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?
Hi, I am Ian Roberts. At school, I was called Jimmy and at college Harry. When my parents watched me play rugby they wondered who Jimmy was. I’m a bit older than I was this morning.
Fiona: Where are you from?
St Helens in Lancashire (now part of Merseyside, but Lancashire, really) and living in the lovely Welsh village of Rhuddlan opposite a castle.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I was born in the ‘back streets’, in a tiny house, into an extensive and loving family. My childhood was fabulous, with family all around me and my grandad caretaker of the local army barracks – hell, he showed me the armoury: rifles, machine-guns, grenades – imagine that for a little boy – but I was never allowed to touch them. He’d fought in WW1, in the cavalry, and was highly-decorated, for rescuing wounded from no-man’s-land and killing a German sniper, but rarely spoke of it. My dad once told me a story about my grandad. One Sunday morning, dad and his siblings were cleaning an outside lavatory after a dance at the barracks. Someone had done a ‘poo’ in an alley. My dad ran to my grandad and said, ‘Dad, I’ve found a turd.’ My grandad replied, ‘It’s okay, son. If nobody claims it in three months, you can keep it.’
My dad and his two brothers fought in World War Two and saw a lot of action. So, my childhood was filled with stories of the war. I once asked my dad how many Germans he’d killed personally. He’d served on a battleship and never saw a German in six years of war, so his answer, with a grin, was, ‘Not many.’ Both my uncle Wilf and dad were wonderful raconteurs and loved humour. They were a big influence on me. My own humour sometimes gets me into trouble, but it’s never meant to be offensive or hurtful. My uncle Stan, the eldest of the brothers, served in the forces of occupation, in Germany, after the war. He married a German lady and lived in Hamburg, so I didn’t get to know him.
I was very fortunate and got a good education at the local selective grammar school, where I was frequently in trouble. I once wrote a spoof history essay filled with gibberish. I thought it was very funny. The headmaster didn’t. Getting your arse caned is very painful, so I never got caught again.I’ve still got the marks on my buttocks.
I played rugby until I was forty-five and love the game. Unfortunately, I have a stinking temper and was sent off quite a lot. I once called a referee a dumb sonofabitch. For some reason, he took offence and off I went again. Some people have no sense of humour.
Following school, I worked as a trainee accountant – a wonderful idea, as I hated maths. I was a bit ‘dumb’ and probably still am (I‘ll sue if you repeat that – you can contact my lawyer at http://www.sue/anyone.com – a lovely guy).
Then college to train as a teacher, followed by Keele University for my degree. A term teaching at the local college then off to university in California at Long Beach. Ostensibly, I studied for an MA. In reality, I played rugby, got a great tan and drank lots of beer. I watched the movie Jaws when in California (great white sharks roamed the coastal waters) – I’m now scared of having a bath. When water-skiing, and waiting for the boat to take up the slack of the tow-rope, I used to imagine monsters speeding from the depths to devour me.
California was a wonderful time and gave me an insight into the USA. When I was growing up, after the war, in England, people too often said ‘I don’t like Americans’ and used the expression ‘Over-paid, over-sexed and over here. They’re all the same.’ As I grew a bit wiser I realised that such generalisations were ludicrous. No-one is ‘all the same’, and my experience of Americans is one of warmth, generosity and humour. I made great friends with some lovely people.Accents were a problem – they thought I was Australian. I sued them. I think it was George Bernard Shaw who coined the phrase ‘two nations separated by a common language’. I found that to be very true. ‘Shagging a ball’ has different connotations in England.
On returning to England, I taught in a very good school in Liverpool until retirement. I’m still in touch with former pupils, most of them great lads. For the most part, teaching was a joy but very hard work. It taught me a lot about myself as well as my pupils. Racism comes to mind. I taught kids of all races and religions. Quite quickly, you forget what colour people are, or should do, and they become people just like you and me.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My news is that I have an abdominal herniaI call The Alienand look nine months pregnant with triplets (the ultrasound scan showed one of each). It’s painless but ugly and embarrassing. It’s been there for almost a year and we’ve become quite close. I take it for walks and show it to children to scare them. I hope to have surgery soon.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
When I was in my first year of grammar/high school, the teacher gave us homework: ‘What are your ambitions?’ Mine were to play rugby for St Helens, which I did, and to write a book. Much later, 1976, I was in the library in Seal Beach, California, and reading a book. I thought, ‘I can do better than this!’ On returning to England, I began to write and thought, ‘Easy, a year to write it then a best-seller and retired by age thirty as a professional author.’ Forty years later, I’m still working on it.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
As soon as I began writing – how wrong I was. I’ve learned that it’s not only aspiration and hard work and inspiration. It’s a skill, which demands patience and analysis and perseverance just like any job. And you have to remember that publishing is a business. No matter how good you are, it’s about money and market forces. Still, every best-selling author was previously a ‘nobody’, so don’t give in. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books were rejected many times, before she became published
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Some way into the book, Catch the Sun, I wrote a scene and it hit me – that’s the title.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
That’s a difficult one, Fiona. With historical fiction, you have to be careful in order to provide ‘authenticity’. Research is essential, but I hope I’ve achieved it to some extent. Once you get into the rhythm of writing the book, it becomes easier, but you must be careful to maintain the ‘historical’ style. Having said that, it’s ‘story’ that counts – we want to entertain and inform and amuse.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I hope it’s all realistic. The characters are part me and a cocktail of those I’ve known or read about. Events in my own life? Of course. I’ve known trials and tribulations and pain, as we all have. ‘Pain’ is useful when writing. It enables us to dig deep when trying to express ourselves.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Travel would be a great idea, but I had to make do with extensive research – although I crossed the Sahara Desert, in a Land Rover, twice, when I was twenty, and that experience provided many ideas, regarding people and places and the diversity of our race. It was a wonderful education and changed my perspectives. I still ponder it.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Me, with help from Alexie Aaron, for two of my books. I don’t like the cover of Catch the Sun and hope to change it. The fool who designed it included the Post Office tower in London. I doubt if there were many post office towers on the South African landscape in 1899.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes – live, laugh, explore, never give in, fight evil, don’t take yourself too seriously, respect others and don’t be too quick to judge. Our initial perspectives can be superficial and not based on the difficulties and pain others may have suffered.
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?
Another difficult one: Dickens, Steinbeck, Shakespeare, Pat Conroy, Frederick Forsyth, Hemingway, GlendonSwarthout…I’ve recently discovered Nelson Demille and Peter Robinson, plus Peter May is awesome. The journalism of John Pilger.He tells the truth and is hated by the establishment. William Boyd is fabulous, and JK Rowling is an inspiration.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Two people I met in writers’ groups – Alexie Aaron and Tom Winton, both on Facebook and wonderful writers.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’d love it to be but will continue to write, whatever.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’m working on that – a book is never finished.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Yes, you can always improve your writing and learn from the past and from others. It’s an ongoing process and we must all accept advice and positive criticism. Sometimes you think you’ve written something really great but you must be prepared to delete it and not be self-indulgent.Also, I recommend that you don’t accept your first version of any writing. Sleep on it and see how it looks the next day.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I often ponder that. One of the leads would be Liam Neeson(I’d be the other lol). In fact, I have a pal who is into amateur dramatics, and I intend to give it a try once I’ve had surgery.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
If you love it, don’t give in, but it sure as hell isn’t easy to be successful. If that need to write is there…just do it!
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Yes, I love you all very much so please buy my books by the thousand.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
A Peter Robinson detective novel – he’s excellent – anda book on Martin Boorman, Hitler’s ‘accountant’. Despite the ‘authorities’ attempts to discredit the author (his son was murdered), it seems the Nazis are alive and well in South America.I believe that conspiracy theories have been discredited to avoid the truth. There is much more going on beneath the surface than we can imagine.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Not really, but my dad bought me a book of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poetry when I was ten. I still read it.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I find humour in most things, except cruelty, racism, misogyny. I enjoy satire and self-mockery and find bathos extremely funny – imagine a rock concert at the forum in ancient Rome, with Caesar on lead guitar and Billy Idol singing White Wedding. I cry when I see the corruption and greed in our world and the way it devastates the lives of the innocent. I can cry at the love of close friends and family.
My grandchildren are very precious, and I’m proud of my son Jacob. He has a degree in Sports Journalism and is a boxing fanatic. He’s written for boxing websites and is very good indeed, although it’s difficult to get work in journalism unless you know someone in the business. He shares my sense of humour, so I hope we don’t get arrested together.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Several, a long list: Mandela, Billy Connolly, Margaret Thatcher’s head in a bottle, Barack Obama, Matt Damon, Peter Sellers, the lady who hit my car, last November, and drove off (I hope to invite her for coffee and pour it down her knickers), Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Stalin (hanging upside down on a meat hook), my mum and dad again, JK Rowling…too many to mention.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
The three Rs, Reading Riting and Rugby, plus laughter. I used to enjoy the exhilaration of surf-kayaking. When that water is breaking over you as you try to control the kayak you feel alive. It’s an incredible feeling, and you feel the power of the ocean.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
A variety: war movies, biopics, documentaries, comedy, wildlife. It’s difficult to choose, but I’d number From Here to Eternity, Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, Some Like it Hot, A Beautiful Mind, The Longest Day, amongst my favourites. Meryl Streep is a genius, and I admire Tom Hanks.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
The colour pink should be illegal. Blue is my favourite. Foods? I have wide-ranging tastes but in large portions. Bless the person who invented bacon eggs and sausage. Music would be from AC/DC and melodious rock to Beethoven and Jean Sibelius. I love Carol King and James Taylor. I like the music and lyrics of Bob Dylan, but he sounds like a cat with a marrow up its arse and being strangled. I find rap pretentious and with filthy lyrics for the sake of it. That isn’t clever and has a bad influence on kids. Successful musicians have vast followings and make huge amounts of money. Responsibility should come with that. I don’t know enough about classical music and intend to find out more. When I grow up, I want to be in AC/DC.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I can’t imagine that.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
24 hours isn’t enough time to teach the world that family and friends are more important than money and status.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
I hope I made people laugh and made a difference, as well as ‘It wasn’t me, ref.’
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I’m on Amazon, somewhere or other but don’t have a blog. Maybe I should do. I’m not very good at promotion of my books. This is a weakness. I’m still waiting to be discovered and for that offer from Speilberg for the movie rights.
Amazon authors page UK