I am pleased to start the new year in blogging by introducing debut author Fiona Sussman in Meet a Kiwi Author. I discovered Fiona’s powerful first novel, Shifting Colours in October last year (see my review) so I was delighted when she agreed to take part.
Fiona’s writing career has followed an unusual trajectory. With a father in publishing she seemed destined to be a writer, but her father’s untimely death was the catalyst for her to pursue medicine instead. She practised as a GP after migrating to New Zealand from South Africa in 1989 but still hankered after writing, finally ‘hanging up her stethoscope’ to return to university to obtain a Master of Creative Writing at AUT.
Informed by her awareness of issues of injustice and racial prejudice, Fiona’s writing has achieved remarkable success. A number of her short stories have been broadcast on National Radio; her work has also been published in local newspapers and literary journals; and she has been successful in local and international writing competitions. An early draft of Shifting Colours was awarded the IP PICKS Commended Placement for Best Fiction (Australia and New Zealand) and it went on to be published in May 2014 by UK publishers Allison & Busby. It will be published by Berkley, Penguin (USA) in October 2015 under the title, Another Woman’s Daughter. (I have to say, I much prefer the subtlety of the original title, but I suppose publishers know their markets better than I do). The novel has been nominated as an Amazon Rising Star for 2014, and is included in Sainsbury’s Best Debut Novel Collection 2014.
Shifting Colours is certainly the kind of novel that I like. It is not just an intriguing story, it also brings important issues to the reader’s attention and contributes to an understanding of the damage done by racial prejudice and institutionalised discrimination. I am looking forward to seeing Fiona’s next work come to fruition: it’s titled Sentenced and the manuscript won the 2014 Kobo/NZ Society of Authors Publishing Prize.
Now, without further ado, here are Fiona’s answers to my questions!
1. I was born in South Africa to Italian/Scottish parents, who instilled in me from an early age, a love of books and a strong sense of social justice.
2. When I was a child I wrote a play about a little girl who forgets to water her aunt’s prizewinning garden. Fortunately, all ends well – the dead garden tops the dried-flower category!
3. Both my parents inspired me to write. My father was a publisher, so our house was always filled with manuscripts, books and colourful authors, and my mother was a storyteller extraordinaire.
5. I write every day from 9 am until 2 pm. After that, ‘life’ (teenagers, husband, friends and pets) tends to intervene.
6. Research is important to me to ensure authenticity of character and place. My daughter once told her teacher, “Mum’s going to prison today,” without explaining it was for research!
7. I keep my published works in random places. The title of ‘published author’ is still a novelty, but I do need to create a dedicated shelf.
8. On the day my first book was published – 22nd May 2014 – I was in London celebrating with my publishers (Allison & Busby) and my dear, very proud mother.
9. At the moment, I’m working on a tough, gritty novel called Sentenced. Though the manuscript won the 2014 Kobo/NZSA Publishing Prize, I still feel there is work to be done.
10. When I’m stuck for an idea/word/phrase, I step outside my head for a while. Usually a good night’s sleep sees the sediment settle, and the way ahead becomes clear.
As you can see from the photo of her lovely garden, Fiona lives in rural Auckland. When not juggling life with two teenagers, working alongside her surgeon husband to manage the charity hospital they’ve established or mentoring writing students, she writes and she loves it!
Click the link to buy Shifting Colours from Fishpond or find it at all good bookstores!