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 Carolyn Ridder Aspenson and I’m 51. Wow. I just turned 51 a few weeks ago, and I haven’t really said it, not out loud or in print. Seems a bit strange to me!
Fiona: Where are you from?
That’s a complicated question. I take ownership of being from three different places, because I feel like I’m from them. I was born in Indiana, Gary, to be exact, but spent my time in Indianapolis, until I turned 12. We moved to the Chicago suburbs then, and floated around there a bit, ending up in the northwest suburbs around Buffalo Grove. I’ve been in Georgia, an Atlanta suburb poorly named Cumming (my teenagers get a laugh from the city name constantly) for over twenty years now. I’m definitely a Southern Gal now, by location. My Chicago friends even say I have a southern accent!
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I’m married and have been for 19 (almost 20) years, to a guy I still like, so that’s great! J We have three kids, all out of the house now. Two girls who are in their mid-twenties…they come from my husband’s first wife, but we raised them full time, and I am definitely mom. That works for me because I didn’t have to give birth. Pregnancy wasn’t fun for me! Our third is a boy, and it’s almost 19. I made him. My husband says he contributed to the process, but honestly, he didn’t do a lot of the hard work, and all women know that!
Now that we’re empty nesters, we’ve adopted two dogs from a local shelter. Capone and Allie (named for my Italian roots). They’re siblings and our new children. We’re the crazy people that talk about their dogs all the time, and it’s a little embarrassing. I have them all over my Instagram page. (Carolynridderaspenson) and I think people like them more than us.
I went to Indiana University, majored in criminal justice and journalism and ended up in the insurance industry. Not sure how that happened. I stopped working when the kids were young, and did a lot of freelance writing work.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’ve got a lot of great things happening and I’m super excited about it.
I’m part of an author collective called Hummingbird Charm. We have eight authors that work together to build a community for our collective fans. We’ve got a book club on Facebook called Hummingbird Charm Readers’ Haven (https://www.facebook.com/groups/HummingbirdCharmReadersHaven/) And we’ve got a community of about 200 women in The Perch (https://www.facebook.com/groups/HummingbirdCharmThePerch/) The Perch is a community for women to go to when they just want to talk, without judgment, to other women. It’s growing, and we really enjoy the connections we’ve made with each other’s fans. I hope you’ll check it out!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing in the early 90s. Actually, I started long before that, but I started getting paid for it then. In 2009 I wrote my first book, Unfinished Business An Angela Panther Mystery, to honor my mom, who died that year. The book is the first in a series, and there are six of them now.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve never not considered myself a writer. I think a writer is something a person doesn’t become, it’s simply something they are. I’ve always used words, on paper before and now on my computer, to communicate my feelings, my dreams, my thoughts—everything. I love paper. I love words. I love books. I love combining them all together, whether it’s for me, for people to read, or for people trying to tell their own story. I started writing for money in the early 90s. I guess officially, that’s when I became a writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My mom’s death. I wanted to find a way to keep her memory alive, and for others to get to know her. She was a spitfire of a woman. A Chicago born Italian from a truly Italian family, and everyone loved her. It was impossible not to. She both amazed me and drove me crazy, and I miss her every single day. I know she’s in Heaven now wondering why the heck I waited until she died to create a character after her. Sorry, Mom.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My series, the Angela Panther Mystery Series, is about a woman whose mother dies and comes back as a spirit, a celestial being, in her own words. When she returns, she leaves a portal between her daughter, Angela, and the other side open, and Angela can see and communicate with ghosts. The first book, Unfinished Business, is titled that for a few reasons, one because Angela is helping others with their unfinished business and because her mother has some unfinished business of her own. The next book, Unbreakable Bonds is about the power of love, and how it transcends death. The third book, Uncharted Territory, is about Angela’s gift growing, and where it takes her in her life. The fourth full length novel is Unexpected Outcomes. While these are all mysteries, the fourth is a darker, edgier story, and Angela travels a path that leads her some place she didn’t know she could go, one she shouldn’t go, also. Unbinding Love, a novella, is about a family and their tragic loss, and the mob. Second is The Christmas Elf, which is a touching holiday novella that’ll make you cry (all of them to do some degree) as is The Ghosts, a Halloween novella.
I’ve also written two contemporary romance novellas, The Inn at Laurel Creek and The Inn at Laurel Creek, Zoe & Daniel’s Story. Both are about a southern B&B where miracles and love happen. I cam up with that story title because of a cute little B&B in Georgia I just love, and named it after a subdivision here I love, too.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I’m a Type A personality. Everything I do is meticulously planned.
EXCEPT MY WRITING.
I tried to outline, but whoever controls my characters—my muse, my subconscious, the characters themselves—never follows the outline, so I gave up. I don’t even know what’s going to happen on each page, or how things will end. I just write. It’s the best and worst thing about writing for me.
Because of it, I edit a lot. A LOT.
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 I wrote, Unfinished Business, is all based on truth, except for the whole mom returning as a ghost thing. The one part I’d love, of course. The incidents surrounding her death, the way we buried her, the family relationships, those are all real. How the book ends, what leads up to the ending, is real also, and it makes me cry every time I think about it. I can’t give that away, but trust me, it’s life changing and heart breakng. The characters are all based on real people in my life, though in some ways, some are exaggerated. Jake, for example, is Angela’s husband, and he is very much my husband. The daughter, Emily, is a combination of my daughters, and Josh, the son, is definitely my son.
I write a dog into the story, Gracie. She was our family dog for 17 years. We got her from my brother when she was a little over a year old, and we had to say goodbye when she was 18. I haven’t included her loss in the books because Angela isn’t ready to say goodbye to her yet.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I don’t have to travel, but I’m thinking of sending Angela on a trip to Italy. If I can convince my husband.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I use Vila Design. Tatiana has been doing my covers since the beginning and she helped create a fantastic brand for my series. I love, love, LOVE her.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In my series, definitely. I don’t believe we die and just go away. I believe there is another place for us, and that our loved ones are still connected to us. I’d like to think people feel that from my books.
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 read a lot of indie authors, and the ones in my collective are wonderful. You can find out about them on our Facebook page, or check them out on their own websites.
Liwen Y. Ho
My all time favourite author, and the one I cried about when he passed, is Robert B. Parker. If you’re around my age and live in the US, you might remember the Spenser for Hire TV show with the late Robert Urich. This series was based on the Spenser books by Parker. He was a fantastic writer, who had a gift for dialogue. I love all of his characters, from each series, but especially Spenser.
Robert Crais and his Elvis Cole series as well as Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series both run a tie for second place. Coben writes other stories, which I like, but nothing beats his Bolitar series. Crais writes books for another character from his Cole series, Joe Pike, and I love those too, but again, I’m partial to Elvis.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Definitely my friend Jenn. She helped me realize I could actually write a book. She is an editor and worked for a big named publisher, so I selfishly asked her to read my book and be honest. She liked it, and I didn’t even have to beg!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. I am working hard to establish myself as a writer and ghostwriter. I’ve written a lot of stories for others, and have written biographies, etc. for people. It’s fun, but I really love writing fiction.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
In my latest, Unexpected Outcomes, I wouldn’t change anything, but that’s because I changed so much and it took me nearly two years to get it right.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I really, really need to keep a book journal. I can’t remember names, characters, etc. and that’s not good!
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Oh, I’ve planned this out completely!
I’d have Leslie Mann play Angela and Kathy Bates would play Fran. Mel, Angela’s best friend, would definitely be Sandra Oh, and Jake, Angela’s husband would have to be William DeVry. Especially if I could meet him. Please, let that happen. Please.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Always, always, if you plan to publish or submit to an agent or publisher, hire an editor. NOT just a proofreader, but a real, honest to goodness editor. One that can help you perfect your book, to make it the best story it can be. You’re too close to your story, and you can’t see it the way it needs to be seen. Self-editing isn’t the best option for a published book, trust me.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Thank you for reading my books, and for supporting my craft. It really means a lot to all of us Indie writers!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
A Christmas Carol. I’m all about the holiday classics.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Gosh, no, but I know I loved the Nancy Drew series as a young girl!
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
My dogs, my family, those sad animal commericals on TV, and the posts on IG and Facebook about them.Soliders being reunited with their families and pets. When my son goes back to college. (Only cry, not laugh!) And my friends!
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Only one? I’m going to be totally cheesy here, and selfish, and pick two. Steve Perry from the band, Journey, and Andy Garcia. They’re just yummy.
BUT…if we’re being serious, I would say my paternal grandmother, who I’m named after. She died when my father was 21. She was a wing walker after WWI. How cool is that?
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I love to exercise, and play with my pups. I also read and think I’m a Pinterest craft expert, but that’s just a pipe dream.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Right now I’m watching Younger, which is hilarious. I also love The Man in the High Castle and The Handmaidens Tale. Of course, there’s always everything on the Hallmark channels.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I love all food. It would be wrong to pick a favorite, other than chocolate. I’m partial to greens and black, and music relaxes me, so anything soft, anything jazzy, or anything that isn’t wrap or metal, because I just can’t get into those, even though there is some good stuff out there.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Dictate to someone that could write it for me.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
She came. She saw. She died trying.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
and I’m also on Facebook at Carolyn Ridder Aspenson, Author
Thanks for giving me the chance to meet your readers, Fiona!