Getting to know the Author behind the book ...


Describe yourself and how you came to be a writer in brief?

I contracted glandular fever when I was sixteen and spent more time that year at home than at school. To keep myself entertained I started writing stories including one romance ‘novel’ for the entertainment of my best friend. That gave me my first real taste of writing something other than school assignments. I also discovered the pleasure that comes from having an enthusiastic audience! It took me over twenty years though to come back to writing novels.

How would you describe your style of writing?
A communion with the muse. I show up and we embark on a raucous exploration of worlds, psyches and experiences. I know that’s not what you mean, but I have never set out to write to a particular style. I am captivated by an image or an idea and I give myself permission to explore it. My family regularly remind me that the characters in my books are only figments of my imagination, but I find that hard to believe…

How many books have you published to date?
I originally self published The Chicken Thief in 2011.
I sold it a year later and it was published by Penguin in April 2014.

If you could share one piece of advice with budding writers what would it be?
That’s it. Persist with everything – writing, pitching, promoting.

Who do you see as your inspiration and why?
I recently participated in the Open Book Festival in Cape Town. It was worth going all that way just to have the opportunity to meet such an incredibly professional group of writers. The majority have several books to their name and it’s easy to see why. They are focused, committed and love what they do. I want to be just like them when I grow up!

How has writing changed your life?
It has meant that the part of my soul that for years has been gesturing wildly from the corner, crying ‘OVER HERE!!!’ can finally relax and get on with doing what it does best. I now feel like I’m doing what I’m meant to be doing. It’s been an incredibly grounding experience.

What has been the biggest ‘aha’ moment for you in writing?
At the end of 2010 I wrote around 60000 words in six weeks, finishing off the book I had been dabbling in for five years. There is nothing more enlightening than discovering you have a book inside you and that your brain will not explode as it comes out. I realized then that I could not only write one book, but I could probably write ten if I put my mind to it. All of a sudden that opened up a world of possibilities.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a writer?
See above reference to the importance of persisting. Giving up is the easiest thing in the world. Staying focused, and believing that there’s a point to it all can seem like a fool’s errand at times.

What are your dreams and goals as far as writing goes?
I have an overflowing ‘bottom drawer’ full of writing. At present there are another three and a half novels, plus a whole collection of children’s stories, lurking around down there. The prospect of having a pipeline of work slated for release really excites me.

You have recently released a new publication, please share a little about your latest release? 

The Chicken Thief tells the story of Alois, a bright young man struggling to find his way in a southern African country wracked by political unrest and a crumbling economy. Through a chance encounter, Alois is set to make some fast money. But the enterprise goes horribly wrong, and he finds himself in a complicated and perilous struggle to rescue a war hero and transform the political landscape. Though an unlikely hero, Alois discovers, in this fast-paced adventure, that both dreams and justice are within his grasp.

Please share with us a short list of your favourite reads?

The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje

The Alchemist – Paolo Coelho

If On A Winters Night A Traveller – Italo Calvino

I’m also a big fan of John Green, Lauren Beukes, Juliet Marillier and Jamie Ford.

Twitter Handle: @fionajleonard

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