Today we welcome Fiona Stocker as we travel to Tasmania to learn how River Cottage, a sloth, The Time Traveller’s Wife, and Four Weddings and a Funeral are a part of Fiona’s business, life, and writings. Get ready to get in the zone ….
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m an Englishwoman living in Tasmania. We moved here for a slower lifestyle. Last year I had a travel memoir Apple Island Wife – Slow Living in Tasmania, released by an independent publisher in the UK. It’s kind of like A Year in Provence or Driving Over Lemons, but in Australia. I live on five acres with my husband, two children, Alice the incompetent collie, Charlie the killer cat, and around thirty-five pigs.
In which genre do you write?
I have just published a travel memoir, about living in Tasmania – think A Year in Provence and Driving Over Lemons, and then add breastfeeding. It’s the wife’s tale. Long overdue.
How many published books do you have?
This is the first book I’ve had published in my own name. A couple of years ago I was commissioned to write a book for a women’s farming group here in Tasmania, which is jollier than it sounds. Farming women are full of grit, and their lives make for great stories. I’ve also worked as ghost writer and editor on a book of short travel stories about women traveling solo, and a couple of other books too.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
When I was sixteen my English teacher Mr. Warnett put a comment in red pen on an essay I wrote saying I had a particular way with words and would do well to nurture it. There wasn’t a big tradition of encouraging one’s children in my family or even talking to them and I spent a lot of time alone in my bedroom listening to Dire Straits. Mr Warnett’s comment was the first time anybody had taken an interest, and gave me a hint of what might be. (My parents are very loving, they were probably downstairs watching Morecamble and Wise. Parenting has changed a lot in the space of one generation, we’re all a lot more interested now.)
What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?
I gaze furiously at my laptop screen when writing and if I’m in the flow with a deep frown on my face, my husband knows he must not interrupt me for fear of severe consequences.
I also think that good writing comes with practice. I’ve written professionally as an advertising copywriter, and write freelance journalism and press releases and other communications in my work now. I can do what I do quickly and efficiently and I know immediately and instinctively whether something is working or right, or not.
What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?
I’d possibly have a sloth, as they get a lot of sleep, which I love, but they’re not good communicators and I’d find that frustrating. I have a teenage daughter, she’s fifteen, and doing a lot of internal adjustment which requires a lot of sleep. She reminds me of a sloth, another reason for choosing said creature, because it would remind me of the miracle of her.
What does your ideal writing space look like?
If I’m in the zone, I can write anywhere. I’ve written in the back of my car, in my very untidy office with piles of notebooks around me, in the foyer of a local college while my daughter and son do band practice with their college wind instrument band (think trumpets). If I’m below par, I write in bed. I channel Roald Dahl for this. He wrote in a shed at the bottom of his garden, but I dress it up the same way, woolen blanket, one of those breakfast trays for my laptop, a pile of paperbacks for my mouse to sit on, the curtains drawn, the cat at the bottom of the bed, and the electric blankets set on ‘toasty’.
What are you currently reading?
Anna Funder’s book All That I Am, about a small group of artists and writers fighting fascism in the second world war. It’s intense. Also Flesh Wounds by Richard Glover, an Australian journalist. This is his memoir. It’s very revealing and also very funny. I admire a man who can write personal detail unflinchingly. I believe a lot of men think they’re too important to do that, that the domestic and the familial is women’s realm and we should be left to it. Those men need to be given lots of the housework to do, have their pocket money taken away, and stick to a 5pm curfew until they shape up. (Removing self from soap box now.)
If you could have a coffee date with an author or famous person from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I’d have an afternoon coffee date with Henry from Audrey Nifenegger’s book The Time Traveller’s Wife. I’d ask him how his day has been. And I’d most definitely sleep with him.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself through writing?
That I’ll do pretty much anything to make my writing and my book sell.
Do you journal write or keep a personal diary? Has this helped with your published writings? If so, how?
When I began writing Apple Island Wife, it was as a blog. That really helped pull the book together because I had this huge bank of material – 135 posts. It had to be rewritten because the voices for blog and book are very different. That was a very long exercise which required a bit of discipline and determination. You’re in it for the long haul as a writer. Since then I’ve made sure I keep notes, some in notebooks, and sometimes for the next book I just collect info that’s relevant and shove it into a file in Word, with a well key-worded file name.
What is the most amusing, crazy or inspiring thing that has ever happened to you?
I met the man who is said to be the world’s sixth best chef last year. I interviewed him for eleven minutes for a newspaper article. He looked a bit scary during the research phase – he’s a serious, Brazilian ju-jitsu master. He turned out to be insanely genial, generous and completely absent of ego. I was completely smitten and loved the piece I wrote. The bloody editor who had commissioned it then never got back to me so it remained unpublished. So I put it on my blog recently. Shooting Star: Alex Atala Does Tasmania.
You are about to speak publicly to a group and read from your latest book. What song do you listen to before speaking? Or, what do you do to prepare yourself?
I always have a water bottle with drops of Rescue Remedy in it. That stuff is magic.
What do you miss about being a kid?
Nothing! My life gets infinitely better as I get older, know more and am prepared to sweat the small stuff less.
What’s the last movie you watched and why did you choose to watch it?
I watched Four Weddings and a Funeral the other day, for the umpteenth time. It’s brilliantly written. The dialogue is tight, it has fantastic running gags, and great characters. So clever the way Hugh ends up saying ‘I do’ – that’s very neat narrative making. I like the swearing too. And it was the first movie that depicted a gay couple respectfully. So much to like, and it never fails to amuse.
Which of your personality traits has been most useful and why?
I’ve got quite strong willpower. Every so often I mess up and offend somebody,usually by saying something unguarded. I used to agonise and beat myself up and spend hours in deep self-recrimination. Now I just think this is me and I’ve got to like myself anyway, live with myself, forgive myself and get on. People forget things, and they get over things, and maybe they needed telling. Nobody is perfect, and this is what’s meant by that saying. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to hold the view that there’s not much time left. It certainly keeps you on a straight path to what you really want to wring from life!!
Thank you for joining us on MTA Fiona. It was interesting to learn more about you and your book! – Camilla
Where to find the book:
US Amazon: https://amzn.to/2N9fqmJ
UK Amazon: https://amzn.to/2UMBynH
UA Amazon: https://amzn.to/2UItt3A
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And if it feels the thing to do and you are inspired to do so, I would be deeply grateful if you’d like to “Buy Me a Coffee” … Camilla – Host of Meeting the Authors …