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 seem to have many names depending on where I am and whom I am surrounded by. Two of my favourites are Auntie, for obvious reasons, and D. Avery, because that is the one I have been using as a writer.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was mostly raised in a wonderful little nation called Vermont, though I lived in Alaska for three years. I have spent adulthood in southeastern Massachusetts. Now that I am becoming childish again at the age of 53 (see, I didn’t skip the age question) I am becoming repatriated to my birthplace.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
The youngest of three children, I am the first in my family to go to college, and in fact went three times. The first time didn’t end up seeming like a good idea after all so I only went for a year. Then, after meeting my once and future husband, I went to UMass and got an Associate’s Degree in Commercial Floriculture. I used this education to advantage working at a nursery and truck farm for many years and then as a self-employed landscape gardener. With slack time in the winter I found myself spending more and more time in the local elementary school. I finally answered the call and went back to college to get my master’s in education. I have been a full time teacher for the past 21 years.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My news maybe shouldn’t be a surprise, but was maybe a long time coming. I write! I thought maybe I might way back at that first attempt at liberal arts education, but I got side-tracked by life and what seemed a better, more sensible fit at the time. But the last couple of years I have been writing more regularly and have my first book of stories out, After Ever.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I remember story writing beginning at the age of seven; I wrote because teachers told me to.Teachers also encouraged me and I sometimes wrote just because I felt inspired. So I have written off and on, mostly off, for the past 46 years.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’m still working on that, but have been practicing at taking it seriously and admitting that it might be a true fact of my life. I’ve been practicing saying it. (I am a writer). I do have two books of poetry and this latest short story collection, so I am trying to come to terms with the notion. (I am a writer). I’m getting there.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book of poems, Chicken Shift, started with me goofing around with a group of fourth graders in our after school writing club. A few funny poems about roadkill led to more poems about chickens crossing the road. Okay, that doesn’t sound so good, but you’d be surprised at all the nuanced drama of animals crossing roads. It became more serious, in a funny way, and I was encouraged enough by fourth graders and friends to do something with that collection of poems.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I was going to call that one Crossings or something but the TV was on and some guy on PBS was talking about mindshifts and I remembered a bumper sticker that said, “shift happens” and there it was- chicken shift. Because it is in many ways about a shift in perspectives and personal growth.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Starting a blog and writing with others through prompts has been great. I have been challenged to try different forms of poetry. Flash fiction has been a revelation and has really opened up the writing faucet. I often use a lot, even solely, dialogue, other times only descriptive narration. I write in first, second, or third person, and across ages and genders. I write funny and serious, dark and light.
Oops, that doesn’t really answer your question. If I have a style it might be writing quietly, in an understated manner.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
After Ever is short stories and flash fiction; some fairy tales, some realistic fiction, and some even a might dystopian. It would be false to say that each story is totally made up, but it is true that each story is totally made up. That is, none of them are totally based on any one person or event; as recently discussed at Carrot Ranch and at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo, my characters and stories are pieced together from fragments of reality that fuel my imagination.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I am a great mind traveller, but that is also because I read and I have travelled and seen other places. Travelling as a youngster and getting outdoors a lot has been key to my work. The imagination is an incredible vehicle but it has to be fuelled by books, real story telling people, travel, and nature.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
A friend somehow managed to create a picture of a white chicken with a red wheelbarrow for Chicken Shift, my gesture to William Carlos Williams. The second book of poetry I managed all by myself, which may be apparent. I stole the johnny from the radiation ward on my last day and arranged it on the floor with scrabble tiles to take a photo with my phone. I later returned the johnny along with copies of For the Girls, poems that reflect my time with friends with breast cancer and then myself. After Ever is a break from poetry and the beginning of me being more serious as a writer so I at least had the good sense to hire Tim Barber of dissectdesigns to make the cover for me. He was really professional and really easy to work with.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
As a non-planner who is almost as surprised as anyone when I put a book out, I’ll tell you there is no intended message to any of my books. But in all three, even though bad things do happen to good people (or chickens, or racoons, etc.) there is also a quiet celebration of the mystery and goodness that is also a part of life. I’m not always a fan of people, but by gosh they can be so funny and some can be so good. Even in the grim stories, people are not given up on; at least one character has some hope or does a good deed.
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?
Recently Anne Goodwin has been writing about a writer’s identity and how that changes over time. A reader’s identity changes too. I could never name one favourite writer and favourite writers and even genres change. I went years only reading non-fiction, usually with an ecology or agricultural theme. How wonderful that in addition to brilliant essays, Wendell Berry, an old favourite, also writes poetry and fiction. I am reading more fiction the last few years and am now wanting to read the work of people I have “met” through blogging. I have enjoyed and learned from the work of Sarah Brentyn, C. Jai Ferry, Marcia Meara, Anne Goodwin and all the featured writers in the Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology 1. I have a growing tbr stack in my kindle that I look forward to actually reading. Soon.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Ha! Wouldn’t that be great?
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Well, I already know where two typos are… And I probably should have let a professional design the inside as well as the cover… And I probably should have taken more help with the arranging… And I continually worry about everything that’s in it, thinking every other day that it isn’t good enough…
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned what I would do over again (see above) and learned that if I wait to be perfect I am not going to have a book. I learned that it is a lot of revision and work and each revision is worth it.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I don’t see enough film to know. But because these are short stories that run the gamut it would have to be someone like Robin Williams who was so great at improve and who was able to take on serious as well as comic roles.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Write.And read other writers.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
If you are reading my stuff- Thank You!
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
There’s a number started;Creative Courage by WelbyAltidor, Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin, a Pablo Neruda collection, among others. I prefer to have a big chunk of time and read through but haven’t had that; I read at bedtime but fall asleep without getting very far. I do read more articles now from the internet, which may or may not be adding to my distractibility.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
All on my own I read a Little Lulu comic. From there it was Dr. Seuss and Curious George.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I would love to go back in time and meet the current potus’ mother before she was his mother… (he did have a mother, right) yeah, just to talk…
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I get out to walk and kayak when I can, read and write when I can.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I don’t have any regular shows or viewing habits.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Favorites? All food (real food, not plastic pseudo-food) is almost all good, especially with hot sauce and cilantro in there somewhere. No color is bad, just misplaced at times. I like many kinds of music, and strongly dislike types I don’t even have the names for; modern kids’ stuff. When in doubt just play bluegrass or folk or classic country.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Dang it, I just started imagining a future where I do write. Guess I’d have to hit the road and tell and gather stories around different campfires.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
I guess I’d have a few phone calls to make, well, not too many, that might be a good time to delegate. So I could go for a walk in the woods, drink in some favourite sights and smells and sounds.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
There won’t be a headstone, though I am partial to granite. If I could leave land, the stone marker would just say, “If you pack it in, pack it out”.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?