Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Hi, Fiona. Good to meet you, and many thanks for the invitation.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
58 and counting
Fiona: Where are you from?
Born and grew up in Liverpool, England, where I still live and work.
Great city, great people – “Liverpool is The Pool of Life” – Carl Jung
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
Educated at Our Lady of Good Help Primary School and Cardinal Allen Grammar School, Liverpool. After taking my A-levels I went hitch-hiking round Europe for several months before returning to Liverpool and a series of jobs in the Public and Charity / Community sectors. More recently, I’ve been self-employed as a freelance training and development consultant, helping to set-up and establish small businesses, sole-traders, community groups / entrepreneurs, etc.
My father died when I was only 11, my mother tragically early, aged just 63 in the early 1990s.
Had a series of short- and long-term relationships, but never married, no children, and single at the moment.
One brother, four nieces.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I recently finished compiling a new poetry collection, Natural Inclinations, fifty poems with a common theme of Nature / the natural world. I’ve been sending off individual poems to journals and magazines to build up the Acknowledgements section and am now starting to submit the collection to publishers.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always enjoyed reading and I suppose writing my own stories was just a logical and natural progression.
I started my first novel, a children’s story, The Dinsdale Fox, when I was 17, followed by an Arthurian saga, Death Of A Warrior, in my early twenties. I can honestly claim to have the nicest set of rejection slips from that time; even having publishers pass work on to other publishers they thought might be more responsive. However, I grew quite disillusioned and it was at that point I decided to concentrate on writing poetry, producing three chapbook collections during my twenties and early thirties.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In my heart, always. In my head, when I had my first poem, The Photograph, published in 1983 (in the prestigious First Time magazine).
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Everything I’ve ever written, poem, short-story, novel, play, has always began with a single image in my head (not always the opening line or paragraph). With The Dinsdale Fox it was the image of a dust cloud in the distance drawing nearer along a road:
Early June in Southern Ontario; that part of the vast sprawling province which juts down into the United States like a wedge between Lake Huron to the west and Lake Ontario and Lake Erie to the east and south. Farming country; and that means wheat, mile after mile of it gently swaying in the breeze like the waves of a vast ocean. A great mass divided into sections roughly a mile square by a grid of dirt tracks running to the four points of the compass, which from the air gave the countryside the appearance of a giant chessboard.
On this particular day the air was still, the sky cloudless and the sun, now at its zenith, beat down, pushing the temperature up into the high eighties and causing the distant horizon to shimmer in the reflected haze. Far off to the right, on the very edge of the wheat fields, a dust-cloud wormed its way across the skyline.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I just liked the word ‘Dinsdale’ and gave it as a surname to the local land owner in the story.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I don’t think so, on either point, and I don’t write in one specific genre. In addition to the Children’s and Arthurian stories mentioned above, Paper Gods and Iron Men is a WWII desert survival story and my most recent work, Cosgrove’s Sketches, is the story of an Edwardian Liverpool artist. My play, Sometimes, is a modern tragic-comedy set in the Home Counties – so a pretty mixed bag.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I think all writers put something of themselves in to their work, even if only subconsciously, but I think only a couple of the poems could claim to be about actual experiences.
Paper Gods and Iron Men I tried to make as ‘real’ as possible and reviews have used phrases such as: ‘really atmospheric’, ‘ I could feel the heat of the desert from the first page’, ‘believeable characters’, ‘You could almost feel the heat, the grit of the desert and really empathise with the characters.’ and ‘I felt that I was in the footsteps of the journey from start to finish’, so, hopefully, I got it right.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
No, research is so easy to do on-line these days, but I would love to be able to just go and stay somewhere like Lake Garda (Italy) or Söll (Austria) to write – maybe even Hollywood one day!
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I designed the covers of my first three poetry chapbooks myself (back in the eighties and early nineties), then both Assorted Bric-a-brac and Paper Gods and Iron Men.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Paper Gods and Iron Men is a story of endurance and survival, of ordinary people in extraordinary situations. I suppose the message, if there is one, is that we don’t know what we are capable of until we try.
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?
I’ve met so many new authors through Facebook / social media, and many have been really supportive and encouraging. I’m a great admirer of Graham Greene, and Paul Pickering (The Leopard’s Wife, Over The Rainbow) is the closest of these in style and content to Greene. I’ve also enjoyed the work of Mark Ellis and Robert Southworth recently.
Greene and H E Bates are consumate story-tellers, hardly a wasted word, and much under-appreciated these days. I was so proud to be a prize-winner in the annual H E Bates short-story competition a few years ago.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Warren Adler (War of the Roses, Random Hearts) was most encouraging and urged me to release my novella, Paper Gods and Iron Men, on Kindle a few years ago. It has received a number of excellent reviews and I am most grateful for his support.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’m getting there!
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Is any writer ever completely satisfied with what they’ve written? I can only say that I do the best I can and am genuinely proud of the Natural Inclinations collection – there are some lines I wrote in individual poems where I just sat back and smiled contentedly.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I had a rejection recently from a leading poetry journal in the USA to which I’d submitted a selection of poems from the Natural Inclinations collection (I’m not a writer who agonises over rejections at all and always look for a positive / constructive reaction). The Editor wrote: “As with [Robert] Frost’s work, your work has a strong narrative sense (I understand what each poem is about, which is more than I can say for most poetry I read); further, you do not overload your diction, so when you do employ a charged word / phrase it stands out effectively. “
That really made me think about how much I’ve pared down my writing over the years, stripping away the waffle and padding – less really is more.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
The two central characters in Paper Gods and Iron Men are British Army officers in the Second World War. In the heyday of the British movie industry they would have been played by Richard Burton and Trevor Howard or Stanley Baker and Donald Pleasence. Today, Daniel Craig and Colin Firth would be perfect. I do like the idea of a ‘Based on the novella by…’ screen credit!
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
I love the Thomas Berger quote: “Why do writers write? Because it isn’t there.” and Toni Morrison’s: “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”
My advice would be: Don’t ever have any expectations, and don’t ever give up!
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Thank you for all your support – and please leave a review: they are so important!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I always have a couple of books on the go. I’m plodding through Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, and finding it really hard going. Joanna Cannon’s The Trouble With Goats And Sheep is a much easier read and far more enjoyable.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first ever? No. I’ve always been an avid reader and was brought up on the classics of childhood and adolescent literature, everything from Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and Famous Five, through the works of Robert Louis Stevenson, G A Henty, Mark Twain, Jules Verne and C S Lewis, to J R R Tolkien, H G Wells, Richard Hughes, Laurie Lee and John Wyndham.
There was a branch library at the bottom of the road I grew up in as a child and passing through those big double doors was always like setting out on a new adventure.
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was the book that first made me want to write, simply because it was a ‘Boy’s Own’ type of adventure that I could relate to. In my teens, Graham Greene, H E Bates, Daphne Du Maurier and John Steinbeck were a great influence as far as style, characterisation and narrative are concerned.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
At the moment, Trump, in equal measures.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I stopped trying to answer this question when I got to two dozen! Bogart and so many other great, film stars; writers such as Graham Greene, H E Bates, Oscar Wilde; artists, musicians . . . it would be one hell of a dinner party!
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I am an avid reader, enjoy live and recorded music, theatre- and cinema-going, dining out and travelling widely – that sounds like a Lonely Hearts Advert!
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love classic black-and-white films – Humphrey Bogart is my all-time favourite film star. Shirley Temple, Fred Astaire, Marilyn Monroe, The Marx Brothers, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis . . .
I grew up as a child in the 1960’s Golden Age of escapism television (The Avengers, The Prisoner, The Man From Uncle, The Saint, Batman, Thunderbirds, etc, etc). Great comedy shows which use language / word play have always appealed: M*A*S*H, Frasier, Yes, (Prime) Minister, Blackadder. . .
My current favourite TV series is The Blacklist; along with various factual / documentaries on Sky Arts and BBC Four.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Mediterranean / Chinese
Black / White
Classical, Opera, Jazz, Blues, Rock, World
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“Stop reading this – go read a book . . .”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
You can also give my Facebook Official Author Page a ‘Like’ at: https://www.facebook.com/Kevincowdallauthor
Check out Paper Gods and Iron Men and Assorted Bric-a-brac at:
Thanks again, Fiona – some thought-provoking questions, enjoyed answering them all.