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Author Interview: Fiona Steinkamp

Fiona is originally from the UK (she’s lived in Horsham, Dundee, Edinburgh…), but lived for 2 years in Freiburg, Germany and 6 years in Zurich, Switzerland. She started off in life as an academic (philosophy and then psychology / parapsychology), and then when funding ran out she moved into medical writing. Her current employment is as a publications manager in the pharmaceutical industry. She then moved to Egypt to live by the Red Sea, so that she could swim every day and focus on her own writing. During this time, her novels have been interrupted by various animals asking her to write their books for them, but she will finish her own books sooner or later. After 18 months, she was offered the opportunity to work for just one year again in Zurich, so she’s now back in Switzerland. She will return to Egypt in April 2016, inshallah!

  • : I've always loved language, particularly the written word. I studied languages at university, which I found a little ironic since I don't regard myself as a particularly chatty person and hated speaking. Nevertheless, what I loved about learning French and German was when you had to write your own stories for homework. I initially ended up in academia - specialising in philosophy, which reflects my love of books that have a message or something about them that makes you think. It also required some careful writing! And when I had to give up being a researcher, due to lack of funds, the first thing I looked for was a position where I could write. But at the end of the day, I missed creating my own texts with my ideas and my passions. And so I left for Egypt!
  • : I can't remember my first story, but I do remember my first poem: "All the fishes in the sea, some as tiny as a pea, cod and trout and pike as well, altogether make a smell". Ha!
  • : I went to Egypt with the idea of finally getting round to writing novels. It's something I've always wanted to do. I also wanted to swim. Unfortunately, I broke my foot within two weeks of arrival, so I couldn't swim and was housebound. This is when Big Paw came to visit me and asked me if I could write "25 New Year's Resolutions - For Dogs!" for him in human language. Since I couldn't move from my chair, I was very glad of his companionship and was delighted to help him with his ambition. My foot healed and I was all ready to start swimming again when Claude approached me with great indignation to ask why I had written the dog's resolutions before writing the ideas he had for the feline species. I apologised profusely and the only way I could make it up to him was to be available at any time so that he could dictate his words to the feline population. Finally, I'm proud to say, Claude put his "clawed" marks to the final product. Now it was time for me to enjoy myself and swim every day as I'd originally planned. I'd wear goggles and look beneath me. Over time, I made friends with Finn, a fish who hung about by a piece of coral just as I'd be swimming there. We had many good chats and I discovered that he too was planning on a book of New Year's resolutions for his species. I was more than happy to help him produce this in human language. I am holding my breath to see which animal will approach me next!
  • : I think the questions is meant to say something along the lines of "When did you publish your first book", but I'm going to take it literally. I can remember learning to write - it was pretty boring actually, penning rows and rows of a's and b's so that they all sat neatly on the lines on the paper. I'm finding this interesting these days because I'm learning Arabic. I now appreciate how much I take the ability to read and write for granted! It amazes me how long it's taking me to read fluently and I haven't even tried writing yet. How can I read English subtitles on films so quickly? In Arabic, subtitles seem to flash up in just a second. It's surely impossible to read that fast? How much practice did I have to do to get to that level of ability? In my Arabic classes, I struggle to write the words in Arabic. Again, it takes me time and the teacher is rushing on... So, however frustrated I may get at not being able to write as well as my favorite authors (David Mitchell, Herman Hess, Kazuo Ishiguro...), I'm actually pretty stunned that I'm able to read and write at all!
  • : I have two novels in about third draft stage and I'll return to these next year. One is "Time Tells" and is about two 17-year olds who find themselves watching future events unfold; the other is "Space Shapes" and is about a very tall girl who is uncomfortable with her height. Through a series of paranormal experiences she comes to accept her height and the boy she loves!
  • : I'm still experimenting with my novels. The first one I just let flow; the second one I planned out. The result is that I feel that the first one feels more spontaneous and is more exciting than the second one, but currently has a few plot flaws that I still need to resolve. The second one is more intellectual and complex, but is slower moving as a result. I'm still not sure what's best!
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