What better day to interview an author who is a self-confessed hopeless romantic than Valentine’s Day? I’m delighted to welcome Andie J Fessey, author of Comet, to Linda’s Book Bag in interview today.
Comet is available for purchase here.
For the residents of Harrowby Street, the blistering summer of 1947 brings a welcome respite after one of the worst winters on record.
Spending her days in a factory, Iris, the eldest of the Bennett siblings, works with her Mother, bringing in much needed money to their home, after the death of her Father.
Their friend and neighbour Sheila, fearing for her and her son Wally’s safety at the hands of her abusive husband, hatches plans to flee for a new beginning in Australia.
Iris’s brothers spend their days playing in the street and listening to tales spoken by Archie, the local Rag and Bone man.
Apart from avoiding the attention of the local bullies, the Nelsons, their days are content.
Until a heart-breaking tragedy strikes.
Time is rapidly ticking away for the Bennett children and their friends, caught in an adventure bringing them closer together and changing their lives forever.
As will all of the lives touched by a horse called Comet.
An Interview with Andie J Fessey
Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Andie. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your writing and Comet in particular. Firstly, please could you tell me a little about yourself?
Thank you Linda and it is truly my pleasure to be interviewed by you. Well, I’m Andie and I’m the author of two published novellas and novels, including my latest work, the romantic period drama Comet. I have spent over twenty five years in the murky world of the security service and, in addition to being an equestrian, archer, traveller, swordsman and, as I am repeatedly informed, an old fashioned, hopeless romantic, I am currently working my way through the twenty plus novels I currently have in the pipeline.
Why do you write?
Why do I breathe? Writing is something I always wanted to do and throughout my career, I have been able to do this in a professional capacity e.g. writing policies, procedures, processes, training manuals etc. It may sound boring to some, but it certainly placed me in good stead for self-editing my drafts. I have lived a colourful life, at times filled with adventure, thrills, travel, beautiful women and love and loss. It is a good feeling to be able to convey some of my tale into my works. I also enjoy the creativity and escapism and the feeling within myself, I am doing something my late parents would be proud of.
(So many authors tell me writing is akin to breathing for them Andie.)
When did you realise you were going to be a writer?
It became a personal goal of mine from a very early age, to one day write novels. It was around the time my teacher in Infant School screamed at me to stop writing on the walls and the other children with paint and to just “get on with it child!” I sat at my desk and picked a book from a nearby pile. It was a story set in space and it totally entranced me, taking me away from that hard bench and cold classroom and transporting me to far-flung distant galaxies. I knew from then onwards, I wanted to be a writer. I wrote my own short story called “Ellis” in the first year of High School and followed it with a short tale, involving wolves, which drew the whole class to tears! I was amazed at the effect my words had upon my peers. I was hooked.
(Speaking as an ex-teacher I’m glad it was school that inspired you – even if it wasn’t quite in the positive way I might have hoped!)
Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?
I find the dialogue the easiest part by far and quite often, that comes before the rest of the tale. The most difficult is purely and simply finding the time to write. I work extremely long hours and have gone from 5-8k+ words per day, to less than 1k. I have over Twenty One novels I am working on and it is purely finding the time to pen the words onto paper. I guess another self-imposed ‘difficulty’, is my maintaining self-discipline. My earnest intention is to work on my novels one by one, but (and that’s a big but!) I tend to have ideas for one book enter my mind whilst I am working on another and find myself jumping to that other book to write it down. My aim is to write the following five in this order, Dignity (Period Drama), Care to Love (Romance), Autumn (Romance), Fallen (Thriller) and Obsession (Psychological Thriller). Sounds like a plan, but let us see what order they end up in!
(My goodness! Most authors struggle to cope with one at a time!)
What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?
Working long hours has thrown my normal writing routine off-kilter slightly, but, as any writer does, we adapt. I love to drive and visit new places and that is when most of my tales appear, so having a decent voice app on my phone is a huge bonus. I also make character notes throughout the day on anything from post-it notes and writing pads to my mobile telephone, laptop and tablet. Once I have a kernel of an idea for a story, I write down the basic synopsis. From this, I will segment different ‘Scenes’ (I do not have them as individual chapters at this point, as one idea in one ‘scene’ may play out better in another I find.) From this, the chapters start to take life. At home, I either work upon the kitchen peninsula or, if the weather permits, sat outside in the back garden to write beneath the stars. Otherwise, I book myself into a nice country hotel at the weekend and work on my novels there.
Without spoiling the plot, please could you tell us a bit about Comet?
As one is quite renowned for going off on a tangent at the best of times, I shall allow the book blurb itself to answer this question. Blog readers will find it above!
What made you choose the harsh winter of 1947 for the setting for Comet?
Britain suffered the second worst winter in recorded history in 1947. Recovering from World War Two, the terrible conditions the harsh winter brought with it, virtually brought the country to its knees. Through this adversity, the country recovered regardless and hope prevailed. I felt this period ran parallel with Comets story, demonstrating with hope, strength, loyalty, dignity and love, anything can be accomplished. The background characters also fitted in well with this era, though the tales of love within the story can transcend any period in time. Love springs eternal.
How much do horses feature in your day to day life?
Up until the start of last year, they certainly featured daily in my life. I was fortunate enough to have two horse companions, an ex-steepler TB for Show Jumping and Cross Country and a Scottish / Dutch Warmblood for Dressage. Relocating to the West Midlands due to my work meant I could not commit myself to them 100 per cent and, as anybody around horses knows, it truly is a twenty four hour a day commitment. Fortunately, they are in the capable hands of an equestrian who loves them, so I know they are in the best place possible. I still keep my hand in the equine world and will shortly be getting back in the saddle so to speak. For now however, I shall use my knowledge of horses, to bring them to life upon the page.
(Oo – it must have been hard leaving them behind.)
Several authors have horses in their books. What qualities do they have that makes them so compelling?
With no deliberate intention of alienating any other animal lovers e.g. dogs and cats, I find horses to be the most empathetic of all animals. There is strength, dignity and a strong bond within a horse, which is difficult to place into words, but I hope by writing about them, it may convey to others what it is like to feel that bond. It is about having an unbreakable trust with an animal, an animal with the ability at any time to hurt or even kill you, but still getting onto its’ back and experiencing that connection. It is about looking into the horses’ eyes and feeling love and pride. It’s a feeling of freedom, human and horse joined as one in a glorious union. It is a skill, an art, a commitment to a person and their horse. It is a journey along a very long road, learning something new every day. It is about having a best friend who can read you like a book, who knows when you are happy or sad without being told and who just also happens to have a mane and tail. It’s about teamwork. I even enjoy the mucking out, so I guess I fall into the Lady Chatterley’s Lover bracket!
(I think that could be a whole other conversation!)
I’ve seen reviews that describe Comet as having fantastic and realistic dialogue. How do you achieve this?
When I write, I find the dialogue to be the easiest part of the story. To achieve this, I storyboard what I initially wish the characters to convey, their emotions, their current surroundings and situation. I play the characters enacting this within my mind, as if I were viewing them on the screen, running through their dialogue until it rings true. In my novella The Walk, the majority of the tale is a narrative by the main protagonist. That was enjoyable to do, his character existing within my mind and thoughts as his words came to life. If the dialogue feels stilted, wooden or just plain unbelievable however, it goes straight into the ‘nice try, but no biscuit’ pile.
How did you go about researching detail and ensuring Comet was realistic for its 1947 setting?
I am not the type to sit there and search on the internet, as I like to go out and ‘get my hands dirty’ so to speak. For the equine related details, I not only used my own personal equestrian expertise, but spoke to farriers who either worked in that era, or served their apprenticeships under somebody who did.
I spent a lot of time in libraries, travelling around the areas which would become the backdrop for Comet and interviewing local people who lived through that era, to obtain a feeling of what it was like to live back then.
Call it kismet if you wish, but when I relocated to the West Midlands, I found myself in a house-share with my landlady’s elderly Father, Arthur. Arthur turned out to be a font of knowledge of living life through that time. He was a godsend during the final editing of Comet and was not shy in pointing out any minor inconsistencies regarding even the smallest of details.
Comet has a cover that places the horse at the centre of the story. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?
The final cover of Comet is the third incarnation. The first cover was a stylised photograph of a rag and bone man walking to the distance, along a cobbled street. The second was of a group of children atop the rear of a horse-drawn cart. They were both adequate enough covers, but lacked that certain je ne sais quoi. In my mind’s eye, I kept seeing Comet’s profile as I completed the final edit of the draft, as he is the character who ties the others together. The final cover came about, purely by accident. Finishing a meal in a quaint country pub, my companion and I opted to take a stroll before returning to my car. She asked me what sort of horse Comet was (yes, I had bored her senseless over our meal!) and I did a quick search on the internet on my mobile for a horse fitting his description. I stopped in my tracks as lo and behold, the picture within my mind was there in front of me. A few alterations and copyright homage later and the cover became born.
If you could choose to be a character from Comet, who would you be and why?
It would be nice to say Comet himself, to observe and experience his perception of the events enacting around him. However, as a hopeless romantic, I would have to opt for the role of David. To experience the sweet excitement of meeting someone and falling deeply in love with them so soon, despite the events they find themselves embroiled within. To be kind, loyal, and generous, despite having nothing but himself and his heart to give. Actually, I think I AM David, so next question please!
Moving on! If Comet became a film, who would you like to play Iris and why would you choose them?
Sheridan Smith. I believe Sheridan to be one of our country’s most underrated actresses, who has an amazing scope of artistic ability, which could bring an innocence and strength to the role of Iris. To cheat and add another couple of characters to the mix, For Ron, I would say Tom Hardy and for Archie, Patrick Stewart or Ian McKellen.
When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?
I am an avid, voracious reader who devours books like a man possessed. I like reading biographies, mainly regarding comedians, in addition to anything by Dean Koontz, Michael Palin and Staci Layne Wilson. I love the novels by Stieg Larsson and wished he had written more, before he was taken away from this world. My taste in literature is quite eclectic, taking in multiple genres from thrillers and horrors, science-fiction and historical to crime, but, you are unable to beat reading a good old classic romance to warm the heart, whilst sat in front of an open fire.
If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that Comet should be their next read, what would you say?
Adventure? Tick. Action? Tick. Romance? Tick. Drama? Tick. Coming of age? Tick. Love? Tick.
Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Andie.
It has been an absolute pleasure Linda, thank you so much.
About Andie J Fessey
Andie J Fessey was born in Liverpool, England, to two wonderful parents. Living in Liverpool until his twenties, he then embarked upon a journey of wonder and experience throughout the world, employed within the dark and murky world of the security services for over twenty-five years.
He is the acclaimed author of The Walk, Two Hours, Origin and Comet.
He is currently residing in the UK working on his catalogue of twenty-one forthcoming novels.
He is also an equestrian, traveller, archer, swordsman and, as is often cited, an old-fashioned, hopeless romantic.