Fiona Thomas – Freelance Writing, Getting Published & Opening Up About Mental Health

"When it comes to freelancing, I feel kind of responsible for sharing the realistic behind the scenes."

Kirsty Turbott

Firstly, please can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your career?

I’m an author and freelance writer. I’ve written two books, a mental health memoir and a book about freelancing called Out of Office. I also run creative writing workshops designed to inspire writers at the beginning of their journey. I never thought I was good enough to be a published writer and yet here I am – so I want to encourage others to write even when they don’t feel confident!

For our readers who may also hope to have a book published one day, can you tell us a little bit about the process of getting published? 

I think every author has a very different experience. For me, it all started when I went for a job interview at Trigger Publishing. I didn’t get the job but I followed the publishers on Twitter and about a year after my interview I saw that they were accepting submissions for mental health memoirs. At that point, I had been blogging about my own mental health journey for a few years and I felt ready to take on the challenge of writing a book. I went along to an event they were hosting and got the chance to speak to the team and pitch my idea. After that, I threw together a book proposal along with some sample chapters and a few months later they got back to me and said they’d like to publish it. Since then I’ve been published again through the same publisher and off the back of those deals I’ve recently signed with an agent. I know a lot of writers who do it the other way around – get an agent first and then submit to publishers.

You are very open and honest on Instagram with your followers, can you tell us about that? 

I really don’t know any other way to be! I’m very low maintenance when it comes to hair and beauty so I simply couldn’t create content if I felt obliged to be fully made up every day. When it comes to talking about mental health, I think as a writer I just find social media an accessible way to express what I’m going through. Saying the same thing out loud to a friend or family member is much harder for me, but to type it out into a caption or say it to the camera feels way easier. It’s made me a lot more confident when it comes to public speaking though so I’m grateful for that! I also get so many lovely messages from people who say they have spoken out about their own mental health after following me so that always feels nice. When it comes to freelancing, I feel kind of responsible for sharing the realistic behind the scenes. I want to encourage people to start a business but I also want to portray the truth of what its really like.

You have also had quite an inspiring journey, I especially like what you have in your bio, ‘Mental Breakdown to Amazon bestseller’. If you could give your younger self some advice, or any young person, what would you say? 

I’d say keep going, even though it feels like you’re stuck in a dead-end job this is all leading somewhere. I’d also tell myself to make more time for creative hobbies instead of just lying in front of the TV every night. I don’t think it would have helped me be any more successful necessarily but I know that being creative in the years just after I graduated would have really helped my mental health.

How do you define success? And what is your proudest achievement? 

Success for me changes day to day and I think that’s important for people with mental health challenges to remember. For example yesterday, sucesss was making it through a therapy session. I barely worked, I didn’t even shower… but I was feeling so low, and just talking it out was a win for me. On the other hand, today I got up early, wrote a blog post, did a workout and wore make up for the first time in weeks! Both days were different but they both were me trying my absolute best in spite of my mental health. My proudest achievement is making a career change into an industry that I honestly didn’t think would ever be open to me. I worked in coffee shops for years, assumed I would need to go back to university if I ever wanted to be paid as a writer. Having my books published is brilliant, but being able to make a living and feel like I’ve earned my stripes as a writer feels amazing. If you told 24-year old me I’d be doing this a decade later I would never have believed you.

If you could have a tea party for three guests (can be dead or alive), who would you invite and why? 

Phoebe Bridgers – she’s my absolute obsession at the minute and I love her music. She’s mates with Phoebe Waller-Bridge so let’s invite her too because I loved Fleabag. And I’d love to sit down with Bryony Gordon too, she’s one of my favorite writers.

Who is your biggest inspiration/ who do you look up to?

My mate Kirsty Hulse is a mega inspiration of mine. She’s incredibly funny, intelligent and like ridiculously self-assured. She taught me everything I know about public speaking and managing nerves, and she’s just one of those people who you feel lucky to have in your life.

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