Friday, 11 November 2016

Getting To Know - FJ Curlew

Today on Life Of A Nerdish Mum I am very lucky to welcome F.J. Curlew, author of To Retribution, to Getting To Know...

Your debut novel, To Retribution, is a thriller with political aspects to it, what drew you to this particular genre?

Honestly, I'm not sure! I'm a soft and fluffy, peace and love kind of a person but my writing always takes me towards a thrilleresque genre. There must be something dark lurking deep within me and this is its exit! The political aspect, however, is very much me. I have always been very politically minded and have a strong leaning towards rights of all kinds; animal loving vegetarian, Amnesty International supporter, Greenpeace etc. I abhor abuse in any of its guises, hence their inclusion in 'To Retribution'.
I have also witnessed a good deal of injustice and intimidation in my travels which definitely influences my writing.

There are three main characters in To Retribution, Jake, Ranulf and Suze, are any of them based on people in real life or have they taken on any of your personality?

An interesting question. The only one who was based on someone I knew was Jake. He is a conglomeration of some friends from Estonia and I had a clear concept of him from the beginning. The others are purely fictitious, although there are snippets of people I have met or seen intermingled through most of my characters; a phrase, a feeling, a look. They grew with me as the story progressed.
I would love to have met someone like Ranulf. He is so complex, off the wall and intriguing. I may have to bring him back  at a later date. I wondered when I was writing him if he was too 'out there', perhaps unbelievable, but he is the one character people comment on most in a positive 'I loved him' way.

You have also written short stories (one of which was the inspiration for To Retribution), do you find it easier to write a short story or a novel?

I don't think there is an 'easier'. Well, not for me anyway. They are very different. I relish being able to expand on characters and story-lines in novel writing, to wander off with everything, get lost in it. But being succinct, to grab hold of something and put it into a short story is also a fascinating challenge. I love them both.

Did you always know that you'd like to write your own novel one day?

No. Not at all. I've always loved language, thoroughly enjoyed bringing that creativity out in the children I taught but I never imagined it was something I would do myself. It was when I was forced to give up teaching due to ill health that I stumbled upon writing. Life slapped me in the face and made me completely change direction. I wasn't capable of much but wanted to study so I chose creative writing at the Open University and I am so grateful for that opportunity. It gave me a new direction, a positive one. I discovered I could write fiction and that I loved it. It has completely taken over my life in a very fine way!

You have travelled a lot while teaching across Europe, do you have a favourite place that you have lived or visited?

Yes. Estonia. I fell completely in love with the tiny country before I'd even set foot in the place. I was studying for my teaching degree when I happened upon the Estonian under sixteen football team (I kid you not!) There was something about them. Their country. A connection. I really couldn't explain it but the pull was incredibly strong. I devoured everything I could about the place, which was minimal at the time. Just post Soviet and hardly known. I remember the thrill of the local newspaper I had ordered popping through my letterbox after winging its way from Tallinn. The following year I went across for a holiday and two years later had moved there complete with daughter, dogs and cat, much to the chagrin of my family. 'You're going where?!' Were it not for health issues I would go back in a heartbeat.

When you're not writing what would we find you doing?

I think one of the best things about writing is that, like teaching, it is all consuming. It becomes your life, which is just what I need. There are very few times when I completely switch off. I go for huge dog walks every day, which I love. It's beautiful and life enhancing, and where I do my best thinking...about my writing.
Absolute down time would be watching football and going to concerts. Oh, and reading, of course!

Do you have a favourite place to sit and write or a particular ritual that you follow?

Yes. I write on a pile of cushions in the corner of my room for space on which I have to negotiate (hmmm) with my dogs and cat. My comfort comes a poor second to theirs!
Mornings are for walks and admin, afternoons for writing. I always start by reading something which is in an appropriate style or genre for what I am writing, setting the mood with some music.

8. Do you have a favourite author?

No. I keep discovering new ones, which is brilliant. The authors of whom I have read most would be Carl Hiaasen (for a really good laugh), Ian Rankin (because he's a master of his genre) and Paulo Coelho (because...). I could go, 'Oh and...' for ages. There are so many great writers, aren't there?

9. If you could give your younger self any advice about your writing journey, what would it be?

I don't think I would. I started late in life and I think that was how it was meant to be.

10. What can we look forward to you following To Retribution?

I'm working on my second novel but have learned not to say what it's about, as it is very liable to change...drastically. I don't plan, just go with the characters, the story as it shows itself to me, which means until I have that last chapter down and the final edit done, nothing is set in stone. So far it is thrilleresque and political (ish)! I think... But I'm also working on something completely different!

Thank you so much for such wonderful answers and taking the time to appear on my blog!

To Retribution

The military is in control. Tight control. Media is censored, movement restricted. There are re-education camps for trouble makers, repatriation camps for non-nationals. Jake, Brian and Suze, three idealistic young journalists, are used to hiding as they try to keep their online news channel open. They publish the truth about the repatriations, the corruption and the deceit. 
New Dawn, the feared security force, is closing in yet again. The trio run, yet again. This time, however, they are pursued with a relentlessness, a brutality which seems far too extreme for their 'crimes.' 
A trail of death is left in their wake as they try to escape New Dawn and find out what is really behind this hunt. They are drawn into a web of human trafficking, child abuse and murder. Only it's closer than they think. Much closer. 
Who would you trust?

To Connect with F.J. Curlew

Twitter - @FJCurlew

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