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?
Hello Fiona, thanks for having me here.
My name is Jane Risdon, and I am old enough to know better.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I am English – so I am from England.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I am married to a musician. We met when I was 16, he was 18. We’ve been together 51 years. We have one son and three grandchildren.
When my husband gave up touring we went into the international music industry on the business side – artist, singer-songwriter, musician, record producer management and we also placed music on television and movie soundtracks.
We started to wind things down and I at last found time to write – a life-long ambition – having spent most of my life promoting and guiding others in their ambitions.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Since my last interview here – 2014 – my co-written novel Only One Woman – has been published in paperback and eBook via Accent Press. I wrote it with best-selling and award-winning author, Christina Jones, who was fan-club secretary to my husband’s band back in the late 1960s – that’s when I met her.
We always wanted to write together but I write crime and she writes romance so we never thought it would happen. However, when I started writing Only One Woman I intended it to be a crime story but it started to turn into a love story set in the late 1960s UK music scene. I sent the completed novel to Christina to read and she wanted to join in. She added another main character, Stella, which fitted into the plot I’d written around Renza and Scott. Only One Woman – a love triangle with lots of nostalgia for the late 1960s with music, fashion, social change and huge world events shaping the lives of the three main characters came to be.
I have just published a collection of short stories Undercover: Crime Shorts in eBook and it is going to be in paperback soon.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always written. I was the eldest of 6 children but incredibly lonely as they were much younger than I and were in a clique of which I was not a part. Reading and writing kept me sane. I loved English Literature and Language at school and one of my masters, Mr Kilner, was a former actor and when he took our English lessons he really made the written word come alive. I think he kindled the fire in my imagination.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I suppose when I first had a story included in a paperback anthology – I’ve been in 15 since – although I had written for music magazines in my former life. I also write for online magazines and newsletters too. It was such a thrill holding the paperback which contained my work. The anthology was called ‘Telling Tales,’ but it is no longer in print. I had two stories in it: ‘The Debt Collector’ and ‘The Ghost in the Privy.’
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first full book is a series, ‘Ms Birdsong Investigates,’ and it has been on hold at my publishers since ‘Only One Woman’ arrived on the scene. It has been on hold so long I have decided to revamp all three books.
‘Ms Birdsong’ is a former MI5 officer, forced to take voluntary retirement – or the sack – when an operation with MI6 goes belly up. She starts a new life in a small village whilst she tries to find a way back into the Security Services. She stumbles across a murder, people trafficking, and the Russian Mafia and she cannot resist getting involved. Due to changes within MI5 I decided to revamp three books written so far, to make the novels more current.
At the same time I was writing ‘Ms Birdsong Investigates’ I was also writing ‘Only One Woman.’ As I mentioned earlier, I intended it to be another crime story. I had been going through some old diaries from the 1960s and my husband’s fan-mail, posters, tour schedules, and photos and I made notes of events so I could remind my husband. As I wrote the notes I realised they could form the basis of a story and I began to draft one out – thinking I would write a crime thriller set in the music business which I have done many times before, but it started to turn into a romance. It is very unlike me to write anything romantic. I have never read a romance so the idea of writing one never entered my head before then.
In actual fact I have several novels on the go – a sucker for punishment. All are crime novels except for one about the Music Business in Hollywood and I ahd the title ‘LaLa Land,’ ages ago but a movie came out with that name so… and a novel (series) which is set in a rural village and is about the people who live there, who’ve been friends since the war and meet daily at the local bus stop. I used to overhear their conversations when waiting for the bus with my mother, who knew them all. Hilarious does not fully describe their conversations and eccentricities. My book is called ‘God’s Waiting Room,’ though my publisher does not like the title.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title for‘Only One Woman’ came to me as I was writing about Renza and Scott having ‘their’own song.I suddenly thought of ‘The Marbles’ and their hit single in 1968 ‘Only One Woman,’ written for them by ‘The Bee Gees.’ I decided that would be the title of the book and then I thought it would be great to get Graham Bonnet – the surviving member of the duo – to write the foreword for the book. He agreed and wrote a fabulous foreword and has given me permission to use some of his publicity materials if and when necessary.
Graham is a legend in the business, an iconic vocalist who has had success with bands such as Rainbow, Alcatraz, Michael Schenker, Richie Blackmore and others and now has his own band, The Graham Bonnet Band.
The song fits the book so well because the story is a love triangle – Renza, Scott and Stella – and in the end there can be only one woman for Scott; perhaps.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I don’t think I have a particular style. I write for different genres so possibly adapt my style to suit – unconsciously. I have been told by readers of my crime fiction that I have elements of Elmore Leonard in my work, but I have never read his books. They referred to ‘Dreamer’ one of two short stories I have in the anthology ‘In A Word: Murder,’ which is on Amazon.
Another author said that one of my crime time-shift stories was written in the style of the classic Gothic novel – again never read one – and that it reminded him of the author who wrote ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ which again is interesting since I have neither read the book nor seen the movie. The story ‘The Haunting of Anne Chambers,’ is in the anthology, ‘Shiver,’ published by Accent Press, and is on Amazon. It is set in Cornwall with modern day smugglers and in the days of pirates and buccaneers.
A reader and reviewer compared ‘Only One Woman’ to the works of Nikki French – a husband and wife writing duo. Again, I have never read their work and I don’t know if Christina has either. The thing is with ‘OOW,’ I had determined the style of the novel before Christina wrote her parts so, considering I had not even read her parts before the editor sent the book for us to do our edits, it is amazing she could fit in and adapt to my style so well. Not an easy feat. We are told the writing is seamless.
‘Ms Birdsong Investigates’ is a harder crime novel in that there is more physical violence than most of my writing. I have not allowed anyone to read it other than my husband to date, so I don’t know what writing style – you can name – I’ve used for it.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
‘Ms Birdsong Investigates’ – I’ve used my experiences from my younger days when I first started work and I was with the Ministry of Defence in Germany and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall – the Cold War was at its height then, so I have often used a lot of poetic license whenever I write about espionage or organised crime. I like to have intrigue in my work.
My background is in the music business, both as the wife of a musician and later as a partner in our own business managing artists etc., so a great deal of that knowledge and experience has obviously found its way into my writing – I often have music themes in my crime writing – and especially in ‘Only One Woman,’ which is set in the late 1960s UK music scene and features a band, ‘Narnia’s Children,’ and their move to England from the Channel Islands (Jersey) to record and tour the UK and Europe.
There are lots of musical references and events (venues, charts, records, bands etc) mentioned and most are authentic, plus the fashion of the day – Carnaby Street – and the various pop idols we all followed back when. The world events of 1968/69 find their way into the story as well as the huge social changes we were living through. All very real and readers tell us they can relate to the era and the lives of Renza and Stella and musicians enjoy it too. In fact guys and gals love Only One Woman which just shows it is not only a love triangle, it is a comment on society at that time.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I have travelled since the age of 2 and have lived overseas nearly all of my life – my father was in the Army and later with the Ministry of Defence, so we moved a lot when I was a child. As an adult married to a musician we were constantly on the roadand often overseas. Later with our own business we travelled and lived all over the USA and Canada, Europe, SE Asia – including Singapore, Taiwan, and so forth – so I can just use memory when writing.
I do like to walk and take photos and often use these visual notes for a particular plot or location I want to use if it is based in England for example.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
‘Only One Woman’s’ cover was designed by Accent Press, and we both sent several versions packing before accepting the one used now. I asked for the yellow Bedford Van to be used because ‘Bessie Bedford’ is the van ‘Narnia’s Children’ use when first in England to tour. She later gave up the ghost and was replaced by an all singing, all dancing blue transit van with aircraft seats, but the yellow van was just right for the cover.
Undercover: Crime Shorts – I found the cover I wanted and Plaisted Publishing House did the rest with it.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I’m not one for sending or discovering messages in books and I’m not sure if Christina is. I suppose the overall feeling of ‘Only One Woman’ is one of loss of innocence and also the joy of the carefree years of our teens. The 1960s really were the best years of the grooviest decade of the 20th century and our readers love the nostalgia as well as the memories of the food, drink, clothes, make-up, and the venues and the bands in the charts, as well as the Moon landings, even the various assassinations in the USA bring back memories of where they were when they heard the news. If you were there it brings back fond memories and if you weren’t – but loved that era – it gives a clear insight to life and love in the Swingin’ Sixties.
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 am very fond of – and now friends with – Roger A Price (former detective now author) and his writing. He has also been helpful with police procedure and investigations. Another is R C Bridgestock (husband and wife team) and Bob was a former detective as well. His wife Carol was a civilian working with the police. They are fab writers, friends with me and very helpful to me. They were consultants on the successful TV series Scott & Bailey and Happy Valley.
One of my favourite authors is Kathy Reichs who is a professor of Forensic Anthropology as well as an author (Dr Temperance Brennan of Bones fame) and she inspires me greatly.
Since my last outing here Fiona, I have undertaken 7 Forensic Science and Criminal Justice courses with Universities to ensure my crime writing is more factual and accurate. When I chat to my detective friends I now feel I am not totally ignorant of how detectives and forensic anthropologists, pathologists, and archaeologists work a crime scene, identify a body and track down a murderer for instance.
I love Agatha Christie, Daphne Du Maurier, John Le Carre, Karin Slaughter, Michael Connolly, Peter James, David Baldacci and so many others too numerous to list.
I love their attention to detail, their factual knowledge and their ability to tell a good yarn, simply and with skill. I would love to be able to do that.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Christina Jones always wanted to write with me. She used to read everything I wrote and was always so supportive, encouraging, and her advice – though not given often – always made sense. She has been published by the ‘Big 5’ in her long career and also by smaller traditional publishers, so she is worth listening to.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
At the moment it is my career – although I don’t need to write as I am ‘officially’ retired.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
‘Only One Woman’ – No I don’t think so.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned that even though I had a publisher and dates were set for publication, nothing is ever what it seems. Just like the music business – release dates for records can come and go – patience is the key. From delivery to Accent and to publication took 3 years. It was supposed to be published in 2014. I had actually completed the book in 2012 before sending it to Christina to read. It took her time to write her parts and it was accepted by Accent in 2014. Sadly editors came and went during this time and so things got delayed. So patience is what I had to resurrect from my days in music.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I used to work in Hollywood and have actually ‘pitched’ scripts and novels to movie production companies and there had to be a ‘wish list’ of actors attached to the project so that producers could ‘picture’ the characters. I am no longer familiar with the latest ‘hot’ actors and actresses so I haven’t a clue for ‘Only One Woman.’There are three lead characters: Renza, 16, lonely and innocent – a drudge for her family, and Stella, street-wise and older – 19 – with an eccentric personality. Scott is a gorgeous guitarist, 18, lonely and sexy but ultimately a gentleman and honest. Loving two girls at the same time, living a lie, proves difficult for him. I am clueless who would suit.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
I am not a great one for giving advice. I guess the old adage write what you know is best. Do your research and write from the heart. But of course I have never murdered anyone so write what you know doesn’t apply to my crime writing. So ignore this unless you have done something naughty you’d like to share with me…
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I would love readers to consider leaving writers a review on Amazon, GoodReads or on the author’s website – anywhere. It means a lot to those of us who sit for hours on end, months on end – sometimes for years on end – writing in isolation without any idea if we are wasting our time. We see our book sales figures but to actually know what a reader thinks, likes, or hates, enjoys or is bored by – well, that is gold dust to us. It would help us no end to get feedback on our work. Are we on the right track? Most of us have fragile egos and anything to give us a lift would be most appreciated. It is a lonely isolated life sitting on our own in front of a blank screen day in day out, searching our imagination, giving a story our very soul and then letting it fly away perhaps never to know if it has been worth it.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I am reading a short collection of crime stories by Kathy Reichs, ‘The Bone Collection.’ And loving it.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I am not sure but apart from Dick and Dora at infant school, I think it was something by Enid Blyton. I love adventure and have always gravitated towards adventure rather than what was known back when as ‘girly’ books.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
I laugh a lot as I have a wicked sense of humour and see the ridiculous in many things. I come from a family of witty belly-laughers. I can find humour in almost anything. Music makes me cry sometimes, but I am not one prone to tears.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Doris Day. I think she is an amazing singer, dancer, and actress and I grew up with her movies. I think she would be fascinating. Otherwise I’d go for Sir Patrick Moore or Einstein.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I walk a lot, love visiting gardens, grand houses, and places of interest. I take way too many photos of what I call ‘my jollies,’ and enjoy looking at them. I research family history – 40 years of research has been enlightening. I love reading.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love thrillers – but not too much violence in them, however. I love old B&W movies and the musicals of 1920 – 1950 (Fred Astaire is my idol) but anything more modern leaves me cold. I love Whodunits such as Miss Marple, HerculePoirot, and series such as Midsomer Murders, Vera, Shetland, Scott & Bailey, Happy Valley etc., and so many of the Scandi crime series on TV. I like to try to work out who did it and why.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Oh cripes. I am not a great lover of food. I eat to live and am not fussed if I eat the same thing day in day out. I am not a fish or meat lover.
When I was a teenager I lived in purple and black. I went through a period in my late 20s wearing the brightest colours and now I am back to black, blue and purple. I don’t really have a favourite colour – possibly blue if pushed.
Music – oh cripes. I have lived and breathed music since whenever and I have worked with Chinese opera, all forms of rock, thrash metal, pop, R&B and you name it in my career. I love rock. Nothing indie like Blur or Oasis, or Adele, Sam whatshis name… U2 and such – they all do my head in. I appreciate good song writing, great lyrics, melodies and hooks. I have worked with some of the best there are. I love the music of Rogers and Hammerstein, Irvin Berlin, The Beatles, The Bee Gees, The Beach Boys, Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Kinks, and so many others who are known for their great lyrics, passion, musicality and energy.
A lot of the music today is what I consider badly regurgitated unimaginative twaddle, but don’t let me put you off with my remarks. Each to his own. I prefer silence to most of what I accidently hear on TV or the radio. As someone who has spent 40 plus years working with songwriters of all genres, in recording studios and doing live shows, I cannot stand dreary ‘up yourself’ music without personality and conviction. You did ask!
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Go walking, read lots and take photos of what grabs me. Spend more time listening to my husband playing his guitar and composing songs. He usually plays beside me as I write. We love spending time together. We natter and laugh endlessly. We don’t get bored.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
With my son, our grandchildren and my husband. They mean more to me than anyone.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Providing someone will bother to erect one you mean…I have no idea – never given it any thought. I’ll let others decide. If they bother as I said.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Yes, I have my own Author Blog:https://www.janerisdon.wordpress.com/
There is an Accent Author Page for Jane Risdon with merchandise too (exciting):https://accentpressbooks.com/collections/jane-risdon
I have a Facebook Author Page:https://www.facebook.com/JaneRisdon2/
My Amazon Author Page:https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B00I3GJ2Y8
I have a GoodReads Author Page:https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5831801.Jane_Risdon
I am on Twitter:https://twitter.com/Jane_Risdon
And I am on Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/janerisdonwriter/
Only One Woman has a Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/RenzandStella/