Interview: Fiona Jordan talks about Donato and The Cartege Blade
Fiona Jordan is a New Zealand writer who lives in Auckland, where she divides her time between two worlds. Most of the day, she works as a primary/middle school teacher at Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu, but sneaks into her imaginary world as often as possible.
Donato and the Cartege Blade, her debut novel, was eleven years in the making. Fiona majored in Psychology at university and has used this knowledge to help create her characters. She is now working on the next books in the series. She talks to NZ Booklovers.
Tell us a little about Donato and The Cartege Blade
Donato is a thirteen-year-old boy who has spent most of his life growing up in a monastery. When he gets separated from the monks at the Spring Festival though, he stumbles across a plot to kill the King. Without giving too much away, Donato and the Cartege Blade is the story of what happens when Donato’s decision to thwart that plan throws him into danger and changes the course of his life.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had wanted to be a writer for a long time. I am a teacher and, one day about 11 years ago, when I was in the school library with my class, I saw a book called ‘Write Your Own Adventure Stories’. I got this book out, read it and started putting into action what it suggested. I was in the middle of writing a story set in Egypt when, one night I just didn’t know where to go with it, so I opened a new document on the computer and just started typing. The result was a young boy who was unhappily living in a monastery. By the end of that evening, this character had captured my imagination and didn’t let go.
What research was involved?
I knew very little about medieval times when I started writing and I was a bit worried I could get things historically inaccurate if I based the novel in a real country. I’ve always fancied myself a bit of a ‘world creator’, so decided to create my own country, but try to keep things as accurate to the medieval period as I could. That meant doing research around things like monasteries, castles, jousts, food and medieval clothes, but it also gave me freedom to deviate a little from the facts where I needed to and not get so hung up on getting everything right that it interfered with the story I wanted to tell.
What was your routine or process when writing this book?
To be honest, a very bad one, which is probably why it took me such a long time to write. When I started, I really didn’t know what I was doing and so just sat down and started writing. I had a rough idea of what could happen, and I knew where I wanted Donato to be at the end of the novel, but that was it. As time went on and I attended some writing courses and read books about writing, things became a bit more methodical. I tried to write each evening and during the school holidays. When I finally had something I was happy with, I sent it away to a manuscript assessor, who gave me a lot of great feedback that led me to starting all over again, but this time with a better plan. I worked through this process again and, after sending it to a second assessor, finally got to the version that became the finished book.
If a soundtrack was made to accompany this book, name a song or two you would include.
The soundtrack would obviously have to include some monastic music, and I think the theme song would be ‘Search for the Hero’ by M People.
If your book was made into a movie, who would you like to see playing the lead characters?
I think I would like to see Donato be played by Romann Berrux, Sir Roderick by Viggo Mortensen, and Brother Francesco by Liam Neeson. Rosamund is a bit harder. I imagine her to look a lot like a young Amanda Bynes.
What did you enjoy the most about writing this novel?
My most enjoyable moments were when I felt so in sync with the characters and their world that writing became easy. When that happened, I couldn’t wait to get back into the beautiful chaos and drama.
What did you do to celebrate finishing this book?
I printed the whole novel out, then treated myself to an afternoon of pampering.
What is the favourite book you have read so far this year and why?
My favourite book this year has been ‘The Smell of Other People’s Houses’ by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock. I loved the Alaskan setting and the way the author alternated and intertwined four first-person narratives.
What’s next on the agenda for you?
I had long thought Donato and the Cartege Blade would be a one-off book, but as I got into it, I realized there was still so much to explore, so next on my agenda is the sequel.