Yesterday, I reviewed Fiona Ferris’ newest book, Thirty Chic Days: Practical Inspiration for a Beautiful Life. Today, I’m thrilled to share with you a chat Fiona and I had about her book. Although we couldn’t meet over a cup of tea (living, oh, a few 7000 miles apart) it was a pleasure to “speak” with Fiona! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Fiona, thank you so much for writing Thirty Chic Days! I adore how it’s inspiring, but also approachable and realistic. How did you come up with the idea to write it?
The idea of Thirty Chic Days started out as a series on my blog in November 2010. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing to slow down rather than rev up before the Christmas season began; to remain calm and serene in the hectic holiday season by remembering my chic principles. I have since done four series, each in a slightly different format, but all still good fun, and, I hope inspiring. They are still up on my blog for anyone who wishes to read them (http://www.howtobechic.com/p/30-chic-days-series.html).
As far as Thirty Chic Days the book is concerned, doing these series sparked a germ of an idea in my mind that I wanted to expand the concept into a book – I had so much more to say on each topic! Once I started writing I couldn’t stop because I was enjoying myself so much, and I’m really proud of the final product.
I’m always intrigued to discover the environment in which a writer sits down to work. Can you tell me a little bit about your writing environment and your writing routine?
I have to be inspired to write, but at the same time I can sit down and get into a good writing state if I need to (because of a deadline etc). Sometimes I get an idea and dash to the computer or take down hand-written notes, and other times I show up to write when I say I’m going to. I need a bit of mental space to dream when I’m writing; for example one day when I was trying to figure out a tax return, when I went to write afterwards there were no words. My logical brain had completely taken over and the dreamy side of me was dormant.
For my writing environment, I have an office and a desk set up. Once I really got into writing the Thirty Chic Days book and spending so much time at my keyboard, I saw that I needed a supportive chair, so I researched and bought one. That was quite a big step for me even though the chair wasn’t very expensive. To actually purchase equipment specifically for writing meant it was becoming real and proper, and not just a hobby.
There are so many chapters in Thirty Chic Days that resonated with me, but the one in which I was most surprised about was your day on financial responsibility. We don’t often think of being chic as being responsible with our money, but I think it’s a wonderful way to look at what can be a stressful topic for many women. I hope you write more on this topic! For now, if you could advise women to make one financially responsible choice today, what would it be?
I do actually have an outline written for another book and it’s all about being good with your money, excited about finances and how to view finances as fun and simple. [Since our chat, Fiona has published Financially Chic: Live a luxurious life on a budget, learn to love managing money, and grow your wealth. I can’t wait to read it!] This is a topic that I’m really passionate about because a lot of women put their head in the sand as it’s seen as quite a masculine and boring part of life and also a bit unknown and scary. But I’ve seen first-hand how women can be exploited or left high and dry by not understanding and participating in their financial life. My goal is to have it be something that is attractive to women; that they want to know where their money is going and how they are going to fund their retirement and make good financial decisions.
My biggest tip for women is to know everything about your money. Have a ring binder with dividers in it where you file your bank statements if you still receive them in the mail. I found that when I started just piling them up in a drawer and not taking the time to file them away, that’s when I had less of a handle on things. Just the act of straightening up my paperwork makes me feel more in control.
Nowadays most of my ‘filing’ is online, so I have a spreadsheet for my bank account where I note deposits and withdrawals in my accounts (both personal and business on separate spreadsheets). In these documents I note down future withdrawals and deposits too, so I know what is coming up that I need to cover. The look a bit like a bank statement, except that they involve the future as well as the past.
I also have a Visa spreadsheet where I note every purchase before filing the receipt in that month’s envelope. That way I always know what my balance is. I used to file the receipt in an envelope and note a running total on the outside of the envelope before I started a spreadsheet. Even if you don’t use a calculator and keep a rough tally, it helps you not get carried away and again, feel more in control.
Another bonus tip is to start being interested in money and your financial knowledge by searching out blogs, books and websites that feel good to you. We’ve been taught from a young age that it’s ‘not nice’ to talk about money, however that can lead us to disregard it completely and think it’s okay not to even think about it.
Regardless of how you were brought up, money will always be a part of your life and I don’t believe it’s a dirty word. I think if we all talked more openly about money there would be far less shame and guilt from over-spending and debt, for example. These are things which can be easily hidden from others; there are many people walking around in abject misery but not knowing what to do about it. Imagine if you didn’t know where to turn, but simply by talking about your issues with others and receiving encouragement and ideas from them on how to turn things around you could not feel so alone. I really do wish there was more openness around money.
My goal in writing about money and finances is be part of that conversation making money more of a mainstream topic, to make living below your means and taking care of what you have far more appealing than over-spending and mall-shopping for leisure every weekend, and to encourage women to take an interest in their financial knowledge.
One last thing: we are surrounded by very persuasive advertising encouraging us to spend and be happy. What if they showed the real story – ‘spend and go into debt so that your home can be overrun with clutter’ – not so appealing! ‘The Joneses’ starring David Duchovny and Demi Moore is one of my favourite movies for the cautionary tale it portrays, yet even when I am watching it I am attracted to the thought of having new and shiny everything. It shows an eye-opening portrayal of just how marketers are trying different ways to sell to you. Simply being aware of their tactics means you will be more able to resist their glossy promises and instead work out what it is you want instead (perhaps happiness and satisfaction, which doesn’t come from a retail store).
Sometimes, despite my best efforts, chic-ness does not seem to come easily! I find this especially so if I’m tired and a little bit stressed. What have you been doing lately when you’re having a decidedly “un-chic” day (or perhaps this never happens to you!)?
I certainly do have my unchic days, and you’re right – often it means I’m tired or a bit stressed. Just taking a step back from my grumpiness and working out why helps a lot. Generally, it means a very early night or taking things off my plate or, doing the thing that is causing the grumpiness. What I mean by this is that there might be a task I’m procrastinating on and it’s niggling me. I generally know exactly what that task is because I’m actively avoiding it, so I go and do one step towards completing it. When I do that and then carry on to finish the task it’s almost like a euphoria comes over me!
If it’s just a flat blah day, I try not to eat too much, because those days are made for constant nibbling. I’ll have hot drinks, read a book, try and do some work and then be grateful for bed that night, knowing I will feel different in the morning. That’s the great thing – your outlook will always sunnier in the morning when you’re having an unchic day.
If I do do everything wrong – eat crap, not do tasks I promised myself I’d do etc, I try not to berate myself too much. I forgive myself and say ‘tomorrow is another day’, because it is. We’re humans! Sometimes we are lazy, sometimes we are unmotivated. Whipping ourselves like an old, tired horse is not going to get better results. Taking care of ourselves, nurturing ourselves, inspiring ourselves to do better; that works.
I know that you love books, as I do, so I must ask: what are you reading these days, and what are some favourite books that you return to?
I love reading and am never without a book by my bed, on the sofa and in my work bag. I usually have more than one on the go, always a fiction because I love the way I’m soothed by being pulled into an enjoyable story, and then I have non-fiction books that I read over time. Some are quick and some I have the bookmark move slowly through the book – it can take months sometimes, but I dip back into them when I’m in the mood for that topic.
What I’m reading currently and favourites that I return to can often be the same titles, because I love re-reading favourites and favourite authors. I love the French Chic genre and have all my Anne Barone books regularly referred to, as well as Jennifer L. Scott, Shannon Ables, Veronique Vienne, Debra Ollivier and many others. I enjoy light-hearted popular fiction authors such as Marian Keyes, Sophie Kinsella, Jane Green and Lauren Weisberger. There are many French or French-themed fiction books I have loved including Anna Gavalda’s ‘Hunting and Gathering’, Michelle Gable’s ‘A Paris Apartment’ and Imogen Robertson’s ‘A Paris Winter’.
I adore books that inspire me to be my best, so I will often indulge in some motivational reading by authors such as Robert Kiyosaki, Brian Tracy, Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie.
Autobiographies of people who have done well for themselves I find very motivating too – two favourites are Estee Lauder’s ‘A Success Story’ and Mary Kay Ash’s ‘Mary Kay’. I love the world of cosmetics, skincare and fragrance so to have cosmetic-themed autobiographies to be inspired by is wonderful. I’ve read both those books multiple times.
Alexandra Stoddard is a favourite to inspire me on living a gracious life – she has written many books on the topic and I remember when I first discovered her almost thirty years ago – what a revelation that there was someone who echoed how I felt about living well!
The giveaway has now closed. Thank you to everyone who entered!
My heartiest thanks to Fiona for this wonderful interview! As promised, to share the joy of Thirty Chic Days, I’m giving away a copy of the book. The contest is open worldwide. It closes at midnight (PST) Friday, October 14. To enter the giveaway, just do one of the following:
- leave a comment on this post, making sure to supply a valid email address so that I can contact you in the event that you win, or
- reply to or share my Instagram post announcing this contest, making sure to follow me at @anolivesea so that I can send you a direct message if you win.