Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Hi, Fiona. Thanks for having me!
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Rob Dinsmoor and I’m having a little trouble believing it, but I’m 59.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I grew up in a small university town in Indiana called Bloomington, where my Dad was a psychology professor. It was really a great town to grow up in, but I knew there was a whole world out there and was eager to see it.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I attended Dartmouth College, where I edited the college humor magazine, the Dartmouth Jack O’Lantern, and wrote a play that got staged. It was a great place to try stuff out!
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Right now I’m working on a novel about a young immigrant from Slovenia who arrives in New York in 1912, discovers he’s immune to age and disease, and winds up living through the entire 20th Century under various assumed names.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing at age 11. I was a big fan of horror movie. I wrote horror stories on a yellow legal pad and started sharing them with my friends. They all thought my stories were really cool—if only because they didn’t know a little kid could do that.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It was gradual. I sort of considered myself a writer at age 11, more so when my high school newspaper started publishing my stories and making me “famous,” more when I had humor pieces published in the Dartmouth Jack O’Lantern, more so when I published my first article on diabetes in the American Diabetes Association’s magazine, Forecast, and I totally felt like a professional writer when I started getting paid for health/medical articles as well as scripts for Nickelodeon and MTV.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
In New York City in the 1980s, I wrote scripts and occasionally acted for a popular and edgy comedy troupe called Chucklehead, which created quite a buzz for a short time, getting written up in Vogue, The Village Voice, Details, and New York Post. Various Chuckleheads went on to do cool things, writing for movies and TV, winning an Emmy, becoming a top magazine editor, and publishing cartoons and stories in The New Yorker. But, at the time, we were struggling. I kind of missed the excitement of those days and started writing stories about it for my local writers’ group. I anthologized them and got them published by a small press. It was called Tales of the Troupe.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It pretty much summed up what it was. It was bunch of distinct short stories about the people involved in the troupe and, when assembled chronologically, followed a rough dramatic arc.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
That book and the two that followed, The Yoga Divas and Other Stories (about the crazy people I knew taking and teaching yoga over the years) and You Can Leave Anytime (about a 3-month stint in rehab) were based on real experiences but “tweaked” a little bit to make a good story. Sometimes events that happened at different times were put together, sometimes characters were merged, and I changed everybody’s name.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I get a lot of my ideas while exercising, particularly hiking and biking in the woods. It seems to help with the flow of ideas and allows me to daydream without a lot of distractions.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Various people. My last one, for You Can Leave Anytime, was a great one designed by my best friend Helen Kamins, a very talented artist, who tried to envision the surreal setting I would describe to over the phone.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I hope that all my books have messages. For Tales of the Troupe, even though it’s funny, it is really about loss, disappointment, and learning to let go.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
For me, it is. I don’t make much money from my fiction but I’ve been able to support myself reasonably well as a health and medical writer, though some of the things I’ve worked on have been a little boring. Most people who write fiction have a day job that is less than glamorous. One of my favorite writers, Kurt Vonnegut, made his living at one point selling used cars.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would tweak little sections of You Can Leave Anytime, but overall, I’m pleased with it.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
The one about the ageless immigrant, which I’m calling for the moment Ageless Dilettante, is a great learning experience. I have a basic sense of history and life throughout the 1910s through the 1970s, but this book has made me explore it even more. And now we have Wikipedia and You Tube, and one of my favorite enterprises was looking at old movies and film footage of New York City, especially Coney Island in the 1910s and early 1920s, to try to imagine what it would seem like to someone who’d rarely even seen an electric light.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Read a lot and write a lot and don’t necessarily expect your first effort to win you a Pulitzer. At the risk of sounding old and grumpy, so many newer writers put all their attention into what sells. I’d like to see more of them learn to tell a good story.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The Puppet Masters by Robert Heinlein. I still love science fiction and horror, he’s a generally acknowledged master at it, and I’ve never read any of his books before. This one, published in 1951, set the stage for a lot of what has come since, including Stephen King’s books, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and some episodes of the original “Star Trek.”The Puppet Masters, about small parasites that take over the will of human beings and use them as puppets, is an allegory about fascism (though one could make an argument that it is about Communist spies, too).
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I don’t remember, but it was probably a book by the inestimable Dr. Seuss. The first “serious” book I read was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which was haunting science fiction/fantasy. It absolutely blew my mind. I would love to write something that would affect the reader like that book did.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
The last TV series I really loved was “Breaking Bad.” It was darkly funny and tragic and I just loved it. My two favorite movies lately have been “The Shape of Water” and “Call Me By Your Name,” two very different kinds of film.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Teach yoga. I already do that and I plan to continue for as long as I can. Yoga, like writing, is an opportunity to take people on a sort of ride, making them experience something they never have before.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“Thanks for a great ride!”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
My Website is www.robertdinsmoor.com. Drop in and check it out!
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