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 name is Loraine Despres. Age? Really? Don’t you know Oscar Wilde said, “Never trust a woman who tells you her real age. If she tells that, she’ll tell anything.”
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in the snows of Chicago, but within months moved to a little town in Louisiana. I grew up in the family home, built sometime after the Civil War. It had white columns on the front porch and bullet holes in my bedroom wall courtesy of the Just Our Kind Gang, which inspired my second book The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I discovered my love of books at the local grammar school, but my real education came from my grandmother, who wanted me to become a gracious Southern lady; my popular aunt, who taught me how to flirt; and my mother, who just didn’t want the boys to take advantage of me. I kept their advice in my head, adding to it over the years, and giving it the ironic name, the Southern Belle’s Handbook. It became my survival manual for life and I lent it, with some changes, to Sissy in The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc.
After graduating from Northwestern, I wrote educational radio and advertising in Chicago, Paris, and New Orleans.But most important was a move to Los Angeles to break into show business. Within two years, I was writing for the prestigious television show FAMILY. I went on to write for THE HIGHLANDER, THE EQUALIZER, CRIME STORY, DYNASTY, THE WALTONS, FAMILY, LOVE BOAT, CHIPS, and KNOTS LANDING, but I’m best known for writing the “Who Shot J.R.?” episode of DALLAS, now a veritable icon of pop culture.
I was still getting assignments when I decided I had to stop to fulfill a life-long ambition to write a novel, a big comic love story,set in the South at the beginning of the Civil Rights Movement. Over three years later, The Scandalous Summer ofSissy LeBlanc was born. It took several years to get published, but when it did, it became a Barnes and Noble National Best Seller and engendered, The Southern Belle’s Handbook, Sissy LeBlanc’s Rules to Live By. After years of research, I finished my third book, The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell in 2005.
I also taught screenwriting at UCLA’s Professional Screenwriting Program for seven years and worked as an international screenwriting consultant. I’ve given workshops, supervised writing staffs, and developed new TV series in such far-flung cities as Berlin, Cologne, Stockholm, Montréal and Sitgès, Spain. In 1998, the Multiple Sclerosis Society awarded me the first-place prize in journalism for an article I wrote in the YOGA JOURNAL. In 2001, I won the Western Publishers Association’s prestigious Maggie Award for the best interview or profile in a consumer magazine.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’ve recently finished a novel called Charm. It’s with my agent looking for a home.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
In sixth grade. I wrote 48 handwritten pages about pirates.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
It’s all I’ve ever done.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I’d spent years writing screenplays for other people, when I decided to write a novel based on a crime of passion that took place in my hometown before I was born.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My first novel is a love story about a reunion between a witty young woman trapped in a terrible marriage in a bigoted town, when her old high school boyfriend comes back. He’s the man who got away. I was writing in my back yard when the title, The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc came to me and I never looked back.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I write books that are poignant and funny. It’s the comedythat’s hardest to get right.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Both The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc and The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell are loosely based, very loosely on stories I’d heard growing up.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I travel and do extensive research. The Bad Behaviour of Belle Cantrellis set in 1920.To get the voices right, I read fiction of the period and for the year before I started, all the books I read for pleasure had to be written before 1920, so my characters might have read them.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My publisher William Morrow/HarperCollins.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
“It’s ok for a woman to know her place, she just shouldn’t stay there.” Rule 48 of The Southern Belle’s Handbook.
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 read so much it’s hard to choose a favorite. When I wrote my first novel I would have said Flaubert, because in Madam Boveryhis description of a woman, stuck in a small town, who dreams of finer things, rang so true.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Dianne Dixon, who is now published author, The Book of Somedayand The Language of Secrets,but at the time was writing TV. She believed in me and was very encouraging.
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?
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
All my books are historical and require extensive research, so yes.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
The publishing business is very hard, now. Bookstores are closing. Don’t feel guilty if you “don’t have time” to sit in front of your computer. Live your life and if you still feel you must write then, and only then, go into that little room all by yourself and commit your dreams to pixels.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I say it all in my books.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I just finished a delightful new book, The Italian Party by Christina Lynch.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I remember the first book I loved: Peter Pan. I wanted to fly with the boys and fight pirates.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
When I’m writing I don’t have time. Writing fills the day.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Right now, I’m watching West World and waiting for Game of Thrones. I binged on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Santa Clarita Diet, and Blackish. My favorite movies of last year were Get Out, The Big Sick, I Tonya, and Wonder Woman.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Create Virtual Reality
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
In my garden with my husband and my son.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I started a blog, The Southern Belle Sounds off. But I haven’t kept it up. My website is LoraineDespres.com. You can contact me there or at LD@LoraineDespres.com.