1. Tell us something hardly anyone knows about you.
I was the biggest Dr Who nerd as a child. I knew everything there was to know, I had the annuals, the merchandise… Most kids had a pop-up cubby house. I had a pop-up TARDIS. I got to meet Patrick Troughton once on a film set my mum worked on. I still have a small wooden TARDIS in my garden.
2. What is your nickname?
Fi. One friend calls me Feef, and I was Fizz for a while at high school. My family call me Fien, which came about as the result of a game I played with my brother. You have to say your name as fast as you can over and over until it meshes together. My maiden name is Miller, so I got Fien Meh.
3. What is your greatest fear?
Dying in a plane crash. This isn’t great when you live on the other side of the world to your family!
4. Describe your writing style in 10 words.
Versatile, literary, rhythmic, hopeful, evocative, character driven, poignant, filmic, slow!
5. Tell us five positive words that describe you as a writer.
Focused, thoughtful, detailed, experimental, curious.
6. What book character would you be, and why?
Alice. I’d love to go to Wonderland and have tea with the Mad Hatter.
7. If you could time travel, what year would you go to and why?
This is too hard. I’m torn between going for a good old knees-up round the piano in East End London during the blitz, or Myanmar (Burma) in the 1930s so I could see how my granny’s family lived. I grew up in Newcastle-on-Tyne, not far from Wallsend, so maybe I’d pop back to AD122, to see Hadrian’s Wall being built.
8. What would your 10-year-old self say to you now?
I knew you could write. What took so long?
9. Who is your greatest influence?
Anyone who has published a book; it takes a lot of courage and commitment to pursue this career. When I doubt myself, I look at my bookshelf and think if they can do it, you can do it. Also, my granny. She was such a quiet person and a real lady. When I look at her photograph (which sits next to me when I watch TV) it reminds me to slow down and try to be gentle, walking through the world. I’m a busy type of person so I rarely achieve it.
10. What/who made you start writing?
I don’t remember; it’s just something I’ve always done. I used to copy sections of books we’d borrowed from the library in a notebook so that I could keep them. I wrote (and illustrated badly!) my first book when I was 11. It was called Christmas in Wintery Wood. I still have it; the cover is wrapped in Christmas paper with rabbits on it.
11. What is your favourite word and why?
Panacalty. It’s a recipe originating from North East England; like a potato bake with onions, corned beef and bacon. It was popular in World War II and throughout mining communities, like where my dad’s side of the family were. It uses basic ingredients and leftovers. Dad cooks it for us when he comes to visit. I tried making it here but the corned beef is different so it’s not quite the same.
12. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Still Life by Sarah Winman. It combines all the things that I find delightful or fascinating; art, life in World War II, London, Italy… You can’t beat a Shakespeare-quoting parrot and other such wonderfully rich characters. Maybe this is where my time-travel idea to go back to the Blitz comes from!
Fiona was born in the beautiful North East of England near picturesque countryside, windswept beaches and the vibrant cultural city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. She dreamed of writing in a cosy country cottage and of life as a theatre actress but, as it often does, life got in the way. Working and travelling instead, Fiona floated in the Dead Sea, climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, gave guided tours in Holland and fell in love with all things Greek during her two years in Athens and Skiathos. Her most special travel experience was in Myanmar where she visited the place where her Granny was born.
Amongst her myriad of interesting jobs, Fiona worked as a television colourist on Home & Away, This is Greece and Secrets of Britain’s Great Cathedrals. She has works in several anthologies for children, is a role model for Books in Homes, coach with the Harding Miller Education Foundation, and Schools Program Coordinator for the Words on the Waves Writers Festival. Fiona loves storytelling in all forms, especially theatre, television and books. Now settled near Sydney with her husband and three children, she mostly travels in her head to marvellous, magical places. Being Jimmy Baxter is her debut middle-grade novel. For more information, see www.fionalloyd.com.au