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.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in Kenya in the dying days of the British Empire. My family moved to Australia when I was ten and I call Melbourne home.
Fiona: A little about your self
As a writer I have eight published historical romances (and a few published shorter stories).
I am a lawyer by training and had an interesting career in not for profit organisations, the military (I was a Major in the Australian Army Legal Corps) and the emergency services (men in uniform!). I left my day job in March last year and it’s been all about the writing since then!
I met my husband in the army reserve. We lived in Singapore for three years in the early 2000s.
Our two sons are now married and we are proud (and doting!) grandparents.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
As I said… I ‘retired’ in March last year and in June I attended the Historical Novel Society Conference in Portland where I gave a paper on the English Civil War. At that conference I pitched a historical mystery series set in Singapore to an agent Kevan Lyon of Marsal Lyon LLC. To my great surprise and delight, Kevan picked it up and in February this year we sold the HARRIET GORDON MYSTERIES(set in Singapore in 1910) to Berkley Publishing in the US.
In the meantime I had also sold two Australian set historical romances (the Maiden’s Creek series) to Harlequin MIRA so I have been very busy!!!
I say in all seriousness that it took me 25 years to become an overnight success!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I have always written… but I started seriously in the 1990s when I dislocated a shoulder in a skiing accident and found myself alone in the ski cabin with no company and a notebook computer. I started writing and haven’t stopped… (that book became BY THE SWORD)
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When BY THE SWORD was shortlisted for the Catherine Cookson Fiction Prize and came runner up in Romance Writer of Australia’s Emma Darcy Award (now the Emerald Award).
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
When I was 11 my grandfather took me to Harvington Hall in Worcestershire. I absolutely fell in love with it. Combine a lovely old house with my passion for the English Civil War and BY THE SWORD was born.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It’s had several titles… but BY THE SWORD comes from the biblical saying ‘He who lives by the sword, shall die by the sword…’
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I don’t know if I am a good judge of my own writing style. I guess because I write historical stories (and I have a degree in history), the challenge is producing a book that is historically accurate without overwhelming the story with detail.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
All my books touch on real events and real historical characters. However I don’t think any of my fictional characters have shadows in the real world. Probably the eponymous protagonist of my mystery series, Harriet Gordon, is most like me, because I come from her world (and I also made her a Capricorn!)
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I am fortunate to have a husband who loves travel and is happy to indulge my need for research and shares my love of history. Everywhere I travel, I see potential for a story but the destination I keep going back to is Singapore. Even though I know Singapore very well, to recreate it in its 1910 form is an act of genuine world building.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I have four books produced by Escape Publishing (Harlequin) and I don’t know who did the covers for those. For my four independent books I am fortunate to have found a cover designer who ‘gets’ me – Fiona Jayde Media Services. The last cover she did for me was GATHER THE BONESand it is brilliant!
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I don’t write stories with messages in mind. I just write the sort of stories I like to read… adventure stories with happy ever afters! That said there is generally a theme that runs through the story (the last one I wrote, the theme concerned fathers) but again they are not intended to overwhelm the story.
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 have recently discovered an Australian historical mystery writer, SulariGentill. I am enjoying her Rowland Sinclair mysteries because she is writing about 1930s Australia, not a part of Australia’s history I know much about.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Without doubt I never could have got to where I have without the wonderful Romance Writers of Australia – apart from providing my ‘tribe’ of fellow writers, the professional support has been incredible.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
With two, two book contracts with major publishing houses… I am definitely into my second career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
My latest book (the first in the Australian historical romance series) has just gone to my editor and as soon as I hit Send I wanted to claw it back and rewrite it!
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
When you are on a contract deadline, there is no time for the luxury of ‘pantsing’. I have learned that for future books I need to do much more pre planning (aka plotting).
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I don’t have any faces in mind when I write my main characters. I like to leave that to the reader’s imagination.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Sometimes it takes 25years to become an overnight success 😊 Have patience, learn your craft and learn from your mistakes!
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
2019 will be an exciting year for me! In July MAIDEN’S CREEK will be released in print and digital by MIRA and it will be closely followed in August by SINGAPORE SAPPHIRE (the first of the HARRIET GORDON MYSTERIES).
If you are interested in finding out more about my books and would like to keep up with my news (and be first in line to find out about contests) I would love to welcome you to my readers’ group. You can sign up at this link (and get a free book): https://www.subscribepage.com/SITsubscribe
(There is a separate sign up for the A.M. Stuart news and if you sign up before July next year you can go in a draw to win an ARC of Singapore Sapphire: https://www.subscribepage.com/Mysteries)
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I am between books! I have just finished ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE by Gail Honeyman. Brilliant book and I am suffering book withdrawal!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I cut my teeth on Beatrix Potter, Wind in the Willows etc… but the stories I remember reading by torchlight under the bed clothes were the wonderful historical stories of Rosemary Sutcliff.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Any form of cruelty to animals and children will bring the tears on.
My grand daughter makes me laugh out loud!
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
So many people – I can’t pick just one!
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I love needlework – particularly patchwork and quilting. I have just finished a handquilted cot quilt for my newest grandchild. Unfortunately it is a hobby that is often inconsistent with writing!
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love watching British ‘cosy’ crime shows such as Morse (and spinoffs), Midsomer Murders.
Films… thoughtful films but nothing violent or sad.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Foods: I love Singaporean street food, such as roti canai and nasi lemak and chicken rice.
Colors: I live in Melbourne so my wardrobe is mostly black and red!
Music: I love the folk sound of LoreenaMcKennit… and classical music. Just been listening to the soundtrack to Hamilton (it will be years before it hits our stages) and Beautiful – the Carol King Story (music of my youth).
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Hopefully I still have my health because a world without writing would involve travelling, quilting and gardening.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
I would spend it with my family at Wilson’s Promontory. Nothing is more precious than family.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
A Life Well Lived.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Absolutely… you can find me at www.alisonstuart.com or www.amstuart.com.au. I am also on Facebook and Goodreads and don’t forget you can sign up to my newsletters (links above). And, of course, you will find me and all my books on Amazon… http://www.amazon.com/Alison-Stuart/e/B004CB59LI