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?
My official writing name’s ER Harding, but it’s Lizzy Harding, really. According to Facebook, I’m 112 years old. This isn’t strictly accurate, but it’ll do.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I’m half Italian and half English, and have lived in England, Germany, Holland and France, so I’m sort of from everywhere, but definitely northern European.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I’ve been married to the same person for years and years, and have two grown up children and two dogs. I’ve had lots of jobs, but there’s nothing I’ve ever wanted to do as much as write. I was supposed to take a year out and see if I could make a living from writing, but it’s three years later now, and the answer is that I still can’t make a living from it!
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’m working on the sequel to my first published novel, Manumission, and hope to have that finished in the next couple of months. It’ll be quite a while longer until all proofs and edits have been finished though.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I didn’t really think I could do it, despite being a voracious reader, but I was made redundant and since I had my little dog to look after and it wasn’t going to be easy to find an employer who’d tolerate a tiny, quiet dog under my desk, my husband and I agreed that it was a good time to give this writing business a go.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I still don’t consider myself a writer, and I’m not sure I ever will. Maybe, if I had a contract with one of the big five publishers, and wrote to a hard schedule rather than just when the time felt right, I’d feel less of an imposter! I do adore writing though. In real life I talk too much and too quickly, and writing is just an extension of that.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always been fascinated by scientific science fiction. It’s a way to explore possible technical advances and look at human behaviour in extreme, or just weird, circumstances. It’s always seemed to me that mortality is one of those slightly taboo subjects that we ought to be considering properly. Unless one is religious, mortality is a Very Big Thing, and the only way around it that I can see is the uploading of consciousness to a kind of cloud-based storage system. That’s why I wrote Manumission – to explore how it might be done.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It was just a word that seemed to fit. To manumit is to free or liberate, and the essence of my novel concerns the freeing of humanity from the burden of mortality within unreliable human bodies. And also, those people who hate the idea of computer-based intelligence fight against it, so their success means freedom for them too, in a completely different sense.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I don’t really know what writing style I have, or care either, just as long as it’s clear and understandable, and hopefully literate. Too many would-be writers seem to believe that literacy is optional, and it really isn’t. I’ve played with many genres, and my style, if you can call it that, varies according to what I’m writing. Scifi is still my first love though; it’s a wonderful means of following logic to the nth degree..
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Being science fiction, not a lot of Manumission is based on real life, but some of the characters are real. It’s much easier to describe a real person than to invent an entirely new one, and they seem to have more depth than an entirely constructed character. Three main characters are based on real people that I have known and disliked intensely, so I can’t tell you which ones, because that would probably be libellous. As far as the events in the book go, none of it’s happened yet, as far as I know, but it would be brilliant if it did!
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
If anything, I travel even less than usual when I’m writing. I have to walk my dogs every morning, but after that I knuckle down and work until someone interrupts me. I have travelled a lot, and learned bits of various foreign languages, and read foreign novels, so that gives me something of an insight, I think, into how different cultures work.
I really think travel is crucial to understand how people think and to help one take a slightly detached view of human behaviour. It’s no good trying to get one’s personal opinions across in a novel. It won’t work and will probably alienate readers, so I try not to do that. I’m secretly very, very opinionated though.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
A friend showed me a photograph that gave me an idea, so I played with various pictures and showed the result to my publisher, and they tweaked it a bit more. It looks nothing like the original photo now, but I think it’s pretty striking. I really wanted something that showed how we are, or could be, constantly watched. The eyes in the sky, in my cover, are suitably haunting, I think.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I’m not sure the time’s right for the sort of message I’d like to send. Basically, I think it’s time we all stopped messing around, and accepted that we’re small animals on a very small and insignificant blue planet, in an even more insignificant little solar system, and now would be a good time to work together to find the best way to become something more. But we have to stop behaving like frightened animals, and get free of our bodies!
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 do like Simon Winstanley’s ‘Field’ series, having read all three. I’ve never met anyone as intelligent as his central characters are, but genetic engineering might make such people a reality in the future, though I doubt if I’ll be around to see it.
Also, I’ve just discovered Barry J Hutchison, and his ludicrous, but highly entertaining Space Team. I recommend the series to anyone who likes The Hitchhikers Guide. There are loads of wannabe Douglas Adams’ out there, but Hutchison has a rare talent, and he’s one of the very few humorous writers who seems completely original, and often very, very funny.
Still and forever my favourite author of all time, though, is Sir Terry Pratchett. The man was a genius.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I have the most wonderful friends who’ve supported and encouraged me, but no other entities have supported me in any way. It’s a very good reason to have an agent to fight your corner and generally help to keep a poor old writer motivated. Any agency or entity that’s ever offered assistance to me has felt that masses of money would ease the process, and I won’t have any until I’m at least moderately successful. It does keep one motivated to write though.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
It is my career, although it’s not buying baby new shoes at the moment. I’m not in it to get rich though. I’d like a little bit of respect, and I have a few books that I need to get out of my system. Also, if I can ever make it pay, I think maybe I could get quite good at it.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Gosh, yes, I’d change loads of things. It was the first thing I’d ever written, and I could do it so much better now. Or I think I could. That’s one of the reasons a bad review hurts so much – because I already know what’s wrong with it, I really do!
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Yes. My first draft was enormous and full of errors and I know, now, that keeping it lean is absolutely key. If it bores the reader, then that reader is lost. It’s better to write a very short novelette than to pad it out into a full-size novel, unless you really have something to say. I did strip a lot of Manumission out, and some of the deletions really hurt, but it was the right thing to do. Now, I don’t even write all that fluff.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
In a perfect world, I think I’d want Emilia Clarke to play Meilinn. She could do it so well, as Mei’s very young and gauche at first, and grows with the story.I’d loveAnthony Hopkins to play Connorthough. He’s the right age, and he’d fit the persona rather well, I think.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Keep writing, of course, but much more than that – keep editing! Its hard to go back over what you’ve written with a cold, assessing eye, but if you’re honest, getting rid of the padding makes it infinitely nicer for your readers, and they really don’t mind using their imaginations. It’s not TV.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I’ve just pontificated about how to write when I’m barely more than a novice myself. Feel free to ignore me, but if you’d like to make an aspiring author very happy, (and buy food for my two delightful rescue dogs), please buy Manumission and post a tiny review. Even a one liner would be wonderful and make me very happy.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading ‘Surviving Childhood,’ by Caroline Webber. It’s not the sort of thing I’d normally read, but it’s beautifully written and rather disturbing. It’s going to be an interesting review to write!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Yes, I think it was Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass,’and I was about three. I learned to read quite young because my grandmother used to make a big fuss about how clever I was, whenever I got a word right. I wasn’t clever at all, but that sort of thing really does motivate a small child. All I wanted to do was show off and be praised.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
At the moment, Barry J Hutchison’s books make me laugh, but very little can make me cry, except possibly cruelty to animals; that’ll do it! I don’t watch TV very much, because I’m naturally verbal, and I find it hard to focus on moving pictures for very long, unless there are sub-titles. I like sub-titles; they always feel like a free language lesson!
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I’d love to meet Elon Musk. We have fantasies in common, and I have some suggestions for him, although I suspect he’s way ahead of me. I just know he’s going to build Manumission’s Metaform any day now, and I’d love to be there to watch.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I enjoy tinkering and fixing things. I like cooking, carpentry, sewing, gardening, eating, sleeping, walking. I have so many hobbies and I don’t have time for any of them, because I’m supposed to be writing…
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
At the moment I’m watching the new Star Trek series, which is amazing, though a lot more graphic than I’m accustomed to. It’s also slightly painfully politically correct, although that’s well overdue. I’m finding it very hard to adjust to weak or crying men, though I’m fine with superheroic women. It just goes to show how conditioned society is, and how conditioned I am, too. I must work on that.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Favourite food is Chinese anything, or pasta. I grew up with most forms of pasta as a part of my Italian heritage, and that’ll never wear off. Purple is my favourite colour, and I like classical music best, particularly piano and violin, as well as some rock. I was a serious heavy metal enthusiast when I was young, but now I find it shouty and irritating. Funny how one’s tastes change; these days, all I want is peace.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I’d get a real job. I may have to get a real job anyway, soon. I’m actually a charities administrator, and the only reason I’m writing now is that both my dogs have health issues and can’t be left at home alone all day. So please buy my book, people…
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I don’t want a headstone, and I don’t want a memorial. I just want my consciousness recorded into somewhere nice and safe and radiation proof. It’d be nice to have the word ‘novelist’ in any reference to me though.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I have a website but it’s a bit neglected. I do have a Facebook author page, which I post on regularly, and I really do like talking to people there too. I’ll type gossip all day if I’m allowed to, and I have friends all over the world whom I speak to online, but never with a camera, always in text.Psychologically, I may not be suited to worldwide fame, but that’s okay because I suspect really big fame isn’t going to happen. A little gentle success would be very much appreciated though.
Link to Manumission: http://myBook.to/Manumission
Link to my Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Manumission777/?fref=ts
Link to my Twitter: https://twitter.com/lizzyharding777
Link to website: https://erharding.com/
Link to Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34741203-manumission?from_search=true.