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 Piken Sander, I am Norwegian-American, and I am 50 crazy years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I have lived my entire adult life in California, USA, now a happy resident of the lovely old-growth trees in Northern CA (if I NEVER see another palm, I’ll be happy!).
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I have a college degree in accounting and finance with a minor in languages, but unfortunately not having anyone with whom to practice, I have “lost” most of my foreign language facility. I worked most of my life as a financial professional in various industries, always writing on the side, and now I am a fulltime author who does some financial work on the side. Two black tabby cats have kept me amused for many years, the OWC, Obligatory Writer Cats.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My sixth book, Baba – Against All Odds, is coming out October 16th! This is a unique romance, set in the world of high-level organized crime, an unlikely love story between a powerful older crime boss and the young woman he must marry to save her life from his ruthless associates.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I can’t recall a time that I didn’t write, from my earliest childhood to now. I loved to read and a natural extension seemed to be to create stories of my own. I had a crazy Great Aunt who urged me to tell her stories, and many of those first pieces have been updated and have come out or will come out. I wish Auntie had lived to see this!
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The day my Aunt Pearl said, girl, that is a good story! I may have been ten or younger. It hit me, wow, I can write!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always been a people-watcher, and my really good hearing often afforded me the unexpected opportunity to hear things other people say. I don’t eavesdrop on purpose, I simply observe, and all too often people forget that they can be overheard. The first book I ever wrote has not been updated and is not out, but it was about a female deputy sheriff in a small town and the problems she faced being a woman in a man’s world. I may do something with that handwritten tale one day.
My first published book was Life, Liberty, Pursuit which came out about 15 months ago. I also knew it was going to be the first of a series, a trilogy, I thought at first, but it turned out to be a quadrilogy. I’d recently been witness to a terrible betrayal by the family of my best friend, and it gave me the idea of a sort of phoenix story as I watched my friend rise from her ashes and do great things.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
“Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” is a well-known phrase in the United States Declaration of Independence, and this phrase permeates US philosophy and culture. I wrote this entire book untitled, which is a little unusual for me, and when I came to the last line of the story, it smacked me in the face, OH! that is the title! The titles of the other three in the series are takeoffs on the same theme:
The Life, Liberty Series:
Life, Liberty, Pursuit
Life, Liberty, Pursued
Life, Liberty, Pursuant to
Life, Liberty, Pursuance
Yes, I make the readers pay attention, the subtle but important distinctions in the P word in each of the titles.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I enjoy creating what I call “relationship stories”, romance. I like boy-meets-girl, boy and girl go through challenges, happy or at least hopeful ending. I am a bit of a sap in this regard, I really don’t like sad or tragic endings, I just need that element of hope, even if I don’t tie up everything in a neat pink bow. The most challenging thing about the romance genre for me is where to draw the line with passion. I prefer sticking to the wider market of ‘romance with steam/heat’, but some of the heat of romance can slip over into erotica. Sometimes a story or character(s) will take on a life of its own, and in order to be true to the flow, I will just go with it and figure out later if it is something that enhances or detracts from the story, and make whatever adjustments I feel necessary. I was actually surprised with how passionate the main characters of Sanapia and Marc in the LLP Series became! I did not set about to make them such passionate beings, it evolved as I was getting into their relationship. I decided to leave in most of this evolution, it seemed to happen organically, and it was central to the intense relationship they shared.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Everything is based to some degree on life, mine, that of others. The character of Marc in the LLP Series in based almost to a T on my cousin’s fiancé, who has been a beta reader of both our works for many years. My cousin based a character in her book Suncatcher on him as well. He is a good role model in many ways!
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I dislike travel anymore, since there are so many hassles at airports and train stations since 9/11, justifiably so but still hassles. I don’t like driving long distances either. I prefer good old-fashioned armchair traveling, which is now made easy by the Internet. When I can literally walk down a street in Venice, Italy or Venice, California via any of a number of websites, why go to the expense and trouble of going there? I have Facebook Friends all over the world that I can ask about certain details.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Dawne Dominique, her covers are simply amazing. She seems to be able to read minds, it takes so little for her to grasp an author’s vision! I have ZERO artistic talent myself, I am the stereotypical “I don’t know or do art, but I know what I like”. I know what I want to see, but I can only give her words and maybe a few images I can snag off the Internet, and what she comes up with is pure magic.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I believe that one can overcome adversity with persistence and faith and hope.
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 belong to a group of women who forward on books, we call it the Traveling Library. The rule is, you MUST read every book you receive regardless of genre. If you like a book, keep it, and replace it with one of your own that you are willing to let go of. In this I have come across so many authors I might never have read on my own, too many to name, but I have sought out other works from some of them.
I think my all-time favorite romance author is Rosalind Laker, her Warwycks series has been amount my best reads. She knows how to create characters and situations that the reader wants to invest in.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
My best beta reader, Sam, would not only help me with story things, but he asked intelligent questions, and coming from a man, I could pick his brain for the perspective of the male, and he was refreshingly honest. He never failed to let me know that he could not wait to see [whichever work] in print.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
It always has been, just not the primary one as it is now.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Not really. I have a really good editor through my publisher, and we really see eye to eye on how I express things and how they need to be tweaked to make it better.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I had to do some research about both how the wealthy live and organized crime, and while the central story is the May/December love story in Baba – Against All Odds, the odd detail made it into the story, and I think this adds richness and dimension to any story.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Which book?? J If the Life Liberty Series makes it to film, I would love to see actor Ryan Paevey play Marc Brand, he is the perfect model of the man I wrote, and Bryce Dallas Howard playing Sanapia Jones, the red hair and green eyes and her emotional range would serve the character well.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Listen to your own gut and don’t pay attention to ANY detractors.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I believe in matters of the heart, and I try to make this evident in my work. I hope any reader will become involved in the lives of these characters, come along on the journey.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The most hilarious collaboration I’ve ever seen, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. I’d never read anything by either author, although I knew the names, and I actually made a spectacle of myself in public at times, reading this book as I waited in doctor’s offices and the like, because I couldn’t help but snort and snicker and gasp and giggle.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I don’t recall the title or author at this point, but it was about a horse which was very like the one I grew up with. This horse had many practical talents like my horse did, and I do remember very clearly crying at the end when the horse died of hypothermia after saving two children’s lives in a snowstorm. I should try to find that one day.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh at absurd things and I especially love sarcasm. I cry at injustice, against me or against someone(s) I don’t even know.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I’d love to meet Eleanor Roosevelt. That woman had brains and soul and MOXIE, at a time in history that women were expected to be ornaments on a man’s arm.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I love to sew, wish I had more time to make things. Writing seems to be all-consuming now, what with writing, editing, promoting, everything involved in getting a piece out there. I think my poor sewing machine needs a thorough cleaning before I use it again, for just sitting in the box so long!
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
My guilty pleasures are soap operas, even foreign language ones, as long I can turn on the translator. I love the whole “Say Yes to the Dress” series all versions, even the UK version. I have never been the girl who was interested in the Big White Wedding, but it is interesting to watch the process with others, and bits and pieces have made it into my romances.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I love rice and pasta, across a number of different cuisines, and I have definitely inherited the family sweet tooth, particularly chocolate. With my pale complexion and green eyes, I look best in anything in the red family, from purples to pinks. I love music, often have a whole mix running as I write, but I don’t stick to one genre. I may listen to country, pop, heavy metal, dance, rock, classical all in the space of an hour.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I might just find something interesting and creative to do with that dusty sewing machine!
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I can’t decide between something snarky and something philosophical. But the fact is, I am not being buried, I want to be cremated and my ashes spread over the area of land in Montana where my forbearers homesteaded, no headstone, so I guess that solves that need for a decision.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I have both Author and Street Team pages on Facebook where readers can follow what is coming up. I am reconstructing my website, and similar updates, as well as the opportunity for questions and discussion, will be there.
Author page: https://www.facebook.com/PikenSanderAuthor/
Street Team page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1068145849931993/
Links and video trailers for all books out now:
Life, Liberty, Pursuit
Life, Liberty, Pursued
Life, Liberty, Pursuant to
Life, Liberty, Pursuance
LLP Series trailer
All five books out now are available under Piken Sander on Amazon, both in the US and UK.