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?
Peggy A. Wheeler, age 65.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Born in Bishop, California, in the High Sierras, but raised further down and closer to the coast in southern California.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I’ve a B.A. from UCLA, and a masters from California State University, Northridge. Both of my degrees are in English literature with a creative writing emphasis. As a graduate student, I majored in poetry.
My mother and father are both deceased. I’ve no siblings. I’m on my second marriage and will stay here. We’ve enjoyed a test run of nearing 30 years. I think we are compatible. Hahaha. I have one daughter born in 1972 who I adore, her husband, my wonderful son-in-law, and two biological granddaughters who are all grown up and living their best lives. I’ve a few paternal cousins I see rarely. But my immediate family, those I see most often, are — my husband, Steve, our canine kids, and my sister-in-law. I don’t have much family to speak of. But the family I have, both biological and chosen, are magnificent people and I love them all so very much.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My publisher, Dragon Moon Press, released my fifth title, The Desert Raven, on August 5, 2019. This novel is the second in The Raven’s Daughter series and, although I do not yet have many reviews, those that I’ve received are jaw-droppingly beautiful. Readers tell me they like this second book even better than The Raven’s Daughter. I was so concerned that it would not be as good. I feel pretty damned lucky.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t a storyteller and loved to write. My first “book” was a memoire called “My Life.” I was sixyearsold, and oh so proud of that book. I even illustrated it myself. I fantasized the teacher would wold give me an A+++ for this most excellent piece, and call me up in front of the class so I could read my masterpiece to the classroom. Instead, my teacher gave me a C- and told my mother in front of me at a parent-teacher conference that I should never try to write because I have zero ability. I guess you can say that was my first rejection. My heart shattered, and I cried all night, but nearly sixty years later, I’m still writing. So there’s that.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Always. My first real job was as a technical writer. Throughout the years, I’ve had a number of poems published and earned awards for several. I didn’t try my hand at novel writing until age 57, though. My publisher released my debut novel, The Raven’s Daughter, when I was age 61, and I’m still writing my little old heart out.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was not my first “published” book. My debut novel is The Raven’s Daughter. My first book ever is The Splendid and Extraordinary Life of Beautimus Potamus. My family inspired it, meaning mostly my daughter, granddaughters, and my mother. I’d had a dream about one of those dancing hippos in Disney’s Fantasia, and decided for fun to write the life story about one of them. It’s a largely humorous spoof on the world we live in and is classed as an allegorical fantasy with some drama, mystery, and a terrible war. Not one character is human and it takes place on a fantastical planet. Think Watership Down mashed up with Dark Crytal or Avatar.
My mother at the time I worked on it lived in a long-term nursing facility, so I’d take bits of pieces of chapters, sit by her side, and read them to her every day. Although she suffered from severe dementia, she loved the book. Unfortunately, she passed before publishing, but I dedicated the book to her.
A couple of years ago, the book won a coveted Reviewer’s Choice Award for the Audible version.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I came up with the title from the character’s name and her many adventures.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I have my own voice, as does every writer, but I can’t say there is any one way to distinguish my style. I write mostly cross-genre stories, such as Supernatural Mystery Thriller, Urban Fantasy/Science Fiction, Allegorical Fantasy/Mystery, and Post-Apocalyptic Dystopian/Adventure. The challenge is some others prefer I stick only to one genre, and think I’d be more successful writing in a single genre. I’ve a friend, another writer who is quite successful, who tells me, “find a planet and land on it.” But I love to explore different genres. Depending on what the readers like best, I may flesh out one genre, but right now, I’m having a blast travelling the genre map.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Most of my first book is pure fiction, and only based loosely on those who inspired it. It’s almost a re-telling of my own character, although I’m far less brave than my MC, Beautimus Potamus. In truth, I wish I were more like her.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Sometimes I do travel. Other times, I rely on the library or Google for research. My husband and I were recently in Ireland, and I did some research while there for the next in The Raven’s Daughter series, which I am so far am planning to set in County Wicklow and Dublin City, The Republic of Ireland, and some in Belfast City, County Atrim, Northern Ireland. We hope to return this coming year to not only visit dear friends, but for additional research on the mythology and lore of the Emerald Isle.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My publisher is a gifted cover artist.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Not sure which novel. For Beautimus Potamus I think the message is, “Never doubt yourself. You are far stronger and more powerful than you can imagine.” She starts in the book as someone with horrific self-esteem, low confidence, and body image issues, but under the most challenging of circumstances, she steps up and becomes heroic, strong, and wise, even saves lives.
For The Raven’s Daughter series, I’d say at least part of the underlying message is “Accept your true nature.” The MC, Maggie Tall-Bear Sloan, is half Yurok and half Irish, and she shapeshifts into a green-eyes raven from Yurok legend to solve heinous crimes. However, she is in love with her Irish side and denies her Indigenous culture and ancestry, which cases her and those who love her no small amount of anguish. She is even in denial about her shapeshifting, dismissing it as a series of strange dreams. She’s sceptical, stubborn and harsh (some readers dislike her), but she has a good heart, loves her family more than anything, and after time, she gradually comes around.
For CHACO, one underlying message is, “People are rarely as they seem, and anyone can change.”
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 just read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. This is not the first book she’s written (she’s penned non-fiction), but it is her debut fiction. Her novel is beautiful, the writing, the storyline, the internal poetry, the characters. I am inspired by this book to try my hand a literary fiction. It’s that good. And Ms. Owens has a sketchy past in Africa where she may have committed murder or one of her family members may have. Unsolved. I know is she cannot ever return to Africa. An author with an intriguing past always has great stories to write.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
My publisher, Gwen Gades, the Queen of Dragon Moon Press, has always been supportive and is a champion for my success both for practical business reasons, and because she is a kind person who wants to support her authors in any way she can. She was willing to take a chance on my books that no one else wanted, and I’m forever grateful to her.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes. I don’t make a living from it yet, but writing is my “work,” my career for certain.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Not really. My latest, The Desert Raven, came out with few if any errors, the storyline connects, the characters are solid, and the story is fun. I think there are no major plot holes, if any, and the pacing and rhythm works. Additionally, although it took me longer than I’d hoped to finish it, when I sat at my desk the story practically wrote itself. Maybe there are a few minor errors that if I find, I would have wished I’d fixed. But, really, that’s it.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learn something from all my books. I dive into research with passion even before I put one word on paper, and in that alone, I learn things that I never would have never known otherwise. Maggie Tall Bear Sloan, the MC in the latest book and in my first in The Raven’s Daughter series, is my alter-ego. She, like Beautimus Potamus, teaches me much about the inside me, my flaws, my strengths, my weaknesses, my triumphs, my fears, and my wishes, are embodied in my fictional characters. I make them better versions of me, even the male protagonist, like Chaco in my dystopian-adventure tale, CHACO, is like me in many ways. I think that’s what writers to – craft versions of themselves in developing their characters.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
No. I’d leave the acting up to the professionals.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
My favorite piece of advice to writers is from Margaret Atwood. I saw her speak at a Los Angeles Book Festival some years back. She says, “Do not write what you know. Write what you are passionate about.”
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I hope you find joy in reading my books because I write them for you.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Beloved, Toni Morrison.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
The Saggy Baggy Elephant, a Golden Book.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
The late great Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I always loved his work and I am anticipating the film adaptation of his One Hundred Years of Solitude, one of my favorite books ever.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Soap making, cooking, gardening, travelling, volunteering, and of course, reading.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Last night we watched the last episode of The Spy, a Netflix original. Good stuff.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
No favorite color, but I do tend gravitate toward deeper reds and sage greens. Foods: French peasant cuisine, Mexican, Salvadorian, Sushi, Seafood, Huge fresh salads with lots of goodies in them, and good Northern Italian. Music: I have extraordinarily eclectic musical tastes. Symphonic, Jazz, blues, rock. I also enjoy classic and contemporary world music from Africa, England, Scandinavian, all the Latin American countries, Cuba, Scotland, and Ireland.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Probably read more and travel more. But I cannot imagine a future where I do not write. “Writer” is my identification; it’s who I am, what I do, and where my heart lies.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
On a sandy tropical beach in a little hut overlooking the water, with my husband. We’d play in the surf and sit in the sand with some sweet icy rum cocktails in-hand. Please do add a kitschy paper umbrella. Of course, I would call all my friends and my family to tell them how much I love them. Then I would craft a goodbye letter filled with gratitude for the time I had on the planet and leave the letter in the hut for a friend or relative to find. Oh…and we’d eat. Pig out on all our faves.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Peggy A. Wheeler, Writer of Fantastical Fiction.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
My website is in dire need of updating, but it’s https://peggyawheeler.com/ . I probably need someone with more technical experience than have I to help with updates. Otherwise, anyone is welcome to contact me at PAWheelerwriter@gmail.com. That’s my biz e-mail.
Amazon authors page USA https://www.amazon.com/Peggy-A-Wheeler/e/B00PRDA1I6/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1