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.

 Gini Grossenbacher

What is your age?

Old enough to know better.

 Fiona: Where are you from?

 Elk Grove-Sacramento, California, USA

 Fiona: What is your education?

 B.A. English cum laude, Lewis & Clark College, Portland Oregon, M.S. Education, LaVerne University, Post-graduate Editing Coursework, UC San Diego. Retired high school English teacher of twenty-seven years, two great sons, a long-suffering husband, and a new little grandbaby boy.Itaught high school English until I abandoned term papers to write historical novels instead. I love researching the history behind my novels, and I often travel to the settings where they take place. In addition, I teach small writing groups and coach other writers on their manuscripts. My hobbies include needlepoint, nature walks, and arthouse movies. I live in the Sacramento Valley where I grew up, east of San Francisco. My husband cooks the dinner every night so I can write.

Fiona: Tell us your latest news.

 In AugustI received the 2017 Hollywood Book Festival Runner-Up Award for Genre Fiction for Madam of My Heart. I received my award at Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel where Charlie Chaplin received an Oscar in 1929. Such an honor. In September I was a panelist and participant at the Historical Writers of America conference in Albuquerque in September. After that I taught a fun“writing about nature” class at the Chanticleer country inn Ashland, Oregon and I saw plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Most recently I was a featured author and panelist at the Great Valley Book Fest in California. It is all great fun and I enjoy meeting so many supportive people who love reading and books.

Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?

My mom was a journalist, so I can’t remember ever not writing something. She taught me my letters when I was around four, and I entered kindergarten knowing how to write the alphabet. I wrote cards and letters to my grandma and grandpa in Iowa, and I corresponded with friends and family throughout my childhood. Writing seemed natural—like breathing.

Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

At the age of six when I wrote my first stories based on Jill, my aunt’s black Labrador. I would scribble lots of stories about her summertime adventures, then read them to my aunt while she made pies from scratch. I can still smell the dough cooking in the oven.  She was fond of making strawberry-rhubarb pie.

Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?

I have always been attracted to the woman as underdog trope in famous novels such as Pride and Prejudice. When I discovered the histories behind the gold rush era madams of San Francisco, I was drawn to the world of their struggles and their triumphs. Their stories showed me the extent of women’s social confinement in Victorian times, and their survival strategies in a man’s world. Madam of My Heart is based on the life of Arabella Ryan who became a famous parlor house madam in 1850s San Francisco.

Fiona: How did you come up with the title?

I was thinking of a title that I could adapt to each volume in my series, the American Madams. In truth, Madam of My Heart came to me as I was researching the history behind the characters. Then, this intense and deep love arose between Brianna and Edward as I wrote their chapters, and I knew this title was appropriate.

Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?

 I write in third person, deep point of view. Here the challenge is to balance the historical detail along with the intimate feelings and perspectives of the main characters. I strive to portray the thoughts of the characters, and show the recreated world as they would have known it. I think that writing historical fiction is a continual tension between character-building and world-building. I work on providing enough information so the reader understands the world as it was, yet not overwhelm the forward action of the plot.

Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

I think the book is very realistic, although some modern readers may wonder why Brianna is so socially confined in the early chapters. I wanted to show our younger audiences today what it was like to grow up in the culture of domesticity during the Victorian period, when girls were not expected to engage in business and industry.  Of course, we know many examples of women who broke out of that mold, and the madams I write about were able, through their wits and wiles, to be successful in the larger realm of society. I think relationships in my own life helped me craft Brianna’s emotional reaction to people, places, and events.

 Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?

I am very serious about going to the places I write about. In the case of Madam of My Heart, I traveled to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and walked through Fells Point, taking lots of pictures of the places mentioned in the novel. I went to New Orleans and studied the old French quarter, visiting historical sites and museums there.  I took walking tours of Chinatown, San Francisco, and made other subsequent refresher trips there to make sure my settingdetails were accurate. I have had many readers comment that I caught the spirit of the places where they had grown up which makes me very happy.

Fiona: Who designed the covers?

My covers are designed by Clarissa Yeo at Yocla Designs.

 Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Despite the many obstacles we encounter in life, withlove and community we can overcome them.

Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?

 Kristin Hannah writes deeply about characters within historical time periods. I love her books and I admire her writing style.

Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?

Anthony Doerr has achieved, in my mind, mastery of the craft. His award-winning novel, All the Light We Cannot See, weaves together so many threads, yet the characterization is so compelling the reader scarcely notices the complexity of the craft.

Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.

The California Writers Club showed me the way through workshops and conferences. I also found a community of writers and much-needed encouragement and support.

Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?For me it is an avocation rather than a career. Writing is my dream. We have only so much time to fulfill our dreams.

Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

I wrote and rewrote Madam of My Heart over a period of eight years. Over twenty people saw the manuscript, including fellow writers, beta readers, and my editor. I wouldn’t change a thing about that learning process, and I am proud of the achievement.

Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?

I learned so much about the social and cultural history of Victorian America which has helped me in the writing of the next books in the series. Historical research is the most time-consuming aspect of writing in my genre.

 Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

Rose Leslie (Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones). She has the strength to portray the transformation Brianna goes through from an innocent girl to a knowledgeable woman who works to defend her man.

Fiona: Any advice for other writers?

Don’t give up. Forget the competition. Stay open to change. Write the book you want to read.

 Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

 Every author has a different idea, point of view, or style. Keep reading until you find your favorite one.

 Fiona: What book are you reading now?

Last Christmas in Parisby Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb. Cleverly told through letters transmitted during WWI.

 Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?

Not the very first book, but my early favorites wereCharlotte’s Web, Pippi Longstocking, and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle.

 Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?

My grandson Marco makes me laugh—he is a little baby and yet he can make the most adorable faces. Losing people to cancer makes me cry. I lost a very dear friend to uterine cancer a couple of years ago, and I think about her every day.

 Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?

 Abraham Lincoln. I would love to be in the presence of such self-effacing greatness. I also think he would be very gracious and warm in person.

 Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?

Needlepoint, walking in natural settings with my dog Murphy (cairn terrier), going to art museums, watching arthouse movies. I also love baking breakfast treats for my weekly writing class. This morning I made pumpkin muffins.

 Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?

TV Shows include Downton Abbey, Poldark, Victoria, anything with Judi Densch, Madam Secretary. Films include La La Land and Fences.Anything with Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Denzel Washington. They are amazing.I also love movies from the 1930s through the 1950s with actors like Greta Garbo and Cary Grant.

 Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?

Heuvos rancheros, warm colors like cherry red and hot pink, movie soundtracks, especially by John Williams.

 Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?

 Paint, master the piano or guitar, learn Irish-Scottish Country Dance, act in local theater groups.

 Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?

Be patient with others, with yourself, and with God.

 Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?




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