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?
Hallo Fiona and thanks for inviting me onto Author Interviews.
My name is Lucienne Boyce. As for my age, I’ll keep quiet about that as it might make me look as historical as my books.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I live in Bristol, England.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I was born in Wolverhampton in the Midlands. I went to university in Sheffield and took a degree in Philosophy. After that I lived in London for a few years, then moved to Bristol. In 2006 I studied for an MA in English Literature with the Open University, specialising in eighteenth centuryliterature. To tell the truth, I didn’t much enjoy my University years but the MA made up for it. I loved studying with the OU.
I now live in Bristol with my husband (and hundreds of books). He’s an Englishteacher, now retired (although he keeps his hand in by writing exam papers), which is a great help with my writing. What that man doesn’t know about semi-colons and Oxford commas isn’t worth knowing.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
The third Dan Foster Mystery, Death Makes No Distinction, was published this month (September).
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I was scribbling stories from a very young age. I penned my own versions of Lost in Space, Bambi, and a long, rambling saga about a princess who travelled around having adventures (not the sort who sits in a tower waiting for a handsome prince!).But then I lost the thread of it; there wasn’t a lot of encouragement for writing,at home or at school. The best the teachersat my school could suggest was that I took up a “wordy” career like law or secretarial work. I ended up as a secretary and worked in admin for many years. It was a long time before I found the courage to write again, and many more before I felt I could call myself a writer.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I realised that no matter what the discouragement, I was going to write.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book was To The Fair Land, which is set in the eighteenthcentury. I’d been fascinated by the literature of the period for a long time; as I mentioned, when I did my MA I chose to specialise in it. But it’s not so much what inspired To The Fair Land as who. That was one of my literary heroines, novelist and diarist Frances Burney (1752–1840).
To The Fair Land grew out of my fascination with the secrecy surrounding the publication of Burney’s first novel, Evelina. Burney’s motives for keeping her authorship secret are not entirely clear. Perhaps she feared hostile criticism, or losing respectability – women weren’t supposed to seek notoriety or show off their intelligence, and women who did publish could find a male-dominated culture very hostile.Whatever her reasons, Burney wrote in secret and published anonymously (although the truth came out eventually).
I began to wonder what would happen if a book was published anonymously with more at stake than a reputation. What if there was real danger for people connected with it? But what could be so important? I found the clues in Burney’s novels and diaries. Her brother James served in the Resolution on Captain Cook’s second voyage in search of the Great Southern Continent, a landmass which many believed existed in the southern hemisphere.
What could be more exciting than the quest for new lands? At stake are lives, fortunes, even the fate of a nation…so Ben Dearlove, the hero of To The Fair Land, is in peril because of his obsession with an anonymous book about a voyage to the Great Southern Continent. The heroine, Sarah Edgcumbe, is a homeless wanderer who has to conceal the truth about her past – like the heroine of Burney’s novel The Wanderer. She’s also named, incidentally, after Frances’s step-sister Sarah, and like her namesake is a writer.
Added to that, I’ve always been attracted to tales of mythical lands – the island of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Charlotte Perkin Gilman’s Herland, Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, William Morris’s Wondrous Isles, C S Lewis’s Narnia, El Dorado, Camelot…all the dystopias and utopias that mankind has dreamed of for centuries. So the book grew from those two strands, eventually combining my love of eighteenth-century literature and history, and my fascination with mythical lands.
But it took a long time for it all to come together, and many false starts.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I rarely have a title in mind when I start writing. I prefer the title to flow from the story. Oftenit’s my husband who comes up with the best suggestion after he’s read the manuscript.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I write historical fiction and non-fiction (I’ve written about the Bristol suffragettes and I’m currently writing a biography of Millicent Price, a suffrage campaigner whosehusbandwas a conscientious objector during the First World War), and I suppose the most obvious challenge is the research. It’s certainly the one I get asked about most often. For one thing, there’s a lot of it to do! And then there’s the issue of how muchyou should include in your story, and how you put it in. Thatall depends on whether I’m writing fiction or non-fiction, and that in turn depends on what sort of fiction or non-fiction it is.
But I think it’s a sort of non-issue in some ways. I don’t separatetheresearchand the writing. They are both part of the creative process and intertwined one with the other.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I think all books express the experiences of the writer to a great extent, and that’s the case even with historical fiction. My stories grow out of the historical figuresI empathise with, ideas that resonate,situations that capture my imagination. We share many experiencesincommon with people of the past too: we fall in love, we have ambitions, hopes and dreams, we have good and bad luck, losses, successes and failures, and so on.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I am very influenced by place and a large part of my research does involve visiting different locations. I like to walk the landscapes my characters walk, because even if those landscapes have changed over time, I still get something of a feel of the place and how my characters fitted into it.
I spend time doing research in libraries, museums and art galleries. I also visit sites and buildings of the period. Bristol is very close to Bath, which is full of eighteenth century buildings, for example.
For Dan Foster, who is a Bow Street Runner, I spend a fair bit of time tramping the streets of London, armed with an eighteenth-century map. Which can be a bit confusing if someone sees me with a map and asks me for directions! Not all the stories are set in London though. The Fatal Coin takes place around Cannock Chase in the Midlands, and Bloodie Bones (the first in the series) is set in avillage near Bath, in an area where I’ve done many walks.The next Dan Foster Mystery will be set in Wales.
Consulting archives involves travel too. UnfortunatelyMillicent Price didn’t live anywhere exotic! Sofar I’ve spent time in Leeds, Birmingham, Walsall and Swansea – though there will be a research trip to The Netherlands sometime in the future. Luckily my sister lives there and so I won’t need to worry about finding a translator.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The books are published by SilverWood Books of Bristol (https://www.silverwoodbooks.co.uk/), who offer an assisted publishing service for independent authors. That means they project manage the publication process, and also produce the book to a high standard. They have an in-house design team.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
One of the things that’s important to me is to consider history from the point of view of the so-called “ordinary” people who are often excluded from the records. In fact, I don’t much like the word “ordinary”. I don’t think anyone’s ordinary whenit comes down to it. We all have stories to tell. But all too often, history has beendominated by certain kinds of narrative – by the perspectives of therich and powerful for example.
Millicent Price and her husband weren’t particularly well known, andit’s precisely for that reason I want to write about them. As for thefiction, I’m more interested in commoners than kings.
But really I hopepeopleenjoy reading the books!
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’ve just read the first in Abir Mukherjee’s Wyndham and Bannerjee books and I’m keen to read more. (Does he count as a “new author?” – the first was published in 2017!) There are lots of authors who are new to me but whose work has been around a while whose books I’m just discovering – Barry Unsworth, for example.
My favourite (living) writer is Robin Hobb, who writes fantasy – I read a lot of fantasy fiction. I love her books about FitzchivalryFarseer-The Farseer Trilogy and so on. I think she’s an amazing writer, with the ability to immerse you in her stories and the lives of her characters to the extentthat you don’t want to eat or sleep. The nights I’ve lain awake worrying about what’s going to happen next to Fitz…to be able to write a story that sweeps you up like that, now that’s writing!
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I have writer friends who’ve encouraged me, and who still do. Debbie Young https://authordebbieyoung.com/ is a positive powerhouse of encouragement to me and other indie authors – and she writes a lovely series of cosy mysteries set in a Cotswold village – the Sophie Sayers Mysteries. And Helen Hollickhttps://www.helenhollick.net/ is another writer who is very generous with her encouragement – and I absolutely love her Arthurian books, the Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy. I find the indie community in general very supportive – I’m a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/ which offers all sorts of help and support.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I’m not sure career feels like the right word. It has connotations of worldly advancement and income earning, and I don’t think the way I see writing fits into that straitjacket. But then vocation sounds a bit airy-fairy and conjures up images of me sitting at my desk and praying for divine inspiration, instead of working. Yet at the same time I do think of writing as a spiritual practice, and that creativity and spirituality are interconnected. So maybe I’ll just say: yes, it’s a career, and a vocation, and a profession, and a calling, and work, and play, and – an obsession perhaps?!
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I don’t think so. But that doesn’t mean I think it’s perfect.For one thing, there are always so manyways a story can go and in the end you make a choice about how you’re going to tell it this time, in this book. For every book you finish, there are many other manifestations of it in the shadows behind it: the characters you didn’t include, the settings you didn’t use, the themes you didn’t pursue, the turns you didn’t take.But it’s all a work in progress; you take what you’ve learned from one book into the next one, and the next, and the next.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
In researching the anti-slavery movement in the eighteenthcentury, I found myself reflecting more deeply on how the past still lives on in the present.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I don’t know. I have my image of Dan Foster, and readers no doubt have theirs, and anyone casting a film would have theirs too. So I’d be interested to see what the casting director came up with.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
The obvious answer is “write”: you only learn by practising your craft. But I also think it’s important to read. Readthe genre you’re interested in, but also read beyond it. And read attentively: think about your reactions to a book and where they come from. What works for you? What doesn’t? That way you’ll become more aware of what will work for you as a writer.
I also think it helps to read books about writing. There are many many books out there, so it’s a question of finding what speaks to you. Some of my favourites are The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, Story by Robert McGee, and Impro for Storytellers by Keith Johnstone. But you’ll soon build up your own library of what’s helpful for you.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Thank you for reading! I hope you continue to enjoy the books and following Dan Foster’s adventures.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I always have two or three books on the go, both fiction, and non-fiction which is usually for research. Current fiction is The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’sWives by Lola Shoneyin. Current non-fiction for the Dan Foster books, Pugilistica: The History of British Boxing Containing Lives of the Most Celebrated Pugilists by HenryDownes Miles – Dan is an amateur pugilist; and for the biographyGirls Growing up in Late Victorian and Edwardian England by Carol Dyhouse.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Apart from picture books, the first book I remember that felt like a “real” book was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. I absolutely loved that book; I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read it. But there may have been other books before that. Teddy Robinson. Milly Molly Mandy. Adventures of The Little Wooden Horse by Ursula Murray Williams – another favourite.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Blackadder makes me laugh and certain scenes in The Life of Brian always have me in stitches. I still laugh at episodes of Cheers, and chuckle at The Good Place.P G Wodehouse’s books make me laugh: who can forget the prize giving at Snodsbury Grammar School?
As for what makes me cry, well a lot of things do. Cruelty. Inequality. Wanton destruction of our planet.Whenever a Dr Who says goodbye.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
There are many people I’d love to meet! There are so many writers I admire, past and present, I’d be hard pressed to mention them all. Charles Dickens, Hilda Vaughan, Dorothy L Sayers, Rebecca West, John Clare, William Morris…but if I had to choose one person, it would be Mary Wollstonecraft.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I try to keep fit. I go running, and do aerobics.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
At the moment I’m watching Peaky Blinders. I’ve come to it late, and have only just finished the second series. I loved Game of Thrones. And I love a good cop show, though I dislike the young-woman-tied-up-and-tortured-in-a-dungeon trope which Scandi Noir seems to have degenerated into since the days of The Killing.I enjoy Vera, Shetland, Montalbano, Poirot, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Foyle’s War. And I’m a fan of Midsomer Murders, the pottier the story, the better.
And Dr Who, of course.
As for films, my favourite film is Gladiator. Yes, really. But I love The Princess Bride and The Philadelphia Story and Ealing comedies and virtually anything with Cary Grant (he’s a Bristol boy you know!). And Alien and Aliens.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Favourite food is Italian. I’m vegetarian, and there’s always plenty of choice for non- meat eaters.
Colour – blue.
Music – soul, blues, Steely Dan, Steve Winwood, Terry Evans, the Gershwins, opera (favourite opera is Der Rosenkavalier).
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I’d like to be a puppeteer and make puppets like the ones William Simmonds made. https://www.cheltenhammuseum.org.uk/collection/arts-and-crafts-designers-william-and-eve-simmonds/ Alas, I doubt I’d ever have the skill so maybe I would just volunteer to hand out the theatre programmes.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Oh dear, I don’t know! Something simple.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Social Media links:-
Amazon Authors page UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lucienne-Boyce/e/B00ADI8LOQ/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Armen Pogharian said:
I too was a fan of Lost in Space, although having watched it recently as an adult, I probably owe my parents a few thanks for their patience. That said congratulations on the release of your third book and best of luck to you.
Lucienne Boyce said:
Thank you! Nice to meet another Lost in Space fan.