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?
Fiona, thank you so much for having me. My name is Debbie Richard. I am an author and poet. Can we just say I’m often told I look younger than I am?
Fiona: Where are you from?
I’m from a small town in rural West Virginia, USA. I lived near the coast of South Carolina for twenty-five years before moving back to my home state three years ago.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I was born and raised in West Virginia, as were both my parents. I’m the middle of three children, and the only daughter. My parents were born in the 1930s and grew up during the Great Depression. My dad worked in the oil fields and my mom was a homemaker, taking care of three children. I enjoyed exploring the hills of West Virginia as a child with my best friend. These memories, in part, prompted my memoir, Hills of Home, published in 2014.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My third book, PIVOT, was just published in January 2019 by Adelaide Books of New York. PIVOT is a book of poetry, beautifully illustrated by the award-winning artist and illustrator, Ashley Teets.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
We wrote essays when I was in the sixth grade, and I’ve always enjoyed writing in school. Later, I wrote poems but didn’t take my writing seriously until about 2009 when I was home taking care of my mom full-time.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Probably after my first book of poems, Resiliency, was published in 2012, although I had several individual poems published prior to that.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Writing became a way of healing for me. Resiliency chronicles my father’s early passing, my mother’s day-to-day struggle through an ongoing illness. Other poems see the beauty in nature.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
For my first book, Resiliency, the title just came to me one Sunday morning when I was driving to church, and I feel like it was a gift. In Hills of Home, the hills of West Virginia always will be “home” to me no matter where I roam, so it seemed like the perfect title. In Pivot, my new release, the collection of poems describe turning points that result in drastic change, realization, and understanding.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I usually write about things I know, things that move me, but sometimes my imagination kicks in.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
My memoir, Hills of Home, is about my experiences and those of my family and childhood friends, as are many of the poems in Resiliency and PIVOT, along with the beauty and honesty of the loss of love and regret.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
No, but I was living in South Carolina when I wrote my memoir, Hills of Home, about growing up in Appalachia, in the hills of West Virginia.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My good friend, Cheryl Atkinson, took the photo in Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina for the cover of my first book, Resiliency. My publisher, eLectio Publishing, designed the cover for Hills of Home. I have had the pleasure to work with Ashley Teets Illustration for the cover of my new release, PIVOT, who also provided the illustrations for the poems.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In my memoir, my desire is that the stories will enlighten those who have not had the pleasure of living a rural country life in the hills, and to embrace the memories of those who have. One person said of my poetry, “they are gifts from the heart” and I do hope readers will be moved by them.
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?
That’s a tough one as I am always reading. I recently finished Loretta Stewart’s In the Palm of His Hand which was fabulous. The setting begins in Ireland and it is captivating. The late Earl Hamner, Jr. is one of my favorites with The Homecoming and Spencer’s Mountain. He was my mentor and inspiration for much of my writing. He encouraged other writers to write what they know. I just finished Promises of Love by renowned actor and author David Selby which was wonderful, as well as his volume of poetry, My Mother’s Autumn. And I’m enjoying reading other books by West Virginia authors. There is a lot of talent in our mountain state.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Carrie McCullough Jenkins was my editor for Hills of Home. Without her guidance and direction, I don’t believe the book would have become a reality.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’ve had several clerical jobs over the course of my career, but writing is my passion. American Poet, Robert Frost (1874-1963), once said, “To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.” I think I understand what he meant by that. For me, the need to write is something from deep inside. Some are fortunate to make it a full-time career, but first it is something essential that makes you who you are.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
PIVOT has been about a five year process in the making, so I don’t think I would change anything that I haven’t already during that time.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned that it is possible to have the courage to bare your soul in your writing and have that recognized. It was said of my poems in PIVOT: “Debbie Richard explores the beauty and honesty of love, regret, loss and the feelings that come after all of it. There is a delicacy and maturity in her frankness.” ~Carrie McCullough Jenkins, freelance editor/publishing consultant
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
As two of my books are poetry, the one that I would love to have made into a film is my memoir, Hills of Home, about growing up in Appalachia, in the hills of West Virginia. I would love for either Reese Witherspoon or Renee Zellweger to play the lead.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Never give up on your dreams regardless of how many rejections you may receive. Believe in yourself, and someday someone else will believe in you too. Write on!
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Thank you for buying and reading my books. If you want to support authors, leave a positive review for the books you enjoyed reading.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I just received Telling Sonny: A Novel by Elizabeth Gauffreau, also published by Adelaide Books of New York. I look forward to reading it.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I’ve been reading books as long as I can remember, but I don’t recall the first title.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Many things make me laugh. I laugh out loud when I read something funny. I cheer for the underdog, and when they come out on top, I have tears of joy. Tears of sadness often come from missing my loved ones who have passed on.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
David Selby, renowned actor and author, originally from my home state of West Virginia. David is multi-talented, yet down-to-earth, and has been a great encouragement to me in my work.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I love to read, visit antique shops, listen to music, go to the beach, laugh with my girlfriends.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love game shows as they are challenging, The Waltons TV series created by Earl Hamner, Hallmark Movies, and I enjoy BBC series including The Paradise, Lark Rise to Candleford, Downton Abbey, and Jane Austen films.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Foods: Italian dishes, steak & potatoes, cake
Music: I like so many – classical, jazz, inspirational/gospel, easy listening, oldies
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
My first thought was “Die!” I can’t imagine not being able to write, to express myself. But seriously, I would still want to be around books, so I would probably work in a library or bookstore.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Most of my family have passed on now, so I would have to say that I would like to spend it with those closest to my heart, preferably at the beach.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
In Jesus’ Arms
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Yes, I have a website and social media channels:
My illustrator’s website: https://ashleyteetsillustration.com/
Adelaide Books of NY (Publisher of PIVOT): http://adelaidebooks.org/index.html