Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Hello Fiona. It’s nice to meet you. Thank you for having me.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
My name is Summer Hanford and I’m 42, unless this interview goes long, then we can say 43. How old are you?
Fiona: Where are you from?
I’m from Upstate NY, in the Finger Lakes Region. It’s a beautiful area of the country. I grew up on a dairy farm outside a rather small, but wonderful, village.
Fiona: A little about yourself (i.e., your education, family life, etc.).
Let’s see… I went to American University in Washington DC. I have a BA in Psychology, with a minor in art. After that, I did five years of graduate and PhD work in Behavioural Neurology, but I left before finishing my degrees. I immediately returned to my childhood dream of being a writer. Now, I live in Michigan with my amazing husband and our three rescues (of course) cats.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I always have so much news! The final book in my five book YA fantasy series came out this November: Shores of K’Orge. I have a new Regency Romance out with Scarsdale Publishing: One Good Gentleman. It’s part of their brilliant, ongoing, Marriage Maker Series. Also, my JAFF writing partner (Renata McMann) and I have a new novel coming out in January, along with another instalment in Scarsdale Publishing’s Marriage Maker Series.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
As with many writers, I began quite young. Once I could read and write, I did. The greatest impetus was a love of wonderful stories. I love writing them at least as much as reading them.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
There wasn’t an exact moment, for me. I inched my way forward. I was always a writer, in some way. Milestones were my first short story acceptance (How Satan Died,accepted by Something Wicked), my first book accepted by a small press (Gift of the Aluien,accepted by Martin Sisters Publishing), and my first year of sales over 10,000 books. Another good one is when people I don’t know began leaving reviews.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
A love of epic fantasy and the desire to create the pinnacle of that. I haven’t reached the pinnacle yet, by the way, but I won’t give up. My other love is romantic adventure. I want to write the next great Zorro series, if whoever owns the copyright will let me.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My first book (still unpublished), I titled based on the inciting event, The Millennium Lake. My first published book, my publishers titled. I don’t recall what my title was, but they overruled me. Obviously for the better, since my title, apparently, was not memorable. They chose Gift of the Aluien based on the name of a race invented for the book. They wanted something original, so a made up word worked well.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Even when we do JAFFs (That’s Jane Austen Fan Fiction), I try to keep my writing very readable. Not too wordy. For me, ideally, the reader should be able to read so smoothly, they forget they’re reading and the experience is more like watching a movie, but in their head. As for challenges, I can’t spell. It sucks.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Almost none. I don’t write about real life or real people. I hardly ever base characters, knowingly, on real life or real people. Regency has been much more difficult for me than fantasy, because I do need to do research and learn about the real world, or how the world was. That’s interesting, but slows me down. I love inventing whole worlds. Making things up is a considerable portion of the joy of writing. Also, if I make it all up, I can’t get anything wrong.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
This past year, I travelled to a place I write about for the first time, Scotland. Going there was amazing (wonderful place) and really did help. It’s in no way a necessity, but it was definitely a boon. Obviously, when I write fantasy, I don’t travel to where I’m writing about.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Well, with my traditionally published works, the publishers. With the JAFFs I write with Renata McMann, mostly me, though we consult a lot and go back and forth. Renata makes sure I keep them correct for the time, as she’s much better with the historical aspect than I am.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I never set out to have a message. However, I think in making characters human, relatable and alive, messages do emerge. Due to my values and world view, there are definitely prominent themes. I like the good guys to win, and to be good, or become good. I also enjoy examining when the constructs of honour and pride pass from laudable traits into the realm of self-indulgence, or become harmful to others. Questions such as, how many lives is keeping your word worth, aside from your own?
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?
All of my most favorite writers are from my childhood, because that’s when a writer could make the greatest impression on me. My most favorite likely changes with my mood, but today I would pick David Eddings. I loved his easy style, complex worlds, and the wonderful humor in his books. For me, humor is paramount. Not comedy, but what is inherent in humanity and how we cope with life.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
AllWriters’ Workplace and Workshop, specifically the Founder and Director, Kathie Giorgio. I cannot say enough good about AllWriters’. I wouldn’t be a published author today without them. I honestly believe anyone aspiring to be an author should take some of their online or one site courses. Full disclosure, I am now a faculty member there. They taught me well, encouraged me and supported me fully, and gave me the tools I desperately needed to success. I teach there to pass along those tools, skills and support, to help others. I flounder for years before finding them, blind to why I wasn’t succeeding. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through that. Good stories deserve to be told.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Only the timing, and by last book I mean The Widow Elizabeth. We’d just put up a questionnaire asking our fans what they wanted to see more of from us. They overwhelmingly picked humor. The survey went up just before the already scheduled release of the saddest book we’ve ever written, The Widow Elizabeth. All I could do was shake my head, laugh, and promise them we really do listen.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I’ve been learning a lot about Scotland. Do you know, they didn’t used to like to celebrate Christmas, in Regency times (I don’t know about now, oddly, only then). They preferred something called Hogmanay. That’s definitely going in the book I just finished, during the next round of edits.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Obviously, it depends on the book and honestly, I just don’t know. Paying attention to real life people, even famous ones, isn’t my strongpoint. I’d like to think casting would be done how they did it for the new Star Wars movies, by going around the country to find the people who are perfect for the roles, not just by fame.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Lots of it! For general advice, read. You’ve heard that before, but it’s true. Do it. You need to know what’s out there, and what’s expected of the genre you want to write in, even if you want to do something amazing and new.
Writing is the same as painting. You must have total control over your medium. No one cares if you paint a red circle on blue if you don’t have the skill to do more. If you could paint, perfectly and true to life, anything you want, and then, with all of that skill and control, you choose to paint a precise, thought-out crimson dot on sky blue, then it means something. Then it’s actually good. Basically, breaking the rules due to ignorance is terrible writing. Breaking them on purpose can be great writing.
Decide if you want to have a single book out, or write books for a living. Then, figure out your goals for your book(s), and how you want to see yourself as a writer. There are many different ways to be a writer. Knowing what you want out of being a writer and what you want for your work determines which path will better suit you.
Eventually, a book must be declared done if you ever want it published. You have to stop working on it and put it out into the world. The best way to keep that from making you crazy is to start writing the next book.
You will make mistakes. They will be published. You will have to live with that.
You will get negative reviews. Some will be mean. Some will be ignorant. Some will seam like the person didn’t even read your work. You have to live with that, too. Hopefully, they will be few and the good reviews will be many.
Lastly, try to make each book (short story, poem, etc.) better than the last. That’s the only way to keep creating good work.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
You, my readers, are one of my greatest joys in life and greatest blessings. Thank you all so very much for your interest, your continued love of reading and your support. There is no way I could do this without you.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Well, there’s never just one. As with things like, ‘What’s your favorite song,’ it depends on my mood. I’m simultaneously reading President Darcy by Victoria Kincaid, the original Dracula, To Tempt a Scoundrel by Christi Caldwell, and rereading various David Eddings and Anne McCaffery books. I will say, I always hit a point in a book where I can’t put it down and must finish before flip flopping around again. I’m close to that point in Pawn of Prophesy and To Tempt a Scoundrel, so I must give considerable consideration to which of those I pick up this evening, as it will be my company for a few days.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Yes. I’ve reread it many times. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Many, many things make me laugh. My cats. Quite a few of my errors. Sitcoms. Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. My family. Eating too much sugar (I get giddy).
Meanness makes me cry, and greed. That sounds silly, but I thought a lot about the root of things that make me cry, and I boiled it down to those two evils.
Oh, also, those commercials where they show the kittens and puppies and play sad music. They really get to me, which is of course their goal.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
My grandfather. I didn’t get to spend enough time with him. I was too busy growing up, and he left us too soon. I know he wasn’t famous, but I’m not very interested in meeting famous people. They have lives of their own to live. As for very wise or intelligent people, I can google their knowledge. If given a gift that precious, and told I couldn’t pass it on to anyone else, I would want to use it to see someone I love. (Okay, so we can add answering this question to the list of things that make me cry.)
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Home improvement. Golf. Reading. Mostly, I work. I’m lucky enough to love what I do.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Comedies of all sorts, even terrible ones. Romantic comedies. Action comedies. I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m a big fan of British TV, especially classic mysteries. The new Sherlock is great, and Dr. Who. Also, the new Star Trek. Basically, anything that is not serious, not real life and not based on real life. However, all that said, I’m obsessed with comedic news programs and also watch both local and nightly news, and listen to NPR and BBC every day. I’m not disconnected from the real world. I simply don’t find the real world entertaining.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Cheese, especially sharp cheddar and Roquefort. Also, Earl Grey tea and real Linzer Torte. As a genre, Japanese and Indian food. At home, Tex Mex, stews, and salads. Mostly, I like food. I’m a big fan.
Yellow is my favoritecolor, because yellow is happy.
Music is very mood dependant, and my tastes are very erratic. If you looked at what songs I have played the most times, however, you would undoubtedly find Enya at the top, then ‘oldies.’
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Well first, when you ask that, my brain sort of stops. It starts back up again with: What? Why? How? Do my hands get chopped off? What about voice to script? That’s getting better every day!
However, assuming you don’t mean through terrible mutilation or death, I would go back to school. I’ve always wanted to be a micro biologist. I think if I’d done that instead of behavioural neurology, I would have stuck with it. Another possibility is advertising. That’s something that’s always interested me.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I’d rather be cremated and have my ashes scattered, but I realize that’s not the point of the questions, so:
She loved us, and life,
and we loved her.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
You bet I do. For updates about my Regency Romance or Fantasy works, giveaways and appearances, visit https://summerhanford.com/. Mailing list signups for both genres will be coming by February 10th. At the time being, you can ask me to add you to either list by emailing me at email@example.com. I’m always happy to hear from you!
For updates, news and giveaways for our JAFF fans, visit http://www.renatamcmann.com/. An email list signup is available in the menu bar to the left, or by claiming our gifts to you, our readers. There’s a big button on the homepage, right near the top.
Thank you, Fiona, for inviting me to appear on your blog and for an interesting interview.
All the best,