Hidden lives of writers revealed by a pro

Fiona Snyckers

Fiona Snyckers

Published Mar 2, 2024


Fiona Snyckers

Writing is cheaper than therapy.

I wrote “The Hidden” as a form of therapy in response to all the craziness that hit the news about America a few years ago.

You might say: “Fiona, America is a long way away and you live in South Africa. Why do you care what is going on there?” Well, you’re right, but there is also a saying that when America sneezes, the whole world catches a cold. And I had noticed some of that craziness starting to infect our politicians and opinion makers.

I imagined a fictional America – one that I was in charge of – and the whole experience was cheaper than therapy.

Some of that craziness seems to be seeping back into American life, so this is a good time for me to be writing the sequel to “The Hidden”.

On writing across genres

I would get bored if I read only one kind of book all the time. Imagine reading only fantasy or only murder mysteries for the rest of your life. That’s not for me. It’s the same with writing. I like to keep it fresh by hopping across genres. I’ve written young adult books, romantic suspense, thrillers, social satire and literary fiction, among others. “The Hidden” is a suspense novel, that can also be described as an FBI thriller and domestic noir.

Research, research, research

When you are writing a novel that has procedural elements and that is set in a country you don’t live in, too much research is better than too little. It is better to have facts at your fingertips that you choose not to use rather than making everything up. I find podcasts to be an excellent source of information, particularly one that is hosted by an ex-FBI agent who interviews current and retired agents on her show. It is called “FBI Retired Case File Review”, hosted by Jerri Williams.

Procrastination – or, can I come and clean your house?

The best time to deep clean and declutter my house always seems to be when I have a deadline looming. I look for excuses to do anything except sit down and write. I’m way too fond of the planning stage of a novel, and not so keen on the sitting-down-to-write stage. That blank screen can be intimidating.

But it’s like the old saying: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I tell myself to write just 300 words. Anyone can write 300 words. And the next day I write 300 more. And before I know it, I have a proper manuscript.

Working with deadlines

Douglas Adams famously said, “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” That always makes me laugh. But while I may have missed the odd deadline in my life, I really do try to meet them. Deadlines make me anxious, and I feel much better when I have crushed them.

“The Hidden” by Fiona Snyckers is published by Pan Macmillan and is available in all bookstores or online.

Fiona Snyckers and Gail Schimmel host “The Hidden Lives of Writers” podcast, available on all podcast platforms.

Cape Times