Name Nancy Chase
Age I turn 49 on my book launch day, February 15.
Where are you from
I grew up in western Maine, but I always hated the long, cold winters, so now I live in central Virginia.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I live on a little 26-acre farm, in a charming but dilapidated pre-Civil-War farmhouse, with my husband, five cats, two dogs, and a small flock of goats who are all named after characters in my books.
I didn’t go to college. I was an honor student back in high school, graduated in the top 10 of my class, and was actually voted “Most Studious” of my class, but once I graduated I just wanted to get out into the “real world,” so that’s what I did.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
My first book, a dark fairy tale called The Seventh Magpie, is being released on February 15.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing since before I can remember. Before I could even write, I would try to make “books” by drawing or even just scribbling on folded and stapled-together drawing paper. I think that I just loved books so much at such an early age that I instinctively tried to make more of them.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
One of my favorite quotes, which I had as a screensaver on my computer for a long time, is “A writer is someone who wrote today.” Meaning that, whatever your level of skill (or lack thereof), if you’re in there actively doing the work, you’re entitled to call yourself a writer. But if you’re slacking off, NOT doing the work, it doesn’t matter how good you are, you’re not really a writer, at least not today.
So on any given day, depending how things are going, I may or may not “be a writer.” I try to have more days being than not being, though, and I’m getting much better at that.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Believe it or not, I first started writing The Seventh Magpie 30 years ago, as a way to try to process my grief over a youthful heartbreak that at the time felt like it had shattered my whole world apart. I wrote most of the book during my early 20s, but I wasn’t able to finish some of the middle chapters to my satisfaction, so I put it aside for years. But I always had faith in the story itself, so finally last year I came back to it and found the perspective I needed to finish it.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I try to write in a vivid, clean style with a good balance between action, dialogue, and description.
In The Seventh Magpie, I had the added challenge of presenting a story with deep emotional resonance within the confines of a fairy tale’s simple vocabulary and stylized motifs. So the book feels at first like a very simple story, only gradually revealing its deeper layers as the chapters pass.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It’s from a traditional English rhyme based on the superstition that the number of magpies you see can predict your future. Magpies were considered to be birds of ill-omen or at least somewhat mystical. The rhyme goes:
One for sorrow, two for joy,
Three for a girl, four for a boy,
Five for silver, six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told.
The seven magpies in my book don’t correspond directly to the words of the rhyme, though.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Sometimes in life things happen that leave you shattered. But amid the grief and broken pieces is the opportunity for growth, renewal, and transformation.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
A few of the settings are inspired by real places. Magpie Island, with its tidal causeway, was inspired by my visit to St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall. The marshes surrounding the Isle of Bones were influenced by memories of a fishing trip I went on with my dad when I was a kid. I guess that makes the fishing trip sound kind of scary, doesn’t it? But it wasn’t. It was fun. I loved floating through the marshy pond in that little boat with my dad.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Only on an emotional level. Many of the hopes, fears, sorrows, and frustrations that Catrin feels are based on the way I experienced those emotions around her age. But the circumstances of those emotions are not the same in the story.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
I suppose, when I was 14 years old and my piano teacher’s son (on whom I had a huge secret crush at the time) loaned me his copy of Lord of the Rings and introduced me to the whole wide fantasy genre, that counts as a big influence on my life, since I’m still reading and writing fantasy all these years later.
As for a writing mentor, I always think of my 9th grade creative writing teacher, Myra McLarey, who is now a multi-published author. She was the first person to start teaching me how to treat writing like a craft that can be practiced and improved. To this day, thanks to her, I always feel guilty if I ever use an unnecessary adverb!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m usually reading several books at a time, depending on my mood. I just finished Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Helen Oyeyemi’s The Icarus Girl, both of which were great. Now I’m reading Mr. Norrell and Jonathan Strange by Susanna Clarke and Lucifer’s Drum, which is a historical Civil War thriller by a good friend of mine, Bernie MacKinnon, whom I’ve known for nearly 30 years.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
A couple of my favorites that I read this year are Eldritch Black (The Book of Kindly Deaths) and Intisar Khanani (Thorn). Their books are dark and grim and beautiful and hopeful all at the same time, and the authors are great people who have been incredibly kind and supportive. My good friend Vanessa Leavitt released her first book of speculative fiction short stories recently, called Five Tales of Transformation, and I also liked Lee. S. Hawke’s book of science fiction fairy tales, called Division.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I have several different novels in progress. The main one I’m working on at the moment is a science fantasy space adventure called The TransSomnium Needle about a misfit band of survivors from a terrible space wreck, who take shelter in a rusty, derelict ship and try to outrun their enemies to reach their destination. There’s a more detailed description of it on my website. The rough draft is pretty much done. Now I have to go back and start putting some order to the chaos. It’s a lot of fun, because the characters are so varied and quirky, I enjoy spending time with them.
I’m also planning to release a collection of flash fiction stories very soon. There’s a little bit of everything in there: fantasy, science fiction, horror, paranormal, humor.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
I wouldn’t single out any one specific online writing community, but just the general community of writers that you can find online. So many of them are so gracious and quick to offer advice, help, and support, it’s amazing how quickly you can feel like real friends and colleagues, even if you’ve never met in person.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I see it as a calling, a challenge, and a creative outlet. With only one book out so far, it would be premature to call it a career just yet. But I have a lot of books in me waiting to come out, so yes, it could absolutely be a career in the years ahead.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would find a way to finish it sooner instead of putting it aside untouched for so many years!
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think it just happened as a natural extension of my love of books and reading. It has been with me for longer than I can remember.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I was going to share the first chapter of The Seventh Magpie, but I’ve enrolled the book in Kindle Select, so they are the only ones who are allowed to make the book available in digital format. How about if I share the book description, and then remind people that they can preview the first 10% of the book on Amazon? Would that work?
Here’s the book description:
Sometimes you must give up what you value most to gain what you want even more.
Princess Catrin is just a child when her mother vanishes, leaving her a cryptic legacy: a priceless magical book and the warning that if Catrin ever loses it, she’ll surely die. But she is a young woman on the brink of a whole new life when, in a moment of defiance, she forgets that warning and triggers a catastrophe that shatters all her hopes.
Stricken with grief and guilt, and seeking a way to correct her terrible mistake, Catrin risks everything on a dangerous bargain. Too late, she realizes just how much more she has to lose.
With advice from a half-mad witch and help from companions she meets along the way, Catrin embarks on a desperate quest to defeat seven riddling Magpies—magical tricksters who can shapeshift into anything or anyone—and win back her book or face losing everything she holds dear.
With each step the stakes get higher, and there are secrets she still doesn’t suspect. How much is Catrin willing to sacrifice to finally unmask the Seventh Magpie?
A dark fairy tale of loss and renewal.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
First drafts are the hardest part for me. Within the first drafts, the opening paragraph of the book is the hardest of all. It’s the very first glimpse into your world that a reader encounters, so you have to get it just right. I so admire books that draw me into the story effortlessly from the first words, but for me that’s something that takes a lot of effort and a lot of discarded drafts.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
Tad Williams, partly because I love big, multiple-viewpoint books with epic storylines, but mostly because he writes the most engaging characters who feel like real people I would want to spend time with—or, in the case of some of his villains, would be terrified to spend time with! If I had to name my top 20 all-time favorite fictional characters, there’s a good chance that 10 of them would be by Tad Williams.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I’m much more productive if I have long, uninterrupted hours of spelunking my own imagination, so I’m usually a homebody now. Though, as I mentioned earlier, some settings in The Seventh Magpie were inspired by places I’ve traveled in the past.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The cover art and all the gorgeous interior illustrations were done by the English mythic artist, Katrina Sesum. The initial cover concept was mine, and the actual work of putting all the pieces together into a finished cover was done by my friend Brian Leavitt.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
For some reason, Chapter Nine. I don’t know why, but that chapter was a complete nightmare to get right. There’s no reason for it to be any harder than any of the other chapters, but it was. You would laugh if you could see all the different permutations it went through before I finally found one I liked.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Perseverance. Having a day when you don’t feel like writing, or when you think you’re not writing well, or when you’re feeling anxious about whether people will like what you’ve written, none of those are reasons to stop.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Don’t wait around for the muse to show up. Sit in the chair and do the work. Don’t stop just because it gets hard or you lack confidence. It always gets hard and we all lack confidence sometimes. If we let that stop us, there would be no finished books at all.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for reading. And be prepared for something quite different from me next time around. My next book is nothing like The Seventh Magpie, but it will be exciting and beautiful and strange in its own way.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
When I was 3 or 4, my big brother taught me to read using the old “Dick and Jane” books, so certainly it was one of those.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Usually it’s the little unexpected things that sneak up on me and surprise my emotions. Occasionally, on a good day, it’s even my own writing!
Fiona: Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
I’d love to meet Edgar Allan Poe. He was a highly intelligent, sensitive, creative, and troubled person who had to struggle against many of the circumstances of his life. I think he’d be fascinating to talk to, to discover how the real person differed from the public perspective of him.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why?
I’d like to have one of those urns where they plant a tree over you and it uses your ashes as fertilizer as it grows. I think I’d make a nice beech tree. Or maybe an oak.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies?
Reading of course. I also like to do a lot of creative crafts. I make homemade soap, cheese, and yogurt. I spin, weave, and crochet. I like spending time out in nature, and spending time with my husband and my pets. I have goats, which I milk every day. I enjoy the occasional role playing game or computer game.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
We haven’t had network or cable television in our house in more than a decade, although we do watch things on DVD or Amazon Prime videos. So I don’t really keep up with the current television shows as much as most people. I do still adore Joss Whedon’s Buffy, Angel, and Firefly shows.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I like Italian food, Indian food, steak, pizza. My favorite color is green. My preferred types of music are things like classic rock, Celtic folk, some world music, although I don’t actually listen to music all that much. I’m easily distracted by sounds, so I never listen to music while I work.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I spent 10 years running my own small farm. At one time or another, I raised horses, sheep, cows, goats, pigs, and chickens. I made my own cheese, butter, bacon, and soap. I spun wool from my sheep into yarn, the whole farm lifestyle. It was wonderful, but also incredibly grueling, physically, emotionally, mentally, and financially. It’s the kind of lifestyle that you love with all your heart even as it grinds you down. I’d never want to take back those 10 years, but after that long I just couldn’t do it any longer. It was wearing me down and eating me alive.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I do. They are both at: www.nancychase.com. I’m in the process of revamping the whole site, so some parts of it may still be in progress when you post this.
I also spend a lot of time on https://www.facebook.com/NancyChaseAuthor, so that’s another good way for people to keep up with what I’ve been doing lately.