Meet the Author – Fiona Barton

THE WIDOW                      THE CHILD      

        5/5 STARS                              4/5 STARS       

MY THOUGHTS:

I remember picking up a copy of The Widow on a cold, but sunny December morning last year in Chapters, and reading the synopsis. The story immediately spoke to me and I knew I had to get the book. As I sat down later on that night and indulged into the novel… I.Could.Not.Put.It.Down. Chapter after chapter, page after page, every character was creepier and more interesting. I was so immersed into the world of Jean Taylor, that I completely forgot my own. I loved Barton’s writing, and as I finished the novel, I honestly was craving MORE. Jean Taylor’s husband was fascinating to me – and Jean just as equally intriguing. 

Then, Fiona Barton released The Child in June 2017, and I was ecstatic! I picked up the book right away, and again, sat down and kept on reading – chapter after chapter, page after page. Every character within the novel was interesting, and I honestly had no idea how the story would even end. The way Barton writes allows you to completely immerse yourself into the lives of her characters, and imagine what you would do in their scenarios. Her second novel absolutely did not disappoint, and I am looking forward to reading more of Barton’s writing.

I am a huge fan of thrillers/mysteries, especially with female heroines & protagonists, and Barton’s novels definitely do not disappoint my cravings. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Fiona Barton has definitely become one of my favourite authors. Before writing her first novel, The Widow, Barton was a senior writer at the Daily Mail, and even won Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards. Her writing flows, and her characters have such depth, and her writing gives you the ability to go inside her characters’ minds.

Luckily, she agreed to do a little Q&A with me!

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THE INTERVIEW:

Who’s your favourite author?

It seems to change from year to year – and sometimes day to day as I discover new writers but constants are authors who take risks to tell stories in new ways. Kate Atkinson and Hilary Mantel are particularly inspirational. Mantel (Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies) for the brilliance and vividness of her story-telling. She broke so many rules – and was criticized by some – but I was in her world from page one; Atkinson (When Will There Be Good News? And Life After Life) for her characters and showing me the power of a story told by many; and John Irving (Cider House Rules and A Prayer for Owen Meany) for his sheer, bonkers, otherness.

Favourite book or genre to read?

Reading is my passion so I read widely and enjoy all kinds of fiction – literary, historical, crime, thrillers, kitchen dramas, short stories, epics, trilogies, romans fleuves – you name it. The book I wish I had written is Wolf Hall.

Has your writing progress changed at all after writing The Widow?

Hugely. I felt huge pressure starting my second book. The success of The Widow meant there were expectations for number two and a deadline from the first word, creating a completely different writing experience. For the first one, no one knew I was writing it so I could let it cook in my head, move sentences around a hundred times and leave it for weeks on end. But Book 2 was a whole other story (in every sense…). What I have learned from both experiences is not to rush to put words on the page – thinking time is as important.

Where do you draw your inspiration from for your novels?

The people on the edge of a story, just out of the spotlight, have been my inspiration. They have a sort of invisibility that I find draws me into their world. I want to know what happens when the press pack leaves and the world stops watching. Because without witnesses or the distraction of the media scrum, masks cannot help but slip.

You were previously a reporter and a news editor. Would you say that being a reporter inspired you to become a writer?

To be honest, I had to unlearn an awful lot when I changed from reporter to fiction writer – you can’t put the whole story in the first paragraph in a thriller! But what I have kept from my journalism is a nose for a good story, and the wonderful cast of characters I amassed during those years.

For 30 years, I was watching and listening to people caught up in dramas, tragedies and conflicts. I squirreled away characters, snippets of conversations, encounters and when I came to write the book, they were all there, ready.

When I read The Widow last year, I was so stunned at the complexity of the characters. As a reader, you’re geared towards hating the husband… but I found Jean Taylor the most perplexing. Where did you get your ideas for this couple?

As a journalist, I spent a lot of time in court. In the big cases, I would find myself watching the wives of those accused of notorious and terrible crimes and wondering what they really knew – or allowed themselves to know. 

I wanted to know how do you cope with the idea that your husband – the man you chose to spend the rest of your life with – may be a monster? Jean and Glen grew out of that fascination and took me on an unexpected journey.

Do you plan on writing another novel any time soon?

I am deep into book 3 now. Watch this space…

Would you like to see either (or both?) of your novels adapted to the big screen?

Both The Widow and The Child have been optioned for television – very excited but not counting my chickens…

Any advice for young aspiring writers out there?

Two pieces of advice stick out: Writing is not just about putting words on a page. Ideas have to cook first. And: hold your nose and write (thank you Hallie Ephron!)

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Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me, Fiona! Looking forward to your next book!

Stay up to date with Barton’s latest project at her website: http://fionabartonauthor.com

Until next time bookies,

Sam

Meet the Author – Rene Denfeld

THE CHILD FINDER

4.5/5 STARS

Imagine getting lost in a forest in the middle of winter… and suddenly waking up in a cave like environment with a strange man hovering over you? Imagine being so young, and so innocent, that you don’t understand where you are, and result to convincing yourself that you are living a story right out of a book.

Rene Denfeld’s newest book The Child Finder is eerie, thrilling and a book of hope in some ways. When young Madison goes missing while with her parents, Madison’s parents hire Naomi, a private investigator but known as “The Child Finder” to find their daughter.

Denfeld is an inspiring writer, and was the chief investigator at a public defender’s office and worked with hundreds of cases that included sex trafficking victims and innocents in prisons. She has also been a foster adoptive parent for the past twenty years.

MY THOUGHTS ON THE CHILD FINDER:

I really enjoyed this book. It took me just a few days to finish because I couldn’t put it down. I loved how it would change between different character perspectives – it offered a very creepy, thrilling feel and kept feeding my hunger to find out what exactly happened to young Madison. The writing in this book was beautiful, but simple enough to understand human nature, and how PTSD can truly alter a person’s life forever. If you are a fan of thrillers/mysteries, I would definitely recommend this book! A must read for 2017 for sure!

Denfeld was gracious enough to answer a few questions for me regarding her highly successful book! Check it out below!

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Q & A:

Who’s your favourite author?

Like many writers, I read voraciously. I have SO many favorites, I’m hesitant to start listing them all. I go through kicks where I will read all the works by one author, or return to old favorites. It’s not unusual for me to read a favorite book several times. I’ve been reading a lot of short story collections lately. One recent one is Margaret Malone’s PEOPLE LIKE YOU. For all time faves I might say Margaret Atwood, Jane Smiley, Louise Erdrich, Ken Kesey, Cheryl Strayed, Kia Corthron, Donald Pollock, Viet Nguyen…okay, I’ll stop!

Favourite book or genre to read?

I love all genres. There is so much to learn from other writers, whether it is nonfiction, literary fiction, memoirs, straight reporting, books of essays or short stories—and of course poetry. I love poetry and it probably shows in my novels. 

You’ve written quite a few books over the years… has your writing progress changed at all?

My writing changed dramatically when I went from nonfiction to novels. I was a decent nonfiction wrier, but fiction is where my true voice came pouring out, full of warmth and magic and wisdom. I love creating the characters of novels, and creating an exciting plot. Writing fiction for me is a joyous experience that brings out the best in me as a writer and person. 

Where do you draw your inspiration from for your novels?

I’ve been deeply inspired by my work and other life experience, including adopting my children from foster care. I have a very difficult background, and so I am able to explore such issues in my novels with authenticity and compassion. I try to write real characters—the kind of people you would really meet. They feel that real to me.  

You’re also a licensed investigator in Oregon which I find so cool! Would you say that being an investigator inspired you to become a writer?

Absolutely! To date I’ve worked hundreds of cases, from sex trafficking to death row exonerations. Every day people tell me their stories. They welcome me into their lives, and I get to help them. That’s profoundly inspiring. I get to witness and experience things that few people do, and writing is an opportunity for me to tell those stories and truths. For instance, I have witnessed so much redemption and healing in my work. In The Child Finder I show how people can save themselves and others, and our vast capacity to survive.
 

In your recent novel, The Child Finder, Naomi is an investigator that specializes in finding missing children and giving parents a sense of relief… is Naomi based on you at all?

She’s younger, and specializes in missing children. But a lot of the procedural stuff she does comes from my own experience. It was a fun part of the novel to include the real, nitty-gritty shoe leather investigation techniques. I like to say 99% of investigations is diligence. It’s knocking on door after door. It’s getting people to open up and talk. It’s finding forgotten records. Mostly it is keeping at it until you find the truth. In that way Naomi and I are the same—we are dedicated to finding the truth. But she is a much different person in other ways. I wanted to create a character that lived and breathed apart from me. 

Some Russian “fairy tales” were used in The Child Finder, are you a fairy tale fan? What would you say is your favourite?

Oh, I love fairy tales. I grew up immersed in them as a child—I would escape into my own made-up fairy tales. One of my childhood favorites is in The Child Finder. It’s called the Cow-Tail Switch. I was raised in an African-America neighborhood, and our library had a collection of such fables. I was greatly influenced by African and African-American fables as a child.

How has being an investigator, a writer, and a foster-adoptive parent changed you as a person?

It’s humbled me, and made me see the beauty in the struggle, the joy in the process. For every harm I have witnessed, I have seen countless acts of people being good. The volunteers, the teachers, the readers, the writers, the neighbors—our world is full of people who care, who want to help. Those people exist. As I write in The Child Finder, our future needs to be led by people who “have walked on the side of sorrow and seen the dawn.” 

Do you plan on writing another novel any time soon?

Fingers crossed—yes! 

Any advice for young aspiring writers out there?

If you write, you are a writer. Anyone can be a writer. Look at me. I was an abused child and homeless. But it takes lots of work. So my advice is this: read widely and read well. Good reading leads to good writing. Practice, and practice some more. Create a life outside your writing because that life will be your solace and inspiration. Find the magic. Roll around in life and come up covered with joy.
Rene – thank you for sharing your amazing talent with the world and for the work you do for humanity outside of writing.
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