Fay Keenan - the author inspired By Somerset
PUBLISHED: 00:00 26 February 2020
CATHERINE COURTENAY talks to author Fay Keenan about her latest Somerset-inspired novel; The Weekender.
Fay has just returned from meeting the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance crew; it was research for one of her upcoming novels, she tells me.
Being a writer means she can arrange to talk to people from all walks of life. "I like to pick jobs that not many people know about," she says. "I'm always curious about what goes on behind the scenes - and I get to ask cheeky questions."
Interviewing the medics came about after one of their helicopters landed in a field near Fay's home in Winscombe. 'That would make a good idea for a hero', she thought to herself.
For her latest book, The Weekender, she met local MPs and ended up in the House of Commons. She's still fizzing with excitement at the memory: "I really got behind the scenes and was on the floor for the first prorogation debate."
A politician features in The Weekender, along with a New Age shopkeeper. It's the first in a series of four books, all set in the fictional town of Willowbury. The town is of course based on Glastonbury.
Her previous trilogy, the Little Somerby series, had focused around a Somerset village and cidermaking family.
"I wanted a bit of a change; I had done a little picturesque village before, but I wanted something a little more edgy. And I wanted to tackle things that were a bit more current and emotive."
Fay has enjoyed writing 'ever since I could pick up a pen'. She's an English and media studies teacher at Backwell Secondary School and has written for teaching and media publications. Her novel writing also stems from writing fan fiction, the global online writing phenomena where fans create new stories using their favourite characters from film and TV.
She was born in Hampshire but moved to Somerset with her family when she was 14, attending Churchill school. It was not the easiest time for the teenager, who didn't want to be here, but all that changed after she went away to university and then moved back to the county as an adult with her husband, Nick, who also teaches.
The two first met when Fay was working in the village shop at Sandford.
"Three days before I was due to go to university, he came into the shop and I said 'I'm going away, so if you don't want to go for a drink with me, that's fine'"
He did of course and they are still together, 24 years later.
Falling in love is key to her storylines. "I want to write what I like to read, something that makes you feel good, that's emotional but not harrowing."
The landscape is also important; it's like an extra character, she says. She adores the Somerset countryside, although it took a few years for its impact to fully hit.
"You're busy, you don't stop to appreciate what you've got and it takes time to really look around you," she says.
Fay loves the beauty, quirkiness and friendliness of Somerset, its places and people. Now, thinking back to her teenage years of struggling to love the place she says: "It was hard for my whole family moving here, but in retrospect it was right. It took me 20 years to love the landscape, so I suppose these books are my kind of apology."
The Weekender is published by Boldwood Books.