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?
I’m Mary Anderson Parks and I am 78.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Southern Ohio, transplanted to San Francisco in June of 1945 at age six and a half. We went back to Ohio often in summer and stayed with grandparents and other relatives.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I went all the way and got a law degree, but not until I was 34. At 19, I eloped with George, who is Korean and Chinese, and who went on to become a rocket scientist. We had two daughters and are now living in the same Berkeley house with our younger daughter, her husband, a rock musician, and their two daughters, 12 and 16. Our grandson is 26, living and working in Boston. He is the son of our older daughter, who died at 39.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
What I am most excited about in the past year is the release of my novel “Flight to Ohio, from Slavery to Passing to Freedom” by Tayen Lane Publishers.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I was seven and couldn’t help myself! I loved the elation of creativity.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was seven.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Working with Native Americans inspired me to write my first book, “The Circle Leads Home.” I was in a writing course that I thought was on short story writing, but the teacher, Robert Ray, was writing a book called “The Weekend Novelist” and tried out his method and theories on us. Before I knew what was happening, I was writing a novel. I love the space a novel gives the writer to develop characters and ideas.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Circles have special meaning for Indians, for example the talking circle where you speak only when holding the sacred pipe, stick or feather that has been passed on to you. I wanted my troubled heroine to end up back at home on her reservation. She was following a path and it led home.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
So far I’ve written all my novels in first person, present tense, which is in some ways limiting but I like to get as close to my characters as possible, into their thought processes. In a sense I am applying method acting to writing.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Sometimes my own personality or experiences break through, come up unexpectedly, but I don’t do it consciously. Rather, I am trying to tap into something deeper, broader. A memory bank? The unconscious?
Usually I have a model in mind, or even two or three, for my characters, people from my real life experience.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
No. A windowless cell is fine! It is my own mind the story is coming from.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
“The Circle Leads Home” and “They Called Me Bunny” are from paintings done by my talented artist friend Laura Pizzuto-Velaz.. ”Flight to Ohio” is by Wasi Sabi Design Studio. The photo is of my mother as a young woman. The book is dedicated to her.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I want people to understand each other better, to be more forgiving and less judgmental, to see what has made others the way they are. Books help that happen.
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?
A remarkable new playwright is Julia Cho, who wrote “Aubergine” and “BFE” and combines drama and humor wonderfully. My favorite author is Toni Morrison. She writes from a place deep inside. She has great respect for her characters and gives thought to the form her novels take. Anita Brookner is also a favorite. She is a master at portraying loneliness. I like her humor too.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
My high school English and drama teacher, Mrs. Dickson, who taught me how to think.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, but you need a day job!
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t think so.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned an enormous amount about slavery and its aftermath from reading many fiction and non-fiction books on the subject, also a good deal of the “passing” literature. I did a lot of digging down into my memory, also fact-checking.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Angela Bassett could play Mama. Viggo Mortensen could be Tom, but he’s too old. Emory Cohen?
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Get rid of your internal censor, the voice that says, “You can’t write THAT!” Try Natalie Goldberg’s method of doing timed writings, five, ten or fifteen minutes. Set your timer and GO! Keep your hand moving, no matter what. It’s okay to have in mind a general idea of what you want to accomplish in a scene, but don’t stop and think, just write.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Thank you for caring about these characters. I love to hear from youl
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Willa Cather’s “Death Comes For the Archbishop.”
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Dick and Jane and Spot? More probably a picture book. Daddy always read bedtime stories to me when he was home. I remember we loved Freddy Fox. I moved on to all the Wizard of Oz books, solid satisfying books from the library, with pictures in colog.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Goodness can make me cry, especially when someone comes through unexpectedly and does the noble thing.
I’ve cried all the many times I’ve read or seen “Little Women.” Sometimes I cry so hard I have to stop reading. I probably cry at the places the author hopes the reader will cry. I cry when I read my own books.
I love it when a book makes me chuckle, or even hoot. It comes as a gift, a moment of grace. It can be when something seems very true, or outlandish. Or both.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
My maternal great-great grandfather, Tom Jones. I would ask him about his life.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
For about four years I have done transcendental meditation, twenty minutes twice a day. I have always read a lot. I love to see movies and plays. I walk and take classes in yoga and aerobics at the YMCA.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
French films and films like Duel in the Sun where the lovers end up dying in each other’s arms. Some specific favorites are On the Waterfront, The Conformist, Shane, Ray, Twelve Years a Slave, Django Unchained, Fences, Loving, Streetcar Named Desire, Gandhi, The Hundred-foot Journey, Brooklyn.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Bread and cheese. I used to like orange, all shades from peach to burnt orange, then green and blue-green, and lately the gorgeous deep purple of some flowers.
I like country music, also classical, and rhythm and blues. I love Ray Charles, Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Listen to music, sing more, tell the people I love that I love them, better yet, show them.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
This woman loved experience.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?