Welcome to the latest FFI. I’ve had a busy fortnight, writing, working, jogging, and more writing. The latest DCI Jones Casebook, Sean A Freeman is with the beta readers and I await feedback—scary. But more of that in another blog post, it’s time to introduce my guest, my Canadian friend and psychological thriller author, Julie Frayn. Check out her website, it’s sweet.
KJD: Welcome Julie, how you doing this afternoon? Okay, let’s be honest here. We’re talking virtually, nobody’s going to believe that you flew over from Canada, but this Skyps connection’s clear as crystal. You’re looking well.
JF: Hi Kerry, things are going great, thanks. How are you?
KJD: My back’s been playing up this week; aches like an achy thing on a lumpy mattress, but, as you know, I never complain. It’s probably the cold weather. I don’t like the cold, you know?
JF: Cold, Brittany? Don’t make me laugh. Have you ever spent the winter in Alberta? Now, that’s cold, I can tell ya.
KJD: Okay, fair enough, I can’t ever beat a Canadian in a weather one-upmanship contest. So, not we’re settled, let’s help the readers get to know you a little better. I start all my interviews with a gentle opener and here’s on, what’s the best thing about your home, Calgary, right?
JF: Oh man, where do I start? Calgary has the unfortunate nickname ‘Cowtown’. That is not the best thing. More like the worst. The best thing is that it defies that nickname by being cosmopolitan, full of art and culture and history and amazing cuisine. We have the mountains in our backyard and that comes with deer and rabbits and all manner of wildlife in my ACTUAL yard. I just let the rabbits dig up my lawn and nest. I love this place.
KJD: Wonderful, I can picture it now. What you see out of your studio window?
JF: If I opened the drapes, I’d see my neighbour’s front yard, and an endless sky. I don’t open the drapes when I write because the daylight is blinding (folks tell me I’m vampirish in my search for darkness). That, and I don’t want anyone to steal my writing secrets. (I may be a touch off-kilter too).
KJD: Hey, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t you mover the video camera to show me? Yes that’s right, perfect. Wow, it’s so beautiful and the mountains are stunning.
But about word theft, tee hee. I live in the middle of nowhere. There’s no one around to steal my ideas, at least nobody who speaks English. Aren’t we sounding a touch paranoid?
Here’s another gentle question. You’re shipwrecked on a deserted paradise island, apart from the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare, what other book must you have and why?
JF: Just one? That’s a tough call… I would leave the ones you mention behind, more likely to take the complete works of Barbara Kingsolver or John Irving. The book that continues to haunt me would have to be my choice of only one—I Know This Much is True by Wally Lamb. And it’s over 850 pages, so it take a VERY long time to read.
KJD: Dang, sorry you failed. You tried for three when I offered one, now you get none. Didn’t you learn the rules from the last FFI? See how tough I am?
Let’s move on to the next ‘getting to know you’ question. You’re planning a dinner party and have a choice of five guests, (you can chose from anyone in history). Who do you chose and why? By the way, I have dibs on Albert Einstein, Mahatma Ghandi, Richard Dawkins, the Pope, and the Dalai Lama—what a great conversation that would be, eh? And I’d get them all drunk on a decent Châteauneuf-du-Pape (get it, du Pape? Tee hee).
JF: Yes, I get it, oh dear. Stick to your crime thrillers, Kerry. Don’t waste your time with comedy. And by way, I wanted Mr Einstein, let me think.
Oh yes, Agatha Christie, because I’ve read everything she’s written (except her romances). I would LOVE to bend her ear, or have her bend mine. John F. Kennedy, because he is an enigma and he died the year I was born so for reasons I can’t fully explain, I feel connected to him in some strange, warped way. Charles Darwin, because, come on, evolution and all, and my I names my son after him. Neil Diamond, because he could serenade us while we ate cheese and bread and fish and cheesecake and sipped red wine. My father, because I miss him.
KJD: Sweet and poignant. I’d like to chat with my Mum and Dad again, too. Mainly to ask where they hid the bloody inheritance. Moving on, before I start crying into my Burgundy, for how long have you been writing creative fiction?
JF: I’ve been writing since I was a little kid, making up stories in my head. School let me write them down. Life stalled the process (KJD: Tell me about it, Julie), while I sorted out how to put food on the table and raise two perfect children. In the interim, I sketched and did pointillism and sewed clothes and comforters. I started writing again in 1998 and have not really stopped. But it did take fifteen years to turn writing into a published product, to put myself truly out there.
KJD: Fifteen years, wow. A real labour of love. I admire your tenacity. I’ve only been writing since 2012 and it feels like a lifetime. Now for the part your fans will want to know. Can you tell me about your work in progress? What’s it about? How about giving us a sneak preview? Come on, open up the can.
JF: Well, I have two ‘latest works’ on the go, but the one I plan to finish first is titled The Orphan and the Rose. My parents are the inspiration. It is a fictionalized version of their lives and their love story. It will be a very Canadian tale, spanning the country from Cardston to Montreal, starting in 1945 when Mom was 12 and Dad approximately the same age. The story tells of their separate lives through their teens until they meet on a Lethbridge, Alberta train platform in 1951 when Mom was 19 and Dad 18. The book will end in 1960 (just before kids arrive—won’t be telling my story).
It’s fictional for many reasons. For one, I don’t want to be tied down to facts. And I can no longer rely on Mom’s version of reality as her memories fall into Alzheimer’s holes never to be found again. With Dad gone 20 years now, I’d rather make stuff up, dot the book with scenes based fully in fact (as I remember the numerous stories), but the details imagined. In most of my books, there is foul language, violence, and drug use—and sex. No actual sex in this one. I grew up across the hall from Mom and Dad—I’ve had quite enough of their sex for one lifetime.
KJD: Oh no, don’t want to think about my mother and father ‘at it’. Moving on. When’s the book due out?
JF: I am hoping to publish by June, 2015. Here’s a tiny sneak preview:
“Listen here you little worm.” Frankie poked Will’s chest with her index finger and left it there, pressing it into his ribcage. “This is my house, not yours. My family, not yours.”
“I know. But Mum and Dad want me to live here.”
“Well I don’t. And they aren’t your mum and dad. You’ll never be my brother. And don’t you go thinking that you’re going to inherit any of this. It’s all mine, understand?”
Will shook his head. “Inherit?”
“When they die, stupid. I get the house and the silver and the car. You get nothing. I’ve put in twenty-two years already. You don’t get to come along and steal it all out from under me.”
“I don’t want any of their stuff. And I’d never steal anything from you. And I don’t want them to die. Are they going to die?” Tears stung his eyes and dripped onto the blanket.
Frankie rolled her eyes. “You really aren’t too bright, are you?” She sat on the edge of the bed. “Everyone dies. They’re not dying now or anything. Just don’t expect anything. Don’t ask for anything. Don’t take anything. Just get the hell out of here as soon as you’re old enough. And don’t ever call me your sister. You got it?” She raised one eyebrow. The cream on her forehead crinkled and crackled.
“Good.” She turned away.
“Why do they call you Frankie?”
“It’s short for Frances.”
Will’s brows creased. “But it’s not any shorter.”
She squinted. “Shut up, pipsqueak. You never heard of a nickname?” She stood and stalked out the door, slamming it behind her.
KJD: I love that, really. Frankie sounds evil—yummy evil.
JF: Why thanks Kerry, sweet of you to say.
KJD: Darn, and here’s me trying to be a hard nut. Now to show how tough I am, if there were a single thing you’d change about yourself, what would it be?
JF: In person, I tend to be shy in new situations or in groups. Online I am gregarious and outgoing. I want to find a happy medium, blend my two personalities. Be brave 24/7.
KJD: Are you doing anything to reach that goal? Therapy, perhaps?
JF: No comment.
KJD: Okay, fair enough. What’s next in your life?
JF: There’s a bunch of stuff going on at work that is huge and time-consuming, and a bit overwhelming in the context of, well, work. *Yawn* Other than that, and loving my kids and family, the next thing is all about the writing. In 2015, I plan to publish two novels and another short story collection. I hope to figure out how to balance all the competing priorities and get them in the right order while still supporting my kids through university.
KJD: Life balance? Now that’s a goal. When you find out, let me know. I could use some pointers.
Finally, can you tell me something about yourself you wouldn’t want you partner/parents to know? Don’t worry; it’ll be our little secret. 😉
JF: Uh, er, um….. I got nothing. At least, nothing I’m willing to share.
KJD: And if I turn off the recorder, will you whisper it?
JF: Nope. No way in hell.
KJD: Drat, foiled again. I’m going to end the call now but before I do, I have to thank you for your time. It’s been wonderful talking to you, Julie. Best of luck with the writing.