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 everyone. I’m Liz Mistry and I’m, shall we say an older writer. I’m in my 50’s. Thanks so much for inviting me … and especially since we’ve got coffee and shortbread too.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in a village called West Calder which is in West Lothian, Scotland
Fiona: A little about your self
I was the first in my family to go to University and I chose to study English and History from Stirling University with its beautiful campus nestled at the foot of the Wallace monument on one side and the gorgeous Dumyat hills on the other.
I moved to Bradford in West Yorkshire to do the PGCE in Primary Education. I met my husband, Nilesh here in the first week, (he was studying Art and Design) and thirty plus years later, with three grown up kids and two cats, we’re still here. I live in the inner city and taught in inner city schools for over twenty years before retiring on ill health. Being in a mixed-race relationship, with mixed race children and living in such a diverse city has impacted on my writing and my crime fiction books represent the warmness, the richness and the fearlessness that is Bradford.
I did an MA in creative writing in 2016 and am now part way through a PhD in creative writing focussing on crime fiction, diverse narratives and inclusion at Leeds Trinity University.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Well, I’m still a little bit giddy about this. I’ve had five books published already by Bloodhound books, with number six coming out this year.
However, my really big news is that I’ve just signed a three-book deal with HQ Digital which is a Harper Collins imprint.
The first in my new series, Last Request, will be released in October 2019. It features a feisty mixed-race DS called Nikki Parekh and as usual it’s set in Bradford. It’s so good to be writing a strong female protagonist and I have to say I’m partially inspired by my daughter when writing her. It’s really important, I believe to have diverse narratives across the creative industries so that everyone has characters they can look up to and relate to.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’m one of those that have always wanted to write. However, being from a working-class family, where going to University meant focussing on a vocational course like teaching, becoming an author was always a pipe dream.
I dabbled over the years and eventually settled on the genre I read most; Crime fiction. The idea for Unquiet Souls, my first book was in my head for a long time, but then I became ill with mental health issues and basically lost a few years of my life to depression. When I became a little better, I found that my creative writing helped my mood. Then when I started the MA I discovered that the combination of creative writing and academic research worked for me. That’s why I’m doing my PhD and loving every minute. However, I still suffer from anxiety and depression and have over the years managed to work around it to a certain extent. Not having to leave the house to do my work makes things easier for me.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Someone once said to me, ‘you can’t call yourself a tennis player if you’ve not won a tournament and the same goes for writing, you can’t call yourself a writer till you’ve been published.’ I think that is so untrue. I think anyone who writes should consider themselves a writer. However, passing that little gem onto other people is one thing, believing it for myself is another. Some days I still wake up and thing it’s all been a huge dream … but every day I try to remind myself that I am a writer
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book, which lies in a drawer somewhere, was actually a visceral response to my mother’s Alzheimer’s … I doubt I’ll ever publish it. My first crime book Unquiet Souls played in my mind for many years. I think I’m a bit of a sponge and absorb a lot of snippets which I hoard in my subconscious. Then, when they’ve had time to mature into ideas they spring to my mind and then I have the start of a book. Most of my novels have a mental health strand to them because the lack of mental health provision or the difficulties in accessing services by people who are struggling is something I feel passionately about.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title Unquiet Souls seemed to reflect many of the characters in the novel ; there were many tortured souls and so the title seemed apt. Then for my second book Uncoiled Lies which was about historic lies unravelling, that title seemed fitting to. When it came to book three, Untainted Blood, my publisher said ‘You do realise you’ll have to go with the ‘Un’ prefix don’t you?’
So Untainted Blood, Uncommon Cruelty, Unspoken Truths and my new Gus bookUngraven Image were born.
With my new series, I’ve avoided doing that, although after Last Request, I might stick to two-word titles … we’ll see.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I tend to write quite short chapters and I usually have two or three plot lines interwoven through the novel. I often write sections form the point of view of the killer, but most chapters are from the point of view of my detective characters: DI Gus McGuire (My Bloodhound books) or DS Nikki Parekh (my HQ Digital books)
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I think most writers, whether consciously or subconsciously, use their own experiences to stimulate ideas. I may use a snippet from a news story and combine it with a memory from my childhood or something like that. I think my books are quite dark and gritty and so they reflect the underbelly of Bradford. However, I juxtapose that by making sure I also reflect the triumphs of the city … I’m writing crime fiction and I don’t pull my punches. I explore all sorts of themes from trafficking to drug and human exploitation to murder. Above all, though I like to think that I develop characters that people can relate to in some small way. For me Plot and characterisation go hand in hand.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I sometimes have to do the odd research trip. Last year I went to Northern Cyprus as I used research from that trip in Unspoken truths. Other than that, I normally write at home, in a local pub or at University
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Bloodhound Books designed most of my Gus covers. Although, I supplied images for Uncommon Cruelty and Untainted Blood. HQ digital are in the process of designing my Nikki Parekh Last Request cover, very excited about that, … maybe I’ll be able to share it with you before this interview goes live.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I think my novels explore human nature and all the different things that can influence our behaviour. I think I look at injustice and disempowerment in my novels. Crime fiction, I believe is the genre that spotlights those areas of society that most of us don’t see. It explores issues and allows our readers to do so from the safety of their front rooms. I think it is a restorative genre.
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?
Angie Marson’s is truly inspirational. Her stories are exciting, with brilliant characters … I love them. Jane Casey’s Maeve Kerrigan series is always a delight and I also love Charlaine Haris’ Sookie Stackhouse series (love a good vampire story) Khurrum Rahman’s novel East of Hounslow was a delight for me. Really fresh and exciting. Alex Khan’s Bollywood Wives was a cheeky little peek into the world of Bollywood with a cheeky little crime twist- again fresh and entertaining. But, for me so far in 2019 the best novel I have read has to be Owen Mullen’s Out of The Silence. This was a hauntingly poignant tale of revenge set in Pakistan.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Leeds Trinity University has been a source of encouragement and support. My tutors Martyn Bedford and Oz Hardwick are phenomenal. My fellow PhD students are wonderfully supportive and inclusive. My fellow MA students are inspirational and all fantastic writers. They’ve always got my back.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
For me … now I do. I still can’t believe I’m living my dream. I have never been happier. I loved teaching … loved working with the kids… but writing is my true joy.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
It’s funny you should ask that. Often when I’m doing a public reading, I get to a point and I think, oh, I wish I’d done this instead of that.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
As a writer, I’m always honing my craft. Maybe I don’t have as many point of view slips as I used to. Perhaps I don’t dangle my modifiers (leaving a sentence unfinished) but I’m always learning. Thinking of new ways to make something come alive on the page. New techniques I can use to mix things up a bit … I love that aspect of writing.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
For Gus – maybe Craig David or OT Fagbenle (from The Handmaid’s Tale). For Nikki, maybe Aiysha Hart from line of Duty
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Keep at it … be kind to yourself. Go on creative writing courses (many libraries offer cheapish ones) and Enjoy it.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
If you enjoy my books … or anyone else’s for that matter, the kindest gift you could give us is to leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads or wherever. Doesn’t need to be more than a few words, but it makes all the difference
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’ve just finished Jane Casey’s Cruel Acts and have just started Tim Weaver’s No One home which is released in May. Bothe excellent books.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I remember an Enid Blyton book called he Adventures of Mr Pinkwhistle or something like that
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Hearing my youngest son Jimi sing, makes me cry. He’s sooo good and I always get choked up. My family are brilliant at making me laugh … they are my best mental health therapy.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Idris Elba – I’d tell him how I think he should be the next James Bond.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I read loads, I enjoy baking, although I don’t get time to do it as much now and the same with knitting and crocheting – love doing it but don’t find the time.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love Line of Duty and Luther. I also love shws like the S Factor or Britain’s Got talent – they allow me just to relax.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Favourite food is curry and chocolate (not at the same time)
Colour is red or purple
Music is Paulo Nutini. It was his song Last request that provided the title for my newest novel.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I’d be incredibly sad … I’d probably read though.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
With my husband and kids just being together.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
She dared …. She did!
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Amazon author page:https://amzn.to/2sPJgk2
Here’s my website https://lizmistrycrimewriter.wordpress.com/
And here’s the link to my Blog, The Crime Warp https://thecrimewarp.blogspot.com/