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?
Thanks for hosting me, Fiona! I’m McKenna Dean. As for age, I frequently say “old enough to know better” but sadly, that’s not always the case!
Fiona: Where are you from?
I grew up in the Southern US and still live there today, in a small town in North Carolina.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I live on a farm with my husband and our assorted animals. The kids are grown and in college now, so fewer soccer games and more long walks with the dogs.
I’ve been an actress, a biologist, a dog trainer, worked in a stockyard, a research lab, and an animal hospital. But writing is what brings me joy.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’m very excited about my upcoming release, Bishop Takes Knight. It’s set in the 1950s, and is the origin story for my Redclaw Security universe. Redclaw is firm of elite paranormal agents who deal with matters in the shifter realm and hunt for mysterious artifacts of inexplicable power. In Bishop Takes Knight, I introduce Henrietta (“Rhett”) Bishop and Dr. Peter Knight as humans who find themselves in over their heads when they became agents of Redclaw, and face shifters, crime bosses and more in a mad scramble to recover a cache of stolen artifacts. It’s a bit like Warehouse 13 meets Bringing Up Baby. I had so much fun with this one!
I just recently returned from the RWA Conference in NYC, where my second book in the Redclaw Security series, Ghost of a Chance, was a finalist in the 2019 Bookseller’s Best Awards. Such an honor to be listed among so many great stories!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Like most writers, I began at an early age, making up alternate endings or continuing further adventures with favorite characters from TV shows and books. I didn’t think I could be a published author, however, so I gave up that dream as a child. It wasn’t until the kids went off to school that I found myself coming back to writing again, first through fanfiction, and then publishing original stories of my own.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In middle school, a classmate told me one day I’d be publishing with Harlequin. I laughed them off, but these days, that doesn’t seem impossible anymore!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I had all these pieces and fragments of unfinished stories on my computer. On a dare, my friends encouraged me to pick one and complete it. I began submitting stories to small presses, and took the plunge into self-publishing a few years ago.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I like word play, so if I can come up with something like that, it makes me happy. The two main characters from the Redclaw Origins series are named Bishop and Knight. “Bishop Takes Knight” is a chess term, but it also reflects the storyline. Stuff like that makes me happy.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I used to be a die-hard pantser, but now that I am writing series, I have to do more advanced plotting than I used to. The most challenging thing for me is finding the time and energy to write after a full day at work. I tend to be a slow writer as a result, and I find that frustrating. I have so many ideas for stories and series, and so little time to write.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I write mostly shifter stories, so I draw heavily on my background working with animals to write about the different shifter species. I’ll pull elements of my own personality into creating my characters—for example, the heroine of Ghost of a Chance is a fangirl into cosplay and vintage clothing. I also glean from life experiences to spin my tales—many of my heroines learn how to love themselves and appreciate their gifts during the course of their stories.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I’d love to travel more than I do. Unfortunately, life on a farm means I tend to be a homebody.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Rhonda Duffy did my amazing covers for the Redclaw Security series! For the Redclaw Origins series, I wanted a very different look and feel so that readers would know the stories were of a different nature, so I went with the incomparable Reese Dante.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Just about all my stories feature women who learn to value what they bring to the table. To accept themselves and demand nothing less than acceptance from those who love them. I’ve spent a large part of my life being told I wasn’t enough. Not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough. Not only did I believe what I was told, I perfected the self-deprecation to the point I kept myself from achieving my goals. It’s a hard lesson to overcome, this lifetime of negative self-talk. I want readers to hear it’s okay to believe in yourself and chase your dreams.
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 question! I’ve been an avid reader my whole life, but my tastes change over time. I recently began reading the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews and am loving it—the strong heroine who plays by her own rules and resists getting drawn into caring about other people—my catnip! But I also adore Lucy Parker’s London Celebrity series, which tends to feature grumpy heroes and vivacious heroines in opposites-attract type couples. I think what I love most about Parker’s books is that her characters have real obstacles to overcome before they get their HEA, and that makes it all the more satisfying when they do.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
That would have to be my online friends. If enough people keep repeating, “You know, you should publish this”, then eventually you believe them.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Not as a primary career, unfortunately. It’s a Catch-22. Until I have more time to write, it’s hard to publish at the speed and volume needed to become well-known these days. But as long as I have to work FT to help pay the bills, I can’t write more than one book a year. At least, not one I’m happy to publish.
In the dream world, I’d land an agent and a publishing contract. Oprah’s book club would promote my story, I’d get movie rights, and I could quit the day job. But then again, in the dream world, I might win the lottery, too. I think making it big as an author is a bit like winning the lottery, to be honest. It’s not that it can’t happen. It’s that the odds are against you.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t know if this counts, but I don’t think I’ll ever put up anything for pre-order again! The pressure of getting everything done by that deadline was supposed to keep me honest about finishing promotion tasks, but my first editor had a family crisis and I had to find another editor on the fly. It made for a very stressful revision and polishing process!
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Bishop Takes Knight is set in 1955, so I did a lot of research about the era. It’s always fascinating to me what phrases or customs arose when and why they did so. Several times I wanted to use something only to discover it wasn’t yet in wide-spread use, though that came later. For example, college students were playing with metal pie pans from the now-defunct Frisbee baking company long before the first Frisbee as we know it today rolled off the assembly lines in 1957.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Oh, I’d love it if Katharine Hepburn could have played Rhett Bishop—she’s who I envisioned when writing Bishop Takes Knight. If I went with someone modern, it would be Hayley Atwell. Both actresses would bring the same kind of class, strength and take-no-prisoners attitude to the role.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Write the story you want to read, even if people tell you it won’t sell. If you love what you’re writing, it shows on the page. And if you love it, odds are others will too.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I think the gift of books is the ability to take us out of our lives for a few hours. These days, I long for escape: from world events, from an exhausting workload, from heavy responsibilities, or crushing anxiety. If there is one thing I hope my stories do, it’s to help someone’s bad day be a bit better.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m so bad! I’m reading several books at the same time right now, which is unusual for me. I’ve got Sarah MacLean’s Brazen and the Beast queued up on the Kindle, and the second of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series on my nightstand, and am carrying Magic Strikes by Ilona Andrews in my bag. I’m never without a book. I tend to rotate genres with each title just to mix things up.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
It was probably Dr. Seuss. The Cat in the Hat, or Green Eggs and Ham.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
My little dog is such a character, he never fails to make me laugh. He yodels when he gets excited, and is just so darn cute I couldn’t help but give him a role in Bishop Takes Knight. Videos of animals at play are sure to make me giggle.
I used to pride myself on my tough persona and the fact I rarely cried. That’s no longer true. There’s a lot in this world to be sad about, and I tear up at just about everything. Cruelty. Loss. Emotional moments in movies. Acts of bravery. Golden Buzzer moments on America’s Got Talent. I’m just a regular softie.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Jimmy Stewart and Mr. Rogers because both of them seem to be such genuine good guys.
Barak Obama and Elizabeth Warren because they both strike me as intelligent people of energy and integrity and I think I’d learn a lot from listening to them.
Chris Evans because… do I really need a reason? J
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I used to do a lot of hiking, but I’ve been sidelined for almost a year with plantar fasciitis. I hope to get back to it this fall, however. I ride my horse a couple of times a week, but we’re both getting a bit long in the tooth now. I love photography, but I’m strictly an amateur.
These days, most of my free time goes to writing. I think it’s important to do other things, to exercise the body and brain, but when I have a moment, I usually open up the current WIP.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m a big fan of all things Marvel. I’m a huge sci-fi fan, so if it has the word “Star” in the title, I’ve probably watched it! I like mysteries and period pieces, so I adore shows like the Miss Fisher Mysteries, and Murdoch. I’ve just started watching Lucy Lawless in My Life is Murder and now I want to learn to bake bread! I also love comedies such as Brooklyn 99 and The Good Place.
Mostly, I don’t want my entertainment to hurt me. I watch TV in order to unwind from a tough workday and de-stress from the constant barrage of depressing world events. I want to read and watch stories were the good guys win. Where there is hope for a better future.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I have terrible eating habits. I’m a cheeseburger and fries kind of girl. I’m trying to make healthier eating choices but unfortunately, I’m a terrible cook too.
I prefer cool colors—blues, greens, and lavenders.
I’m not sure how to categorize my taste in music. Top 40? Old time Rock and Roll? Alternative Rock? New Age? I like a little of just about anything, with some exceptions. I’m not a fan of country music as a whole, or hip hop/rap. Most of that has to do with the fact I like to sing, and some music genres aren’t suited to my limited vocal capacity. So if I can’t sing it, I tend not to like it.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I’d read. More than I do now. I’d probably go off the grid. Unplug. Walk more in the woods. Spin stories in my head the way I’ve always done. I’ve made up stories in my head as long as I can remember. Even if I never wrote another, I couldn’t stop the daydreaming.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
I’d walk out of work without a backward glance. I’d call my husband and ask him to meet me to take the dogs for a long walk in the woods. I’d fix my favorite foods without a care as to calories or health. I’d tell the most important people in my life why I love them. I’d make love, laugh, sing, and dance in the rain.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Here lies McKenna Dean: a person of intense integrity, deep compassion, and a dash of rage.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
My website/blog is here:http://mckennadeanromance.com/
I tend to post weekly, sometimes more when I have a guest or new release. That’s probably the best place to keep up with me, though I’m trying to get better about regular newsletter updates too.
McKenna Dean Bio and Social Media Links:
McKenna Dean has been an actress, a vet tech, a singer, a teacher, a biologist, and a dog trainer. She’s worked in a genetics lab, at the stockyard, behind the scenes as a props manager, and at a pizza parlor slinging dough. Finally she realized all these jobs were just a preparation for what she really wanted to be: a writer.
She lives on a small farm in North Carolina with her family, as well as the assorteddogs, cats, and various livestock.
She likes putting her characters in hot water to see how strong they are. Like tea bags, only sexier.
Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/McKenna-Dean-Author-262328784224302/
Takes Knight (release date Sept 18, 2019)
Bishop Takes Knight:https://www.amazon.com/Bishop-Takes-Knight-Redclaw-Origins-ebook/dp/B07W79BTDS/
Ghost of a Chance: https://geni.us/GhostOfaChance
Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B075CRHQ7B