Beginner’s Pluck: Fiona Barton

The daughter of a journalist, brought up in a house full of books, Fiona always loved writing.

 She was senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at The Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at The Mail on Sunday, winning The National Press Awards Reporter of the Year.

“I loved being at the centre of things, talking to different people.” In 2008, she gave all that up, and volunteered in Sri Lanka. Since then she has trained journalists in Burma, Africa, Eastern Europe and Tibet.

The idea for the novel came out of her journalism. “I was always fascinated by the wives of people accused of terrible crimes. What happened when the policeman knocked on the door? How much did they know?”

She wrote the first nine chapters in 2009; then put it away. Starting work on it again, she entered the Richard and Judy Best Seller competition; and was a finalist, so had to complete the manuscript in six months. She didn’t win, but soon secured an agent.

The Widow is being published in 26 countries.

Who is Fiona Barton?

Date of birth: 1957. Brought up in a village near Soham, in Cambridgeshire.

Education: St Mary’s Convent in Cambridge. “The nuns were brilliant. My English teacher, Sister Ursula, turned on my light.”

Home: France. The Dordogne. “We bought a place with a fishing lake three years ago.”

Family: Husband, son, daughter, and three grandchildren.

The Day Job: “I’ve finished my contract, training journalists and am writing full-time.”

Interests: Travel; the arts; family.

Favourite Writers: All time favourites are Kazuo Ishiguro, Alan Bennett and PG Wodehouse. At the moment I’m inspired by Kate Atkinson and Hilary Mantel.

Second Novel: I have a three book contract. I’ve started the second. It’s really hard work.

Top Tip: Stop talking about it and do it.

Web: Twitter: @FigBarton

The Debut

The Widow; Bantam Press, €17.99/Kindle, €7.20

Jean and Glen have been married for years when he’s accused of the abduction of a little girl. Is he guilty? Does Jean know? Narrated by Jean, a police officer, and a journalist, the story gradually builds to an unexpected climax.

“Kate, the journalist isn’t me, but I’ve experienced everything she has.”

The Verdict : A clever, compulsive read detailing a complicated marriage; (see review opposite).


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