Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Hi Fiona, and thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Christine Stobbe, and I’m 43 years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I currently reside on an acreage near Ardrossan, which is a small town close to Alberta’s capital city, Edmonton, in Canada.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I grew up in Calgary, Alberta, and moved to the Edmonton area when I was 16. My husband and I have been happily married for 23 years now, and have three kids, aged 18, 14, and 11. I was homeschooled for the last five years of my grade school education, and before the kids came along, I enjoyed working as an editor for an online publishing house in Virginia, U.S.A. I have homeschooled my own children, as well, so I like to tell people that I have completed my grammar education from first through eighth grade four times, once as a student, and thrice as a teacher!
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Well, within the past 18 months, I’ve begun work on a brand new historical fantasy series, called the Dragon’s Fire Series, and published the flagship novel, Dragon’s Fire. The second book in the series, The Rose of Caledon, is due to be released very soon as well. I’m excited about sharing these stories with others, and I’m having tremendous fun writing and editing them!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I wrote my first short story when I was six years old; before I even knew how to spell. I wrote about a nightmare I had experienced, so the writing was probably a way to ease the fear I was feeling and take control of the situation. From there, I continued writing as I felt like it, and produced numerous short stories and poems, some of which were winners in children’s writing competitions. When I was eleven, I wrote my first novel. I still use writing as a release and a way to explore my feelings and experiences.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
If I have to name a “moment,” it would be when I mailed my first manuscript to a publisher, at the age of thirteen. But from a very young age, I knew that I loved writing and that it was an escape, entertainment, therapy.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Well, if we’re talking about the first book in the Dragon’s Fire Series, I actually started the series with the book that became Book Two, The Rose of Caledon. Rose began as a simple little romance that had been playing in my head for several months and just needed to be written down. I wasn’t expecting the story to be worth sharing, or even anything more than a short novella, but the tale grabbed the reins and ran away with me, and suddenly, Rose was a full-length novel, and new stories were forming in my mind faster than I could write them down. I wrote the third book in the series next, but I knew before I had finished Rose that it wasn’t the first book. There was something that came before; I just didn’t know what. In the writing of Book Three, I was working on a scene at about three o’clock in the morning, and creating a dialogue between two characters. I looked back at what I had written and was absolutely blown away. There was the plot of Dragon’s Fire, all neatly laid out for me and just waiting to be developed, without my even having to think about it. That storyline grew and matured in my head while I finished the third book, and then I started on Dragon’s Fire right away, and the entire series started falling into place.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The Dragon’s Fire is a crucial element of the first book, and the entire series, so it made sense to title the flagship book after that particular story element.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I enjoy working in the genre of historical fiction, and this is the first time I have added an element of fantasy to any of my books. My style is engaging and entertaining; I want the story to draw the reader in with a life of its own, making for an effortless and enjoyable reading experience. The hardest part of writing historical fiction is the research and making sure that you don’t get careless about details. Including fantasy as a part of this series is what makes it so fun: while I am still particular about period details, there is some flexibility that a writer can’t allow in strict historical fiction.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Not a whole lot! While the story is realistic in that, for the most part, it could have happened at some point in history, it is not based on any actual person or event. I think that a part of the author is always invested in every book they write, and therefore experiences and viewpoints that are unique to that author will be present, whether boldly or subtly, but for Dragon’s Fire, the reader will have to look hard for those personal elements. They’re very understated in this book.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Since Caledon is a fictional place, no, I did not have to travel to discover about it. I created it in my head, and it grows and changes as I need it to. It is based loosely upon the British Isles, where I have visited, but for what I need to know for these stories, books and internet searches give me all the information that I need. That’s another advantage of writing fantasy!
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The cover of Dragon’s Fire is a stock cover from Amazon, but I did think that the pattern on it looked rather like the iris of an animal’s eye, which was why I chose it. I am hoping that my daughter will do the covers for the upcoming books, and eventually replace the current cover of Dragon’s Fire with new art. She is a very talented artist, and also very busy, so it’s hard to engage her to create something for me!
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
The catch-phrase for Dragon’s Fire is, “Don’t let history write itself for you.” This story is about the journey of a young woman who is accustomed to being told what to do and how to do it, who is suddenly, reluctantly thrust into a power-position and must decide whether she is going to let history happen to her, or whether she is going to manage her destiny. Meanwhile, the choices that she makes impact her family and her nation, for better or worse, for centuries to come. By the end of the book the reader must ask, “Has Ciara written history, or did it write her story for her? What of the prophecy – that written piece of future history she now holds in her hands? And how will future generations deal with the repercussions of the choices that she made in 1218?” Everyone will need to stay tuned to discover how the story develops in the upcoming 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 have been taking note of the presence of some other new authors on various groups that I am in. The ones who can craft a story with proper grammar, spelling and punctuation, word choice and sentence structure are the ones whom I will go out of my way to read. I want to read new authors who can craft a quality product where I’m not spotting mistakes on the very first page. Those who know how to edit, or have hired someone who can, are the ones I am interested in. I have a lot of favorite writers, but I would have to say that the classics have influenced me greatly: Dickens, Austen, Thackeray, and the Bronte sisters among them, and I do enjoy Shakespeare. The classics are great for learning to use the English language effectively because they aren’t light, fluffy reads. People don’t consider them fun reads, for that reason, of course, but for working the mind and improving one’s ability to use words, they can’t be beaten!
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
There are many people and organizations that I could list, but if I have to choose one, I would have to name Amazon. Their system for allowing Indie Authors to set up and publish their books is easy and free, allowing me to share my stories in a way that wasn’t possible a few years ago. I still need to check into some of their promotional options – I think there are a bunch of things there that I haven’t had the chance to discover yet! I am grateful for the opportunity to publish independently without the massive investment of cash that used to be required.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely. I think that most authors don’t make a lot of money at writing, but if making money is the only reason you’re writing, you might as well quit right now. For anyone who wants to write and publish more than one or two books, I think that the time invested in writing, editing, and marketing definitely qualifies their work as a career, whether it pays well or not.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
There are a couple of minor editing errors that I have noticed since getting the paperback into my hands. I may or may not go in and fix them as time allows. There are a few changes that I want to make in formatting, at least for the next book, if I don’t change them in Dragon’s Fire, but regarding the story and the characters, no, there is nothing I would change.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Well, I learned all about the uses and potential dangers of Black Henbane (I don’t recommend that anyone try it, by the way!), and I did a lot of research about castles which I then tossed out the window and made my castles precisely what I wanted them to be. I already knew that this series was going to be a personal exploration of a number of themes that I had never felt free to expound when I was younger. The freedom of writing the type of book I wanted to write without worrying about what family or editors or publishers would think of it, was tremendously satisfying.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Indiana Evans certainly has the look for Ciara, but I would be remiss as an Indie Author starting out myself if I didn’t say that I’d be more than willing to let someone unknown take the role and make something great out of it.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Write, rework, and rework again. When the story is as tight and interesting as you can make it, edit. Edit. Edit some more. Check spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Correct your sentence structure and improve your word choices. Really great stories can be passed over simply because their presentation is sub-par. Don’t let your manuscript fall victim to poor editing. If you don’t have the grammar skills to do sufficient editing yourself, hire someone who does. First impressions matter, and if your work contains obvious errors, no one will look past the first page.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I appreciate you! The greatest story will stall and sink if no one reads it. Anyone who has picked up my book and read it is my friend. Anyone who reads the next book can pay me no higher compliment. To all those who have read Dragon’s Fire, and especially to those who loved it – thank you.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Right now I’m working through Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories of Sherlock Holmes.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Yes, it was a “Janet and John” reader that my mother used to teach me to read when I was three. I remember being frustrated by it, and I vaguely recall a lot of screaming (from me, not her!), but she persisted, and by the time I was four, I really enjoyed reading a compilation of bedtime stories – I don’t remember what it was called, but the cover was orange, and it was a thick book, well over 300 pages, with lots of different stories in it. No pictures, that I recall. I think it was designed to be read aloud by a caregiver as a child drifted off to sleep. Some of the stories in it were classic fairy tales, others were just random stories. I did a lot of reading from the time I learned how.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
My husband can always make me laugh. He knows exactly how to amuse me and is my favorite person in the entire world. My kids also make me extremely happy and proud. So do animals, particularly horses and dogs. What makes me cry? The fact that my mom isn’t here to read my stories to anymore.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I would love to meet Shakespeare. The man was a literary genius, and picking his brain would probably be a fascinating and useful experience!
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I like riding horses. I have been doing hunter/jumper and dressage for over 30 years, and I’m toying with the idea of trying sidesaddle, just for fun. I enjoy cooking and baking gluten-free food, and I still consider writing a hobby, as well as a career, because I just enjoy it so much!
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I don’t watch much tv, to be honest, but I enjoy Survivor and The Amazing Race. I was also a fan of the sitcom Frasier, in its day. (Excellent writing for that show!) I am thoroughly enjoying the live-action remakes of Disney classics, like Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. I also like the recent film versions of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia stories.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
My favorite foods include lasagna, chicken anything, and I confess to possessing a sweet tooth. My favorite color is blue, which is why blue is Caledon’s national color. I love Celtic music. I enjoy Celtic Woman, and sometimes will listen to compilations of Celtic music from various artists on Youtube. I like the music of Florian Bur, and will often play that in the background while I’m writing. I think Josh Groban has a fantastic voice; I have a lot of his albums.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Die. No, seriously, I honestly don’t know. The stories come, and they have to come out, or I feel like I’m going to explode. I guess I would have to take my frustrations out on my long-suffering husband with lots of head-to-head Tetris. I would read. I would ride.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
She knew what she wanted, and she went for it, no matter what.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Yes. Readers can visit my website at www.dragonsfireseries.com for sneak peeks of my books, back cover copies, links to the store, my blog, and upcoming events. They can connect with me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/christinestobbeauthor/, where I post the latest news so they can stay up to date with changes on the website, new releases, and promotions. They can also check out my Amazon author page at https://www.amazon.com/author/christine-stobbe. I can’t wait to meet them in Caledon! Thank you, Fiona, this has been lovely.