Saturday, 24 June 2017

Diana talks to C F Dunn

Hi Claire, lovely to talk to you again.
Hopefully this interview is an interview with a difference and I have come up with some unusual questions! Even more hopefully you will find it interesting and come up with some brilliant answers!!

If your series 'The Secret Of The Journal' was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?

For  independent and self-contained Emma , Emily Blunt, Rebecca Hall, or Jessica Chasten embody her look and temperament. Matthew is more difficult. For looks, the late, lovely Paul Walker was exactly as I imagined Matthew, but the look is only one aspect of character, isn’t it? Capturing the essence of a person is so much more complex. British actor, Sam Claflin, has the range and depth of expression not often seen in young actors, so I’d choose him.

What made you choose this genre?

I like multilayered plots involving different genre, so The Secret of the Journal series is a mix of romance (nothing sappy), mystery, suspense, and a thread of history that runs through everything. My current series, however, is unadulterated history and suspense.

How do you get ideas for plots and characters?

Everywhere. Life is one big story. I have a whole load of plots waiting to be written.

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?

When I started writing Mortal Fire I hadn’t planned including quite so much history. It kept muscling in on the action until I gave in and realised that - whatever I write - history will be in there somewhere. As a result, the series I am now working on is delicious history through and through.

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?)

I had to write. Language, imagery, and story have tumbled around in my mind for as long as I can remember. Unfortunately, being dyslexic meant the process of writing was never easy; but once I obtained a laptop which helps with organisation, there was no stopping me.

How old were you when you first started to write seriously.

Seriously? In my late forties, but stories had been queuing up to be written long before then.

Marmite? Love it or hate it?


Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??

Not really. I’d like to claim I do a five-mile run every morning before settling down to write, but that would be pure fiction. However, coffee is a must. As for music, I listen to certain pieces when writing particular types of scene: pictorial film music such as Gladiator and The Last Samurai for action scenes, Girl With A Pearl Earring for atmosphere; and sonorous choral music by Medieval and Renaissance composers for evoking period.

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?

Family. First, last, always.

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?

I’ve had my dream job. Right from the moment we met at university, my husband and I wanted to open a school. We thought it a pipe-dream, but for the last nineteen years, I’ve run our specialist dyslexia and autism school in Kent. Working with our young people ( aged 6 to 25 years) has been the greatest inspiration and privilege I could have hoped for in life.
(Total respect!)

Coffee or tea? Red or white?

Coffee. Champagne. Water. Anything else gives me a headache.

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?

Inspiration comes in many forms and I’m never short of a plot. I imagine the whole story first. I have the beginning, middle and end and all the major scenes along the way worked out before I start writing. However, all the little twists and turns that give the story complexity and depth develop as the characters get to know one another. I work between six and twelve hours a day, use a lap top, and am often kept company by my huge Norwegian Forest Cat, Esker.

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?

I’m not fussed as long as it is easy on the eye of the reader.

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?

I’m going to cheat a little here. If I had a choice, it’d be all the documents relating to Richard III’s short reign expunged by Henry VII.

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?

I swear characters have a life of their own. In The Secret of the Journal series, Sam Weisner was supposed to be quite a different character to the one he turned out to be. No matter what I did, he kept bucking the trend. In the end, I went with it, and it made a much better story. We became friends by the end of the series.

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?

As a Medieval historian, I relish research. There’s always more to learn and I often find new avenues to explore which in turn inspire fresh ideas. I undertake one major and several minor research trips a year. The Secret of the Journal series took me to Maine, USA for background details (the dead skunk was a stroke of luck). In contrast, Emma D’Eresby comes from Stamford - an ancient and very beautiful stone town in Lincolnshire where my own family originates - so I had generations of information tucked away ready to be used for the books. My current Wheel of Fortune series took me to such exotic locations as North Lincolnshire and West Yorkshire. I really must attempt at least one book set in the Maldives...

Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?

I’d quite happily eliminate Henry VII, but that would be meddling with history, wouldn’t it? Tempting, though.

Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?

I get all prickly on this subject (see my previous answer). I can’t and won’t change what is known. I have a duty towards the past and the people who populated it. It’s somehow not respectful to fiddle with the facts, and there is always a way to get around an immovable object, it just takes imagination.

Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?

This is where I license as a novelist. I used to take my characters shopping to see how they interacted with the world and each other. Crazy? Me? Never!

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?

I have a character in my latest series I should hate, but found I grew to like and respect him until the point where I mourned his loss.

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?

I’ve just managed to find John Fenn’s Paston Letters - original C18th bindings, great condition. Inhaling that leather-bound history makes reading a complete pleasure.  (Diana turns a jealous shade of green and then swoons!)

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?

Coffee. Is there another drink?
Last but not least... favourite author?

That’s the cruellest question of all. How on earth am I supposed to chose a single author from millennia of writers?

Author bio:

Writing as CF Dunn, Claire Dunn is a novelist writing historical and contemporary suspense fiction. Her debut novel Mortal Fire - published by Lion Fiction - won the gold medal for adult romance in the Book Of The Year Awards, 2012, and was nominated for Best Novel by CRT in the same year. 

Alongside her first loves of family, history and writing, CF Dunn is passionate about the education and welfare of children with dyslexia, autism and communication difficulties, and runs a special needs school, which she founded in Kent with her husband.

Book five of The Secret of the Journal series - Fearful Symmetry - has brought the series to a heart-stopping conclusion and is a finalist in this years Forward Book of the Year Awards. Claire is currently writing the first book in a Medieval suspense trilogy and drinking too much coffee
Contact/Social Links:

© Diana Milne January 2017 © C F Dunne May 2017

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