Fiona Walker on The Country Escape

Today, I have the fantastic Fiona Walker on Becca's Books talking to me about her latest release The Country Escape and her life as an author. Fiona, I'd just like to say a huge thank you for agreeing to appear on Becca's Books, it is an absolute pleasure to have you here.

1.) Fiona, you chose to set The Country Escape in a quaint, lush county known as Herefordshire which, after a little research, I found out is not too far away from me at all, about an hour and a half. I'm so tempted to go and stand in a field just to feel closer to Kat and Dougie! What made you want to set The Country Escape here? Despite it obviously being the perfect place to escape to the country, of course!

I live just across the county boundary from Herefordshire and I love escaping there - it's a beautiful county, heavy with hops and apples and steeped in myth and history. It's being nick-named The New Cotswolds because celebrities are increasingly snapping up property and posing around for Hello! in tweed there, although I don't think it will ever be spoilt. It has such a strong identity and a beauty all of its own. 

2.) Kat Mason was such a lovable character, especially with her gorgeous red hair and freckled face. She just seemed so natural and fresh. And then Dawn came along, haha! Did you enjoy creating these two? Did you have a lot of fun kitting Dawn out with her hair extensions and fake tan? They seemed the complete opposite of each other. 

I love contrasting characters, and they were both such fun to write. Dawn was based on somebody I know and adore who always comes to see me looking immaculate and spends the next hour or two dancing around to avoid muddy dogs and sticky-fingered children whilst sharing the most scurrilous gossip. I love her, even though I find it a bit bizarre that every Friday night she anoints herself in fake tan and sleeps on a towel in the spare bedroom. Kat is much more like me. The freckles and red hair were stolen from another friend, but the make-do-and-mend positive determination is definitely home grown. 

3.) The animals of Lake Farm played a huge role in this which added to the wonderful countryside atmosphere. Are you a fan of animals? Do you have any horse-riding experience? Your descriptions were so vivid in the story I had no choice but to believe so. 

I love animals, grew up around them, and can't be without them; they're like family to me. We currently have an elderly dog and cat, a savage pet rabbit, and a lot of horses (my partner is a dressage coach). I've ridden all my life, although I don't get much opportunity these days because I'm juggling work and young children. I keep hoping my daughters will become pony mad, but the current obsessions are Barbies and Dragons, so I might have to wait a bit longer. My older daughter is pushing hard for chickens, however - she knows all the breeds and has selected her favourites for the wish list - so that might be the next venture. The last time I kept them, years ago, I remember spending long twilit hours chasing them round the garden trying to get them into the coop before the fox came hunting, so it might at least get me fit. 

4.) Fiona, I have to tell you, I developed a pretty big book-crush on your character Dougie Everett. Did you base him on anyone that you know or was he purely from your imagination? I understand that you're married but would Mr Everett be the kind of man to catch your eye? 

I'm so glad you liked him - I love the bad boys! My first hero, Hugo, was a terrible rogue and I confess I far prefer writing men like him, Dougie and Felix from Kiss Chase (probably my baddest boy of all) than metrosexual heroes who 'share the pain' from the start. When a rouge falls in love and gives his heart, it's true fireworks. Dougie and his predecessors are all loosely based on real men, as most of my characters are inspired by people I know. In real life, I don't think Dougie would be remotely compatible with me, but the beauty of writing for a living is that it's all make believe and nobody gets hurt. 

5.) The character Dollar was rather mysterious and a little bit robot-like. What was it that you were hoping to achieve by including Dollar in the story? She was very glamorous and totally in love with a certain someone, but still visited a certain other someone now and again. 

Dollar started life based on a mother at my daughter's school who is killingly polite and cool, then on Sport's Day in the mum's race, a beast is unleashed and she's terrifyingly competitive. It made me want to write this enigmatic, beautiful and very controlling woman who hides a volcano of fierce passion. The fact she's so incapable of laughing at herself made it easy to have lots of fun with her in the plot, particularly at the end when her secret is revealed, although her 'dark' side was tricky to handle (and she changed from being Ukainian to Indian part way through the writing process, which was a challenge!).

6.) Do you have any more book ideas lined up? Do you constantly have ideas for stories stored in your head or do you need to be inspired before you sit down to write? 

I always have lots of ideas stored up and find plots wherever I go - my problem is sticking to just one. That's probably why my books are so long, because I try to cram lots of plot ideas together in one novel. I have notepads piled high with book ideas that will never get written, and I hate wasting them. 

7.) What did you want your readers to take away from your story? Was there a hidden message within? 

I always set out to entertain first and foremost. I want to take the reader away from the day to day frustrations of life and put them into a world that's glorious escapism, filled with characters they really care about and come to see as friends. If there is a message in The Country Escape, it's that we are all capable of overcoming our fears and insecurities. 

8.) You've written so many books, Fiona! Which would you say you enjoyed writing the most? Does romance play a huge part for you? 

I've loved writing them all in different ways - some just flew out whereas others took a long time to get into and to keep control of, but once you are there and living and working in your imaginary world, there's no place like it. It's my own personal escape, and romance plays a huge part of it. I'm lucky to have the most fabulous man in real life as well as those sexy devils men in my fictional life, which really is the best of both worlds. 

9.) In The Country Escape, was Eardisford Estate based upon a real building? Are there lots of estates scattered around the area of Herefordshire? 

Like my characters, my settings are often amalgams. Eardisford was based upon a combination of my favourite Jacobean stately home in Suffolk, a Dorset estate I read about that's being sold privately, complete with village and cricket pitch (and with lots of stipulations attached preventing it from being brought by an Oligarch) and an estate that came up for sale in Herefordshire two years ago overlooking a 50 acre lake. The area has a lot of huge old estates, many of which are still intact and trapped in time because they haven't been sucked into commercial use like those closer to London which are now health spas, of ices and hotels. 

10.) What is your favourite thing about living in the countryside? 

It's the people, which sounds rather counter-intuitive given lots of us escape here for peace and quiet, but rural people have a different way of looking at things and generally are a lot friendlier than urbanites. They're also a lot more eccentric as a rule. Best of all, most of us love animals. This is their patch - fur and feather rules - we just fit in around them. 

11.) Fiona, what's your advice to any aspiring writers? 

I always say "finish it" - the simplest advice, but something that so many aspiring writers fail to do. There are far too many half-finished novels out there, so by sticking to it, working through the tough patches and getting to the bit where you can type The End, you are already way ahead of the game. It can be the hardest part, but don't let it defeat you. Then celebrate - you've written a novel! 


Thanks so much for being here today, Fiona! It has been fabulous having you here and I look forward to more titles from you in the future! 
Becca xxx

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