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, I’m Peri Dwyer Worrell, and I’m delighted to be interviewed for your blog! I am old enough to remember 8-track tapes and Pet Rocks.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I grew up in New York City, in a neighborhood which was mostly Puerto Rican then, but is now included in “the Upper West Side” of Manhattan.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
My parents were performing artists: my dad was an actor/director/stage manager (and later a magazine editor), and my mother was a ballerina. They both came from working-class backgrounds, my mom in Alabama and my dad in Michigan, and neither of their families liked them marrying someone from the other side of the Mason-Dixon line!
I went to the Bronx High School of Science, which nowadays you’d call a “magnet school,” full of high-academic-achievement dorks. I went to college at Northwestern University in Chicago, then chiropractic school near Atlanta, Georgia. I got married and moved to Tallahassee, Florida, where I practiced chiropractic for 28 years and raised two children.
Then I became disabled (due to three different types of arthritis) and launched a new career as a writer and editor. I found, as someone with both a biomedical background and editing skills, that there was a big freelance demand for my skills, and I had to put the freelance scientific editing on the back burner in order to focus on publishing my own fiction instead.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I recently published my first novel, Machine Sickness, and I am working on the sequel, tentatively entitled Watch It Burn.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I feel like I’ve always written, like I was born with a number-two pencil clutched in my pudgy baby hand!
I taught myself to read at the age of three, to my parents’ surprise, and began writing shortly thereafter. I wrote stories and poetry starting at about the age of five or six; I remember being furiously indignant when my second-grade teacher effusively praised a long poem I wrote, and then invited the rest of the class to collaborate on adding an additional stanza! My first poem was published a few years later, when I was 11.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Even though I was first published as a child, it was my teacher’s decision and not mine. I didn’t really have autonomy at that point, and it felt like it was just something that happened to me, rather than something I achieved.
I considered myself a frustrated writer throughout my career as a chiropractor; I wrote reports for personal injury attorneys to use in settling my patients’ cases and they were always highly impressed; I wrote all my patient newsletters myself; I even wrote a column for the local Tallahassee newspaper for a while.
But I had to lose most of the use of my hands before I could allow the fiction writer within to begin to blossom. It requires a lot of patience to be learning the basics of a craft in one’s 50s!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I have always loved science fiction. The idea was something my husband and I came up with during a long car trip. He has a science degree also, and we have these meandering conversations in the car that cover incredible amounts of ground. We were talking about the oil seeps in the Gulf of Mexico and how there are bacteria which live on and digest the oil, and the concept of what would happen if they started to eat other petroleum products came up, and the idea was born!
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I guess it’s a pretty obvious title once you read the book! I don’t want to put a spoiler in this interview. But the book series is called “Eupocalypse” as a twist on the word “Apocalypse,” but using the Greek “Eu” as in “Euphoria.” The gloom-and-doom of modern post-apocalyptic fiction is so pessimistic when you look at the incredible things happening in the world, like the huge drop in global poverty and violence. My generation sang, “It’s the end of the world/ as we know it/and I feel fine!” and I think that optimism is needed as the pace of change accelerates almost faster than the human mind can grasp it.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I enjoy straight-ahead narrative writing with some lyrical elements. I used to be told I wrote like Hemingway, and when I read character sketches and incomplete stories from my teens and twenties that’s undeniably true.But I’ve gotten more descriptive with age. I’d like to write like Tana French or Anne Rice, but I’m not there yet!
Sci-fi used to be very much a man’s genre, and when women and POC entered the field, it drove some hard-core fans (including me) crazy. The criticisms of the SF of the 80s and 90s were that it became dreamlike and emotional, with little action and little hard science. I think a lot of those criticisms were valid, and I try to write SF with a hard, scientific basis and at the same time retain an unromanticized, but definitely female, point of view.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The first book hewed very closely to my own experience. Most of the scenes and characters were based on,or were composites of, actual people, places, and events that happened to me or to people close to me. For the new book, there will be plotlines happening in parts of the world I’ve never visited, like the Horn of Africa and Beijing.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I have never been to Africa or China, and at this point in my life, given the state of my health, I may never do so. But I don’t think I could have written the first book, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have attempted the second book, if I hadn’t lived in South America for a year after I sold my practice. I finished and published the first book while living where I am now, near Guadalajara, Mexico. Spending time in a different culture, with a different language and rhythm of life, gives you insight about what qualities and motivations are shared among all humans, and what varies.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My first cover for Machine Sicknesswas a quickie slap-together job using clip art on a photo stock background. My artist bailed on me at the last minute and I didn’t want to delay my launch any further. By the time this interview comes out, it should have a spiffy new cover designed by Lucy Asiciltak, an Indonesian artist I found on Fiverr.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The inspiration came from a desire to portray the nuances of modern life in the American south, which is so often stereotyped or even demonized in popular culture, and a desire to incorporate some political ideas about radical decentralization and individual autonomy and responsibility, without waxing pedantic about it. I wrote a post-apocalyptic thriller because I think stories, especially exciting ones, touch us in a way that rhetoric can’t; I didn’t want to write a blah-blah-blah political polemic.
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?
Tana French is a writer who writes police procedurals, a genre of murder mystery sometimes associated with the old pulp magazines, and one which is regarded as lowbrow by a lot of people. But when I started reading her Faithful Place series, I was absolutely blown away by the way she uses spare poetic language to portray the most un-poetic and brutal situations imaginable. I read the first book before she broke through to the bestseller lists, and I was delighted to see her talent so widely recognized.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Most recently, my friends Lisa Starkman and JocelineBurnel. Going back further, Philip Lopate, the teacher who saw that my first poems got published, and every single teacher and professor from junior high through college who made a point of reading my essays out loud to the entire class as an example of how to write!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Like my first career as a healer, I see it as a sacred mission. I was born to write.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Well, that’s the beauty of self-publishing: If there’s anything I want to change, I can just edit the text and re-upload it! I actually did that for some formatting issues in the Kindle version, and I fixed a few typos at the same time. But I feel like the book is a reflection of my first steps as a novelist, so I’m reluctant to transform it. Excelsior!And all that.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned a tremendous amount about the craft of storytelling. I am learning about marketing now that it’s published. And I’m learning even more as I write the second one. The first took me two years to finish and the structure was rather looser than I prefer. Instead of writing by the seat of my pants on the second one, I’m outlining more and paying more attention to plot development. I was very ambitious in writing multiple characters, settings, and plotlines, but that’s the kind of writing I like to read, so that’s what I wrote.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Emily Deschanel, or maybe Alicia Silverstone.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
I don’t feel like I am qualified to give anyone else advice about something so personal.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
For a self-published new author, Amazon Reviews are the breath of life!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
“War Against the Weak,” by Edwin Black. It’s about the eugenics movement of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The early part in particular intrigued me, as it tied together the eugenics movement with things like the Communist Manifesto, the Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations, Margaret Sanger’s birth control movement, and Oliver Wendell Holmes’s opinion in Buck vs. Bell, and the theme of Manifest Destiny and the idea that the US could and should reshape itself into a perfected form of humanity. The research on which the book is based is serious scholarship, very exhaustive, and it pretty much blows out of the water any whitewashed version of these ideas and their importance you might have heard or read.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No, but it was probably a Dr. Seuss book…
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I guess I laugh the most easily at things that are a combination of clever and slapstick. Like the 5-second .gif of a guy who opens both doors of a double set of doors, not realizing there’s a bar between them, and walks into the bar, captioned, “A guy walks into a bar.” It takes a cliché and does something unexpected with it. A good pun will crack me up too, as anyone who reads Machine Sickness will discover.
Crying? I cry from seeing or hearing about acts of kindness, I cry when I realize I’ve let down someone important (like myself!), I am crying today about the hundreds of people who lost their lives in the big earthquake in Mexico City yesterday…
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
There are so many amazing human beings who have lived and do live on this planet! I couldn’t possibly pick just one. But I think meeting any of them would be a let-down because it would be too brief. Ask me which one I’d like to be seated next to on a cross-country train ride instead…
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I am a certified private pilot and I owned a small plane, a Cessna 172, until my disability. At that point, I could no longer afford the upkeep. I am hoping, as more people discover my writing, I can one day afford to fly again, because it’s one of the best feelings in the world!
I also bake, shoot, sew, and crochet. I used to garden; if I ever have a permanent home again, I will probably start a very small garden. A lot of physical activities I used to enjoy, like heavier gardening and martial arts, are closed to me now due to my arthritis.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m a huge Game of Thrones fan. I loved Dexter and Breaking Bad; I watched the second Guardians of the Galaxy twice the first week it came out.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Foods: chocolate, avocadoes, raspberries. If I could only eat one food for the rest of my life, I’d pick avocadoes.
Colors: Vivid blues and purples: turquoise, teal, cobalt, indigo, violet.
Music: Afro-Celt Sound System, Kila, Kasey Musgraves, Willie Nelson, Imelda May, Candye Cane, Dead Can Dance, Beats Antique, Evanescence…a huge eclectic selection from multiple genres. I have over 10,000 songs on my hard drive.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Don’t want a headstone. Cremate me and throw my ashes in the ocean!
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
www.eupocalypse.com. E-mail subscribers will be the first to know about new releases and receive special freebies and inside knowledge!
My Amazon author page is here:
Fiona, thank you very much for the opportunity to do this interview! I really enjoyed it