Writer Of The Week: Fiona Thomson

writer of the week

We welcome Writer Of The Week Fiona Thomson, whose short story, “Chasing Rainbows”, appears in our latest Special.

Your short story is all about rainbows . . . with a twist! What was the inspiration behind it?

I read that museums were collecting rainbow art displayed in windows during the pandemic.

Then I remembered having a gadget in the 1980s that made rainbow soap. Who else might have had one? Why would they use it? I sat down to write and my main character, Isabel, appeared.

“Chasing Rainbows” touches briefly on the coronavirus situation. What impact has that had on your writing this past year?

I’m very grateful that my family and friends have stayed safe and well, but I’ve really missed seeing my five grandchildren. Zoom has been brilliant for staying in touch and even meant I could help with long-distance home schooling and reading stories.

I’m an early bird and for years began most days by swimming a mile at my local pool. When that wasn’t possible, I began writing at 7am instead to provide a structure to my morning.

I’ve written and published poetry and fiction for a long time as Fiona Ritchie Walker, but some of that is quite dark.

Over the past year, I’ve found writing feel-good “Friend” stories is a lovely way to start my day.

Sometimes I can hardly bear to let go of my characters and send them off to the Fiction team!

My mother-in-law, Connie Thomson, was a big fan of “The People’s Friend! and spent years telling me I should “have a go because I’d love it.”

Turns out she was right!

Your story is a great example of how to treat a serious subject whilst keeping the tone upbeat – like your story in our current weekly issue, “The Layers Of Life”. How did you achieve that?

I often find stories start with something relating to the news or situations I’ve experienced, then I build characters into that setting.

“The Layers Of Life” went through many rewrites – over a lot of years. I’d mentored a lovely young woman through a local refugee project, but was far too close to that real-life experience for the story to work, so I kept putting it aside.

Then one day I saw an onion lying in the gutter. Who had dropped it? What would happen if someone returned it and a friendship between two very different people developed? My imagination took over, the facts no longer dominated and my story  began to take shape.

Do you find it easier to write contemporary stories, or historical ones?

I was about to write I don’t do historical, then realised my first “People’s Friend” story, published a couple of years ago, was set in the 1970s!

So far most stories have been contemporary, but I have a couple of ideas for historical stories which are simmering.

Would you ever consider writing a “Friend” serial?

I haven’t so far, but last year I did NaNoWriMo, where you write a novel in November. I enjoyed the challenge of working on something longer, so I wouldn’t rule it out.

Notebook and pencil, or laptop? Kitchen table, or study? Blank wall, or inspiring view?

I worked as a journalist for many years and a keyboard is definitely my choice for prose.

If I try to write longhand, I can’t keep up with my thoughts and often find I’ve automatically gone over to shorthand!

I write at the kitchen table every morning and the view of the garden is inspiring, without being a distraction. But for poetry and ideas, it’s notebooks and pencil every time.

And a PS – what’s your one top tip for an aspiring Writer Of The Week?

Overwrite then edit down. It’s easier than trying to pad out a story to reach the length you want. Every word needs to earn its place.

For more from our Writer Of The Week series, click the tag below.

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!