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 pen name is Eliza Ames. I was going to use my real name, but unfortunately there is another author already using that name (Elizabeth Welsh). My age? Old enough to be embarrassed about it, too young to howl it proudly to the wind.
Fiona: Where are you from?
San Bernardino, CA, though I was originally from Wyoming. I moved from the least populated state to the most populated state. Yes, there was culture shock involved.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
First thing you have to know about me is I always have a story. I grew up on a cattle ranch in rural Wyoming. The nearest town was Leiter, population 4 and 5 dogs. You have to count the dogs or it just isn’t impressive enough to warrant a sign. I graduated high school in the top of my class with nine scholarships but didn’t manage to graduate college; I have epilepsy and it came along and kicked my butt just long enough for everything to expire. Nevertheless I’ve had a bunch of careers that I loved including keyboardist in a rock band, deejay, print shop manager, and office assistant at a paleontology museum. Ultimately I left the paid working world for the sake of my children. Understand, I still do the work of six people, now I do it without pay. Yipee.
I have two crazysmart boys, one of which is on the autism spectrum. When school couldn’t manage that one, I stayed home to home-school him until he was ready to be integrated into a normal high school. His brother is a science and math genius and public school doesn’t have much to offer him, so I’ve continued to home-school. My eight-year-old is getting ready for chemistry and I’m feeling a little overwhelmed by the notion but plan to rise to the challenge or blow us both up (whichever happens first).
I have probably always been a writer. I’ve been making up stories as long as I can remember, but I’ve only recently called myself that. I have always felt I communicate better in writing and have often thought that if I could just write all interaction, life would go much smoother for me. When I write, I can make people laugh or cry or sometimes both. I’ve even once made someone do a magnificent impression of a rain-bird sprinkler. You’ve been forewarned — don’t drink and read; it is hazardous to computers. With my recent reinvention as author came the surprise career of freelance editor. There’s a story there, too. But I’ll leave it for now.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My most recent news as a writer is that I’ve decided to go entirely indie on the sequel to “Something Special”. The first was released through Kingston Publishing, but they haven’t signed me for the sequel and so I’m going to put it out anyway. It will be called “Too Much” and I commissioned the artwork just yesterday (July 2). My hope is to release it November 1st.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve written off and on my whole life, but about thirteen years ago I decided I’d really like to do it for a career. I started by writing fanfiction to hone skills. I won awards for fics, a couple of times before they were even finished (which still boggles my mind each time I think about it). Total strangers said I needed to have my own books out. So I sat down and wrote. The first draft of “Something Special came together in 62 days, then sat in my computer for the next twelve years. I’ve tweaked it some, but it remains the same story.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Fiona, I’m really glad you asked that because I’ve had a lot of ups and downs on that point. I submitted a story to a magazine and it was supposed to be printed. Then the magazine went under and my story went unpublished. I wrote the manuscript for “Something Special,” and started submitting it, then amassed an absolutely ridiculous number of rejections, followed by even more crickets. By crickets, I’m referring to a more recent trend of no response. In the past, if you submitted something and a publisher wasn’t interested at all, they’d have the courtesy to send a form rejection. The past few years they’ve started just ignoring that which doesn’t interest them. It actually feels a bit like high school. Being invisible did terrible things to my self esteem. I’ve thought of myself as a writer and then I stopped for a while, and thought only of myself as a failed wannabe. I’m very lucky to have friends who believe in me more than I believe in myself. I hope to return the favor down the line someday — pay it forward, so to speak.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Ha! Well, my first book was actually written when I was six and I don’t really remember what inspired it. The first book to be published and commercially available, “Something Special”, was inspired by a mixture of current events and interviews with the authors of “Harry Potter” and “Wild Magic”.
In “Harry Potter”, JK Rowling had always meant to develop Ginny more. She wanted to play with the notion of the magical seventh daughter. Ginny doesn’t get a lot of “stage time” in Harry Potter and the seventh daughter thing never happened.
Similarly, Tamora Pierce started out to break a norm. Numair was to be a wickedly powerful mage who was supposed to top out the power of all previous characters. He sort of did that, though the fact that she chose not to allow him any healing magic while her previous character, Alanna, did have access to that diminished him a lot. Although Tamora Pierce meant to laugh in the face of those who suggested a written character could be too powerful, her editors recommended softening his powers and she capitulated. He’s a cool character, but not nearly as shockingly powerful as she originally intended him to be. The stories hint at it, though you don’t get to see it as a reader. I always thought that was a shame.
The more I thought about both those ideas, the more I wanted to be the one to get to write them. But I didn’t just want a fantasy story that covered those concepts. I grew up watching the original Star Trek on video tapes (rural Wyoming has little to offer in the way of television). I was fascinated by the concept of morality plays. Gene Roddenberry was a master at shoving idealism in the faces of his viewers without them fully realizing it was happening. One of the stories that most impressed me was “Let that Be Your Last Battlefield”. The aliens in this were half black and half white, except some were black on the left side and some were black on the right side. To the Enterprise Crew, they were the same, but that difference was significant to them. Sadly, these two men discovered they were the last of their species and they still didn’t make peace with one another. In the end, they killed each other over a tiny difference. At the time that episode came out, people talked about how ridiculous it was — there wasn’t that much difference between them. But it represented exactly what our own world was doing because of skin color — what we still do over a difference in skin color.
I have watched race relations for years and seen some awful stuff. Even when we humans start to get it right, we take two small steps forward and one big step back. I was born after desegregation efforts started. I didn’t ever see the time of separate water fountains or bathrooms. I did see a family run out of the tiny town where I went to school simply because they were the “wrong” color. By taking that discussion off Earth and mixing up the way races look, I can make readers think about race relations in a way that is less uncomfortable and where no one has been taught what is the “preferred race”. I can provide a platform where people think about how any race can have good and bad people, and how we have a tendency to “stick to our own” to the point of stupidity. And there’s more. I can provide a place to think about orphaned children, feelings of being left out or neglected, relationships between the sexes, forced marriage, abuse — anything really. It feels safe to consider all those things because any reader can tell it isn’t real and it isn’t here, even though every subject is relevant to our everyday lives and the way we treat one another.
Sometimes readers recognize all the subtext and sometimes they just read it to be entertained. To be honest, I’m thrilled when someone says to me how amazed they were at the subjects covered and the things they realized as they read. I like hearing from teens that they didn’t feel I narrated down to them.
The best books make you think and hold nuances you don’t discover until you’ve read it repeatedly. I like to think I fall into that category. I worked hard to get it there.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
In the case of this book and the two that follow in the series, the name is literally the last two words of the story. The final book of the tetralogy will break the mold. It ends with “always”, but its title is currently “Uprising”. I guess we’ll see if I end up changing it.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Writing is for me a lot like breathing. It just happens. I can channel things I’m reading. So my style can absolutely change depending on the work. I’ve joked to people that I am a faucet writer — turn on the faucet and the words pour out. I wrote the first draft of the next two books even faster than this one. I can write 100,000 words in a month, no problem. My writing is pretty clean, too. I’d like to point to some specific course that I took to make that happen for everyone, but I’ve pretty much always been that way. In high school and college, I wrote term papers a couple hours before turning them in. I guess writing is my superpower.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My book is fantasy and has fantastic pieces to it. Dinosaurs live alongside humans and some humans have magic to help them survive the inevitable unbalance of strength. In that regard, not a lot is realistic. I also have creatures that fully came out of my demented brain. The motives and problems are true to life though. There is a lot of me in these books. I think any author would tell you the same. But Zalene is not the character most like me, though she is my main character. I’m most like her guy, but at this point I can’t reveal who that is.
A lot of the peninsula is based on a place I love. It’s very like Yellowstone, but even that isn’t fully true to life. I mixed trees around and such.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I wish. No. Money for travel isn’t currently in my pathetic budget. But when I do travel, I am very observant. I imagine that stuff gets in there, though I don’t necessarily think, “Oh, I’m going to make Paltak like Utah.” I did spend a lot of time at garden centers and botanic gardens getting names. That was fun.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
CK Green at Kingston Publishing did both the original and recover. Since it doesn’t look like Kingston will do the next in the series, I doubt if she will do future covers. I picked an artist through Fiverr for the next one. I’m waiting to see what he comes up with. It’s a bit of a gamble because I really wanted Saffron and Cypress on the cover and they have the wood-grain patterned skin. If I really hate the result, I’m not sure what I’ll try next. You might have noticed I’m a “hang-in-there” sort of person now. I’ll figure out something.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
What matters most is how we treat one another
The greatest sacrifices are made in silence
Family is defined by love, not by blood, tradition or race
I do also hope they notice characters like Aloe, Ysa and Cotton, who break the molds of what you expect to find as “part of the gang”. Aloe is obviously ASD, Ysa is prickly but loveable and Cotton who has a disability that simply doesn’t hold him back. I adore each and every one of them. Down the road, Cotton will likely have his own book because he wormed his way into my heart.
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?
New authors — oh tons. I’ve met a bunch lately. Dominique Laura is one of my new favorites. If you get the chance to read “Here I’ll Stay” you should. I also think I’m getting addicted to the works of Porscha Lewis, Megan Mackle, and Meg Anne. I also adore Jessica Ames. We’re not related. It’s trippy we picked the same last name for a pen name, huh? I edited her book and she says she’s a forever client. Of course I love Annie Dyer. I wouldn’t be published at all if it weren’t for her. You’ll get to learn more about her coming up. Sylvia Izzo Hunter falls in roughly the same spot in my heart. Both are wonderful friends.
My all time favorite author is currently Jim Butcher. I love his stuff and listen to or read it over and over. What do I love about it? Lots of things. I love the humor and creativity. I love the way he says so much in very few words. I love his plot twists.
My favorite classic author is Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Most people probably wouldn’t pick him and honestly, before I read “Crime and Punishment”, I would have given that honor to Dickens. Dostoyevsky wrote a grisly murder, then made you feel bad for the murderer. You read that book knowing full well that he killed one nasty woman and her mostly innocent sister, and you still don’t want him caught. That takes some serious skill.
Favorite authors for me change depending on my mood though. Ask the same question next week, you might get a different answer all together.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Annie Dyer. Annie and I have been friends since the fanfic days. Both of us honed skills there and we’ve carried on a long distance friendship for more than a decade. When she met the girls at Kingston Publishing, she contacted me and introduced us. I was past the point of thinking I’d ever be published, and she did that for me. She held my hand through a lot of it. I owe her so much more than I could ever, ever repay.
Annie also got me started editing. I did her second book just so she’d have extra eyes on it. She was so pleased she recommended me. Privately, I told her I didn’t know if I was good enough. Our other friend, Sylvia Izzo Hunter, is both an author and the sort of editor that gets signed to ‘no compete’ contracts. She edits in two languages. She’s still the person I contact when I feel out of my depth and have a question. Annie told me I needed to stop holding myself back and recognize that I have some pretty big talent. Then she introduced me to Jessica Ames. Next thing I knew I had two forever clients and a building business.
What’s funniest about my wonderful friendship with Annie is that I’m not 100% sure I could pick her out of a crowd. She lives in England, so we’ve never met in person. I’ve seen pictures, but neither of us hops in front of a camera much. I guess that goes to show that what’s inside really counts. Annie is the real deal — the type of friend everybody hopes they have at some point in their lives. She’s both the girl I could tell anything to and the girl most likely to call me out when I’m acting like a butthead. She’s got the confidence that I lack, and she is the only person I’ve ever met that could keep up with me in terms of writing output. Lately, she’s outpacing me pretty seriously.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely. And it is a difficult career. The writing isn’t the hardest part. Promoting yourself — that’s the hardest. In general, I’d rather be writing every minute of the day. Public appearances are the hardest for me. I’m okay as long as I plan what I’m doing for the whole time, but I usually start every appearance with a quiet panic attack in the bathroom.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Well, there’s this one typo that bugs the heck out of me, but otherwise, no. I won’t suggest the book is perfect, but I don’t believe in the whole “would you do it differently” thing. Life doesn’t work that way. I tend to think the learning journey has value that we regularly fail to recognize.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I am always learning things. I do a lot of research. Things I learned while writing books: plant information, how to make soap, how to make swords, everything you could ever want to know about bows and arrows, pottery, how to make bread before pre-packaged yeast, that the word “couch” has been around for hundreds of years, the layout of Romantic languages, how to build a water clock, musical instruments of the medieval, etc. Did you know I even made a lunar chart for a planet with two moons? True story. And that was just what I learned for the story part. The stuff I’ve learned about the career of writing might top that.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I don’t know. Right now, I’d say my preference would be Samantha Logan. I can’t picture getting a film deal though.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Never give up on a story you love. Someone out there will want to read it. However, do learn your craft. And never stop reading.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Stories are never simply stories. A good story is like an onion with layer upon layer of subtext. Also stories enhance the taste of everything, especially chocolate. 🙂
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Cold Days by Jim Butcher (again), “Ever” by Jessa Russo, and “Chemistry for Dummies”
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Yes and no. I can picture the book. It was a bible bedtime story book my mother read to us. She had a series of them and the covers were blue. I was three and I took over reading when she got distracted during the story of Baby Moses. She was blown away because I could read without learning letter sounds or anything. I’d learned to read words watching her finger follow what she was reading.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Everything makes me cry — commercials, sappy stories on facebook, thinking about crying. Mostly, my kids make me laugh. My youngest spent half an hour today ranting because his brother disagreed that the mineral in “Solo” was probably a noble gas. I found that hysterical. Poor kid.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Two. I would love to meet JRR Tolkien. I think chatting with him would be a hoot. I would also like to meet my maternal grandfather. I knew him briefly as a kid but he had alzheimers. I never got to know the loving man my mother adored. I’d like that chance.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
A ton, but not a lot of time to pursue any of them. I play seventeen musical instruments. I also paint, though I’ve never dreamed of making my own cover art. I sew quilts and costumes. If it’s artistic, I’m probably into it. I also still love to learn. It’s one of my favorite things in the world.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
If it’s sci fi or fantasy, I’m all over it. And yes, I’m not a “Star Trek” or “Star Wars” person, I’m both.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
My favorite food is snow crab, followed closely by chili rellenos. My favorite color is red, mostly because I decided when I was six and thought it couldn’t change. I love music of all sorts — but especially piano-heavy music. I’ve always been a piano girl. Naturally, Billy Joel gets titled favorite artist of all time, but I have eclectic taste. My most recent craze has been steampunk. Abney Park is in my car CD changer. Of course, so are the Hamilton soundtrack, Queen’s Greatest Hits, and Muse’s third album. See what I mean — eclectic.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Uh, that future would suck. I’d have to talk and stuff. In the past I was actually a deejay. I scripted everything. I actually don’t think I could live without writing. I’d end up writing on walls or something.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
I’d hang out with my boys and play. Also, I would not count calories.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“She was kind,” but I will settle for “She was kinda weird”.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Yes. Elizaames.com is my website. I’m also active on facebook (firstname.lastname@example.org ). I have a twitter but rarely remember it’s there, hahaha. I guess that proves I’ll never be presidential material. I am dragging my feet about Instagram. I like photographs but I detest selfies. Every “Divergent” fan just pegged me as Abnegation, huh? Nah, I’d be Divergent. I know this because the Hogwarts sorting hat can’t find a house for me either. At least District thirteen will let me paint with Peta. Yeah, I like books.
Thanks for taking the time to interview me. It was fun. Love your blog.
Link to my book https://tinyurl.com/somethingspecialpaperback
Web page https://elizaames.com