I’m currently editing a collection of short stories called “A to Z: Short Stories Inspired by London”. The stories are all connected because they are set in London and the city is very much a main character in many of the stories. I am very proud of this collection because I have tackled some themes that are quite heavy – religion, death, racism – but I’ve tried to do it in an unusual and uplifting way which prompts discussion rather than sadness or judgment. I’m also about halfway through the first draft of my novel which is about a young woman in the 29th year of her life. It’s a part-mystery, part-family drama about the problems she faces and the unusual ways she goes about solving them.
How did you come up with the title?
I came up with the title “A to Z” because of the famous London street atlas which has the same name. It’s also the title of one of the short stories about a young Asian man called “A” and an old Polish migrant called “Mr Z” and how their lives intertwine in the block of flats they live in in Shepherd’s Bush, London.
Can you tell us about your main character?
Because A to Z is a collection of short stories there are many different main characters, but I can tell you about one of them who appears in all of the stories. He is a taxi driver – he drives one of the famous London black cabs – and he pops up at least once in each of the stories. He also has his own story “Keep the Change”, about how he likes to flirt with all the women passengers he picks up and how one day this gets him into a lot of trouble!
As for my novel, well, the main character is a young woman who likes writing lists, staying in and having cups of tea with her 87 year old grandmother. She doesn’t sound like your average single 29 year old, but there is a good reason for this which becomes clear in the story. Set in a fictional town in southeast England, she undergoes a series of almost inexplicable changes based on a split-second decision she makes and through these changes she gains confidence to take on both the police and a local organised crime outfit in solving a ten year old crime that so many people tried to bury.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
I am forever coming up with new ideas for stories, plots and characters. I always know which ones will work better than others because they are the ones I never forget. I then “brain dump” as much information about the characters in character cards created on Scrivener and I also make sure I have a chapter outline before I start writing the first draft. That said, I try to keep my planning flexible
Who designed the cover for Shy Feet?
I’m very lucky that I had already connected with an illustrator called Laura Hickman for my first book See the Amalfi Coast (which is now free on Amazon and Kobo) so I asked her to provide the feet illustration that is on the front cover. I then worked closely with a designer friend of mine to figure out the layout and colour combination. I was very lucky that my cover was very cost-effective because my friend refused to take money from me, but at the same time if they could never help out again, I’d be happy to pay good money, because a good cover is crucial.
How do you promote this book?
I’ve been experimenting with many different things to promote Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel. Some of them have been very successful – selling signed copies on my blog, doing author interviews on book blogs and gently promoting price promotions on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ – however, I’m still not 100% sure what really works and what doesn’t. Sometimes I get sales peaks out of nowhere and I do my best to investigate where they may have come from, but to be honest, I’ve learned the hard way that the best thing you can do to promote one book is to have another sitting next to it on the virtual Amazon or Kobo shelves. I try not to waste too much time worrying about what works and what doesn’t and instead I try to focus on writing and ensuring I do a little a lot to promote my work.
Will you write others in this same genre?
Absolutely, I’m already thinking about a second collection of short stories inspired by travel and I’ve begun writing a sequel to See the Amalfi Coast, one of the standalone short stories in the collection. It’s called “Pink Flowers” which anybody who has read the first book may have an idea of what this relates to! I’m also keen to add other collections that are linked by places; I’ve already come up with lots of ideas for stories set in Amsterdam, where I’m currently living.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I really want readers to be moved by the stories in Shy Feet and that could be physically – I’ve heard that it gives people serious cases of itchy feet! – figuratively or emotionally. In fact, I like to call my fiction “Stories which move you” so it’s really important that there is something in Shy Feet that stays with people long after they’ve finished reading it.
Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Yes and no. I don’t have to travel for my writing but because I do a lot of travel – for pleasure and work – I think my stories will always be influenced by travel and I will always find new ideas for new stories when I’m in new places. That said, my first novel is set in the south of England, close to where I grew up and I specifically wanted to write a story that wasn’t about travel at all, because I’m aware not everyone travels as much as me and it’s important that I give readers who don’t travel a story that is set in one place but is just as moving and just as interesting.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Based on the last two years of living out of a suitcase, I have no idea where I’ll be, but I hope that I am still writing, still falling in love with my partner and still smiling every day. Work wise, I would love to be writing fiction full-time, but if not, I hope that I still enjoy the work I do. I would also love to have an office with a view and a huge bookcase that covers the whole of one wall… or maybe two.
Are you reading any interesting books at the moment?
I just recently finished an excellent book called “Editor of Genius” about Max Perkins, who was editor to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, among many others. His patience, insight and ideas truly made those authors better writers. The book is also beautifully written by A. Scott Berg; it’s one of the best biographies I’ve ever read. I’ve also just finished reading Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach which is set in 17th century Amsterdam, which I found fascinating as that’s the city where I now live. I have just started to read Nightwood by Djuna Barnes, a book that few have read but those who have claim it’s one of the most striking texts of the early 20th century and I’m also part way through Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, as I’m trying to read more classics.
“This collection of stories is like a blanket woven from 100% wanderlust under which you can hide as Frances M. Thompson tucks you in with her words and keeps you warm with her descriptions of characters you’ll love and places you can tell she knows by heart.” Gesa Neitzel, www.bedouinwriter.com
Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel is a collection of twelve quirky, charismatic and touching tales of travel.
The inquisitive Ruth tells the story of The Lost Children of Gatwick Airport and in Max’s Holiday we learn what a seven-year-old boy considers a “proper holiday” to be. In The Flowers Sleep Tonight, we meet Thomas and Carly, two solo travellers whose paths keep crossing… because that’s exactly what Thomas wants. A spontaneous plan to elope is revealed in The Runaways and Homes from Homes is about the lessons Patricia learns from the hotel bellboy she has a fling with. Oh, Henry is the story of how a dream holiday can mean two different things to two lovers and Katie’s Maps is an offbeat love letter to a vast collection of maps. Extracts from a travel journal tell one woman’s life story in All the Beaches are Made of Pebbles and find out what Australia and underpants have to do with Claudia wanting to leave her husband of forty years in The Road is Long.
From the unforgiving Australian Outback to the jagged beauty of the Amalfi Coast, along the pebbled beaches of Brighton & Hove and down the busy streets of late night Barcelona, this collection of short stories highlights how travel intersects and enriches all of our lives, often without us realising it…
“Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel transports you to exotic locales without leaving your armchair and leaves you wanting more… Frances M. Thompson has a novel in her and I can’t wait to read it.” Nathalie Harris, www.acooknotmad.com
Genre – Short Stories, Contemporary Fiction
Rating – PG13
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