01 September 2011

A Chat with Author Fiona Dodwell - Obsessed Release

Author Fiona Dodwell is joining us today for a friendly chat about her latest book, Obsessed.

Fiona, you've been to Vivid Sentiments before, but tell us about yourself again.
I'm 29 years old, and I live in the UK with my husband. I work part-time for a care charity, and around that, I write horror and paranormal novels. I have been writing since I was a child, it's something that's been a part of me for as long as I can remember now. Over the years, I have written poems, short stories and novels, but it's only been in the last few years that I have taken the craft more seriously. In March 2011, my first novel – The Banishing - was published. Obsessed, my second novel, is being published this September.

What's your latest news?
I've been busy editing, promoting, writing and working! Balancing a job whilst trying to put time into writing isn't easy. It's so hard to get into that mental space where you feel inspired and creative when you work a lot, which is why I work part-time at the moment. That way, I get a healthy balance between me time, writing time, and working time! I spent a great deal of September editing, preparing for the release of Obsessed, and I've also been updating my blog, writing some short stories and perfecting my third novel – The Shift. I also spent time working on the trailer for Obsessed, with Su Halfwerk!
:-D  Now, tell us a bit about Obsessed.
Obsessed is story about one man's descent into obsession and desperation. It follows my character, James Barker, as he experiences what he believes to be a haunting. After witnessing a suicide on the railway tracks, he experiences what his therapist tells him is post-traumatic-stress. However, James starts to wonder if there is something more sinister going on. Are the visions, nightmares, disturbances and paranoia really about his mental state – or is there something paranormal going on?

What inspired you to write Obsessed?
I've always been fascinated with the paranormal, all of my life. I've always been drawn to studying spirits, hauntings, possessions and spiritual issues. Obsessed was inspired by a series of conversations I had with people regarding the reality of hauntings. Many skeptics argued that it was not likely, that spirits were probably the manifestation of a broken, troubled mind, whilst others believed the dead could possibly visit the living. These twists and turns of peoples beliefs made me want to create a character who experiences such dark and disturbing things that he has to explore those troubling questions in order to save himself. I also wanted a story that could pull the reader in and make them ask of themselves such questions. I wanted to provoke people to see how they'd react. Could men of science, medicine and psychology sometimes get it wrong? Could ghosts sometimes wander this world?

Is there a message in Obsessed that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, although I don't think it's something I was necessarily mentally aware of at the time. I think the main thing I wanted to get across to people was that sometimes, some of the more “logical” and “rational” symptoms we apply to mental illness or stressed minds can also be the same as somebody experiencing something paranormal. I'm not saying I believe in every paranormal report. I'm also not denying that mental illness is a wide, genuine problem across the world. But what I am saying is this: when somebody says they have seen and felt a spirit, they often are told, “You hallucinated, because you were tired. You felt eyes on you because you're paranoid. You felt a cold spot in your home because you must have left the window open – you're forgetful lately.” All of these sound, logical reasons that can explain away a million ghosts – but can the voices of logic sometimes be wrong? I guess, when I get to the bottom of it, I just wanted to make people aware, to open people's minds, to try to open closed minds.
Author Fiona Dodwell

If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
Susan Hill, because her darker books (such as The Woman In Black, The Man In The Picture and The Mist In The Mirror) are so eerie, unsettling and disturbing, whilst also being elegant, beautiful and poignant. She always manages to write something scary whilst also drawing the reader into other, unexpected realms and places. I usually always find reading her work a emotional experience, on some level.

Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Yes, I am enjoying the work of Joe Hill, especially his short stories in 21st Century Ghosts. I also found Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson rather powerful.

What are your current projects?
Well, I am submitting my third novel, The Shift, to publishers, so hopefully that story will find a home soon. I am doing a lot of thinking and planning at the moment – cooking up ideas for my fourth novel. Very early stages!

Can you share an excerpt from Obsessed with us?
“Father, what’s wrong? Do you need a doctor? An ambulance?” His own voice trembled. He stumbled over to the older man, his arms outstretched, uncertain.
The priest didn’t answer. His eyes remained fixed on James, a wild look of horror splashed across his face. “No…” he finally whispered, stepping away.
James shook him, as if to snap him awake from whatever had gripped him. “Father!”
Then, he realized. The priest was not looking at James at all. His eyes were firmly fixed on the mirror directly behind him.
“What is it, Father? Tell me!”
The priest didn’t answer. Instead, he turned and ran frantically down the stairs. He was already fumbling at the front door when James caught up with him. “Father! Wait! What happened? You saw something, didn’t you?”
The priest halted at the door, his hands still on the door knob. His face was pale. The blood had drained away, leaving the old man looking ill and washed out.
“I saw something,” he whispered. “In the mirror.”
“What? Tell me.” James didn’t need to ask. The answer was already in his mind.
“In the mirror, I saw a man standing directly behind you. Oh, he looked angry, so angry.”
“You saw him, too?” James whimpered.
The priest nodded, pulling open the front door. “He is evil, James. His eyes were cold and hard with evil. I’d leave here if I were you. I’d never stay here with it.”

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Staying motivated when times are difficult. Like anything in life, there are times when it just seems harder, more difficult. Sometimes you want to write, but the ideas don't come. Or you have the idea, but the writing isn't up to scratch. It's sometimes a battle with the self to get past all of that, but normally, when you do, it's such a good feeling. I don't normally feel too good if I go too long without writing and being creative – I believe it's good for the soul!

I totally agree with you. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that sometimes the character or characters that didn't mean so much at first can become the ones you fall in love with! My character, Croft, who is a therapist, is one of my favorite’s now. I loved his time in Obsessed.

Do you have any advice for other writers?
Yes – if you want to do it, go for it. No amount of thinking about it, wishing for it or hoping for it will get you to your dream destination. Don't be frightened of putting in hard work – and, if you do, don't expect everything to turn out as you planned. With writing – especially making a career of it – so much of it is out of your hands, so be realistic in your goals but remain hopeful. Always remain hopeful! Do it for the love of writing, and you can't go wrong.

Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?
I just want to thank the readers who bought and enjoyed The Banishing. As it was my first published novel, it was a very significant thing to me. The response was very good, and people seemed to come away having positive things to say. I had emails from happy readers and a lot of helpful and inspiring comments – it kept me happy, hopeful and inspired. I hope Obsessed will be enjoyed as much as The Banishing was.
That's all I hope for.

Where can we find you online?
Twitter: @Fiona_Dodwell
You can also email me anytime, with feedback, questions or comments:

Thank you!

Fiona, thank you so much for stopping by. This was a light chat that we must repeat, I might even offer you some coffee and biscuits next time :-)
People, The Banishing and Obsessed are both available in paperback and e-book formats from Amazon, Damnationbooks.com and Barnes and Nobel. Get shopping.
Till next time!