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?
Hello, Fiona, thank you for inviting me to your blog. My name is Joan Livingston, and as for my age, let’s say I am une femme d’un certain âge and leave it at that.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I have lived in different parts of the U.S., including 11 years in Taos, New Mexico. Recently, I returned to the rural hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, which is the setting for most of my fiction. It’s also where we raised our family for 25 years before moving to the U.S. Southwest.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I grew up beside the ocean in Massachusetts, where my grandparents arrived from the Madeira and Azores islands of Portugal. I was a studious, sheltered child who was the first of my family to graduate from college.
From college on, I broke loose and chose an alternative lifestyle. I am the mother of six children, which although rewarding, took up all of my creative energy. I just couldn’t write during those years. So I did the next best thing — I read.
My spouse, Hank, and I are proud of our kids, who are now adults, and our two granddaughters. They are good people.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My novel, Chasing the Case, is set for a May 18 release. Published by Crooked Cat Books, it’s the first in a mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a journalist turned amateur P.I. Her first case is solving a 28-year-old mystery about a woman who went missing in her small town of a thousand people. It was her first big story as a rookie reporter and now her first case as an amateur P.I.
The book will be available in paperback and to pre-order in Kindle before May 18. I will spread the news when that happens.
Its sequel, Redneck’s Revenge, will be published by Crooked Cat Books in the fall. Currently, I am working on the third.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing as a child and continued through college and a bit afterwards, when I fancied myself a poet. But as I hinted above, I had a rather lengthy writer’s block as I mothered six kids. Being a reporter got me back into using words. Being an editor freed me up to do my own writing. Suddenly, writing fiction became a part of every day. That was 19 years ago.
Despite countless rejections, I kept writing. I’ve completed thirteen books, including a middle-grade series, a bilingual series for children, and seven adult novels. I am in the process of writing two more — a mystery and the fourth in the middle-grade series.
I tried self-publishing — Peace,Love, and You Know What,The Sweet Spotand The Cousins and the Magic Fish/Los Primos y el PezMágico—but I really wanted to be part of a team that oversaw editing, design etc. and helped with promotion. I am so happy to have signed with Crooked Cat Books last fall — and that Laurence and Steph Patterson took a chance on me.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Definitely as a child when I had teachers who encouraged me to write. But being an author took many, many more years.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Actually, my first book, The Sacred Dog, hasn’t been published. I was inspired by the small town of 1,200 people in Western Massachusetts, where we livedfor 25 years.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The Sacred Dog is the name of a bar that has a prominent role in the book. It was the nickname we used to call one of our dogs that would sit regally and composed in a household of six kids.
Thetitle for my most recent book, Chasing the Case, just popped into my head like so much of my writing. Or as I say, as a journalist, Isabel never lost a story she chased. Now as an amateur P.I., she’s not about to lose a case she chases.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I believe being a journalist for thirty-plus years, gave me the opportunity to observe people closely. It’s an experience that has helped me create realistic dialogue and scenarios. I sit at my laptop and let the words flow. I never work by outline. In one of the best books on the topic, the author Stephen King calls writing “telepathic.” That’s the way it works for me. Then there’s rewriting. But I liken it to taking up a really good daydream and making it better.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I take what I know and have my way with it. In Chasing the Case, I will admit the main character, Isabel Long, is a lot like me, kind of sassy and determined. Isabel and I are Portuguese in what is truly Yankee territory. Like her, the first job in my thirty-plus years as a journalist was reporting on small, rural towns. Isabel’s 92-year-old mother, Maria Ferreira, is her Watson. My own book-loving mother is the inspiration for that character, and I borrowed a bit from three of my kids to create Isabel’s adult children. The rest of the characters, the setting, and storyline are pure fiction.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
The only travelling I do is in my mind.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I have self-published two adult novels: Peace, Love, and You Know What (a romp through the early ’70s with a group of hippie friends from college) and The Sweet Spot (a woman tries to persevere after her small town turns on her). Michelle Gutierrez, a designer who I worked with at The Taos News, created those covers.
For Chasing the Case, my publishers Laurence and Steph Patterson, of Crooked Cat Books, created the design with my input. I believe it captures the mystery well.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Hmm, I hadn’t thought of any messages. Perhaps that there’s a lot more going on in small towns than people realize.
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 am currently reading the novels of my fellow authors at Crooked Cat Books. As for favorite writers, I am fond of those who write about rural areas such as Annie Proulx, Russell Banks, Richard Russo, Larry Brown, Larry Watson, etc. I am a huge fan of Sherman Alexie. I can’t say I love everything an author writes, but my favorites are the ones who make me forget I am reading.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Definitely my friend, Teresa Dovalpage, who is an author. Her latest book, Death Comes in Through the Kitchen, a mystery set in her native Cuba is being published in March. We met in Taos and became fast friends.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I haven’t had the good fortune yet to make enough from my fiction to count as a career, but being a long-time journalist was pretty close.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Ha, I did many times while I was rewriting it.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
This was my first attempt at writing a mystery. I found I enjoyed the genre very much.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I believe Jennifer Connelly or Kate Winslet, if they were willing to let their hair go silver, would do Isabel justice.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
I will pass on advice from one of my college professors: Write it like nobody else has written it before.
From me: Write because you love doing it.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I hope you enjoy what you read, and if you do, please kindly leave a review.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I am finishing up Ninja School Mum by Lizzie Chantree and will read Neil Randall’s The Girl in the Empty Room next. Both are Crooked Cat Books authors.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I read a lot in school, the usual beginner books. But I recall being quite taken by The Diary of Anne Frank.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I’m a bit of a stoic, so I tend not to cry. Laugh? Oh, the absurdity of life gets me all the time.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Only one? Crap, there are so many great people to choose from.In the present, I would love to have a beverage with Barack Obama. In the past, a smoke with John Lennon.
I will reveal a favorite pastime: Visiting the homes where famous authors lived. I try to get a feel for their creativity.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Making things grow.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Anything that makes me forget I’m watching. For TV shows I’m hooked on mystery/crimes series from the U.K. and Scandinavia. As for movies, I have the same criteria. Sorry to say there haven’t been many of those lately.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I like foods that use honest ingredients and clean cooking methods. I am fond of ethnic cuisines, especially Japanese and New Mexican.
I would say 80 percent of my wardrobe is black. But I do like turquoise.
As for music, I enjoy blue grass, folk, some rock ’n’ roll and blues.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Well, I suppose I would spend it travelling, reading, and gardening in that order.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Not sure there will be one, but here’s an idea: She had her way with words.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Yes, you can catch me at www.joanlivingston.net . I also have a Facebook author page @JoanLivingstonAuthor and Twitter account @joanlivingston. On Instagram: JoanLivingston_Author.