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Interview with Fiona Ross

31 Jan 2013

Far Out by Fiona Ross

Far Out

Synopsis - from goodreads

In twenty-second century Britain, seventeen-year-old Saffron and her father, the astronautics engineer, live in Seaweed Slum. Nate the astrophysicist seeks her father's help to recover his space probe, but he brings trouble. They flee to Earth Station and are arrested when things go wrong. Saffron abandons her dream of becoming a herbalist to enter deadly Server City to rescue the men she loves.

Interview with Fiona Ross

Why did you decide to become an author?

I have wanted to do it since I was small and won first prize for a short story when I was seven.  I've spent most of my life humming the tune to "Paperback Writer" by the Beatles.

How do you balance writing with other things in your life?

With difficulty. I get up at six and go to my writing desk with a cup of tea. I write through until midday, with breakfast and shower breaks. I don't look at social media or emails until the afternoon.

What are your favourite books?

Passage to India - E.M. Forster, Pride & Prejudice - Jane Austen, Frankenstein - Mary Shelley, The RAMA series and 2001 A Space Odyssey - Arthur C. Clarke, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency - Douglas Adams,  The Shining, Pet Sematary, Misery & Needful Things - Stephen King, Interview With A Vampire - Anne Rice, His Dark Materials Trilogy - Philip Pullman, The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins and the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich. I like China Mieville, AA Attanassio, Kim Stanley Robinson, Richard Morgan, Hannu Rajaniemi  (these are all sf writers) and I am discovering modern contemporary authors too, especially online, people like Amanda Hocking and others.

Are there any books/authors that inspired you to write?

At school I read most of the classics, as we all did.  W. Somerset Maugham, Anthony Trollope and Guy de Maupassant, these were the great 19th century masters, and Dickens, of course. Jane Austen made a huge impression. I read all her books when I was about fourteen. 20th Century: E.M Forster is my favourite and library-loads of post WW2 writers.  As a young adult I read all of Daphne du Maurier and later I moved onto Penny Vincenzi, Jackie Collins, Jilly Cooper, Joanna Trollope, Maeve Binchy, Faye Weldon. There were dozens of these five star authors - everybody would pack their suitcases with these to read on the beach and I used to think that I really wanted to do that one day. Now I read a mixture of contemporary authors and classics.

Describe your book in one sentence.

It's a YA, futuristic novel, 63,000 words,  that tells the story of Saffron, who lives in the Seaweed Slum with her father, one hundred years into the future.

Plot in one sentence

Seventeen-year-old Saffron must learn how to solve her problems and to trust people if she is to achieve her dreams, but first she must rescue her father from the alien Server City.

Where did you get the idea for this book, did anything inspire you to write it?

I'd been humming "Mellow Yellow" by folk singer Donovan, for months. Saffron appeared with her father, Nate the astrophysicist and Marianne the herbalist. They were all holding hands and Saffron told me their story. I enrolled in NaNoWriMo 2012, which gave me the immediate pressure to get it out.

What made you decide to write a book set in the future?

Most of my work is set in the future. The interaction between technology and humans fascinates me and I shall bang on about it until I die. I like to envision what the world will be like and how we will develop our future technologies, based on contemporary work. SF is my favourite genre in reading and writing.

What would you say makes your book unique and worth reading?

The way I have combined human themes and problems with technology and how I explore the way technology impacts them - real technology, as we are inventing it now. Of course, I hope I have developed a voice distinctive enough to be recognised as mine.

You have mentioned the use of technology in your book, how do you come up with these? Are they entirely your own ideas or do you research possible future technologies and use those?

I have two methods which I developed during my study course at uni. Method one: I take a piece of current research - for example, development of robot speech patterns. I do thought experiments on how they might develop, on what hypotheses the developer/researcher might come up with and then where it could go from there. I aim to keep it plausible. Method two: One idea I had for FAR OUT was, "In one hundred years time, will we have mobile phones or will they look as outdated as those earlier 'brick' style ones?" I decided we probably wouldn't and I devised a new send/receive device, based on the projections of eminent scientists of how human communication might evolve in the future.
I like fairies and dragons and I like to read about them, but not to write about them. I want my themes to be futuristic not fantastic. I want to predict real technologies. Once I've formulated my question/hypothesis, I do the research.

Is there any specific message you wanted to convey in the book?

Yes, for teenagers, that becoming part of a stepfamily is not necessarily something to be feared and also that fathers and daughters have to go through a (sometimes painful) process of redefining their relationships. I have "issues": The strategic planning of a country's electricity supply, the destruction of hedgerows, the 1% and the 99%, the resurgence of misogyny towards women. I could go on. I like to be satirical and I can't resist an opportunity for black humour if it appears and I like a thread of nostalgia, too.

What are your plans for future books?

I'm glad you asked. FAR OUT is not, strictly speaking, my debut. It was my Nano debut and I wrote it as a break from "the big novel" CODED, which explores developments in biotechnology. I've worked on it for three years and I'm doing the final revisions now. Both FAR OUT and CODED will bear a sequel and then I shall tackle the next technology theme that appeals to me. I also need to come up with an outline for Nanowrimo 2013. It's only January, you say. I know, but tempus fugit.

Do you have any hobbies and Interests unrelated to books?

Loads. I'm also an artist, mainly in oils and watercolour. I paint old boats and shorelines. I like the internet, travel, cinema and going to art galleries around the world if possible. I've had a lifelong interest in science and technology, especially the history of technology. I even went back to uni to do a degree in Information Technology. I'd love to do online gaming but I don't have the time.

Would you ever consider putting these interests into any of your books?

Absolutely. A writer must write about what fires them up, otherwise it's hard to sustain the effort over the long haul.

About the Author

Fiona Faith Ross lives in the beautiful south west of Britain, in earshot of the Dartmouth Steam Railway. She writes and paints and she does not live with several cats, or even one, but she might acquire her own "Nigel" before too long. FAR OUT is available free as an eBook from Smashwords here: You can also find it on Kobo, Nook, Diesel eBooks and Apple iBookstore. It is not yet available in hard copy.


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