Thursday, 24 May 2018

Interview with Andréa Fehsenfeld



Earlier this month I spotlighted a debut novel, Completion, and I’m delighted that the author, award-winning TV producer and lifelong book lover, Andréa Fehsenfeld, is joining me today.


Hi Andréa, welcome to Just Books.
Would you like to start by telling us a little about yourself and your background?
My main career has been TV production, which I segued to after seven years of finance. My parents are European immigrants and my father worked for Air Canada, allowing us to travel extensively as a family. I spent a lot of my childhood in Switzerland. Travel is still a big part of my world and I get antsy every quarter if I haven’t gone anywhere.

When and why did you decide to become a writer…?
I was told all my life I should be a writer and dabbled in it here and there, writing business columns and the odd story. It wasn’t until I started creating pitches for TV shows that the desire for fiction took hold. It still took several years before I sat down to start.

…and what motivates you to write?
My motivation to write has developed like any skill. Writing is a muscle to flex daily and now a day doesn’t feel quite right if no words hit the page.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve been given?
I’ve read almost a hundred books on craft and one sentence really stood out to me: “Narratives hunt us down; haunt us until we write them.” I finished a first draft of a completely different book before COMPLETION. While giving that draft time to breathe, I wrote a short story that was the first tonal exploration of what would eventually become COMPLETION. There was something in that short story that lured me, kept dragging me back. I knew I had to dig deeper and explore. I’m glad I did. It was a cathartic story to write. Every writer should pay attention to the narratives that don’t let go.


What do you enjoy most about writing?
I enjoy living through another character, bringing them to life. It’s an honour and one I don’t take lightly.

What inspired Completion?
COMPLETION was partially inspired by two events in my life – a teenage cult experience and a supernatural encounter in my thirties. But the way the events play out in the story was different than what I experienced. It was the mood and aesthetic of the events I wanted to infuse the story with. Every writer draws on personal experiences at some level while creating and some of these influences are more obvious than others. It depends on the book and the writer.

Would you tell us a bit about your time with the cult...?
The cult experience was a random encounter on the island of Oahu. My friend and I had nowhere to stay (teenage bums with zero cash) and got picked up on Waikiki Beach by the Hare Krishnas. Our time with them sparked a life long interest in cults. I was never interested in joining one but the people and structure and desire to be there intrigued me. I always knew I would write a story about a stranger coming into a cult – there’s so much natural tension in that setting.

And your supernatural encounter?
The supernatural encounter happened in New Mexico. I was hiking in the late afternoon and came up on this ridge with a huge valley sprawling in front of me. The wind started to gust, I spread my arms and there was this rush, an infusion of old energy, Native American energy. The sounds and the visuals pounded through me so violently, I almost lost my balance. What I saw and heard wasn’t entirely pleasant either. It lasted about four nerve wracking minutes where I was not in control of anything. Very powerful and a little disturbing. (For the record, no drugs or alcohol was involved in this.)

Give us an insight into your main character, Damien Hester. What makes him special?
Damien has a heart of gold and wants to believe in the goodness of people, although his past has created a socially awkward and emotionally corrupted front. He’s on the run from the law, but what he’s really looking for is something we all crave and the title - COMPLETION - refers to this journey.

Tell us about the cover and how it came about.
Before I stared writing the book I knew the title and what the cover image would be. I found the perfect font and my designer did a fantastic job of creating the image. I supplied a handful of reference pictures to him, he came up with five prototypes and from those five I cut and pasted the features I liked. Voila! The cover was born.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?
Image is key! In TV, it’s all about how design and font and mood and tone are all vertically integrated into creating the visual materials for the show. I’m trained to think about these elements in advance and it’s something I encourage all writers to do. What is the message? Who is the audience? Covers and titles are so important. Together they should work on a subconscious level.

Do you have any works in progress? Can you tell us a little about it/them?
My next book is about a disillusioned rock star under pressure to deliver his next hit who finds unlikely inspiration and complications from a teen runaway who forces him to face the music the way he never has. It’s a rites of passage story with hilarious and bittersweet moments. I’m a huge music fan and this is my ode to all the musicians who have colored my world.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
The advice I’d give my younger self? Life plays out the way it does and changing one thing, changes everything else, so it’s difficult to say. I was very driven in my youth, still am, so I probably would have told myself to chill out a bit!

It’s time to relax! What do you do?
To relax, I love being outdoors and travelling. Photography is a passion of mine. I also try and see as many concerts as possible. If there is a God, I will die in a mosh pit.

What is the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Hardest thing I’ve ever done? Finding courage to walk away from a long term relationship destroyed by drugs.

Are you an early riser or a night owl?
Mostly I’m an early riser although I love the calming energy at night. It’s a great time to write.

What foreign country would you most like to visit?
I’m a big fan of South America. I’ve been to several countries and plan to visit Venezuela next.

What would constitute a "perfect" day for you?
A perfect day involves sunshine, exercise, a few hours of writing, time with my man and a good meal.

Which fictional character, book or film, would you like to meet?
I would love to meet Patrick Bateman, the protagonist in AMERICAN PSYCHO. He’s erudite, complex and a music lover. He’d probably end up killing me, but it’s worth the risk.


And finally, a quick-fire round:
  • Favourite colour?
Purple
  • Favourite food?
Ripe, sweet mangos
  • Favourite song?
Impossible to answer
  • Favourite item of clothing?
Citizens of Humanity jeans
  • Favourite quote?
“ The memorable never emerged from a formula”

Thank you for spending this time with us, Andréa. Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for reading! Please reach out if you have further questions.

Andréa Fehsenfeld

Cool Stories for Cool People

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