Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My pen name is Ally Blue. My real name is A Secret, sorry 🙂 I’m 53.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Originally from Mobile, Alabama, although I’ve lived in the Western North Carolina mountains ever since I got married as a sweet young thang.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I started out going to collegefor a biology degree. Then I met the man who would become my husband. We got married (at age 21; we were babies!) and I switched to nursing. I’ve been an RN for 29 years. My husband and I have two wonderful children, both grown now. My daughter is a pre-school teacher and my son creates 3D computer models. I grew up on the Alabama Gulf Coast, and now live in the Western North Carolina mountains with my family. The mountains are wonderful, but I miss the ocean.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My latest book release is actually a re-release: The Happy Onion, first published by Samhain Publishing back in 2009. Samhain went out of business earlier this year, so I’m self-publishing some of the books (20+) that I had with them. The Happy Onion is the first. It’s now available for pre-order through all the usual channels. Release date is July 30th.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Oh man. I wrote my first stories when I was a child. I wrote (and illustrated!) picture books about my younger sister’s (mostly fictional) adventures camping, hiking, swimming in the inflatable kiddie pool in the backyard, and other such super exciting stuff. I also penned my very first romance, a less than brilliant work of crayon-on-stationary titled Sylvia the Milk Maiden.I don’t remember what it was about, other than involving a Beautiful Milk Maiden. Why? Who knows? It seemed like a good idea at the time. I think I watched and read too many Cinderella-type princess tales.
There were other stories over the years.I wrote a romantic crime thriller in creative writing in high school which I thought was fabulous at the time but probably wasn’t. And I’ve created countless tales in my head all my life. I guess it just seemed like a natural progression to go from there to fan fiction, which is what led me into writing professionally.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
You know, the answer to that isn’t as straightforward as I used to think. I always figured it was when I wrote my first published short stories. But really, I think I started considering myself a writer before then. I used to write band slash fan fiction. Most of it was mediocre at best, but some of it was pretty good. I loved the process of creating a story. I couldn’t pinpoint a day or a time, but somewhere along the way, I started to think of myself as a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
You’re gonna laugh. But my first book, Forgotten Song, was inspired by a fan fiction I wrote. My original intent was to re-work the story with original characters, but that didn’t end up happening. There’s nothing left in the book of the original fanfic. But the book wouldn’t exist if the fanfic story had never existed. It was by far the longest fanfic I’d ever written, and the most complex. The fact that I was able to craft what amounted to a pretty decent mystery/thriller gave me the confidence to try writing a book with my own, original characters.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The same way I do with basically all my titles that don’t immediately suggest themselves to me: I Googled quotes, poems, etc. until I found one that fit my needs.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I try to write in a way that’s direct and evocative, which is always challenging. Creating characters who live and breathe on the page is always a challenge as well, and I do try to do that. Not sure if you’d call that a style, really. LOL.
I write gay romance. The pronouns can be a real pain, especially during sex scenes.Balancing the use of proper names and pronouns is always difficult. I usually end up changing things around several times before it all sounds right to me.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
In all of my books, the actual events are 99% invented. Occasionally, I’ve put in something experienced by myself or someone I know. Where my own experience comes in–with every book–is in the thoughts, the feelings, and the emotional reactions. We’ve all felt love, grief, loss, joy, excitement, etc. I draw on those emotions in my own life to help turn my characters into real people. To me, that’s the key. Characters who feel real are always the heart of a good book. If readers don’t care what happens to the characters, then nothing else in the book makes any difference.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I wish! There are so many places I’d love to see, and to write about. And I’ve written books set in places I’ve never been but would love to see (like the Oregon coast). That said, I’ve definitely used places I’ve been in my books. I love to travel and wish I were able to do more of it.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The majority of my covers were done by artists working with my various publishers. I’ve been very lucky to work with some amazing artists. My very own live-in artist–my husband–has done a couple of covers for me lately, as I’m starting off on my self-publishing adventure.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
None of my books really have any particular message, beyond love, inclusion, and equality for everyone. I feel like those things are part of what it means to be human, and therefore an indelible part of any character who I want readers to care about. I never really go into writing a book thinking, I want to get across this or that message.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
Not sure if you’d call him a new writer, but I love Joe Hill. I’m a horror fan from way back, and I think he grasps the way good horror needs to be built on well-constructed characters. It runs in the family! (For those who don’t know already, his father is Stephen King.) Another newer author (to me, anyway) is Madeline Ashby. I recently read her novel Company Town, and OMG, the world building, the characters, and the plot in that story blew me away. I was looking for a non-romance novel starring a grown woman (YA is fine, but, yeah; I wanted a grown-up heroine) and man, she delivered in spades. Definitely gonna be reading more of her stuff.
I can’t say I have a single favorite author. The authors I love to read are numerous–the aforementioned Joe Hill, Stephen King, Nalini Singh (Guild Hunter series!!), H.P. Lovecraft, to name a few. The thing most all of them have in common is that they write (or wrote; I read a lot of dead authors) wonderful, living, breathing characters. The exception being Lovecraft, who was extraordinary with world-building and mood–nobody has ever done cosmic dread like Lovecraft–but IMO was weak on characterization.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Loose Id was my first publisher. They took a chance on my very first novel, when I was a complete and utter nobody. I’ll always be grateful to them for that.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Oh yes, definitely. It’s not my primary source of income; I still need a day job to keep myself and my family fed, clothed, and housed. But I see the day job as the thing that pays the bills, and writing as my real career, because writing is what I love. It’s what holds my heart.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Hm. Well, since I actually could change my self-published short story collection, Loose Stories, if I wanted, I’m applying this question to my latest published novel: No Small Parts, published by Riptide Publishing in Dec. 2016. And the answer is, no. Not one thing. Riptide’s wonderful editors helped me polish that book to a diamond sparkle. At this point, there’s not anything I’d change. I’m very proud of it.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
The very latest book I wrote is a Southern Gothic horror/romance called The Night Orchard, currently being shopped to agents. I learned more than I ever wanted to know about the life cycle of pecans, LOL. I also learned some extremely interesting Muskogee monster legends.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Still talking about The Night Orchard, I’d want Donald Glover. I had his face in my head when I wrote Roland Boone, one of my two point of view characters.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Don’t stop. Never give up. Never, ever stop learning and honing your craft. We all have stories in our heads. The key to getting them on the page in a form people will want to read is learning that skill. And it is a skill. No one is born knowing how to craft a story. A successful author learns how, and keeps on learning all his or her life. The worst mistake you can make is to say, “I know this, I don’t need to listen or learn.”
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
First of all, my primary publisher, Samhain Publishing, has gone out of business, which I think many already knew. I’m going to be self-publishing some of those books, including my most popular series, the Bay City Paranormal Investigations series. Probably also the BCPI spinoff series, Mojo Mysteries.
Also, for anyone who hasn’t read many of my books before, I write mostly romance–in sub-genres ranging from romantic comedy to futuristic dystopian–but I’ve recently branched into horror. So, just fyi: check before buying, so you’ll know what you’re getting.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee. The follow-up to To Kill A Mockingbird, for anyone who doesn’t know. It was actually written around the same time. It’s an interesting story, with that same interesting and evocative voice.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No, I’m too old! LOL. But I remember the first book I bought myself with my allowance. It was The Demon of Detroit and Other Tales of Terror. One of those little paperbacks from the little Scholastic catalogue they used to give out in school when I was a kid. Do they still do that now?
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I have a ridiculous sense of humor. I laugh at stupid puns and nonsensical stuff, and whatever happens to strike me as funny at random times. Rarely anything very highbrow, although I do tend to laugh at silly nerd-memes. And SpongeBob. I love SpongeBob.
I cry at the drop of a damn hat. I cried pretty much all the way through Wonder Woman. Because she was so fierce charging at the Germans and crouching behind the shield and smashing the tower, and all the things, aaaaaahhhh!!! And every episode of The Handmaid’s Tale has made me cry. (I still have to read the book…) And the end of Lord Of the Rings (book and movie, but more so the book) makes me cry every time. In fact, there are lotsof parts of the LOTR book trilogy that make me sob like a little girl. Still, after reading them more times than I can count. Weddings always make me cry, even if it’s somebody I don’t know well. There’s one part of one of my own books that still makes me cry. That’s just weird.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Hillary Clinton. Is there anyone on this Earth more poised, more composed, more competent? Not to mention calmer in the face of decades of unjustified attacks, for no other reason than her being a successful, smart woman. She’s my hero.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Reading, obviously!Besides that, I enjoy running. I run two or three days a week, about 3 miles each time. That’s my “me” time. It’s relaxing to my mind and invigorating to my body. I’ve come up with great ideas for stories and solutions for problems while running.
I also love to watch found footage horror movies. Yeah, I know, that’s weird. LOL. But I love them. I don’t even care if they’re bad, although I obviously like good ones more.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Horror movies! I’ve always loved to scare myself. I also love sci-fi. Combine the two, and I’m in heaven.
My favorite TV shows right now are Orphan Black, Game of Thrones, Better Call Saul (just as good as Breaking Bad!), and The Handmaid’s Tale. I still watch The Walking Dead, mostly because my husband still likes it, but that show’s on shaky ground with me right now, for reasons that would require an essay to explain. Oh, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt! Love that show.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I love veggie pizza, kettle chips, fresh blackberries, crispy French fries, and a good Reuben. Oh, and chocolate cake. And dark roast coffee. And Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Or Chile, they make good SBs too. My favorite color is green–lime green, emerald green, deep grassy green. Sea green. Not so much olive greens.
I have many, many opinions on music. I will not bore y’all with them. You’re welcome. Suffice to say, my number one all-time abiding favorite is Radiohead. As Snape would say, “Always.” They always give me new things to love. Besides Radiohead, I love Perfume Genius (the “genius” part is not an exaggeration btw) and Patrick Wolf. There are tons of other singers and bands whose music I listen to and love, but those three are the only ones who I love enough to have all of their albums, and listen to them regularly.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Become a ghost. Seriously. I can’t imagine that. It scares me.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
My website is allyblue.com. Any updates you need will be there.
You can also sign up for my newsletter. I usually only send a newsletter when I have something to say, so it’s not all that often. Subscribers get exclusive excerpts and occasional newsletter-exclusive contests. Also random pictures. And recipes, sometimes. It’s a glorious smorgasbord.
Here are the links:
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004XKCER0
The Happy Onion: http://www.allyblue.com/standalone-books/the-happy-onion/
No Small Parts: http://www.allyblue.com/standalone-books/no-small-parts/