2016 has been another busy year for discovering new authors to follow and today it's my pleasure to be shining the debut spotlight on another Fiona Harrison whose debut novel A Pug Like Percy was published last week.
Fiona Harrison is a dog lover and writer from the West Country who lives with her husband and their menagerie of pets. Lucky enough to have a family who always supported her creative writing attempts, as a child, Fiona routinely entertained them with a variety of stories covering everything from Margaret Thatcher to Roland Rat.
Eventually Fiona realised there was not much of a market for Mrs T stories, and moved to London, spending her days working as a journalist and her evenings sleeping in cramped flats, missing her beloved family pets. After several years, she decided a life without dogs or cats was no life at all and after getting married to a fellow animal lover, she moved out of the big city to concentrate on her two passions; animals and writing.
Now, living in a house rather than a shoebox, Fiona happily spends her days writing, often with a pet on her lap for company and inspiration. A Pug like Percy is her first novel.
Percy is homeless, abandoned by his owner at an animal rescue centre on a cold winter’s night. So when he finds a loving new home with Gail and her family, his deepest wish is that this time, it’s forever.
Gail hopes that Percy will be the little miracle that her family so desperately needs. Her young daughter, Jenny, is in and out of hospital and she’s only just holding things together with her husband, Simon.
With the family at breaking point, and Christmas just around the corner, is Percy the furry friend they’ve all been waiting for?
If you had to give an elevator pitch for your debut novel A Pug Like Percy, what would it be?
Abandoned at a rescue centre, Percy finds a loving new home but soon realises his new family are the ones that need help. Can he be the one to rescue them?
Where did the inspiration come from to write a story where the central character is a dog looking for his forever home?
Inspiration came in two parts really. A few years ago I adopted my cat, Pico from a rescue centre. I was working on a piece for a newspaper and had a tour of the rescue centre. I was so inspired; I wondered what it would be like to write about it from the perspective of an abandoned animal. The second part came in the form of a little pug I see most days in a park near me called Angel. As a keen runner I’m often around when dogs are out and about, and spotting this lovely blonde little pug that had lost the use of her back legs and needed a sort of doggy wheelchair to get around got me thinking. The level of determination on her face as she padded around the park on wheels, together with her doggy playmates made me smile with delight, and I couldn’t resist talking to her owner. I soon discovered Angel needed her wheels after undergoing surgery on her spine. Tragically the surgery had been unsuccessful, leaving her without the use of her back legs. Yet Angel had apparently always had a loveable, pugnacious streak before and after her operation was as keen to enjoy life just as she had before. I thought this was a pug that could teach us humans a thing or two about life, and sure enough A Pug like Percy was born.
Describe Percy in three words.
Loyal, loving, determined
The book raises the issue of abandoned animals, was that something you were consciously trying to do?
Very much so. Having visited rescue centres and spoken to staff and volunteers I really wanted people to understand that a rescue animal is very much a part of family life. They really are amazing, and it’s so true that a rescue animal can care for you as much as you care for them.
Did you do much research for the novel?
I did an awful lot. As well as visiting rescue centres and really getting a feel for the role abandoned animals can play in family life, I also chatted with Cardiomyopathy UK who was fantastic at guiding me through life for children with heart conditions. It was so important to me the characters and the situations were properly represented.
Has your experience as a journalist helped with regards to the whole writing/editing/publication process?
Yes, in that I already had a proven track record when it came to writing so my agent knew that I understood what deadlines were and how to put together a beginning, middle and an end of a story. That said, writing a short newspaper piece is very different to writing a novel and there were times I had no idea where to start. I was so used to dealing in facts I found the best way was to adopt a similar approach when it came to writing Percy and I plotted out the entire story which was really helpful as it worked a bit like a roadmap. If I ever found myself going off on a tangent, I could return to the map, and also it helped me stay creative as I knew that as I already had the story plotted out, that if I came up with new ideas they would only add to the outline I had created.
Did you treat yourself to something special to celebrate your publishing deal?
I bought myself a lovely bracelet complete with book charm to celebrate the fact my dream had come true and I was finally a proper writer!
Finally what can we expect from you next?
I am waiting to see what happens with lovely Percy, but fingers crossed I’ll be able to write more of his doggy adventures again as it really is the best job in the world.
Does this sound like the type of book you'd like to curl up and read this Christmas. If the answer is Yes then you're in luck as thanks to Fiona and her publishers HQ I have a copy of A Pug Like Percy to give away to a follower of the blog.
a Rafflecopter giveaway