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, Fiona! My name is Lynne Cantwell. I’ll be hitting the big 6-0 in few months.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I grew up in Indiana, in a small city on the shores of Lake Michigan, but I’ve been living in Virginia for, uh, a really long time. Decades. Longer than I lived in Indiana. Currently, I live in Arlington, Virginia, which is just outside of Washington, DC. But I’d like to be from Colorado.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I have a journalism degree from Indiana University, a master’s degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University, and a paralegal certificate. My two adult daughters are both living with me right now. My grandkitties, Mr. Wommy and the Lady Morgana, also live with us.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’m presently working on the first draft of Maggie in Moonlight, the third and final book of my Transcendence trilogy, and am aiming to publish it before the end of the year. The first two books, Maggie in the Dark and Maggie on the Cusp, are already available. Maggie’s the main character in all three novels. She’s in her late 50s and hasn’t lived an examined life up to now – but magical events conspire to make her realize that she needs to pull her life together and set some things right, so she can get on with her ultimate task of renewing the Earth.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
So here’s the story: When I was about seven years old, the kid who sat in front of me in school brought in a book he’d written himself. I looked at it and thought, “I could do that.” So I did. Mine was called Susie and the Talking Doll. It was terrible. But that was my first book.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t know that it was a conscious decision. I was so young when I started writing that it was always part of what defined me, like having brown hair.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Let’s fast-forward a bit to my first published novel, The Maidens’ War. I got interested in mythology as part of a search for my roots. I’m half Czech, and I ran across this Czech legend called “The Maidens’ War.” At the end of the story, the main character – a warrior maiden named Šarka – disappears into a mountain, to reappear when she’s most needed. I knew I needed to write about what would draw her out – and I decided a traumatized young woman in West Virginia might do it. Half the book recounts the events that sent Šarka into the mountain and the other half is about why the modern-day woman needs her help.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I cheated – I used the title of the legend.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I find it hard to categorize what I’m writing lately. The 12 novels in my Pipe Woman Chronicles universe are clearly urban fantasy, but Transcendence isn’t so clear-cut. I even asked my street team for help. The best answer I got was that this new series is sort of a cross between Louise Erdrich and Barbara Kingsolver – so I’m going with that for now.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
For Transcendence, Maggie is about my age, and the family structure in Maggie on the Cusp is similar to the one I grew up in. But I think in general, writers are sponges – we soak up everything we see around us, and recombine our experiences and impressions so we can tell a deeper truth on the page. And hopefully change enough identifying details so that we won’t get sued.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have to travel for inspiration? No, usually I draw on memories of places I’ve lived or visited. Although the idea for the Transcendence trilogy came from a serendipitous visit to the Newark Earthworks in Heath, Ohio. The Great Circle is a massive, circular earthen wall that was built sometime between 100 and 500 A.D. It’s been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I do, for good or ill.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Every book is different, of course. With Maggie’s story, though, I think the underlying message is that you can do big things by doing small things – and getting your own house in order is a big help.
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?
My all-time favorite writer is Stephen R. Donaldson, who wrote the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever. His main character is the ultimate anti-hero, and yet you end up rooting for him. Plus I love the Land, the otherworld where the series is set.
In addition to Donaldson, my list of favorite authors is long, with Kent Haruf, Graham Joyce, Patricia McKilllip, and Barbara Kingsolver near the top. I’m also a big fan of several indie authors: Laurie Boris, Chris James, and A.C. Flory in particular. And Hugh Howey, who I guess is more of a hybrid author these days.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I have to give a shout-out to Joy Calderwood at Calderwood Books. She actually asked me whether she could publish a couple of my short stories when she was just starting her business. So when I finished The Maindens’ War, of course I sent it to her.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Oh, absolutely. I made my living as a journalist for twenty years. I’d love to do that again with my fiction.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Well, I’m only halfway through the first draft, so… But for Maggie on the Cusp? I don’t know. That was a tough one to write. I think I’ll need to get more distance from it before I can say whether I should have done anything differently.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
It seems like I can’t stop myself from learning new stuff for each book I write. In Maggie in Moonlight, our heroine is hitting the road in a used RV, and there’s been some discussion about driving it to Mexico City. So I’m getting a crash course in Mexico – everything from Pre-Columbian culture to State Department travel warnings.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I’m never any good at this game. Julianne Moore could play Maggie, maybe. Or Susan Sarandon.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
My standard advice is to apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and write. I have a master’s degree in fiction writing, but you don’t need one to learn how to write – there’s a ton of advice out there, most of it for free. But practice is the thing that’s going to make you better.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Not that I can think of.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The Girl with Stars in Her Hair by Alexes Razevich. She’s another of my favorite authors. Her sci-fi novel Khe knocked my socks off.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The first book I thought of as my favorite was Heidi by Johanna Spyri.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Mr. Wommy and the Lady Morgana are an endless source of entertainment. Who needs TV when you’ve got cats?
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I think it would be fascinating to go back in time and see the folks who built ancient structures like the Newark Earthworks and Stonehenge and the like. Talk about getting your questions answered!
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
When I’m not working on a book, I knit. I also like to read, of course.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
My taste in movies is eclectic. I’m not a fan of movies where the point is for stuff to blow up real good, but I’ve been enjoying the Marvel movies. I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 recently and loved it. But I also loved Wind River, which is just about as far from a comic-book movie as you can get.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I love Mexican food – that’s probably my favorite kind. My favorite color is blue. My musical taste seems to have gotten stuck in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but I also enjoy listening to Irish trad.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
You asked earlier what would make me cry. This might do it.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I’d go for a riff on that famous Chinese curse: “She lived in interesting times.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Sign up for my newsletter: http://eepurl.com/xxw9D
Here are some other links:
Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/lynnecantwell
The Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus: https://www.amazon.com/Pipe-Woman-Chronicles-Omnibus-ebook/dp/B00GNTUK4S/
Thanks very much for the opportunity!