Sunday, December 19, 2010

Author Interview: Fiona Wood talking about Six Impossible Things

I am so thrilled to have Aussie author Fiona Wood on the blog! I rather bombarded her with questions (sorry Fiona! I'm naturally curious and maybe a tad over-enthusiastic at times...) which she so graciously took time out to answer.

And there's GOLD in her answers... Fabulous stuff for writers and fascinating stuff for readers

  • Mostly, I am in awe of such a brilliantly charming page-turner of a novel and I wanted to know how she did it (!!?!). 
  • I've read her debut, Six Impossible Things, twice this year (it's an irresistible and delicious way to spend an evening, and I was also hoping to absorb some of the magic into my own writing :) 
  • While I had Fiona - I also scored some lovely reading recommendations and got some news on her current project...

Fiona Wood is not only the brilliant author of very funny book but she's also a well-known scriptwriter (her career includes shows such as Neighbours, Home and Away, The Secret Life of Us (my fave!) and more...

*welcoming round of applause*

1. Six impossible things is such a fantastic character driven novel. Dan is charming, funny, unassumingly cute and with just the right amount of angst to make him impossibly endearing. Was it hard to find his story and craft it into a novel?

Thanks, Nomes. Because the novel started with Dan, and my focus was always on him, he very much suggested the shape of his story. So, for example, when Dan can’t resist reading Estelle’s diaries, he has to deal with the consequences of doing that – so story comes from the decisions he makes, and the decisions he makes come from his character. And when Dan sticks up for his friends, or avoids his dad’s calls, or introduces Lou and Fred – all those actions come from character and suggest consequences and story material.

But having said that – I also had some basic frameworks and themes that I kept in mind during the planning and the writing. One of them was the Cinderella story. And because I wanted Dan’s appearance to change through the course of the story as a concrete image of his ‘growing up’, I couldn’t resist having Oliver and Em play a bit of a fairy godmother role. Likewise, his mother’s business gave me a good reason to get Dan home by midnight. And so you get to a point where all the details of character and theme bounce off each other and suggest things to you.

It sounds tangled and convoluted, because it is. You use the word ‘craft’ in your question, and it is exactly like that, it’s like a weaving together of so many elements that all inform and, ideally, enrich each other.

(Me: okay, so I re-read that three times. THANK YOU!)

2. Six Impossible Things is so completely hilarious, from the situations the characters get into to the brilliant one-liners. How did you think all the brilliance up? Does it pour out while you're typing away or come to you in the middle of the night or is it just your genius brain shining through?

Ha ha. If only! A lot of the work does seem to happen subconsciously – I often wake up with ideas when I’m working on something. And I think if you can get to the point where your characters are solid in your mind, then their voices are clear as you write, and the things they say almost suggest themselves to you. And finally, I am a big rewriter and a cut-outer, so I did five drafts of this novel over about three years, which meant there was a lot of polishing and paring back through that process.

(me: five drafts over three years! It's a loving work of art ~ I'm so impressed!)

3. I love that Dan Cereill is an anagram of Cinderella. How did that come about? Was it part of your original inspiration?

Because the idea of the ‘boy least likely’ getting to go to the ball came to me early in the process, one of the first things I did was play around with the letters of Cinderella. He could have been a Ned or a Dan, but when I wrote Cereill as a possible surname, I could see there was some fun to be had with mispronunciation, so I went with that.

4. I know you're a planner rather than a pantser. Did your characters ever do things that surprised you?

I certainly did not expect Dan’s mother to get together with Ali, Dan’s boss! (I originally had Oliver in mind for her, but he ended up being younger, with a very kind and helpful girlfriend, Em, aka DJ Pony.) I didn’t plan for Dan and Jayzo to have a physical fight, either, but it just got to the point where that had to happen.

(Me: Argh! I loved Dan in the fight scene - it was so unexpected and tough and kinda cute too :) Also, DJ Pony is a fave of mine :) So happy for her and Oliver ;)

The thing about planning is that you notionally know where you’re going, and you can make sure that you have enough story elements to get you to your destination, but you inevitably end up taking some detours, and changing your plans a bit along the way.

I could never be a true pantser - I really do need to know where I’m heading, but there is always some pantsing involved, the little moments of inspiration that come from who knows where…

5. Were there any scenes, characters, etc, that you adored which didn't make it to the finished novel? Did it break your heart just a little?

I originally had Dan’s dog Howard’s thoughts visible to the reader. At the beginning of the narrative, Dan had no idea what Howard was thinking, and by the end he pretty well knew exactly what Howard was thinking. Of course Dan didn’t know that, but readers could see it. My intention was for this to represent Dan’s growing integration with his new world. But my editor very correctly talked me out of it because it was a point of view inconsistency, that is to say it was the only deviation from the first person point of view - it took us out of Dan’s head. I did have a pang when I chopped it all out, but I trusted my editor.

(Me: Oh ~ I do love the idea of seeing the dog's POV. Howard is still a wonderfully crafted little character :)

The other thing I chopped out was song lyrics. I had quite a few song fragments here and there, but it’s expensive to get the rights to use them. So the only remaining lyric is seven words from a Go-Betweens song, in a greeting between Dan and Fred.

6. If Dan and Estelle and crew could hang out with characters from another book, who would they be kicking back with?

Assuming we could equalise the ages - Estelle’s group could easily be friends with Destiny’s group (Beatle Meets Destiny) and Lucy’s group (Graffiti Moon). Dan and Fred would click with Tim (Loathing Lola). Janie would love talking movies with Gem (Notes from the teenage underground). And Dan would have been there for Will Grayson #1 when he left his group of friends on a matter of principle (Will Grayson, Will Grayson).

(Me: I absolutely imagined them hanging out with Destiny's group and Lucy's group too - another two groups of girls flitting around in Melbourne!)

7. I'd love to know some of your top YA book recommendations (recent or from your teen years)

In the last few months I’ve really loved reading ‘Graffiti Moon’ by Cath Crowley, ‘Beatle Meets Destiny’ by Gabrielle Williams, ‘This Is Shyness’ by Leanne Hall, ‘Loathing Lola’ by William Kostakis, ‘Everything Beautiful’ by Simmone Howell (which I re-read for a panel discussion, and it was even more beautiful the second time around), ‘When You Reach Me’ by Rebecca Stead (for younger readers), and ‘Speak’ and ‘Winter Girls’ by Laurie Halse Anderson. Jaclyn Moriarty is another great favourite. And there are so many more I could add to the list! In my own teen years I read so much - it was my number one activity. One writer I read for the first time then is Jane Austen. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Emma’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’ are fantastic teen reads.

(me: so many of my favourites here! We crush on the same books :) I'm in good company!)

8. Can you give us any clues about the YA novel 'Pulchritude' that you're currently working on? (I completely cannot wait to read it!) 

Sibylla Quince emerges from her pimply, nerdy middle secondary school cloud to be unexpectedly ‘beautiful’. She learns that this adjective comes with a whole load of problems. It’s a story about love, betrayal and a reassessment of friendships. (Lou (from Six Impossible Things) comes to Sibylla’s school, and they – eventually – become friends.)

(me: argh! I can't wait! I love the concept & I LOVE character cross-overs in stand alone novels!)

9. I am thrilled, ecstatic and shouting from the rooftops that you've been offered representation from a US-based agency. Do you have any scoops on the US version of Six Impossible Things?

Thanks, Nomes. I’m really thrilled, too, and I would love to think there might be a US version of Six Impossible Things one day, but it’s only gone out quite recently, and there’s no news yet. I’m keeping my fingers crossed - which makes typing very tricky.

(Me: I'm keeping my fingers crossed too ~ really super hard ~ and a bunch of other people who want it in their little international hands are hanging out for it too)

Thank you so much for inviting me to visit Inkcrush!

A very ecstatic and grateful thanks from me ~ thank you!


  1. Great interview, i always love to hear about how authors work and what went into the process of getting a novel written. I just recently watched Colm Tobin talking about his process, and how the first few days are all enthusiasm and joy and creative impulse and the rest of the time is just work work work. It's so interesting. I lol'd at the part about her cutting out the dog's POV at her editor's insistence. I've never once heard/read an author say they did something their editor suggested and regretted it! It must be hard work to be an editor - have to have very good persuasive skills I reckon. ps is this a new background? I really like it and am wondering if it's new or I've only just paid attention to it :-)

  2. Great interview Nomes! I can't wait for Fiona's new novel. Do you have any idea when the release date is?

    Loved the question about who Dan and Estelle would hang out. I can see them with Lucy and Destiny :)

    I want to re-read Six Impossible Things again!

  3. Thanks for the interview Nomes :) Can't wait for Pulchritude!

  4. Fascinating! I love how you asked about which characters from other books the characters from Six Impossible things would hang with. I can see from this interview that I *really* need to read this book.

    Also, I loved The Secret Life of Us too, and did a uni presentation on it once where I basically gushed and showed myself up. Awesome show.

  5. Six Impossible Things sounds like an incredible book. I haven't a clue about an of the characters, but I loved reading about them here :))

    I loved your questions, Nomes, and Fiona is so rad.

    Hoping this book is available elsewhere, too. I'd love to read it.

  6. This is a fantastic interview, Nomes! You came up with such good questions and I absolutely love the question about who her characters would hang out with. Great info about writing too, especially the planning vs pantsing thing - that's kind of me too! I HAVE to read this. Hope I can get my hands on it.

    Hugs, sweets!

  7. @ Mumma - the dog is still really cool. Thanks - I made the layour a bit rainy :) It has been raining ALL THE TIME HERE! (Probably where you are too!)

    @ Nic - it is great on a re-read - just as good if not better than the first imte!

    @ Jess - i can't wait for Pulchritude either!

    @ Bee - thanks! You would so love this book :) She is rad ;)

    @ Angie - thanks for stopping in! I hope you can get your hands on it to. I love your plotting in Nikki's Wish ~ am envious!


  8. i love the questions you asked, seriously, i would never be able to think of such funny original ones! plus the answers rocked too. Six Impossible Things is now on my wishlist! :) great interview.

  9. Fantastic interview! You asked excellent questions and got great answers. I am certainly desperate to get this book in my hot little international hands :)

  10. Fantastic interview! Six Impossible Things is on my reading list for the Aussie YA Challenge. I love that the author recommended Jane Austen novels :)


Thanks for the commenty love :)