Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Prolific Fiona Veitch Smith Talks to Donna Fletcher Crow

Fiona, welcome to International Christian Fiction Writers. Since I’m an American who publishes in England and you’re an Englishwoman who publishes in South Africa I think we’re a perfect team for a blog with an international theme. Tell us about yourself.

Thanks for inviting me Donna! I love working with people from other cultures – reminds me that my little part of the world and my way of doing things are just one part of God’s diversity. Yes I’m English. I live in Newcastle upon Tyne. But I grew up in South Africa during the 80s and 90s. I went to high school and university there.

My working life was spent in Cape Town, first with a performing arts team under YWAM then as a newspaper journalist. I published my first book there with Vineyard International Publishing – Donovon’s Rainbow (2001). I came back to the UK with my South African husband in tow in 2002. Since then I’ve worked as a freelance magazine journalist and editor as well as running my own editorial consultancy, The Crafty Writer

In 2005 I started a MA in creative writing majoring in prose and script. It was a tough time as I was still breastfeeding my eight-month-old daughter during the first term and I would have to rush home from class literally bursting! But I digress …

After doing the MA doors have opened for me in theatre and film. I’ve had a stage play produced called Pig Stew (a black comedy with a touch of cannibalism) and a short film called Enemy Lines (a modern twist on the Good Samaritan about a British soldier coming home from Iraq). If anyone would like to see the film it’s on the IMDB website Pig Stew won the People’s Play Award in the UK and Enemy Lines has been screened at film festivals around the world.

I’m now working on another play about the first woman Olympic marathon runner which I hope will be produced next summer and a documentary about the descendents of the Gypsy Royal Family of Northumberland.

I’m still on the lower rungs of the ladder as a scriptwriter and am not expecting any BAFTA’s, Oscars or Toni’s to head my way, but I enjoy it and that’s the main thing. It also gives me an opportunity to tell stories in different media. I’m primarily a storyteller and for me, the different media offer different challenges. One story will be better suited to a play, another to film, and still another, a book.

I’m currently writing the true life story of a boy soldier from the Congo called Child of War. It will be published by Monarch (your publisher in the UK, Donna!) early next year. The interesting thing though is that I am collaborating with a screenwriter (Craig Galbraith from Drawbridge Productions in Cape Town) who is simultaneously writing the story for film. We have one body of material (the transcripts from interviews with the subject, Yookie Budia) but our approach to the story is very different. We’ve been bouncing ideas off each other and grappling with some of the challenges of the different media. For instance, the transcript works well in terms of ‘plot points’ but has very little in terms of background and context. Craig can just fill a lot of that in with visuals, but I’ve had to source additional material because in the book it needs to be described in words, not pictures.

So you write, and teach, in all genres. That’s an amazing scope.

Yes I do. I used to lead workshops in creative writing and non-fiction writing at the Centre for Lifelong Learning, Sunderland University. Now I lecture journalism at Newcastle University and scriptwriting for theatre and film just down the road at Northumbria University. Don’t worry, they’re all part-time contracts and I still find time to write and spend time with the family (apart from some manic months in April / May when I never stop marking!)

I enjoy writing and teaching in different media, but I’m aware too that I’m in danger of becoming a jack of all trades, master of none. I was bemoaning this to God the other day. I said ‘Oh God, if I’d only followed one path I’d be much further down it.’ And I thought I heard him say in response (I wrote it down in my journal) ‘But my child, you have followed one path, you’ve followed me.’ That brought tears to my eyes. Because in the end that’s what matters – following where God leads you. And if it leads to success in terms of money and markets, so be it. But if those things don’t come, being with God on the journey and sharing his love with the many people you meet on the way, is far more important. But again, I digress!

It sounds like your focus in fiction has been in children’s literature. Tell us about Myro the Microlight What a fun title!

Myro has been a great deal of fun. I was commissioned by a new publisher, Nick Rose Ltd, in 2006 to ghostwrite a series of children’s picture books about a little microlight called Myro who lives in Australia. I have written twelve so far and six have been published Now Myro is being animated and Nick and I are currently working on the adaptation scripts which for me has been a delight because I love the challenge of working cross media. Myro the Musical is also in the pipeline and I’ve been helping out with the libretto for the show.

I love writing for children. I’ve had a number of short stories published in Aquila Children’s Magazine and even adapted one of them for TV. The pilot script made it all the way to the inner sanctum of the BBC but in the end did not get the green light. So near yet so far. Sigh. And now you’re gearing up to publish a new children’s series David and the Hairy Beast? Yes, I’m very excited about that. It’s through my new company Crafty Publishing
( The pilot title is David and the Hairy Beast about the boy King David. It’s the first in a series of six. We hope to bring the second title David and the Kingmaker out for the Christmas market. It’s a hard slog getting it into bookshops as people can be mistrustful of self-publishers (for often very good reasons) but we’re making progress. When I say ‘we’ I’m doing this with my wonderful web-savvy husband, Rodney Smith and design partner, Amy Barnes.

And I understand you also have a young adults' novel and an adult novel in the pipeline. What can you tell us about them? We got acquainted through an online discussion of suspense and thrillers so does that mean these new novels will have an element of suspense?

It does sound like I’m doing an awful lot, doesn’t it? But it’s not as bad as it seems. The young adult novel and the adult novel were written a few years ago. I didn’t do anything with them at the time because I was too busy with some theatre and film projects. But now that I have a bit of space, I’m looking to get them published. The adult novel is called The Peace Garden and we will be experimenting with it as our first e-book title through Crafty Publishing. And yes, it’s a suspense! [And by the way, thanks for the advice you’ve given me in helping to clarify the marketing niche, Donna.]

If I may be permitted (as they say in my part of the world: shy bairns get nowt), here’s the blurb: ‘When Natalie Porter starts investigating plant theft in a suburban cul-de-sac, she never dreams it will lead her on a terrifying journey from the gardens of England to the townships of Apartheid South Africa; and a far darker secret than the whereabouts of a missing azalea.’

The teen novel is called Deadline and is a reporter sleuth. I’m submitting it to a crime writing competition this autumn but if it doesn’t get anywhere with that I’m planning on publishing it through Crafty Publishing.

And then there’s a historical mystery set in 1st century Palestine. I’m hoping to resurrect it and will submit to a mainstream publisher in the first instance, but I’ll keep that one under my hat for now.

What else would you like our readers to know about you and your work, Fiona?

Oh I think your readers will have had more than enough of me by now, Donna!

Where can people find you and your books online?

I can be contacted through my website

I have another website which is a repository of ‘old’ articles previously published in print magazines
For more on the David books and Crafty Publishing visit
Donovon’s Rainbow and the Myro the Microlight series can be bought through Amazon or other online retailers.

Oh, and I ghostwrote The Choice by Elizabeth Robertson Campbell (now being turned into a film)


  1. Thank you for being my guest, Fiona. I am in awe of your wide range, can't decide whether Renaissance Woman or Polymath is the correct title. God bless you in all you work.

  2. Thanks so much for featuring me Donna. A Polymath? Gosh, that sounds very formal. So it had better be a Renaissance Woman then. There's got to be a song in there somewhere ...

  3. Busy, busy lady! enjoyed the post.


  4. Smiles, Fiona. Polymath was my husband's word, I thought it sounded great, but a bit scary, too--probably the "math" part. Anyway, you're amazing!

  5. Polymath also wouldn't scan very well into lyrics :)