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’m Alex Martin and I’m fully ripe.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born virtually on the river Thames in Greater London, but I’ve lived in lots of places. Currently I’m lucky enough to alternate my time between south-west France and south Wales in the UK.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
Although I did well at Grammar school, I wasn’t encouraged to take my education further, which I greatly regret. However, I learnt a lot about life through making lots of mistakes and these have given me a rich seam of gold to mine for stories.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’m working on the fourth and fifth book in The Katherine Wheel Series. The first three books are titled respectively, Daffodils, Peace Lily and Speedwell. I began writing Daffodils because I wanted to explore the history of the little village in Wiltshire where my kids were born. We had a neighbour, Harry, who had a wooden leg and a gift for telling an embroidered tale. He’d lived in the village since he was four and evicted from the slums of London. He was getting on for 100 years old when we knew him and could remember every change the village had been through during his long life. The bit that inspired Daffodils was to do with plumbing. Old Harry told me how the village had only one standpipe on the green when he was a lad, then the six cottages in our row had one at the end of the terrace; then things got exciting and each pair of cottages shared a tap between them on the shared pathway at their back doors. Then, came the great day when lean-to kitchens were added on to the one-room houses with actual sinks and taps! I loved this anecdote and realised what a privilege it was to meet someone who’d lived through these seismic changes. I decided, almost casually, to weave a story around it. I thought a love triangle always held the attention and so the very sketchy plan for Daffodils emerged. I never thought it would have to encompass World War One and turn into a five book saga which took the characters into the second global conflict.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing when I was about seven years old, I think. I was an avid reader as a child, it was my escape. When one of my parents brought home an ancient old black and gold typewriter, made circa 1900s, I adored it and plonked out some very bad stories laboriously in my holidays. I was home.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always felt it was my destiny, but life kept getting in the way, bigtime, providing me with yet more dramatic writing material!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I had a complementary health practice, which I ran from my home while my kids were growing up. I specialised in herbal medicine, aromatherapy and Reiki. I loved it and was proud of the community that stemmed from it. However, when the UK Government decided to move the pension age from 60 to 66, not only was I outraged but I realised I couldn’t carry on doing this demanding work beyond my planned retirement age. I had to come up with a Plan B. I decided to do what I’d talked about doing all my life and write.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My first book is called The Twisted Vine and is based on my own adventure picking grapes in France in the 1980s. In deference to my love of plants, all my books have a plant in their title. Daffodils was inspired partly by the story, partly by a play on the poppies more conventionally connected with WW1, when the story is set. Daffodils symbolise not only hope, but narcissism too, and one of the characters, the creepy one, is a good example of this kind of vanity. Finally, I wrote it around the time of my mother’s death. She was born on the first day of spring and died around her birthday. I kept daffodils in her sick room and placed one on her chest after she passed. So, lots of reasons.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I think every writer has their own voice. It develops over time. In The Rose Trail I used a lot of ironic humour and I suspect I will use that more in the future. Research for any book, especially the historical ones, always entails vast amounts of dedication, patience, resourcefulness and, quite often, an expense account for the travelling and book buying involved!
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The Twisted Vine is certainly partly biographical in that I did run away from a difficult relationship to my beloved France, as did Roxanne, the heroine, and I did, like her, break my back in the vineyards. However, I’m happy to report that I never met such a nasty piece of work as Armand le Clair on my travels.
As for the other four books, I think we always draw on our own lives and experiences and people. Often these are (necessarily) heavily disguised.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Yes, loads! But that’s the fun part.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Jane Dixon-Smith of http://www.jdsmith-design.com/ who is just brilliant. In fact, Peace Lily won an award for its cover!
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, it’s a big motivation for me. I want people to feel uplifted and inspired and perhaps learn some life lessons for themselves through the ordeals I put my characters through. In reading about them overcoming hardships and challenges I hope, although it sounds a bit pretentious, that they might find ways to get themselves out of a pickle in their own lives. I know I’ve read loads of books that have helped me. I could have written self help books based on my work in the health field, but I’d rather write a novel and weave the wisdom in, if I can.
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?
Thorne Moore is great – domestic noir is her genre. I also like Fiona Valpy, whose work is often set in France, similarly Nick Alexander is good for French inspired novels. I really enjoyed ‘The Light Between Oceans’ by ML Stedman and ‘All the Light We Cannot See’ by Anthony Doerr, which is set in WW2, my current area of research. However, when I’m writing I rarely read novels, just research books. It’s true that fact is often stranger than fiction. Some of the true stories I’ve read about have been humbling and hair-raising.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I have a couple of friends whose faith in me has never wavered and to whom I shall remain indebted all my life. I also have some writer friends that I share my work with and who share theirs and they are incredibly supported and helpful – and most importantly, brutally honest!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Probably. It’s never finished but you have to decide when to let go and let your baby find its way in this crazy world.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I don’t know, perhaps some new unknown actor who identifies with the character and brings it to life and gets a massive breakthrough for their career and mine – that would work for me.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Follow your bliss. Work hard. Don’t give up, there will be many times when you’ll want to, but persevere.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Please, if you loved my work, leave a constructive review, they make all the difference to keeping going.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
“Guernica” by Dave Boling. No prizes for guessing the ending.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No, but the one that left the biggest impression on me as a child was ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen. I read it over and over again. I’m almost word perfect now!
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
In a way, we meet loads of interesting people every day, don’t we? Whether in real life or through TV, internet. Everyone fascinates me. Everyone has their story.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Gardening, cooking, reading, creative DIY projects, walking the dog, ping-pong, chatting – I’m into long telephone conversations. Long car journeys, music – I adore all kinds of music, cinema, daydreaming – that’s important. Pilates keeps my back from seizing up after hours at the computer.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
An eclectic mix of dramas, good news reporting, anything of quality, basically.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Mediterranean diet, washed down with good wine; Warm earthy tones of red, yellow, terracotta contrasting with blues of the sky, the sea, turquoise swimming pool tiles; violet and purple lavender and heather; the cool green of a forest, or river fronds. Music – all genres except rap, can’t stand rap, brings me out in a rash.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I’d be dead.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Kissing my husband and hugging my kids and my dog, eating, laughing, drinking and being together.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
She tried her very best and loved a lot.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Blog: www.intheplottingshed.com (some free short stories to grab there!)
Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alex-Martin/e/B008BIKDI2/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/TheKatherineWheel/
Twitter handle: https://twitter.com/Alexxx8586
Reblogged this on intheplottingshed and commented:
Great to chat to blogger Fiona Mcvie
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Armen Pogharian said:
I really like the background story for your series’ inspiration. Other than relatives, and sometimes not even them, young people don’t seem to spend much time with the older generations. I don’t know if it’s part of globalization or what, but it’s a sad thing. Best of luck to you with books 4 and 5.
Thank you Armen. It’s certainly a rapidly changing world.
Liz Gauffreau said:
I enjoyed your interview. Your book covers are very appealing!! I wish you all the best for your upcoming releases.
Liz, thank you so much. I love doing the covers. I select a relevant plant for the background and then scour the internet for a central image. Jane Dixon-Smith makes a cracking job of making it all come together in professional finish.
Liz Gauffreau said:
You’re welcome, Alex!