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 name is Lieve Snellings and I am 63 years young.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I live in Leuven, a little university city in Belgium. But five months a year I live in Chateau-Richer near Quebec in Canada.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I am a graduate social worker. I have worked 38 years as dispatcher at the Emergency Room department of Gasthuisberg in Leuven, one of the biggest European university clinics. Now I am retired and I have to say that I love it as much as I always loved my job.
At the age of 40 I started a professional five year training photography and worked for twelve years as a freelance photographer beside my job in the clinic.
For ten years I live in a (very) long distance relationship. It is through my partner Monique that I started living five months a year in Quebec. And she opened my passion for nature photography (before I was more a documentary photographer).
I have two sisters and one brother. We are a close family. The two grandchildren of my eldest sister, are the two girls who inspired me for my first book ‘Margot gets an unexpected visit’. They also play a main character in the book.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’m so excited, I was just voted top rated children’s author 2017 at BookGoSocial.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing my books about five years ago. Since I came to Quebec I had so many, and I think I may say ‘good’ nature photos. I wanted to share them with the world. This idea was planted as a seed in my mind and it regular aroused. And so at a certain moment it was clear for me I wanted to write children’s books, in fact photo picturebooks.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t know if I can call myself a writer, a photographer-author would maybe more correct.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I had two big inspirations sources. The first one is wildlife in our backyard in Quebec. Special Margot the groundhog, different sorts of squirrels (Germaine, Philomene and Eufrazie) and our littlest one Fiston the chipmunk.
At the other hand it were my godchild’s daughters that inspired me to write children’s books with my photos, they play a main character in ‘Margot gets an unexpected visit’.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Before starting to write about Margot the groundhog, of course I did some research on woodchucks. Then I found out that a groundhog is a solitary animal. So bringing a groundhog in contact with two little girls is a surprising storyline. The curiosity that Margot on one hand, and Lowieske and Marie on the other hand have for each other, make a connection, so we can talk about an unexpected visit.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Yes I can say I wrote both books in a specific writing style. I started from my photos, made a broad selection. Then sat outside with a cup of coffee, watched the animals in the backyard and let my fantasy travel. And so the story is written image by image. When I got a little storyline, I went inside to my computer and worked on the images.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
At one hand the book is very realistic in the sense the photos are all real pictures I took myself. And the two girls didn’t visit yet Quebec, but they are as vivid as the story tells. The aunts they visit are of course me and my partner, so also the environment in the book is real.
But as I told before a wildlife free groundhog will not become friends with humans, they live on their own, so that storyline is fantasy. I made this fantasy visible by putting a filter on Marie & Lowieske, made them look a bit as in pictures books, to make it obvious the story is a dream.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Oh yes it is thanks to my travelling between Belgium and Quebec that this work was possible. It was good to spent some time with the girls in Belgium but I also needed to spent a lot of time in Quebec’s nature to observe and photograph.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I designed the covers myself. I’m a photographer and also a long time user of photoshop. But I have to say that making a cover is different from making a photo-picture page in the book. I asked for feedback in the BookGoSocial Auther Group and got so much support. Two professional cover designers, Carolee Samuda and Pamela Grusendorf Workman, offered me a lot of information and supervised me through this process. I am so thankful to this group and those two generous artists.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, in ‘Margot gets an unexpected visit’ has a subtle message on the richness of diversity in all its forms.
‘Groundhog Secrets’ is a celebration on the beauty of nature.
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?
In fact I have different authors that interest me. My favorite writer is Griet Op De Beeck. She writes in Dutch and I love as well the content of her books as her writing style. Reading her books enriches you, it is as food for the soul.
In English I adore to read Alice Walker. I really can say that reading her books played an important role to be who I became now.
And let me name one other author I discovered recently since I started to write children’s books myself. While I was reading ‘Ronaldo: The Reindeer Flying Academy’ by Maxine Silvester. It was such an exciting reading experience. If I could have give six stars to the book, I had.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
My partner in Quebec supported me very much.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I retired last year. So writing as a fulltime career that gives also an income to live from, is not my first thought. But it would be nice if writing could add something to my low pension.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
If I had to do it all over again, I think the only thing I would like to change is that the covers of my book in Dutch (original) and French (translation) were the same sort as the English one. For the rest I think I am pleased with ‘Groundhog Secrets’.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Oh yes I learned a lot when I did research for my recent book ‘Groundhog Secrets’. So many different little tidbits which I could show in word and image in a funny way. And creating the image pages and afterwards the promotion campaign, it is a never ending time of learning.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
If you asked me that half a year ago, it was obvious that Margot the groundhog would be the main character. But as Marie turned out to become an amazing musical singer and dancer, maybe I think I would like her to play the lead role now.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
My advice would be: there are three things important in life, also in the life of a writer J
- Keep on going
- Keep on going
- Keep on going
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
When you walk (or sit or) outside, look well, also to every detail, try to open your soul to fauna and flora. Enjoy, it is relaxing, observing the wonders in nature.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
‘How I met my pet dragon’ by John E. Dorey.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Yes I do remember. I was sick and couldn’t go to school. Id think it was in my first grade, I just learned to read. My mom gave me a picture book, ‘Het Hemelhuis’ (I would translate it ‘the house of our dreams’) of the series ‘Jommeke’ (a boy’s name). It took time to read as I had to spell every letter. It took me one week to finish it, I read every word, every letter myself. I was so proud of myself.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Everything that touches me can make me laugh and cry.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Yes I would love to meet Alice Walker.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
My big passion is photographing and I started to make video’s.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
The best film I saw this year is ‘Hidden figures’.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
It is difficult to tell what food is my favorite because I like almost all. But to name one it definitely is ice cream J.
I love colors yellow and red and orange… the whole rainbow J
And music, in fact, I do not listen enough to music. I love world music, but also jazz and choir singing and even country & western J.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I’m sorry to disappoint you but I keep dreaming of writing books with my photos.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Keep the dream for peace and equal human rights going. To do so you have to see the beauty around you too.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
‘Groundhog Secrets’: http://smarturl.it/0psllg
‘Margot gets an unexpected visit’: http://smarturl.it/e7uowx
My Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/author/snellings
Facebook Author page: http://www.facebook.com/FotoBoekLieveSnellings