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.
Hi. My name is David Heaney
Fiona: Where are you from?
I have lived all over the US but currently reside in Durham, NC. My wife, Lynda, and I moved to Durham a little over four years ago. However, I was born in Chicago, raised mostly in Rye, New York, and spent most of my adult life in Southern California.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I was not a good high school student and squeaked into college. I fell in love with Philosophy. I was stunned to learn that you could major in it, so did. I am one of those tales that speak to the importance of aligning passion with academic pursuit. I did well and transferred to SUNY College at Purchase to be part of the first graduating class of 200. It was a great time- both students and teachers looking for a better way to learn. I went from there to the Divinity School at Yale to study theology and ended up going into the ministry (Episcopal). This was quite a surprise, but seemed right after having spent a year working with the chronically and terminally ill. The intensity and moral clarity that life crises provided was extraordinary. I was a parish minister for twenty years. Toward the end of those years I earned a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and worked for a short time in private practice and teaching before I landed with a big private company that managed public health and human service programs. It was a great experience where I had the opportunity to work with senior government people all over the world. I worked my way through the chairs and was a senior vice president when I left when my wife and I decided to move to Durham where she is with Duke Medicine. I have a small consulting practice but mostly am writing these days.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Well, I’m excited about my book, A YORKIE’S TALE: LESSONS FROM A LIFE WELL-LIVED. It takes up life’s biggest and most difficult issues in a way that I believe is disarming. It tells the story of a Yorkie, Niles who encounters a fruit rat. The rat wonders how the Yorkie can be happy living in his tiny yard when he travels from yard to yard via the telephone wires. The rat recounts an experience that has him troubled- he has witnessed a family burying a cat in their back yard. Why would they do that? A neighbouring possum named Leach explains that the cat had died as everything does. The rat and Yorkie are undone by this news and ask,”if we don’t live forever, then how should we live?” This question defines the quest that begins soon after where they have adventures and encounters that help distil what is important about life.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I wrote on a regular basis when I was a minister. I learned that it was through writing that I developed what I really believed. Apart from writing, what I believed was only loosely thought out. It was writing that helped me shape- and that continues to shape- what I believe.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I am awed by people who I regard as writers and in some way I still find it hard to think of myself as a writer. I think of myself as an aspiring writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
A YORKIE’S TALE is my first. I was inspired to write it when I was living in London alone five years ago. Weekends were often lonely so I started writing about our Yorkie who used to sneak into the backyard to eat avocados. He was gaining weight and we didn’t know why. I imagined he madefriends with other creatures in the yard and the story grew from there.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It wasn’t something I thought through. It just struck me that the story was the tale of a Yorkie’s quest for meaning.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I love a well-written fiction that tells us something important about ourselves. Best of all, something important that we may not wish to know. I tried to write A YORKIE’S TALE so that it would be accessible to all age groups. I have written some shorter pieces that deal more directly and intimately with issues of self-understanding.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Oh, Niles was our pet Yorkie. We did indeed have fruit rats that visited our fruit trees and a possum that visited regularly. There were a flock of parrots that also lived in the general neighbourhood. So, the story is very much set in the San Diego neighbourhood where we used to live. The characters’ personalities emerged over the course of writing and rewriting and were not based on anyone I knew.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Hmm. I have travelled quite a lot and believe that travels, especially to very different cultures, enriches insight. Having said that, I don’t know that I have to travel, but I believe it helps one’s writing.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Alexandra Tatu. She is a Romanian artist living in Edenborough, Scotland who I was very fortunate to find. She did all of the book’s illustrations.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Oh yes. There are many messages I want them to grasp but I would not presume to tell them what they are. I suppose the obvious one is that life is precious and only for a while. Given this reality, I suppose I want my reader to ask themselves how then should they live.
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 thought Viet Thanh Nguyen’s book The Sympathizer was fantastic. I suspect I am late to the table as an admirer of Neil Gaiman.
As to a favorite writer, it changes according to the conditions of my own life. I have loved writers like Styron, Cheever, Updike, and Roth but the angst, neuroticism, irony can take it out of you.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
The children’s author Barbara Helen Berger is a dear friend and an inspiration.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
No. My avocation.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Oh, every time I read a passage, I can see ways to enhance dialogue, create greater intimacy through the addition of more detail.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned to keep at it. I learned rewrite parts that were not quite right. Revision, revision, revision as my friend Barbara would say.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Well if it were an animated film, I can imagine Gary Burghoff’s voice (Radar from MASH) for Niles.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Stay humble and focused. It seems hard to do with all the social media buzz.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I hope they find something uniquely for them in the book.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading several. BONES: BROTHERS, HORSES, CARTELS, AND THE BORDERLAND DREAM by Joe Tone and Ray Porter; THE SNOW CHILD by Eowyn Ivey. I just finished THE BOOK OF DUST: LA BELLE SAUVAGE by Philip Pullman which I loved.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I believe it was THE WOODEN HORSE about escape from a WWII prison camp.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Laugh? Silly videos. Something completely unexpected.
Cry? A breaking heart. Anyone’s.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
The Dali Lama. I admire him so much.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Cooking, Beading, collecting art
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Just saw The Shape of Water and loved it.
Love some of the TV lately- Just finished Broadchurch, Watching The Crown.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Asian food, Color: Cobalt; Music: Avett Bros and Mandolin Orange
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Cook, drink a lot of wine, long walks
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
In the end, his compassion was greater than his flaws…
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
It’s in the process of being reorganized but the address is