06 March 2011

Author Interview - Fiona Dodwell

Today, I'm interviewing a dear friend and fellow Damnation Books author, Fiona Dodwell. I've read The Banishing, and loved every moment of it. Don't miss out on this treat.
  • Welcome, Fiona. Tell us a bit about yourself.
I'm 29 years old and I have been passionate about horror since I was a child. I have studied psychology, drama and theology. I currently work in a psychiatric unit. I am married to my husband Matthew who works for a local charity, and I am an avid animal lover.
  • As a child, what did you want to do when you grow up?
A writer. All I wanted to do was write. I remember when I was about twelve years old and the class teacher asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up. I looked up, eyes wide with excitement and opportunity and announced I wanted to write books. My teacher replied: “Yes, but what real job do you want to do?” That to me wasn't helpful – I needed encouragement, inspiration. Thankfully it didn't deter me from dreaming and I went on to write short stories and poems through my childhood and early teens, winning competitions and learning the craft.
  • When and why did you begin writing?
Probably around the age of ten. I wrote my first book called Caged Demon – so you can see, even back then I was a dark minded person! Very heavy for a child's mind.
  • What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book, written about four years ago- The Dead Lie – was inspired by my husband. He read through some of my writing - short stories, sample chapters, poems,  and thought I had potential. He knew how much I wanted to write a great book, and he kept encouraging me to throw myself into it. His support has been amazing. 
  • What books have influenced your life the most?
Susan Hill's The Woman In Black, Stephen King's Pet Sematary and The Dark Sacrament.
  • If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Probably Stephen King; he has mastered the genre that I adore.
  • Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Sometimes there is a brick wall. I'm sure most writers will know what I am talking about. Most writers at one time or another will hit a block – and sometimes it's tempting to do something other than your best – or to even stop trying at all. I have learned to drive on, strive, work at it. Even when the going is tough! Writing can sometimes flow with inspiration; other times that well of inspiration can dry and you really need to tap into it with focus and hard work.
  • How long does it take you to write a book?
Anything from six months to over a year. I have written three books, none took longer than a year.
  • What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
I am not somebody who works to a timetable. I work when my heart is in the place. Some days I might write for three hours straight – other days might only produce a single page. I write regularly, but  it isn't something rigid and scheduled.
  • What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I guess something I love exploring in my writing is the dark side of the human mind. The lengths some will go to. I don't usually create characters that are perfect – I like to explore flaws, faults, issues. My central characters often take me by surprise.
  • What do you like to do when you're not writing?
A lot of reading. Honestly, when I am not reading I am unhappy. I read for hours a day when I can. I also love spending time with my husband and family, and I enjoy leisure time online.
  • What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
That the words on pages come to life – a life of their own. The amount of times I will find a character do something unexpected, or an event come out of nowhere! It's quite an amazing feeling to see character you create suddenly jump out of the page and take matters into their own hands.
  • What do you think makes a good story?
It's hard to answer that. Good writing, interesting characters, unexpected twists. For me, as an avid horror fan, I have to say the darker and creepier and  more disturbing the better the story!
  • What genre are you most comfortable writing?
Horror, horror, horror!
  • How do you develop your plots and characters? Do you use any set formula?
I tend not to stick to set formulas or plans. I like my writing to be raw, unformed, free. I know some writers tend to plan, but I go with instinct. Of course I have a basic outline of a story and the major events in that story, but I let the rest fall onto the page naturally. It's a magic feeling to create something that can surprise even me, when I'm the one writing it.
  • What is your favorite horror movie?
I have many favourites... I would have to say The Ring, Case 29, The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby.
  • Do you ever come up with anything so wild that you scare yourself, that leaves you wondering where that came from?
There are many scenes in my novel, The Banishing, that I found disturbing to write. I let the story flow in the direction it needed to go – there is no use in writing horror if you are frightened of unveiling those dark elements of life.
  • What is your favorite book outside of the horror genre?
The Secret Life of Bee's. That is beautiful. I also love How To Kill A Mockingbird.
  • What draws people to horror novels? Why do we, as readers, like to be scared?
I think it's fun to be scared – when we know we're safe. It's that feeling you get on a rollercoaster: we love to be thrown about in the dark, face the unexpected, but to know we'll step off that ride safe and sound. There is something in us, as humans – we are shaped and formed by the dark side as well as the light, and I think by enjoying horror books and films we get to touch that side without burning ourselves, so to speak.
  • Why should fans of horror movies read horror books?
Books can do so much more. Your imagination is a powerful tool. It can take you places no actor or special effect can take you.
  • What are your current projects?
I am currently submitting my second novel which is being considered for publication, and I am writing a dark, twisted ghost story called The Governess.
  • Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My novel The Banishing is a dark story about one woman's struggle to survive – and to save her marriage in the process. It explores elements of demonic possession, spirit  hauntings and the dark side of the human psyche. My central character, Melissa, begins to notice some dark changes overcoming her husband. Is he losing his mind – or is there more to it?
  • How did you come up with the title for your book?
The Banishing is a ritual (a fictional one I created!) which involves making a pact with a demon. The title was formed on that basis  - which I describe in my novel.
  • Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
This book is about surviving. The line on the cover of my book says “How far would you go to save your marriage?” The Banishing is one woman's answer to that question – and the results are disturbing. I like to think that the reader will follow my central character and feel her pain, her plight. And hopefully understand the lengths she goes to in order to survive. I hope it will inspire women: my character, Melissa, is a fighter, a very strong woman.
  • Are there parts of the book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
None at all – and when you read it, you'll be glad!
  • What was the hardest part of writing your book?
There are scenes of domestic abuse in the story which were difficult to put down on paper. I had times where I felt like removing certain graphic scenes or certain words. But in the end they stayed: I had to stay faithful to the story. I didn't write anything to glorify abuse – but only what was essential to the story.
  • Where can we find you online?
Please check out my website: www.fionasfiction.wordpress.com or the publisher's website:
Fiona, thank you for stopping by, and good luck with your new release. :-)

About Fiona Dodwell:
Fiona Dodwell lives in Buckinghamshire in the United Kingdom. She works in health-care but is fascinated by the paranormal deep enough that she studied it (in her own time) since she was a teenager. She is currently on the staff team at Talk Paranormal – an online paranormal discussion group.
She grew up loving dark fiction, devouring books like Stephen King's Pet Sematary and Susan Hill's The Woman In Black at a young age, and thus began a life-long love of horror.
She began writing poetry and short stories as a child, and entered many writing competitions as a teenager – some resulted in winning entries.
She has written three novels – The Dead Lie, The Obsession, and The Banishing.