61. I used to think that was old, but now I know better.
Where are you from
I was born and brought up in London and now live in Jerusalem.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I studied Maths at university and worked first as a computer programmer and later as a technical writer. I’m married with three grown-up children, two of whom live with us. There is also a cat.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My romance with a difference, Neither Here Nor There was published by Crooked Cat Publishing in June.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always enjoyed expressing myself in writing, but have only tried writing fiction and creative non-fiction for the past ten years.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When my novel was accepted for publication in February.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I joined an excellent online course for writing romances, run by Sally Quilford. Afterwards I kept in touch with two of the participants, Sue Barnard and Gail Richards, who gave me a lot of help and advice, and encouraged me to complete my novel.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I like to see the funny side of things, although I wouldn’t describe my writing as humorous.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Throughout the novel, the heroine, Esty, is in the process of leaving one community for another and feels she doesn’t completely belong in either. In other words, she’s neither here nor there.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
There are several messages they could get from it. Perhaps the main one is this: On the surface, people in other countries, with other religions, beliefs and ways of life, may appear very alien, but underneath we’re all human beings with similar urges and aspirations. Another message is about the dangers of extremism.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
All the descriptions are of real places and scenes, in Jerusalem, Tel-Aviv and London. There are people, though relatively few, who, like Esty, decide to leave the haredi community. As in the story, there is a voluntary organisation that helps such people. Mark, the hero, follows the usual path of a new immigrant to Israel. So I would say the book is very realistic.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I suppose Mark’s experiences as a new immigrant are similar to mine, although times have changed since I arrived and I reflected those changes in the novel. I don’t know anyone who has left the haredi community; my knowledge came from extensive reading.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most?
A lot of books have drawn me in, emotionally, but they didn’t necessarily influence my life. I suppose they would have to be books I identified with – books about Jews and Israel: The Diary of Ann Frank, novels by Leon Uris and Howard Jacobson’s The Finkler Question. If I’d read any books that involved bullying or social anxiety as a child or young adult, I’d have included those, but I didn’t. Except for Lord of the Flies by William Golding, which possibly influenced my life in a bad way.
Fiona: If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I don’t think I can choose one out of the many and varied writers I’ve read.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Sally Quilford’s new novel: The Steps of the Priory.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Recently I’ve been reading books by fellow Crooked Cat authors. Ailsa Abraham, Jeff Gardiner, Sue Barnard, Vanessa Couchman, K B Walker, Gill James, Catriona King and Carol Hedges are all excellent writers. Also D.B. Schaefer. I fell in love with the concept of her novel, Me & Georgette, and enjoyed the writing and the humour in it.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
My current WIP, is about a man who doesn’t fit into society. It’s sad and hopefully funny, too. I’ve been working on it for some time and haven’t got it right yet.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Two writing groups and two other writing buddies.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Without intending it, I seem to have made writing my career. I couldn’t support myself with it, financially.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’m sure I would. Each time I read something I wrote, I think of better ways of writing it. Writers have to draw the line somewhere or we’d never finish a book.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
After discovering the term “social anxiety” I joined a forum of people who shared this problem and learned a lot about the different ways in which they were affected. What struck me the most was the lack of knowledge and understanding amongst the general population, caused by its very nature: because those who have experienced it refrain from talking about it. So I decided to put my writing skills to use to raise awareness. I started with non-fiction and progressed to fiction, and I’m still working on a story that involves social anxiety. In the process, I learned a lot about creative writing and wrote other stories.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
Martin, who as you might have guessed has social anxiety, is struggling with life when suddenly he’s sent to Japan on work and the whole company is relying on him to pull off a deal.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Maintaining the confidence necessary to succeed.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I don’t have a favourite. There are so many brilliant authors.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I travelled around my home town of Jerusalem, visiting the sites I described. Up to now, I haven’t needed to travel much, although I remember dragging my husband along a main road in Winchester in England, because I wanted to know if there was a bench outside a hospital.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Crooked Cat, with input from me.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Self-doubt and writing descriptions. I’ve improved with descriptions.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned to write descriptions. And I learned that I really can write a whole novel.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep at it.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading my book. If you’ve written a review of it, thank you even more. The review doesn’t have to say the book is perfect. Not everyone can like the same book and no book is really perfect. I want to know about its imperfections so that I can do better next time. But if you want to praise it, that’s fine, too. More than fine.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Probably one by Enid Blyton.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
Folk dancing, walking, reading, listening to music.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I must admit I never watch TV any more; there’s just no time. In the old days, we used to relax with rubbish like Love Boat and Three’s Company. I often listen to BBC radio when I’m working in the kitchen – programmes like Woman’s Hour, Open Book, Last Word and From Our Own Correspondent. I see films occasionally – not action or violence usually.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Don’t laugh. I like eggs and I like potatoes. Colour? Possibly purple. Music: Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Mussorgsky, Dvorak and lots more. And The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Simon and Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, Roberta Flak and more. And some you won’t have heard of, like Arik Einstein, Yehudit Ravitz and Mati Kaspi.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I can’t think of anything. I’m so happy to be a writer.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Neither Here Nor There is available from: