I'm very happy today to be interviewing horror writer Fiona Dodwell who is the author of two books - The Banishing and Obsessed.
LW: How about some introductions first? Can you sum yourself up in a few words?
FD: I am a horror writer who enjoys exploring anything dark, disturbing, unsettling. I have been writing since my early teens, when I wrote my first story, entitled "Caged Demon." Since that time, I have always written, in one form or another. I have found it a neccessity in my life, rather than a luxury. In the last few years, I have entered writing contests, began submitting my novels to publishers and saw my first novel in print - The Banishing, a modern story of demonic possession. I currently work part-time for a charity, to support myself while I try to make it as a full-time writer.
LW: Your new book is called Obsessed. Can you tell me about it – its themes, the inspiration for it, and (of course) the overall plot?
FD: Obsessed is essentially a ghost story. James Barker witnesses a gruesome suicide on the train tracks of London. He finds himself unable to forget the scene of horror - and, believing himself to be suffering from post-traumatic stress, he begins sessions with a therapist. Obsessed explores the mind of James as he exposes himself emotionally during his therapy. He is seeing visions of the dead man in his home, in his nightmares. He feels he is being haunted. Assured by his therapist that he is experiencing a natural response to what he witnessed, James tries to cope, until events spiral out of control, leading him to wonder - is the ghost in he is seeing real, or the product of his mentally unstable mind?
LW: How does Obsessed compare to your first book, The Banishing? Are there any connections between the two? Can you tell me how they developed?
FD: They are both very, very different. The Banishing is very gritty, exploring domestic abuse, marital discord and demonic possession. Obsession is a story about a haunting. The Banishing follows the journey of Melissa, who, seeing some frightening and dramatic changes in her husband, clings to the idea that he is being controlled, or possessed, by an evil entity. I try to leave the reader wondering (to a point) if Melissa is in denial, or if there really is something paranormal going on in her marriage and home. I guess maybe that is where there is a connection with Obsessed: in that story, I leave the reader wondering, throughout, if the ghosts are a product of the imagination or something very real. I like to tease the reader, to have the reader use their own senses, responses and feelings to determine the nature of the things going on in my characters lives.
Obsessed developed over several chats I had with people about the paranormal. You see, there is a divide out there. People who believe in spirits, or at least have an open mind, and then you have the hardened skeptic who believes much of the paranormal is a mental delusion. Those points inspired me to write something that explored this. I wanted my character, James Barker, to question his feelings and the visions he is having. I wanted his sanity called into question. I wanted the therapist to offer a voice of reason. But then, underneath it all, I wanted to crawl beneath the skin of the reader and make them wonder... is the spirit really there?
LW: As a published writer, are they are any experiences you’d like to share with your readers or unpublished writers? Any expectations you had that turned out to be different from the reality of publishing?
FD: I think things have been, so far, as I'd expected. For a new author, trying to push my work out there, it's a struggle. There is only so much you can do - and that is frustrating. I love being with Damnation Books Publishing because they have a good team, and they believe in horror, but getting published is only the first step. Trying to promote, to get your name out there, to get people reading your work - it's difficult unless you're with a major publishing house or have the means to promote financially. So it's hard, as I expected, but I love it. I love writing, and even if I never get a book published again, I'll always write
LW: Some writers outline, others just get stuck in. Which are you? And what sort of research do you carry out before writing?
FD: I don't outline. I like my writing to be fluid, free, open to change. I do, however, like to have at least a very general idea of how it begins and ends, and from there I just get stuck in. As for research, it depends on what I need to know. Because my work is largely focused on the paranormal, I am lucky because I know a lot about this subject in depth already. I study the paranormal in my spare time, take part in investigations, am a member of staff on a paranormal forum (Talk Paranormal.com) and am enrolling in a paraspychology course early next year. It's what I live and breathe, and that creates a solid foundation for my writing.
LW: Who are the writers you admire? Have you heard any advice from them that has stuck with you? And do you have any for other writers?
FD: My favourite writers.. there are many! Amongst them are Bill Hussey, Stephen King, Joe Hill, Natsuo Kirino, Dean Koontz, Edgar Allen Poe and Susan Hill. I can't say any one piece of advice sticks out to me, but I do know that when I read a story I love, when it really gets to me, that's when I tend to feel inspired and create myself. I guess my advice is to immerse yourself in what you do: if you want to write then read. Read a lot. Write a lot. Make mistakes, press delete, start again. It's a long but beautiful process, when you see the final story.
LW: Any future plans for your writing you’d like to share?
FD: Well, I completed a novel entitled The Shift, and I got it ready to send out to publishers, however, I started to feel that more work needed to be done... I wanted to change things. That's the thing about writing: the temptation to go back is great. The key here is to recognise when work genuinely needs doing, and when you're just being self-critical. I feel The Shift is a very good, strong story - but I definitely want to add something to it before I consider pushing it out for publication again.
LW: What horror films and books would you recommend either for simple entertainment or for other writers to check out?
FD: I live and breathe horror! My favourite horror movies:
- Tale of Two Sisters (Japanese version)
- The Ring (US and USA version)
- Inside (French version)
- Insidious (just released)
-Amityville Horror (early and later releases)
- The Exorcist
- Rosemary's Baby
- The Exorcism of Emily Rose
My favourite books include:
- Rosemary's Baby
-The Woman in Black (Amazing! Read it!)
- Hostage to the Devil (factual book about the demonic possession)
- House of Lost Souls
- Heart Shaped Box (Joe Hill)
LW: And finally, what scares you?
FD: I tend to get scared more by paranormal stories than by gore and heavy violence. I get more unnerved by shadows, ghostly whispers and creaks in the night than by monsters, vampires etc.
The trailer for Obsessed is here and the book is available here