Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Hello Fiona, thanks for inviting me here. This is really cool. I hope your readers enjoy reading this.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Jane Risdon and I’m old enough to know better.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Born in England, a citizen of the world.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie: your education, family life, etc.).
I was born into an Army family and travelled throughout my childhood as a result, living overseas a lot of the time.
Married a musician with whom I have a son. Our family has travelled and lived over-seas mostly, and our son still lives in Los Angeles.
Family life on the road with his band, and later when we went into management of singers, songwriters, record producers, and being based most of the time in America and SE Asia, has meant that life has been challenging for us. Sometimes we have been ships that passed in the night. Touring, recording, and the general day-to-day life in our business takes a toll on personal lives and it is a miracle we are still married, let alone sane – but that is another story.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Latest news? Cripes. Two anthologies in which I have contributed stories were both nominated for the Summer Indie Book Awards 2016: Ghostly Writes Anthology 2016 and Cons, Dames and G-Men.
Results came out this week and Ghostly Writes 2016 received a Silver Award.
So I am dead chuffed for my fellow contributors and myself.
Other news: After lots of publication dates being changed, the novel I have co-written with best-selling and award-winning author Christina Jones, is to be published 23rd November 2017 by Accent Press Ltd.
We revealed the cover last week and set up pre-ordering links on Amazon and so far the response has been amazing. Huge thanks to everyone ordering it so far.
It is called Only One Woman and the title was inspired by The Marbles song (written by The Bee Gees) of the same name. Graham Bonnet who sings it went on to have an amazing career in Rainbow and other fabulous rock bands.
This is a change of genre for me – not my usual crime story – and it is set in 1968/1969 – the fabulous times we who were fortunate enough to experience will never forget.
Only One Woman follows two girls in 1968/1969 – years which change their lives drastically, forever. Renza and Stella – who, unbeknownst to each other, are in love with the same musician – Scott – lead guitarist with Narnia’s Children. It is more than a love triangle, it is about the music, the fashions and the very way in which world events begin to influence their lives. The story takes the reader from England to Germany, and to Jersey in the Channel Islands, giving them a colourful insight into life outside England at a time of great social change.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Reading became my escape from myself and those around me growing up. I don’t know when I began writing, it seems to have been something I’ve always done. I stopped whilst I was involved with music as the way of life was not conducive, although my experiences have given me the inspiration for many of my stories.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When someone told me that was what I was. Until then I thought I was an imposter. The person reading my work was an established author with much success and told me that someone is an author/writer as soon as they write something for someone else to read. Until they read my efforts I had kept my work to myself – apart from having my husband read it of course.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book, Ms Birdsong Investigates – still in with my publisher – was inspired by my love of all things crime and spy related. I should mention that I have several books in various stages of completion – if only there was enough time.
Ms Birdsong Investigates is a series of books – parts two and three are in various stages of completion – about former MI5 Officer, Lavinia Birdsong, ‘voluntarily’ retired far too early following a cocked-up operation partnered with MI6 Officer and her then lover, Michael Dante. She got the boot, he got Moscow.
The series follows her in her ‘retirement’ and fight to be reinstated at MI5, and in the meantime she finds herself involved in the search for a missing woman which leads to murder and the uncovering of people trafficking, gun and drug running involving the Russian Mafia, Ukrainian Pro-Government fighters, right under her nose in Ampney Parva, which Ms B absolutely laps up.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
As with most of my stories – I write lots of short stories too – I often get the title long before I have any idea of what the story will be about. It might come from an overheard conversation, a news item or an event from my past. Titles just pop into my head. I think I heard someone talking about someone called Songbird, anyway the name stuck in my head and I turned it around.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I wasn’t aware that I had a writing style, I thought I just wrote. But, after the publication of several of my short stories in various anthologies I received a review by another writer I’d never come cross before, who said that I was reminiscent of Elmore Leonard in my style. I’ve never read Elmore Leonard so that was interesting.
Also, another writer said that my writing reminded him of John Fowles because I was able to move back and forth between two periods of time keeping the reader engaged without making any slips, which also reminded him of the early Gothic writers. I have never read anything by Fowles or even seen the movie he mentioned – The French Lieutenant’s Woman – or read any Gothic books, so I guess I have to take it on face value.
I have not consciously developed a style as such, I think it has evolved. I tend to keep sentences short, chapters short where possible, and I don’t go in for flowery descriptions and my characters are real. Having worked around mainly men all my life I think I can capture male dialogue fairly well. I’ve had to listen a lot and it must have rubbed off.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
It would be strange if I didn’t use some of my life experiences in my writing. I’ve worked in various Government departments and I draw upon my time there when writing about anything to do with espionage for example – Ms Birdsong Investigates in particular.
Having worked in the international music business I absolutely delve into my memories and experiences for inspiration. The music business is ripe for the plundering and my time in Hollywood, for example, has given me endless material to use. Music, movies, television, money, fame, power and organised crime. It has it all.
Let’s take Only One Woman as this is going to be published in November.
The story is about two girls, who’ve never met, but are in love with the same musician – a lead guitarist who they both meet in 1968. It follows their lives through to the end of 1969 when the guitarist has to make a choice – there can be Only One Woman.
Renza is 16 when she meets Scott after his band arrives in England to tour and record – and they fall in love.
Stella is 19 and convinced she is going to die on the operating table when she meets Scott at a gig after Renza has moved abroad, and they fall in love.
With Renza out of sight, Stella becomes a fixture in Scott’s life as well as becoming his band’s fan-club secretary.
Yes, I met my lead guitarist husband when I 16 and about to move overseas, just like Renza.
Yes, Christina became my then boyfriend’s fan-club secretary having met the band at a gig – she wrote for Pop music magazines back then – just like Stella.
But, apart from us both experiencing the music scene in the late 1960s and that we both knew my then boyfriend, we had never met in person until years later. We have both wanted to write a book together using our individual and collective memories of those times, and so we came up with Only One Woman, which is a work of fiction loosely inspired by our joint experiences growing up in the late 1960s.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I don’t have to travel to write. I have travelled extensively all my life so I have a huge memory bank upon which to draw if need be. I do, however, use photographs – old ones – and those I take on my long walks – as well as old diaries, letters and other materials I’ve collected along the way to help jolt my memory if I am writing a piece based on something that has happened or a place I’ve been.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My publisher has an in-house team who design covers. As an author, much like a recording artist, I don’t get much of a say in the cover design. A big bug-bear for recording artists who have great ideas about their album covers and get little or no say in any of it. I was shown the cover, so was Christina, of Only One Woman. We asked for changes and it was changed completely. A new editor came in and she had another cover designed which we were shown, and we asked for changes which resulted in the same cover, but with a little yellow van in it. Only One Woman reveals all about the yellow van if you read it.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I’m not sure there is a message. I am a bit ‘duh’ when it comes to picking up messages in books, so writing one consciously – I’m not sure. If there is one I suppose it is go for what you want, don’t allow anyone to stop you reaching for the stars – in this case Scott – and achieving your dreams. The route might not be straight forward but in the end your choices determine who you become.
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 don’t have favourite writers. Most of those I read are Crime, Thriller or Espionage related writers and I love their work: Stella Rimington, John Le Carre, Frederick Forsythe, Karin Slaughter, Kathy Reiches, Michael Connolly, Peter James, David Baldacci and similar writers.
I admire the research and expertise these writers undertake and employ in their writing and I have tried to ensure that I do my research as well. I’ve taken courses in Forensic Science, Criminal Justice and Archaeology in order to better inform myself for my crime writing.
I have really enjoyed reading Rebecca Bradley, Roger A Price, and R C Bridgestock – all have Police backgrounds and are excellent authors. Margot Kinberg is wonderful, her Joel Williams books are based in academia – Margot is an assistant professor. I enjoy James North’s books – he was in Naval Intelligence.
I must also say that although I don’t usually read any form of romance, I’ve read every book Christina Jones has written and love them. She calls her books ‘bucolic’ romantic comedies, and they are really funny and clever.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
The only family member ever to support my writing is my husband. He has been my biggest fan and source of encouragement, and other than an aunt, is most likely the only other person – family – to have ever read anything I have written.
Margot Kinberg and Christina Jones have given me endless support and encouragement, and without either I would never have shown my work to another living human being.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
It is my career now.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I think it is like making a record; you write a song and the record company wants changes. You record the song and the producer makes changes along the way, you play the rough mixes to the record company and they want more changes. Then you mix and re-mix and play it to the record company again and by this time you are keen to move on to the next song and the next record. But, then the radio stations (back when) all wanted different mixes for their region, listeners, and bosses upstairs, so you do more mixes for their requirements. You do all this, hoping that there is something left of the original piece of work by the time it is released, that you recognise. Eventually it is up to the public to vote with their credit cards. If they like it and buy it, you are happy. To me the process of writing to publication of a book is just the same. So many changes have taken place, there is nowhere else to go with it.If we attract readers to the book and they love it, I am happy.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Yes, that I am now a better writer. Only One Woman has taken 5 years to get to publication and if I could start again, I know it would be so much better. But I gather all authors say that.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
This is a hard one. If the film had been made at the time the book is set then it would be easy to pick actors/actresses, but it is now. I don’t know any actors or actresses as I rarely watch modern movies. Also, if it were to be made in Hollywood they’d insist upon American leads and goodness knows who they’d pick. Scott would be an American and so would all the band. Renza and Stella would probably be typical Californian ‘babes’ and the whole thing could be ruined. I may well be wrong – if Hallmark or one of the other production companies or studios comes calling I’d say ‘let’s do lunch and talk.’ I’m not stupid.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Write about what you know, it makes life so much easier (not that I have ever killed anyone to make my crime writing more authentic) and the telling of the story flows so much easier and believably. Don’t be put off. I made the mistake about 20 years ago of letting an old school friend read a chapter of a book I had started writing. She sniffed and turned her nose up and said, ‘it doesn’t sound like you.’ I stopped writing for a few years because I was convinced I was rubbish. But, looking back she was right. I just wish I had carried on writing and had realised sooner that crime writing is my best genre and it is my more natural ‘voice.’
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Readers of Only One Woman: I hope you enjoy the book, that it takes them back (if they remember the 60s) to a more care-free and optimistic era and it makes them laugh and cry and the songs on our playlist (YouTube) make reading more enjoyable. If they are too young to remember the 60s I hope it brings that era to life for them and provides just a little insight into those magical times. I hope they’ll turn on to the music too.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Peter Robinson’s ‘When the Music’s Over.’ Funnily enough he has the music of the 1960s going through his story too. Peter’s wife is a huge fan of Christina Jones. He even mentions her books in one of his books.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Probably Dick and Dora, Peter and Jane before I went to school. Growing up I loved Agatha Christie, Enid Blyton, Robert Louis Stevenson and so on.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I find my siblings ‘roll on the floor’ funny. I don’t enjoy forced comedy (comedians) and love Only Fools and Horses and Some Like it Hot, any of the older movies and actors/actresses in the St. Trinian’s – love Joyce Grenfell. But someone who has rehearsed a routine leaves me cold.
I don’t cry often. Music moves me to tears.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Not really. I don’t have heroes or heroines. I’ve met many famous people during my time in the music business and most have failed to live up to expectations or their ‘public’ image. Gloria Estefan was lovely and Alice Cooper was a gentleman in every sense of the word.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Not really. I love taking photos, and often take them when I am out walking. My siblings and I share a love of the countryside, old churches, buildings and gardens so we often go off on trips to visit places of historical interest or outstanding beauty and I take far too many photos. I usually blog about my ‘jollies,’ as I call them.
I’m a science and astronomy groupie, so anything to do with these and history and archaeology, I love. I am interested I most things. I read a lot.
I do family history research and have reunited many long lost and forgotten family members.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Documentaries (subjects as above), The Sky at Night – watched since I was a little girl. I am a news addict but these days lose my cool with the bad news coverage and unintelligible presenters. I enjoy crime drama, anything to do with spies and espionage. I adored The Time Team and felt bereft when it was pulled. I love the BBC4 Scandi-Crime dramas.
Favourite movie is Some Like it Hot; I can watch it over and over. Calamity Jane (adore Doris Day). A very few others.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
No favourite food really, at a push salads (without lettuce) and cheese.
I lived and died in red as a small child, even sleeping in a red sowester, red hat with red wellies when I lived in Singapore. As a teenager it was all shades of purple and lived and died in black. As a 30 something it was all shades of all colours, especially shocking pink. I went on to all shades of blue and still lots of black and I guess I am now back with all colours and shades with lots of blue.
Music: I have wide tastes in music. From opera to big band music of the 20s, 30 and 40s to Doris Day. I love R&B and Pop too. I have worked with all music and have managed and recorded with Chinese artists in Mandarin and Cantonese (Chinese Opera). I have managed musicians playing thrash metal, death metal, AOR, Heavy Metal and all forms of rock…I cannot stand punk. If it is well played, well-written, and performed with passion I will enjoy it I am sure.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Continue to travel with my camera. Continue researching family history which I have been doing almost 40 years now. Spend time with my family (husband, son and 3 grandchildren) in LA.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I have never given this any thought. I have no idea. I won’t be around so as long as my name is correct and date of birth/death also, to aid any future family researchers I’ll leave that to those left behind.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Only One Woman is a whopping 772 pages long. There are YouTube Playlists to accompany the book:
Pre-Order special price for Only One Woman: see Amazon links below.
Only One Woman Amazon UK Sales: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Only-One-Woman-Christina-Jones-ebook/dp/B075D88JBP
Only One Woman is published 23rd November 2017 and in May 2018 (for stores in Paperback/audio)
My Blog: https://janerisdon.wordpress.com/
My Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jane_Risdon
My Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/JaneRisdon2/
My Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00I3GJ2Y8
My GoodReads Page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5831801.Jane_Risdon
Only One Woman Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/RenzandStella/
Only One Woman Blog tour details below and more dates being added.
We are Renza Rossi and Stella Deacon, and like most girls in the 1960s we kept diaries. Proper written diaries. With daily entries from 1968 through to the end of the decade, chronicling our life, the fashions, the music, the excitement – and our love affairs….
Which is just as well, because although we didn’t know it, and we certainly didn’t know each other, miles apart geographically and with totally different lifestyles, we were both in love with the same boy…
How this came about, the ups and downs, the laughter, the tears, the heartbreak, and how it was resolved – all played out to a 1960s background of love and peace and rock’n’roll – is covered in the amalgamation of our diaries, ONLY ONE WOMAN.
We very much hope that they’ve whetted your appetite and you’re now longing to read the rest…
With love, Renza and Stella xxx