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 everyone. I’m Riana Everly, old enough to have a child at university, but young enough to deny it!
Fiona: Where are you from?
I am originally from South Africa, but I have been in Canada since I was eight. I have lived in Edmonton, Calgary and Montreal, and now call Toronto home.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I have studied a little bit of everything. I started off in Medical Science before deciding that I was not prepared to give up my real passion, which is Music. I have a performance diploma in viola and a dregree in Music History, and went on to do my graduate work in Medieval Studies focusing on late Medieval music and society.
In terms of family, I have a wonderful and supportive husband and two terrific kids, one at university and one just about to start high school. They are both voracious readers, which makes a mama proud!
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I have recently released The Assistant, my second novel. It is a prequel, if you will, to Pride and Prejudice. Partly set in the colony of Nova Scotia, this is the story of Lizzy Bennet’s favourite aunt and uncle, the Gardiners. I’ve been thrilled and humbled by the terrific reviews it has been getting.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I think I’ve been writing forever! I published my first poem (an epic of three whole lines) in the local newspaper when I was six. Every so often my mother hands me a folder of stories I wrote at some time or another, none of which I even remember, but I can’t deny the handwriting. The earliest story was written when I was eight.
I began taking writing more seriously about fifteen years ago when I found a terrific writers’ group on an on-line forum. Inspired by some of the amazing and supportive folk there, I began trying to hone some skills and wrote a lot of short stories and other such pieces.
Then, about five years ago, I decided to set myself the dare of writing a full-length novel. It was as much to see whether I could actually do it as anything, and I was more amazed than anybody when I actually managed to complete it! I loved getting to know my characters, I loved seeing where their adventures took them—and me—and I loved the whole experience of it. After that I was hooked, and I’ve been writing novels ever since.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That rather goes back to the previous question. It all developed so gradually, I was in the middle of it before I knew I had begun. But I think seeing my first novel, Teaching Eliza, on the virtual shelves of Amazon, and then seeing the printed version in my hands, was what made me think, “I’m an author!” That was a terrific feeling.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first published novel is not the first I wrote—in fact, it is one of my more recent creations. It is a mash-up of Pride and Prejudice and Pygmalion. I have always been inspired by Jane Austen and her legions of adherents. The previous summer, I had seen a production of Pygmalion that was set in the present, and I was struck by how the play adapted itself so amazingly to the different time and social milieu. I was also struck by the similarities between Shaw’s play and Austen’s novel, and I set to work creating my own professor and my own Eliza.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
This was an adventure, really. I had initially planned to call the novel My Fair Lizzy, but three weeks before publication date, I discovered that another author was days away from releasing her own mash-up of the two classics, with the exact same title! She was a doll about it and insisted I not change my title, but I thought it best. I dove into the play, and the lines spoken by Higgins and Pickering just resounded when I got to them. That’s what it’s all about after all: Teaching Eliza.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
When I write historical fiction, I try to keep to the style of writers from that period. I do not attempt to mimic Jane Austen’s voice—I could not if I tried—but I take inspiration from her beautifully crafted sentences and razor-sharp insights. And I write with an etymological dictionary at hand. Every novel teaches me something surprising about what words were and were not used at different times. While writing The Assistant, I discovered that “hello” was not used until much later in the nineteenth century, which sent me into a bit of rewriting. It is a challenge, but a rather fun and informative one.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I think we all take some of our own experiences and turn them into some aspects of our novels. I cannot point to any one event or character in The Assistant and say, “that’s THIS experience,” or “that’s THIS person.” (I have written people I know into other books, but shhhh, it’s a secret.) But the very act of creating characters and plot points necessitates drawing on our bank of experiences in some way or another.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
In an ideal world, yes. I am a visual person, and being able to see the places I’m writing about helps tremendously. The Assistant takes place partly in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1800, and my own travels there allowed me to “see” aspects of the topography and terrain that helped me form my ideas of how the action should take place. But imagination also has to take a key role, because I know the Halifax of 2018, not 1800.
This is where another form of travelling comes in: virtual travelling. I have been to London and have seen many of the places I’ve written about in England, but a Google Maps tour can be invaluable for filling in details. Likewise, old maps and drawings can help me to see into the past, to replace the modern vista with that of centuries past.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My cover artist is the wonderfully talended Mae Phillips of Coverfresh Designs.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t write with a message in mind, but my stories all seem to involve people refusing to be limited by their circumstances and doing what they think they can to move forward.
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?
This is hard. I have read so much wonderful fiction recently by new writers, I don’t know where to begin. Catherine Kullmann, Josanna Thompson, Jayne Davis, Sophia Meredith, Robin Helm, Laura Hile… The list goes on and on.
I cannot choose a favourite writer. That is like asking me to choose a favourite composer… it just can’t be done, because each one is like a sliver of the spectrum of light, beautiful in itself but only part of the glory of the rainbow.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Again, where to begin? I have been awed by the support and overall encouragement I’ve found in the JAFF community. But author Sophia Meredith stands out as the one person who pushed me to publish, refusing to hear my plaints of unworthiness or protestations of inadequacy.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
At the moment, I am happy with my schedule of a release every six months or so. It’s not quite a career, but it’s more than a hobby, and it is very, very satisfying. Writing full-time is a wonderful aspiration, but it is something I would need to ease into, rather than attempt at the moment.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Other than correcting the very few inevitably typos that all my proofreaders missed, but that one eagle-eyed reader found (there were only three, so I think I did okay), I’m really quite pleased with this book. I don’t think there’s much I would want to change.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Every new work is an education. Every new project teaches me more about writing and the process of creating characters and plots and engaging readers. On a more tangible level, I learned a lot about the history of Nova Scotia. For example, although I only mentioned ethnic diversity in the colony in a single sentence, I fell down the rabbit hole of research and discovered all sorts of fascinating information about Black Loyalists in the province. I also discovered a huge controversy about where hockey was first played, although this didn’t figure into my story at all!
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
If we’re fantasy casting, I’ll take Toby Stephens from 1996 to play Edward Gardiner, thank you! If he’s not available, Eddie Redmayne will do just fine.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Write, write, keep writing. Do it for yourself, make yourself proud. Do the best you can do, and then keep writing.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
My greatest joy is when someone tells me how much they enjoyed one of my books. If I’ve made you smile, then I consider my job well done!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m in the middle of three books right now: Murder in the South of France by Susan Kiernan-Lewis, The Murmur of Masks by Catherine Kullmann, and Curtain: Poirot’s Last Case by Agatha Christie.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I don’t recall the very first book, but as a young child I adored the Secret Seven series by Enid Blyton.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Bad jokes. And bad jokes.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
So many people… from a literary perspective, Jane Austen would be a top choice. I just hope she might find something not scathing to say about me afterwards!
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Music is so much a part of my life, it’s far beyond a hobby. I play in an orchestra and enjoy playing chamber music with friends. I enjoy crocheting—both clothing and funny little creatures—as well as sewing and biking. I am less serious about photography, although it is an interest, and I can often be found in the kitchen “fixing” the recipes I find.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m not much of a TV watcher, but I love cosy mysteries like Miss Fisher and the old Agatha Christie series.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Colours: anything in the purple/blue range
Music: stuff with notes. Right now I’m in a Schubert phase. His chamber music is sublime.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I would read! I am happiest when I’m making things, whether food, music, clothing, etc. I would probably spend a lot more time with my sewing maching and my instruments, but I would certainly give good time to my huge pile of books to be read.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
I would like to spend it laughing with friends and family.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
If she made one person smile, it was all worthwhile.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Absolutely! My website and blog can be found at www.rianaeverly.com, and folks can sign up for my mailing list, which I promise will not bombard anyone’s inbox! I am also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rianaeverly and on Twitter at twitter.com/RianaEverly.
My Amazon Author page is: amazon.com/author/rianaeverly
The links to my books are as follows:
Teaching Eliza: www.books2read.com/teachingeliza
The Assistant: www.books2read.com/theassistant
I love connecting with readers, so please feel free to drop and line and say hello!