Well, it’s a rather chilly February morning, but it’s very cosy here in the heart of Romaniac HQ. Today we’re welcoming Serena Fairfax to the best sofa in the house. Good morning, Serena, I’ll sling another log on the fire and then we can get started. I must say you’re looking very fetching in your complementary Romaniac t-shirt. Make yourself comfortable; the kettle’s on, the coffee beans are freshly ground, and I’ve made a fruit cake in your honour. Or would you prefer a refreshing pot of Earl Grey?
I’m delighted to be here and to meet such a talented bunch of writers. Who can resist coffee and cake? It’s just my cup of tea.
So, I’m passing over the guest footstool – sit back and tell us a bit about yourself.
I spent my childhood in India, qualified as a Lawyer in England then joined a large City firm. I’m still in the day job. I’m the author of six novels. STRANGE INHERITANCE and PAINT ME A DREAM were published by mainstream publishers Robert Hale Ltd. GOLDEN GROVE, IN THE PINK, WHERE THE BULBUL SINGS (I traded bricks and mortar for a houseboat and wangled a short sabbatical to write this one) and WILFUL FATE are indie published. I divide my time between London and rural Kent (the county favoured by Dickens) where I live with my golden retriever Inspector Morse who can’t wait to unleash his own Facebook page.
Q: What difference has the advent of ebooks made to you as an author?
I think it’s fair to say eBooks have revolutionised the publishing world. The book’s easily downloadable and just as easily delete-able! Uploading a typescript is easy – one doesn’t have to wait months for one’s masterpiece to see the light of day. One can compete with the big names and there’s a gamut of opportunities.
Q: Do you have an equal fondness for all your books, or is one of them a particular favourite?
I like them all for very different reasons but I think IN THE PINK is a front-runner because it’s an experiment – being a departure from the romance theme and wry and quirky.
Q: You’re in the right place if quirky is your style. So,what was your very first success as a writer, and how did it happen?
After some rejections- a rite of passage – Hale accepted STRANGE INHERITANCE for its Rainbow Romance line (now defunct) and it was thrilling to see my first born in print.
Q: That’s the part we all love to read about – when the dream finally becomes reality. But which three main qualities do you think a writer needs to succeed?
I suppose they must be perseverance, passion and courage, and the hide of a rhino. Someone once said Genius (talent) begins great works, labour alone finishes them.
Q: The Romaniacs all met as RNA New Writers, and we’re big fans of the scheme. How has being a member of the RNA helped you?
It embraces a range of writer from newbies, the successful and still struggling and is supportive and encouraging to all. But what would be even better is if it were to go the extra mile to welcome to membership, talented indie authors who haven’t before been published by traditional houses, thereby ending the unjustified bias against them. The local chapter meetings are a fun place to exchange ideas and the speakers give valuable tips on hot topics.
Q: The following character, from Paint Me A Dream – already has me hooked –
‘Rafe Rostov.’ He uncoiled his lean, powerful body at six feet topping her by several inches. ‘I’m meeting with Alec Craig.’ The voice was a deep, eastern seaboard drawl and long forgotten echoes from the past rushing back reminded her how soft-almost seductive – it could sound. If you could meet one of your own heroes, which one would it be, and why?
Oh, it’s definitely the Maharajah of Walipur who features in WHERE THE BULBUL SINGS. He’s a good natured, fun-loving, generous man and he’d spoil me rotten in his ravishing palace, indulge my every whim, shower me with gorgeous gifts and jewellery and treat me to the experience of a lifetime.
Q: Here’s a slightly random question – do you have any phobias and if so have you ever worked them into your novels.
I must confess, none at all! Phobias are all in the mind. There’s a German proverb that goes something like this: Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is. Do you know phobias range from A to Z although there isn’t one starting with Q or Y. One that catches my eye is wiccaphobia (not a fear of Wikipedia) but a fear of witches and witchcraft and surely no writer has euphobia, which is fear of hearing good news.
Q: Although you must admit Wikipedia can be quite scary sometimes. Now, on the subject of admiration for other writers, which novel by another author have you always wished you’d written yourself?
The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch that was published in 2006. It’s a shining, unusual novel about coming of age and the richness and variety of the natural world.
Q: If you could present an award to any celebrity, who would you choose and why?
This is an easy one! It must be that romantic icon, Colin Firth, for his role as Fitzwilliam Darcy.
Q: I’m definitely with you on that one! What one thing would you like to do if you had more time?
I’d like to learn to fly a jumbo jet.
Q: Where is the most interesting place you’ve ever lived, and did it inspire your writing?
Botswana for its incredible array of wildlife and although the Okavanga Delta is fascinating it’s too awesome to transpose to the written page.
Q: Do you have a writing routine? And more importantly, do you stick to it?
This is largely dictated by the day job so I write in the evening and at weekends. I try and stick to it but occasionally I lapse and it’s all the better for that.
Q: How many WiPs/projects do you have on the go at any one time?
Heaps milling round in my head. One actually.
Q: What are your thoughts on novels with multiple points of view, or less than straightforward structures such as two characters voicing alternating chapters.
They make for a much more interesting read.
Q: At what point did you decide to write a novel and did you choose your genre, or did it choose you?
Not a conscious decision as such. Just penned a few words and it took off from there. I chose the genre- couldn’t have genres choosing me – that just wouldn’t do.
Q: Who was your first celebrity crush, and did any of their characteristics appear later in your heroes?
The Dalai Lama and no hero can match him.
Q: What is your favourite aspect of promoting your novels?
Meeting readers in person; talking about books; writing my blog.
Q: What guilty pleasures do you enjoy?
I can’t say I do guilt. Pleasures are too numerous to mention.
Q: Which one item would you lock in Room 101 and why?
D.I.Y manuals because they’re impossible to follow.
Q: What are your future plans?
I seldom plan. Like Mr Micawber I believe something will turn up.
Quick fire questions next:
Champagne or Tequila? Tequila Margarita at lunch, champagne at dinner.
Dickens or Shakespeare? Dickens.
Bus or tube? Tube- it’s faster.
Walking or running? Running.
Florida or Italy? Italy.
Stationery or shoe shops? Who can resist shoe shops?
Bananas or chocolate? Chocs.
Dr Who or Eastenders? Neither.
Sunrise or sunset? Sunset.
Fountain pen or newly sharpened pencil? Always loved fountain pens. They’ve morphed into a serious must have now.
Well, it was great to chat to you, Serena – come back soon!
Thanks so much and good luck to you all. May I have another slice of that divine cake?
You most certainly can; it’s my own recipe. And here’s a doggy bag to take home, just in case you have an energy crisis after all that interrogation. Safe journey – just make the fire up again on your way out, would you? It must be about nap time.