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?
Hi everyone! The name I write under is Tess Makovesky, which is a mash-up of one of my real names plus my Other Half’s original family surname which we think is Ukrainian. And I could tell you my age, but then I’d have to kill you all and I really don’t have time…
Fiona: Where are you from?
I’m originally from Liverpool but spent most of my adult life in Birmingham.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I studied history at Liverpool University before moving to Birmingham for work. While I was there I met my Other Half and have been married to him for the last 20-odd years (some of them very odd!).
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Well, I’ve just finished my first ever novel, ‘Gravy Train’, thanks to several of my friends nagging me to write something longer. It’s currently with a publisher for consideration and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. And last year I had my debut book, a psychological noir novella called ‘Raise the Blade’, published by Caffeine Nights which was really exciting.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was about five years old but started properly after an accident forced me to give up full time work. And because I have to, because the ideas just keep pouring out and I need some way of letting off that steam.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably once I started getting stuff (short stories, mostly) published on a more regular basis.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The original inspiration for ‘Raise the Blade’ was a news item about a body that had been found in one of Birmingham’s canals. I wondered who it was and how it had got there, and that set me off on the journey towards Duncan, the serial killer, and his victims, and in particular if – and why – they would put themselves at deliberate risk.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It’s taken from the Pink Floyd track Brain Damage. I’m a huge fan of the band and their music, and the lyrics to the song (‘You raise the blade, you make the change, you rearrange me till I’m sane…’) sum up the book to perfection. There are references to other bits of the track hidden throughout the book!
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I write in a very short, sharp, pared-down style which is perfect for short stories, but can be harder to keep going on a longer piece of work. However I’m delighted to say I’ve recently finished my first ever novel (‘Gravy Train’) so I’m hoping I’ve got the hang of it now.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I’d like to think the book is quite realistic, or at least that itsindividual sections are. And yes, several of the characters are based, at least loosely, on people I’ve known. One of the victims is a mixture of an old neighbour of my parents and somebody I met once at church. And sadly, Duncan’s mother suffering from Alzheimers is taken from someone very close to me. That part was extremely difficult to write.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
It’s nice to visit the locations so I have a good idea of them in my mind. However, most of my writing is based in and around Birmingham. Since I lived in the city for around 20 years I know it reasonably well and don’t always have to travel back to check the details.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The cover for ‘Raise the Blade’, which I absolutely love, was designed by my publishers Caffeine Nights. They supplied two initial designs, both of which were exceptional but in slightly different ways. It took me a long time to decide between the two but I’m so glad now that I chose this one.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That self-delusion can be very destructive. All the people in ‘Raise the Blade’ are obsessed with themselves in some way – certain that their own wants, needs or interests are more important than anyone or anything else. And it leads them to disaster. I think in the end everyone needs to be more open to the people and situations around them, otherwise we risk becoming hidebound and stuck in our own little ways.
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 read a couple of books in the last year or so that really impressed me – Sarah Hilary’s ‘Someone Else’s Skin’ and ‘Bad Samaritan’ by Michael J Malone. I don’t really have a favourite author as such, but tend to prefer writers who are willing to take a risk or do something new or unusual, rather than sticking to tried-and-tested formulae.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Can I cheat and name two? One is the late author Joel Lane, who I met during a noir writing course many years ago and who was incredibly supportive when I was starting out. The other is Graham Smith, and the rest of the gang,at Crime and Publishment, a crime writing weekend based in Gretna Green. They’ve also been amazingly supportive and many of them have become good friends over the last few years.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I see it as a vocation – something I do because I have to, and because I love it. If I can make a career out of it as well then that would be a bonus.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Other than minor tweaks, probably not. It’s got a strong narrative which I think hangs together well, and it tells the story I want it to. However, several of my friends recently pinned me against the wall (almost literally!) and said it should have been longer, so perhaps I could look at adding some extra depth.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learn new stuff every time I switch the computer on, but most recently I’ve learned that I can actually write longer books which has improved my confidence. I also learned that I need a plot which eventually loops back on itselfso that the book’s ending mirrors the start in some way. I’m hoping I’ve managed that with my new book, ‘Gravy Train’.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
This is a hard one because there isn’t really a ‘lead’ character in ‘Raise the Blade’; instead six or seven characters interact with each other, weaving in and out of the narrative and each adding their own separate but vital element. However, I think the British actor Steven Berkoff has the necessary stillness and malevolent ordinariness to play the killer, Duncan.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Keep at it! Don’t give up no matter what. Keep learning by all means, but don’t let anyone tell you you’re no good or that you’ll never be successful. And find a good, supportive writers group.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Yes – watch out for the humour. You might not think serial killers and psychological crime are all that funny, but I usually have a strand of dark, gallows humour running through all my work. Oh, and don’t forget the Pink Floyd references – and the elephants!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Right now I’m between books but a couple of recent reads are Jay Stringer’s ‘How to Kill Friends and Implicate People’, and ‘The Last Laugh’ by Paul D Brazill, both of which were fast-paced, full of action, and a complete scream.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No, it was too long ago. (See answer to first question!) Seriously, I started reading pretty young and have been devouring books ever since. It’s a job to remember exactly which the first one was.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I prefer clever or unexpected humour, rather than endless ‘is there anyone here from Margate’ stand-up routines. As to what makes me cry, any kind of suffering usually does the trick. And book and film endings that are ‘just perfect’ can leave me sniffling, too.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I’d quite like to meet any of the ‘Queens of Crime’ – Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey – to find out how they broke the mould and got themselves established (or even published!) in such a male-dominated world (at the time).
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Reading, reading and more reading.Plus crime movies.And the whole roaming the fells with a brolly thing…
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m loving most of the recent rash of Scandi-noir drama, especially The Bridge, The Killing, and Follow the Money. I also love dark comedie-noir films like Grosse Pointe Blank; action-packed crime dramas like the Ocean’s Eleven series (the new ones), the Bourne movies, and The Italian Job (both of ‘em). And wonderful classic noir comedies like The Ladykillers and Kind Hearts and Coronets. The last is pure genius, with quite possibly the best last line ever. “My memoirs!”
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Not really on the first two. Pink Floyd comes high on the list for music, along with other prog rock like Tangerine Dream, plus mood music, the blues, and some of Lana del Ray’s stuff which would make a fantastic soundtrack for a noir film.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I’m having a hard time getting my head round a future where I don’t write. I honestly don’t know. Go mad?
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Hmm, “Our mistake, she’s not dead after all” would be nice. But if I can’t have that, then perhaps “Her teeth and nails were scarlet, but her books were read”.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I have both! Track me down at www.tessmakovesky.com, or https://tessmakovesky.wordpress.com/ for a more day-to-day approach. I also lurk at Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/tess.makovesky); Twitter (https://twitter.com/tessmakovesky), and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/tessmakovesky/). I don’t actually bite, so do feel free to come and find me.
And my Amazon Author page is here:
My book is on sale at Amazon here:
And a massive thank-you to Fiona for letting me blather on about myself and my books like this. I’vehad a blast!