Australian boyfriend and two rusty bicycles. I love flea markets, snowboarding, reading books on a quiet beach, dancing to 70s disco music and catching up with good friends over a bottle of something fizzy. If only I could do all those things in one day!
For our readers, are you willing to share the storyline of your latest novel?
My two published books are actually short story collections so it’s a little tricky to give an outline for the latest book – London Eyes – because there’s more than just one. What I can tell you is that the stories are really varied but as a body of work it offers an insight into the different types of people you’ll find living in London. There’s the owner of a bar in Elephant & Castle who creates magic cocktails that make people fall in love; there’s two truanting teenagers in Shepherd’s Bush who find out more than they expect about a local gangster; and there’s the newly arrived Tim who resorts to desperate measures when he struggles to make a single friend in a city of 8 million people. Along the way the stories introduce some slightly odd characters – because London is full of them! – and they also tackle some divisive and thought-provoking issues; religion, fidelity, racism and because it’s my favourite thing to write about, love.
When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always written in one form or another; self-illustrated 10 page stories about Zombie Queens (my first indie published book, I suppose!), daily diaries full of teenage angst, secret novels started and never finished in my early twenties, and now I’m in my fifth year of blogging.
Simply put, I write because I enjoy it. But I also write for many other reasons. I write because I like to capture a passing moment. I write because sometimes it’s my only way of making sense of something that happened to me or to someone else. I write because I believe the act of creating something – be it literature, art, music, or even just a blog post – is good for the soul. I write because it challenges me and I write because to not write would mean my life wouldn’t be quite as full.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
When it comes to writing fiction, I am lucky in that I enjoy most stages of working on a story, so much so that I find it hard to tell you what I enjoy most. I find the act of writing a first draft very liberating because I like to write without inhibition, but I do find editing more satisfying, as this is when I really push the work forward and get it closer to what your book is supposed to be (albeit it a much longer and more tiring process). I’ve also come to realise that planning is just as creative as writing so I really enjoy that stage too, though I do always try to plan in a way the story can still breathe during that first draft stage which I find so fun.
What is the hardest thing about being a writer?
I think it’s difficult to answer this question without first of all saying there is nothing “hard” about writing if you compare it with physically hard and mentally draining work like a 14 hour shift in an A&E department or spending years working as a labourer or factory worker. That is hard work. What I find challenging as a writer is not often to do with the act of writing – that should always challenge you and be something you continue to learn about and develop – but I find it hard to sustain myself financially as the author of fiction, which is why I work mostly as a freelance copywriter to pay my bills. I’m lucky that I can even do this because many other writers do that 14 hour shift in a hospital and then come home to write. I’m slowly learning that being a writer – especially an author of independently published books like I am – requires you to be creative not only in terms of the work you produce but also how you go about promoting your work and finding readers; it’s the latter part that I find a challenge, but still an enjoyable one.
What inspires you to write?
Reading is and I suspect always will be my number one source of writing inspiration. Being a reader is essential to being a writer, but this doesn’t mean reading high-brow classics all the time. In fact, sometimes a really bad book or a novel I don’t enjoy actually inspires me to write more than an exquisitely executed story because I have this rush of “I can do better than this” determination!
I should also say that people-watching also inspires me to write and most of the characters in Shy Feet and London Eyes were crafted out of people I’ve noticed and wondered about in passing.
When working on a new novel, what is the first thing you do?
Well, I’m still working on my first novel so perhaps I should answer this question in relation to the short stories I’ve finished and published several.
For me, I begin with an idea, a person, a question or a scenario. As I mentioned above this could be something or someone I see or it could result from something I’ve read, learned or talked about with a friend. Sometimes it can be as simple and brief as “girl who collects maps”, “flirtatious London cabby” or “ghosts living in abandoned stations on London Underground” to something a little bit more complex and actually something that resembles a summary of the final story I write like, “divorced woman relives key moments in her failed marriage on a tour of London, the city where she has lived for 21 years but never actually explored like a tourist” or “child goes on first holiday abroad but someone is missing… his dad. But why?”
I normally write this down on a page in a notebook or in Evernote and then I add to it as my brain (subconsciously and otherwise) chews on the idea and sort of naturally decides if it’s something worth exploring. When I feel I have added enough to turn it into a story, I will write a scene breakdown or I’ll just start writing and see where that character or scenario takes me.
I’m happy to say that all those ideas I gave as examples are stories that have come to life in either Shy Feet or London Eyes.
Which Writers do you admire and can you name a favourite book?
I like how that question is phrased because no, I can’t name a favourite book. That feels like an impossible task! Even naming a favourite author feels like a very tall order. I’ll wimp out and name some books and authors I’ve enjoyed recently instead:
A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Lovesong by Nikki Gemmell (who is one of my favourite authors)
In Seven Stages: A Flying Trip Around the World by Elizabeth Bisland
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender (I also love her short story collections)
Dear Life by Alice Munro (or any of her books)
The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler (and I’m working my way through the other Philip Marlowe books now – so good!)
Howard’s End by E. M. Forster
Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg (which I highly recommend for any writer)
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Never stop writing. Even when it feels pointless, even when it feels too difficult and especially when it feels like everything you write is bad, keep on writing.
My mum once gave me some dating advice after a bad break-up. She said “you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince” and I often feel like writing is the same; you have to write a lot of frog spawn, before you write something truly royal.
What are your plans for the future?
As I mentioned, I’m working on my first full-length novel and I’m also planning a short story collection inspired by my current home city, Amsterdam. I am also hoping to publish my first non-fiction book which is a collection of short essays I wrote (and published on my blog) as daily NaNoWriMo inspiration to help encourage those who have always wanted to write a book to start and keep writing.
Want to find out more about Frankie then follow the links below:
Facebook – http://facebook.com/asthebirdflies
Twitter – http://twitter.com/bushbirdie
Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/asthebirdflies (Book lovers may like my board “Beautiful Books” – http://pinterest.com/asthebirdflies/beautiful-books)
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Frankie for taking part in our Author Interview Series.