Get to know Fern
Fern’s warmth, humour, empathy and compassion have made her incredibly popular and she has become a much sought after presenter. In 2008 Fern released her autobiography Fern: My Story, which was a huge bestseller. Fern is deeply committed to a number of charities, in particular those working with and for women, children and childbirth. She lives with her husband Phil Vickery, the well respected chef, and her four children in Buckinghamshire.
Frequently Asked Questions
Cornwall is almost a character itself in your two novels. What do you love about it so much?
Ah! Cornwall is a power unto itself. There is Celtic magic on every breeze. The sea whispers or thunders depending on its mood and the Cornish are great pragmatists.
Do you put anything of yourself into your characters?
I think every writer does. We are all very similar in that we want to have peaceful loving lives. Very often we go through difficult times, but it’s the way we handle problems that bonds us together. I write stories that I think are relevant to all of us.
Have you got any unfulfilled ambitions?
I would like to interview The Queen and have Hidden Treasures made into a Hollywood blockbuster and star as Mrs Lovatt in Sweeney Todd the musical. All perfectly achievable I think!
How do you combine your writing with the demands of your TV work?
I would not have been able to write as solidly as I can now, if I were still doing This Morning. Creating a live television show every day takes up an enormous amount of time. Now I can choose to do short TV jobs and write around them. Perfect.
How do you relax when you aren’t working?
I work in my garden, tickle the cats and watch antiques programmes!
What does your writing day look like?
I go to the gym three times a week and am home by elevenish. After a shower and a cup of tea I start writing at about 12 and continue until about 4. But it changes according to domestic circumstances.
What is Fern’s perfect holiday reading?
I like a bit of everything. Things I have enjoyed recently are Asylum by Patrick McGrath, My Week with Marilyn by Colin Clark and I have A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth lined up.
Why did you decide to become a writer?
I have to admit I really didn’t think I’d be able to write a full novel, but I have always enjoyed telling stories to friends and family. It was wonderful synchronicity that HarperCollins approached me, just as I felt confident enough to try to write. They supported me tremendously.
I have spent over thirty years writing scripts for television programmes, usually short links or a voice over for a filmed report. It’s a discipline that requires few words, good timing and ‘active writing’. Active writing is all about not using the word ‘be’. For example, ‘Shirley Bassey will be singing for us later in the show,’ is inactive and takes up too much space, especially if you’re writing for a newspaper column and only have limited space. But, ‘Shirley Bassey is singing for us today,’ is active and brighter. Interesting isn’t it? I am bound to have broken this rule many times in my books so just feel superior knowing that you have spotted them!
A few years ago I was asked to write my autobiography. How would I go from writing 30 seconds (three words per second) of spoken prose to 100,000 words of stuff someone will read silently in their own brain? I bit the bullet and had a wonderful editor who kept me on the straight and narrow. Of course, writing your own life story is easier in that you already know the plot and how it’s going to end. The book did well and I was very grateful. Then, horror, HarperCollins asked me if I’d like to write a novel – blimey! I really didn’t know. Again I was given a top editor who helped, cajoled and encouraged me to produce New Beginnings. I have never felt so nervous as on the day it was published. Amazingly, it did OK and my editor set me off on my own – no hand holding – for novel number two, Hidden Treasures. I used everything she had taught me.
1. Once you start, keep going. Don’t keep going back to rewrite.
2. Get the plot straight in your head. Beginning , middle and end, then make a list of how each chapter unfolds the story (you may digress from it but it’s always there to refer to and pull you back).
3. Really know your characters. Personality. Likes dislikes. Appearance. Birth sign. Dress sense. Anything you can think of. You may not use any of it, but YOU know!
4. Most important of all, JUST DO IT!
So here I am now, almost half way through book three. The deadline is looming and I am setting my alarm for 5.00 am in order to write for three hours before the rest of the household needs my attention. I aim to write between 1500 and 2000 words a day. Obviously all sorts of distractions keep calling to me but I shall not be tempted…. Well, I might just put the kettle on and have a quiet cup of tea. That won’t hurt – will it