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Francesca Haig

Nalini Haynes interviews Dr Francesca Haig, Visiting Writing Fellow (University of Chester),  in the podcast (MP3, above) and the video (MP4, below).

Francesca grew up in Tasmania, gained her PhD from the University of Melbourne, and was a senior lecturer at the University of Chester. Her poetry has been published in literary journals and anthologies in both Australia and England, and her first collection of poetry, Bodies of Water, was published in 2006 that the Anne Elder Award highly commended. In 2010 Francesca was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship. She lives in London with her husband and son.

Francesca’s award-shortlisted novel, The Fire Sermon (review here), is the first in a post-apocalyptic trilogy, and is being translated into more than 20 languages. Her second novel, The Map of Bones (review here), is out now.

Francesca Haig can be found on Twitter and her website. Her books can be found in all good bookstores or ordered online including here:

The novels that Francesca mentioned when discussing her PhD research are:

  • Fugitive Pieces, Anne Michaels
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • Benang, Kim Scott

Some of her crime fiction recommendations:

  • Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole series
  • PD James’ Dalgliesh series
  • Val McDermid’s Tony Hill series
  • Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks series

And her favourite fantasy novelist, whom she mentioned several times, is the incomparable Robin Hobb, whose Farseer & Elderlings series are wonderful.

Planned interview questions — I believe all were covered in the interview

Your first two novels, The Fire Sermon and The Map of Bones, have been published. What can you tell us about the story?

You said, “I think all the best dystopias get their impact not from how dramatically different they are from current life, but from how familiar they are.” How is your representation of disability and discrimination in The Fire Sermon familiar?

Cass, the central character in your trilogy, has an invisible disability, seeing the future. This could have slotted into the magical disability trope but you took it in another direction.

Dreamworks purchased the film rights to The Fire Sermon; how is that coming?

You value the editing process; would you like to explain why editing is so important?

What are some of the changes your novels have undergone as a result of editing?

You say you plot then pants; why is plotting first important?

You’ve completed a PhD and your main research area is in the ethics and poetics of the contemporary historical novel. What is a contemporary historical novel?

Can you briefly tell us about the ethics and poetics of the contemporary historical novel and your literature review?

How, with this as your thesis, did you come to write a post-apocalyptic YA novel?

You’ve written a couple of novels that can be read as deeply as the reader desires, delving into significant social issues if they wish, and yet you’re a Twilight fan, dun dun DUNNN. Why, and why is this position difficult for you?

You wrote an essay called ‘Guilty pleasures: Twlight, snark and ironic fandom’ for Screening Twilight: Contemporary Cinematic Approaches, ed. Sarah Harman and Wickham Clayton (London: I.B. Tauris, 2014).

Why is Twilight like twinkies?

Why do traditional mainstream views of fandom assume uncritical love?

Why is it problematic to marginalise these films and fans?

You mention that, for an academic to take on a fan identity, they also load up anxiety. You’ve not only taken on a fan identity publicly but you’ve also written fantasy in spite of being a professional academic. What challenges has this wrought?

You want to write a crime novel set in the English department of a university; does this reveal a repressed desire to murder someone?

What are your favourite stories and authors?

What do you have planned for the future?

Who would win, Edward or Buffy?

Francesca Haig, author of The Fire Sermon and The Map of Bones


Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.



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