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 Sherry Joyce. Thanks to marrying my husband, I have two first names which can be very confusing as an author. Although I know how old I am, I think I am much younger in my head.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age? Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and moved to Northern California in 1972 after one of those minus 50 degree wind-chill factor days, coupled with icy, snowy winters common in the Midwest. I grew up in a small suburban town of Brookfield and later moved to Whitefish Bay about four blocks from Lake Michigan.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
As an only child, I gravitated toward the arts, music, drawing, painting, reading and writing. Prior to going to college to be a medical technician, I received an art scholarship, but decided art, as a career, would not be lucrative, so I chose medical technology instead. Although I hated organic chemistry in high school, I was completely enthralled with hematology and blood chemistry in college. Somehow after college, I ended up in the hotel industry, public relations, radio and television, and ultimately as a Vice President of Human Resources for various high tech companies in Silicon Valley. I was lucky to have the parents I was given because my father supported my artistic endeavors (he could draw) and creative side, while my mother encouraged me to pursue music (piano) and dance, making me believe I could accomplish anything in life.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’ve been thrilled with the response to my second novel, Dangerous Duplicity. The book launch (with advance reader copies), was in April 2017, and then formally released with a few tweaks in July 2017. Having just returned in early October from a month-long RV trip across and around the United States, I met many new readers and fans, and have been invited to present at a book club in Minnesota in Spring 2018. I’ve also started the sequel to Dangerous Duplicity.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
My cousin, who was five years younger than I was and lived next door to me in Brookfield, supported my idea of writing a neighborhood newspaper. Our subdivision was small and growing. I was ten year’s old, and apparently thought I was capable of writing some sort of newspaper neighbors would want to read.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s an interesting question. As head of human resources, I wrote several company monthly newsletters because it was part of my job description. It was a fun and a collaborative process getting department heads to talk about their new product releases, write about upcoming events, and to interview new employees. Each newsletter always included the President’s message, and although I considered this part of my job, I didn’t think of myself as a writer because it came to easily to me. Years later I found myself writing product marketing releases, employee handbooks and benefit manuals, compensation guidelines as well as various training and development programs for employees and executives without giving thought to the creative writing process. In college I was probably one of the few students who was always thrilled with an essay exam because I could write my way into getting a good grade. I believed I was a writer when some of my interior design articles were published.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Getting an electrical charge from a lightning strike while writing postcards in the turret tower on the 4th floor of a castle we rented on vacation in the Dordogne region of France. Lightning hit the grounding rod on the top of the castle’s tower during the middle of the afternoon. The castle was perched on a high promontory overlooking the Dordogne River. Lightning can travel horizontally as well as vertically through grey skies without it being a storm. However, that night a horrific, powerful storm traveled up the Dordogne River. Rain pummeled the castle, blowing draperies sideways, slamming leaded windows shut. Furniture blew off the patio. Thunder and lightning cracked so loudly I screamed while covering my ears. The power went out in the castle leaving our family and friends in the dark. I nervously joked about the experience and said the setting was like a murder mystery. When we returned home from that vacation, the story I started writing in my head in bed the night of the storm wouldn’t let go. The experience became the movie in my head for writing the Dordogne Deception.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Although the book is set in various places including the Cotswolds, Switzerland and France, the main setting had to be the Dordogne region and the castle we stayed in—that was a given. I wanted to write a page-turner, a suspenseful romantic/murder/mystery and decided to craft a story where the antagonist would be an utterly charming but a psychopathic man with a troubling past who would create a deception the heroine knew nothing about. Weaving the story together to create a detective-worthy protagonist and compelling plot was challenging, but invigorating. In my second novel, Dangerous Duplicity, I decided to stay with the alphabet of double D’s because it was easy to pronounce and remember. My third novel (a sequel to Dangerous Duplicity) will probably be Dubious Decision, and then I will move on to other titles.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I write in the third person omniscient because it is “all knowing” and an enjoyable writing style where you can go deeply into the conscious and subconscious. Sometimes I break the rules, but identify chapter headings with the character who is talking (or thinking) so readers don’t get confused.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Early on when writing my first novel, I was advised to write what I knew—to use events or circumstances that happened in my own life. Because there were some intense romantic scenes in The Dordogne Deception, I found myself embarrassed at parties where men who read my novels asked if these things in my novel had happened to me! I vowed, when drafting Dangerous Duplicity, to write tasteful romantic scenes without being graphic. I was surprised, however, to find how many of my life experiences transferred to my characters. In The Dordogne Deception there is one scene where Francois Delacroix is on a horse stampeding through a forest and something happens to him—that was real—that happened to me and I have scars to prove it.
In my second novel, Dangerous Duplicity, I decided to use my scuba diving knowledge since the novel was set in the Cote d’Azur where there is wonderful diving in the Mediterranean. It was easy to turn real-life diving experiences into something terrifying. Also, I wanted to write a novel about the difficulty of overcoming the loss of a child, the grief someone would experience when they felt they were responsible for the child’s safety and couldn’t have prevented something tragic. My husband’s little sister died at age 12 from a procedure while in the hospital—a procedure, if done properly, could have saved her life for perhaps several more years, but ultimately she would have died from Cystic Fibrosis. I dedicated this novel to my husband’s sister, Mary.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
It’s easier for me to write after I have traveled (now to some 20 countries in Europe, Asia, Australia and the United States) and can reflect on visual memories to use in my novels. However, when traveling, I take interesting photos and do extensive research on the history, culture, and even police procedurals I might use in a novel.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The Dordogne Deception was designed by a fabulous local artist, Joey Cattone, here in El Dorado Hills, where I reside; Dangerous Duplicity was designed by Patty Henderson, a well-known cover artist and owner of Boulevard Photografica in Florida.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
My novels are contemporary romantic suspense thrillers, but there are many themes. In The Dordogne Deception, I wanted readers to identify with Cherise Eden, a woman whose judgment was altered by her painful divorce. Decisions made when we are vulnerable can be the most dangerous. In my second novel, Dangerous Duplicity, readers can identify with overcoming enormous loss, guilt and grief, and ultimately falling in love with the right person. Often, it is the redeeming power of love that can save us and help us heal from suffering. As much as I enjoy writing about relationships, I am deeply committed to seeing justice prevail when solving murders.
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?
Gini Grosenbacher is a new author of Madam of My Heart; her writing is exquisite and historically excellent. It inspires me to a higher level of writing. My favorite writers (there are so many) tend to be edgy: Paula Hawkins, The Girl on The Train; Rachel Caine, Stillhouse Lake; anything by Kate Morton and William Landy, Defending Jacob. I really like Kristen Hannah’s writing, The Nightingale, and legal thrillers by John Grisham. Any writer who can hold my interest throughout the book without the “muddle in the middle” and can surprise me with a unique, intelligent plot or theme which makes me think about the book long after it’s finished—that’s what affects me the most.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Lisa Dane, President of Dane and Associates , not only edited my first novel, but also managed my first book launch, subsequent speaking events, including radio coverage and all press relations. She was a champion who worked tirelessly to make my first book a success. After she moved to another state, a local Sisters In Crime writing critique group became my cheering squad for getting Dangerous Duplicity published.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
If I did, it would be my third career! Like many, I started writing novels too late to make it a career. In retrospect, I wish I had known I wanted to be a writer earlier so I could have gotten a degree in creative writing. Instead, I became a high-tech executive and later, owner of a successful interior design business while spending another 6-1/2 years in an interior design college. It was only after I seriously retired from high tech and large design projects that I felt I could concentrate on writing novels and short stories, several of which have been published in anthologies.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Not really. I might have swapped two chapters around. Ha, a short answer!
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Definitely. In the first novel, I was less confident about character development and dialog. In the second novel, I wrote without fear, dialog flowing easily, and crafting the story the way I wanted it to flow. By working with a critique group and meeting several times a month to dissect each other’s manuscripts in process, we could point out inconsistencies, or applaud each other over occasional, brilliant writing. It was the best process because at the end of the novel, I knew what other accomplished authors in my genre thought of my book before it was released.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I had the pleasure of meeting Kevin Costner (and giving him a copy of my novel) who was the inspiration for my Scotland Yard detective, Brett Maxfield, in The Dordogne Deception. Ryan Reynolds would also do a great job as the lead. For Dangerous Duplicity, Henry Cavill was Evan Wentworth, the detective who gives up his career to try his luck as a Jackson Pollock-like artist in Tribeca New York and becomes embroiled in not one, but solving two murders. Ryan Gosling was the perfect antagonist, Ryan Coltrane. When I write, I always see the entire movie running in my head!
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Try to write every day if you are working on a novel—it keeps you fresh and connected to your plot. If you have not written to a deadline, try that because it forces you to write under pressure and push yourself beyond what you think you are capable of doing. Also, be patient with yourself—writing a novel is hard work and editing is even more daunting. Don’t edit every page while you write, but wait until you finish a chapter or two so it doesn’t block the flow of creativity. Have a general outline, but allow yourself to change it as you write since your characters often have a different idea what do to with the story. Think about the ending before you write— it can become the essence of your story. Without knowing how your novel will end, you can end up quite lost in the forest.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I’m grateful to anyone who has read my novels and enjoyed them. I hope to continue to improve my writing craft. When readers do reviews and tell me they couldn’t put my novels down, that’s the best reward I can receive. It motivates me to keep writing.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I just finished Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things, an excellent, challenging novel about a nurse, an infant that dies, social justice and race relations. I’ve started reading James L’Etoile’s first novel, At What Cost and try to read three or four books a month.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
A Nancy Drew mystery. Probably, The Hidden Staircase. I was hooked immediately on mysteries.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I can laugh at myself. I recently locked myself out of the house on an upper deck for 2-1/2 hours and wrote a hilarious blog about the experience. The book, The Rosie Project, had a couple of scenes that made me laugh out loud. I’m lighthearted and laugh easily.
I’m also soft-hearted and cry over pets we’ve had that have died, or any animal abuse, or friends suffering from cancer, or friends who have lost a beloved spouse, parent or family member. Movies like An Affair to Remember bring on the waterworks even though I have seen the movie dozens of times. We’ve had devastating fires in Northern California this year in the Napa/Sonoma region where people lost everything—their homes, their business, their lives. Hurricanes, tornados and floods that cause so much destruction where people have to rebuild their lives can easily bring me to tears.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Let’s hope I go to heaven. I have a lot of question to ask!
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Although it’s often torture with an occasional, fabulous round the game of golf endures. I love sailing and swimming. For artistic fun, I enjoy oil painting, watercolors and drawing, or reading, reading, reading.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I am a huge movie and TV buff, from historical series like Downton Abbey or The Crown, to Outlander and The Game of Thrones. I’m now hooked on a new show this season, The Good Doctor (he’s autistic), and I still enjoy the medicine and relationships in Grey’s Anatomy. I recently found a new UK series, The Liar, which is riveting.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I like fattening foods! Lobster macaroni and cheese, vodka pasta and shrimp, butter pecan ice cream and cookies—all things not good for a person who sits hours a day writing! My favorite color is dusty aqua, which has landed somewhere in every house we have ever owned. For music I enjoy Puccini, to rock n’ roll, to country western or anything I can dance to.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Probably audio-blog stories. I’d travel to favorite places I would want to see again before I die. If I can’t write, I’d still read, paint and dance in the rain with my hubby and two West Highland terriers.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
DESTINED AT BIRTH FOR A LOVE OF A LIFETIME, SURROUNDED BY MANY PAWS. Met my husband in the nursery. We were born in the same hospital fifteen minutes apart in the same year. We raised seven dogs (in addition to the two we have) waiting for us at the Rainbow Bridge.
Fiona:.Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
My website is: http://sherryjoyce.com. There are blog and event tabs where you can keep up with me, along with descriptions and praise for my novels, and even a Snippets tab with pictures of the castle in the Dordogne and local recipes. My novels are available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
That was a very lovely interview. So many detailed replies.
I really appreciate the advice to aspiring writers. Two things resonated and I want to take them with me. For me being lost in the forest is probably what has stopped me in my writing. I have some stories and I had to pause to try to define how I want them to end. Marking the finite stop line has been something I always struggled with. The second point, about setting a deadline is something I never tried but that I probably should give it a go.
I am curious about that trilogy with the double “D” naming convention. The second title in the series “Dangerous Duplicity” is probably the one that pulls me in pretty strongly. I’ve never considered myself good writing mistery/detective novels but I enjoy reading them.
I like to read authors that were interested in different types of art from a young age, and that they had a supporting family. It’d be lovely to see those oil paintings.