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?
I’m Toni K. Kief, my dad swore to his last day I was named after a stripper in the 40s. Now for my age it is beyond my comprehension to be 69, I think I’m thirty five until I pass a reflective surface.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Pekin, Illinois. I practically left in my cap and gown. I lived in Peoria, Illinois for long enough to gather some stories, and then moved to Arizona (it’s own short story), Florida and finally settled in the state of Washington, it is so beautiful here, I’m sure I’ll stay.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
My dad was a firefighter which influenced every one of his family members. He went to college when I was a senior in high school he became an athletic trainer for Illinois State University. My mother, Marge, was news photographer. Because of my dad going to school when he did, I stepped aside and ended up taking classes in multiple community colleges and Universities until I have 23 years of classes and no AA degree, due to the math requirements.
I have been married twice and stay single now. I married Tommy Joy, a lounge singer for a couple years. We divorced early enough to still be friends. I did learn my second husband’s business and made my own career as an independent insurance adjuster. The first woman outside adjuster in Florida. I retired from the work in Seattle, Washington I have stories that are only appreciated by the other accident chasers.
I have been a political activist since 1979 focused on civil rights. I fell into leadership with the National Organization for Women. It surprises me to this day the places and causes I have marched for and people I’ve met.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I have released my third novel, and second Mildred book last May. I have also helped organize and lead the Writers Cooperative of the Pacific Northwest out of Everett, Washington.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I had putzed around with some poetry, but didn’t start writing until I was challenged at the age of 60. I was part of a metaphysical group, and as it was breaking up, James Johnson said he wanted to write more. So I answered, “If you write I’ll write.” We wrote a book that hasn’t been published together, Dangerous Dishes and the Food they Inspire, I’ve been pounding away ever since.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
After doing a cookbook based on women from history and myth, with bios and recipes I took over a Flash fiction group which morphed into some serious writing projects. I finished my first bookand considered myself a writer when I ordered business cards.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I had been doing flash fiction stories and one day, I was driving to the grocery store with my granddaughter. I saw an older woman walking down the side of the street by the railroad tracks, she was kicking dirt, and carrying on a very heated conversation with herself. I looked at Celena, and said, “That rotten bastard got 49 years of my life. He isn’t getting 50.” The book, Old Baggage, took off from there.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I had a title that was strictly a working title, and I was in the car (again) with my mother and two sisters. I was giving them a brief run down of the project and my sister turned to me and said “What’s it called.” I answered “Pajama Pants” and she answered “No it isn’t. It’s Old Baggage.” She was right.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I’m the epitome of a pantser. I have let the books tell me where to go with them. I sometimes have an idea that nags at me, and will work it in, but I mostly let the characters tell me.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My books are fiction, with some influence from my life or anything that I may have heard. When my first book was released, I had four exs inquire if they were in it. One from high school fifty years ago. My favorite was the last one asked a mutual friend, and she told him, “It’s called Old Baggage, what do you think. Buy the book and find out yourself.”
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I have used places that I’ve been to before, although it would have been easier to visit a couple places. In my Mildred books I have kept the exact location of the casino generic so that the reader’s own experiences could play into the stories. I have visited several local casinos for authenticity. Luckily I’m not much of a gambler. I’ve been researching a new historical fiction based on an ancestor and I have gone to Massachusetts and will probably go again.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I have used Heather McIntyre at Cover & Layout for all of my books. http://www.coverandlayout.com/
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
My major message is there is life after retirement, and older women have a lot to offer.
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 a difficult question. My favorite authors vary. I have bought all of Tony Hillerman’s books twice. Gave them away to a friend who was leaving the country for a remote job then couldn’t live without his books in the house and bought them again. I also adore Alice Walker, she encourages me to think about things I have taken for granted. I just came off a ten book binge of Christopher Moore with his hilarious and outrageous books. There has been a run of criticism on Dan Brown, but I have read all of his books and will read whatever he writes next. I have been on a three year stint of reading mostly indie authors and that has been a fascinating, and often wild ride.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
My first inclination is to yell “AMAZON” since they are the gorilla in indie publishing. I must admit beyond Jeff Bezos, this incarnation has been self motivated. I do gain a lot of support at the Writers Cooperative, but then I’m also one of the founders and offerer of support to the other members.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I have retired from my previous work, and consider myself a full time writer. With a 401k and Social Security I don’t have to depend on an income unless those Republicans keep messing with the budget I’ll keep marketing.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Yes, but I try not to linger on the thought. I have the tendency to look forward more than back.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I have learned that I have no respect for commas, also that I’m more creative than I have given myself credit for.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
The last year or two has all been about the Mildred books. She is a scrapper and incredibly dedicated. There have been new films with older women, and I have put some thought to it. Ideally I picture Helen Mirin but have considered almost every actress over 65 except Jane Fonda.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Just do it, and don’t worry about anything except the story then get an editor.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I was unaware exactly how much I would appreciate readers when I first published. It is you that encourage me to go to the next book. Thank you.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading a romance by Stephanie Browning – Making Up is Hard to Do. My Kindle has 20 in the queue and a stack next to the bed.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Absolutely, it was Fun With Dick and Jane. I was in first grade and I still remember the first four pages and thinking “Okay, I’ve got this.” I knew it was the first of thousands and I was unleashed.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I’m very sentimental thanks to my mother, she used to cry over long distance telephone call commercials. I also laugh very easily and often and I thank Dad and his outrageous personality. I laugh a thousand more times more than I cry, no telling what will inspire either reaction.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Yes, Mary Magdalene always comes to mind first. I have questions. If she isn’t available bring on Dorothy Parker.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
According to my income taxes, writing is a hobby. I’ve had many incarnations in this life time and have travelled, hiked, even made a couple latch hook rugs, but not recently.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love People of Earth, which none of my friends have even heard of. All of the genealogy shows and more NCIS programs that I will ever admit to in public. As for movies, like books, I don’t tend to repeat. Thanks to television I’ve seen Dirty Dancing and Grease more than any person needs to, even though they aren’t favorites. I have been pondering this question, and the last move I saw that felt like an unexpected gift was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. The last movie I saw recently was The Book Club (a little something in my writing genre.)
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
These are topics that also rotate, my favourite color is purple, no green, no yellow telling the truth depends on mood and shades. As for food, I have a friend say I eat a lot of things for being so picky. I will have to claim crab, veggie lasagne, and then I’ll tell the truth and say something with marshmallows.
As for music, I was a folkie in the 60s, even though I did buy the Beatles first record available in Illinois in 1964 and grew along with the band. Like the rest of my life I change in the music passions, but have a few songs that stop me in my tracks. I have been amazed watching music morph and adapt to eras. I remember when the Peppermint Twist was shocking.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I will be breaking down to my base elements and getting ready for reincarnation.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
I would be eating desserts and making telephone calls to everyone I love or ever loved.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Toni Kief – Haunting a book store near you.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?