Fiona Mordaunt talks about how it all started with a fable.
1. Can you tell us a bit more about your latest novel, The Frog Theory?
Yes, the story is intended to be slightly fantastical, based on the anecdote of The Frog Theory which is essentially a parable, or a fable, really – that if you put a frog in boiling water, it jumps out and lives but you put it in cold water and heat it up slowly – it stays in and dies.
The message is to make decisions consciously because they matter, even if they are small. Decisions lead you to places and often become the foundation for bigger decisions.
Kim stays true to himself throughout and that is the thing that ultimately gets him what he wants – his best friend at his side, a business that only brings prosperity and a girl he truly loves. That starts with a relatively small decision – not to kiss Clea. To kiss her would damage his friendship with Flow so he consciously does not do it.
2. What made you come up with the idea for this book?
We used to have assemblies at school and they would often tell us a parable, or a fable. The Frog Theory came from those days.
When I was older, I used to play pool at a local pub and there was a girl there who was being beaten up by her boyfriend. It immediately made me think of The Frog Theory – nobody could understand how it got to that but it’s not like they went out on their first date and she knew he was going to hit her, it happened over time. That and other elements contributed to the development of the story.
3. Did you have to do any specific research?
Yes! I did do a lot of research. The story is short but complex. I questioned dancers and actors to find out how they got to the stage. I looked into personality disorders and depression, for the character of Clea’s mother and at the restrictions doctors and teachers face.
I did not have to do too much background on the characters, however, I knew so many people. One of my teachers used to joke that if ever I went missing Crime Watch would have no problem tracking my final movements because I chatted to everybody wherever I went! I was always late and a source of exasperation to many. Ha ha!
4. What are you most proud of about the book?
Good question, I had to really think about that. I would say I am most proud of the conversations. I think to hear the characters talking brings them to life. I changed the descriptive language around each character to reflect their dialect.
For example, here is Kim reflecting – ‘the old Flow would have gone to the pub, played some pool, nicked a car, HAD A LAUGH.’
If Clea had been thinking the same thing it would have read something like this: ‘The old Flow would have gone to the pub, played some pool, stolen a car, relaxed.’
It is subtle but I hope gives the reader a feel of being part of the different environments and situations.
5. What is the best thing about being a writer?
I think the best thing about being a writer for me is the feeling of participating in the zeitgeist of our generation.
Zeitgesist – the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.
There is a collective conversation going on which I long to be a part of. My driving force is emotional complexity.
6. What is the worst thing about being a writer?
That I can’t always switch it off and I lose total track of time. It really effects the practical side of my life and home and that upsets me. My husband came home from work once and I was still in my nighty typing, I had been there all day without eating or drinking, just writing.
I’m practising life/work balance constantly, I sometimes struggle to keep control but it’s improving with practice.
7. If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
To trust your instincts in finding ways to enjoy your gift. When I had my business, Image Casting, (sculpting in bronze and silver) I had a workshop full of pieces to finish and no matter how hard I tried, I could not seem to power through it all.
My friend Jane came to cheer me up in the evening and we chatted, a bottle of wine between us. I forgot all the deadlines and relaxed. She is really good at sculpting and she casually picked up various pieces, fixing a little thing here and there and I did the same.
By the end of the evening, all of the work was done. What had been troubling me for two days so far had taken just four three or four hours to complete. Being in a different zone made everything flow easily whereas being stressed had made everything go wrong – hurry makes bad luck.
It is the same with writing, sometimes I need to go and take some time out, have a hot shower or see some friends then when I sit at the laptop the words just flow.
I tend to work best in three-hour slots, with art, too.
8. What do you do to relax after a long writing day?
If it’s been a long day then I have probably lost track of time so I argue with my husband about the chaos at home, feel completely wound up and stomp around the place. It’s so annoying!
I’m working on it and I’ll tell you when I’ve found great ways to find a good life/work balance. Maybe I need Jane to come over for a bottle of wine?! I think that would help but she doesn’t like the heat so I’m waiting or winter to come to Botswana.
9. What’s next for you?
Next for me is now. I love where I am at. I’m enjoying Botswana for the wildlife, mainly, so I’m taking lots of photos and doing a fair bit of sketching. I spend a lot of time with my daughter, Ella, who is seven. I feel privileged to have that opportunity.
Tragedy and comedy in perfect proportion.
Kim and Flow are the best of friends, living on a council estate, making money selling drugs.
Just around the corner in a smarter part of Fulham is Clea, a well-heeled young woman coping with a violent home life at the hands of her twisted step-father.
The Principal runs a famous college for problem teens. Fostering guilty secrets which distance her from her own children, she resists the advances of a man she sees on the train every day.
When Kim and Clea meet by chance, Kim is smitten but worried about her. Using the anecdote of the frog theory – that it will jump straight out of boiling water and live, but stay in and die if heated slowly from cold – he wakes her up to the dangerous situation she’s in at home.
Serendipity and a cake-fuelled food fight that goes viral will bring Kim, Clea, Flow and The Principal together in weird and wonderful ways in this frenetic, laugh-out-loud story about love, conscience and lion-hearted nerve.
After attending school for model-making, Fiona Mordaunt started Image Casting in 1998, specialising in customised body castings. Over the course of 13 years, she worked on such films as Atonement and The Wildest Dream, as well as for personal clients like Lionel Richie. In 2012, she relocated to Botswana with her husband and daughter where she currently resides.