Fox Halt Farm by Celia Moore
Today I welcome Celia Moore to the Fossend Publishing blog to talk about her debut book Fox Halt Farm.
About Fox Halt Farm
Set over two decades - with dramatic countryside as its backdrop, Fox Halt Farm is an emotive read with enthralling characters but it is set two hundred years after Poldark, in 1986. The author has a compelling series all mapped out for Fox Halt Farm, a dairy farm on the outskirts of Okehampton whose survival is constantly threatened. Fox Halt Farm is the debut novel from Devon author Celia Moore.
Q: For our readers, who is Celia Moore?
I am an author and I will/have publish/ed my debut novel Fox Halt Farm on November 1st. It’s a romantic and contemporary novel by the way. I live near Exeter with Paul (who is the most patient and encouraging husband you could wish to meet) and we have a Jack Russell cross border terrier puppy called Tizzy.
I grew up on a farm near Whiddon Down, where we could see Dartmoor in one direction and Exmoor in another, we had a dairy farm but my family struggled until we sold a major part of it. The cows were sold too but we did save a few fields for ourselves and we built a new house. My father worked in the North Tawton Cheese Factory after that. He gave up the only way of life he knew but he always said that in a way, it was a relief because he had a regular wage and he loved the camaraderie of his workmates too. Mum kept a few animals but we rented out most of the remaining land. The family farm was gone and I decided working in property was a far safer option. Few of the small farms I remember from my childhood remain now.
I have worked as a chartered surveyor, outdoor instructing and I now garden in the summer, blacksmith in the winter - and I write in all the times in between.
Q: What inspired Fox Halt Farm? And what can readers expect?
The main characters arrived in my head one night with the basic outline of their relationships, and journey too. I just couldn’t stop thinking about them so I just felt I was providing their voices. Once I had the outline, ideas took on a life of their own.
Although we had a dairy farm this is not an autobiography – Fox Halt Farm is a compelling story about people I created in my mind – they are not perfect, they are scarred and flawed and like all of us, they are striving to find happiness. The emotive book begins in 1986 - Billy May and her family are struggling to keep their dairy farm – Fox Halt Farm is just outside Okehampton and the beloved cows are in the danger of being sold. At this time, Richard MarcFenn is running a thriving multinational business in London. When Billy and Richard’s different worlds collide (in an unexpected way) there are catastrophic consequences for them, their families and their friends. This is a love story spanning twenty years with a cast of intriguing individuals who are all enmeshed in heartbreak, manipulation and secrets.
Q: Has it been a challenge writing from a male character’s perspective?
The story is told from both Billy and Richard’s perspective and at first, it felt impossible to convey a male viewpoint but I came to see that men and women all have the same feelings and experiences but society, their upbringing and their peers shape how they behave. The different ways men and women deal with their emotions fascinates me.
Q: Why a romance novel?
I love talking to people and hearing their intricate stories. Besides, who doesn’t love love!
Q: Which authors have most influenced your journey to write your novel? And do you have friends who are authors? Have they helped you too?
For influencing, I would say Beth Webb – I love her inspiring tales full of magic and myths. Agatha Christie – for her multifaceted characters and intrigue. Maeve Binchy – for family insight. And Jilly Cooper – for her pure escapism. I enjoy thrillers and autobiographies too. I love dipping into other worlds but these four are my all-time favourites – if the book has any of their names on the front I know I can rest assured I am in for an interesting and enthralling tale.
As far as knowing authors personally, my dear friends Beth Webb and Jessica Redland have been there since day one with advice, guidance, suggestions, support and endless encouragement.
Q: Who would you get to play Billy and Richard in a movie? And is there anything you would like to say to them if you had met them back in 1986?
That is a difficult question to answer. I think the beauty of literature and reading is that it fuels your imagination and I would hate to take that away from my readers by describing actors who I think could portray them both. To Billy I would say, have hope. Maybe the future isn’t as bleak as it seems. And Richard, please stop trying to please everyone. It is okay to be yourself sometimes!
Q: What research did you do for the world of Fox Halt Farm?
I wrote form personal experience and then spent a lot of time researching on the internet. Then I talked to people involved with the situations and places I wanted to describe. At least my internet research gave me a basic understanding and I could then I check if things were true. Because not everything on the internet is entirely accurate. Apparently.
Q: When do you write best? Certain times? Or when the inspiration strikes?
When the story first came to me, I turned to my husband and told him that I was desperate to write it. Paul has been my rock from the start and he said I had to do it – I wasn’t to live on regrets – wishing I should have done something. I just started writing immediately. Trying to get everything down as quickly as possible, from early mornings to late at night. After that, whenever I had a free moment, I tweaked and developed the story.
Q: How did you select the names for your characters?
I considered their ages and the popular names at the time. Billy, was Alicia for a long time but as her story developed, Billy fitted her personality so much better. Names and surnames changed as I wrote – for instance, if I thought they were so similar they might be confusing - and also I didn’t want them all starting with the same letter - there is still Janette and Jayne but that’s because no other names seem right for them!
Q: Has writers block been an issue- this is your first novel?
No. The whole journey of writing Fox Halt Farm has been an open road that I have followed. My novel seemed to write itself and I was just along for the ride! Plot and sub plot came easily and the characters evolved and developed as the story progressed.
Q: What was the hardest thing about writing?
Two things instantly come to mind, firstly pressing delete - whole paragraphs, which had taken ages to get just right, had to go - when I realised how they were superfluous or slowed the pace too much. Secondly, was actually stopping writing. I would be so caught up in the story and the flow of ideas, it would be easy to get carried away and discover it was the wee hours of the morning!
Q: What has been your biggest surprise during this journey?
That’s an easy question, the best surprise has been the endless support I have found around me. It seems everyone (even other authors) just want me to succeed- no matter what I needed to know – good advice came in spades.
Q: Have you tried to make the story original or have you tried to deliver what your potential readers might like?
My story was wholly original but I have to say my wonderful editor looked at it and was blunt enough to tell me that some things needed changing. She said my original ending was like marmite, some people were really going to hate it and I would have to deal with that. I couldn’t deal with that thought at all and I am delighted with the ending of the novel now.
Q: What advice would you give to other would-be writers?
Writing a novel is hard work. The main thing for me, and every other writer I imagine, is determination. Never give up.
Q: Does writing energise you or is it exhausting, especially with such a passionate story as Fox Halt Farm?
The writing is wonderful – breathing life into characters that you have fallen in love with - describing settings and plotting lives is exciting. The exhaustion comes from not letting go – it is easy to become consumed when you are on a roll. Living the emotions that characters themselves are experiencing can also stir up your own feelings. The housework never gets done and dinners get later so I do feel a little guilty for my ever-supportive husband having to fend for himself a little more!
Q: Why have you chosen to publish Fox Halt Farm independently?
Put simply, creative control I think. This is my first novel and I had such a clear idea of the story I wanted to tell and how I wanted my characters to come alive in words. Of course, I still had a professional editor, who had extensive experience in the book world. Her help and advice were invaluable.
Q: Would you do anything differently with hindsight?
I gave my original manuscript to six people to read so that they could give me feedback. I wish I had listened to them more carefully but instead I toned their comments down to make them more palatable - I think I was too close to the story and it took a little while to be able to look at their suggestions more objectively and realise how useful their observations actually were.
Q: When you are not writing what can you be found doing?
Thinking about writing! I run (I am running the London Marathon in April 2018 and need to raise £2,500 for Macmillan Cancer Support. I love walking on Dartmoor, mountain biking on Haldon and enjoy spending time with my precious friends.
Q: Which three people, alive or dead, would you invite to a dinner party?
Amelia Earheart – such a courageous and inspiring woman, I expect she would have some incredible stories to tell. Stephen Fry – it would be an education and who else could provide such witty anecdotes, perfect for a dinner party. James Martin from Saturday Kitchen – because someone needs to cook!
Q: What is next for Celia Moore?
I need to keep finding time to write. I still have many characters in my head and I need to share their stories with the world.
Q: What are your thoughts on writing a book series around Fox Halt Farm?
I have fallen in love with the people and the place and it will be wonderful to continue to develop the story. Everything I have written in this book will set me up for the next. I would like to be the next Jessica Fletcher, where everyone she meets has read all of her books and is a fan! Perhaps less suspicious murders though!
Quick fire Round
Q: Marmite – No way
Q: Cats or dogs – Dogs
Q: Facebook or Twitter – Facebook
Q: AM or PM – definitely an early bird
Q: Hoarder or minimalist – My family say Hoarder Emphatically
Q: Book or Kindle – book
Q: Tomorrow or today – Carpe diem!
About the author
Born exactly fifty years ago, Celia has been creative ever since – from explaining why there are no chocolate biscuits left, to writing glowing particulars for ugly properties – from encouraging people to have a go at a scary abseil to oil painting and writing. She loves it all but especially the writing and her husband Paul!
... Oh! she is also training hard for the London Marathon in April 2018 and planning to raise £2,500 for Macmillan Cancer Support ... she needs to run to work off some off the calories from all the cake her customers feed her!