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 Gerald “Gerry” Cranwell, and I’m 48.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I was born in California, but grew up in Roanoke, Virginia.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I served for 12 years in the US Navy as a cryptolinguist, I have a BSc in Arabic and a MSc in Cybersecurity. I’ve been married for 27 years, and we have a son.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’ve just self-published my first novel, and I have three more waiting for release!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing in various ways most of my life- I’ve had a few newsletters when I was deployed, for instance- but I started my first book in 2014; I was doing our family tree and discovered various ancestors who’d fought for both sides during the Civil War, and was curious about their motives.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I think when I received my first ‘review’ on my finished work- I had one of my friends read it, and they were very enthusiastic about it.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I discovered several relatives from Tennessee who’d fought on both sides during the Civil War- even from the same family. I wondered about what they thought they were fighting for. It’s too easy to view the Civil War in black-and-white (or blue-and-gray) terms, and assign motivations and beliefs to people based on what side they supported. I wanted to understand what drew a small farming community in the mountains of Tennessee to split their support North and South. I’ve also been interested in the use of intelligence-gathering and the role it played in the battles of the Civil War; that often goes unnoticed. From there, I developed the idea of a proto-intelligence officer in Confederate service (one of the reasons for this is the lack of records on the subject, giving me a freer hand than if I chose the Union, which did have an intelligence service).
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The story takes place in Spring of 1861, so it literally is the Confederate Spring. I plan to cover the entire war through the eyes of the main character, passing through Confederate Summer, Confederate Winter, and ending with Confederate Fall, which takes place in April 1865. The books address the rise and fall of the South’s fortunes.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I try to write realistic characters- whatever their strengths, I want them to be relatable, with flaws or quirks which keep them human. I’d like the reader to feel that they’re hearing the main character’s perspective, their thoughts about events, and that they’d be engaged in doing so. Writing a first-person perspective, especially one which sounds reasonably close to the speech of the 1860s, is challenging- avoiding slang is especially difficult at times.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
I try to keep it realistic- it’s based on actual events and for any intelligence-gathering/analysis technique I employ, it’s taken from something actually performed during the war; essentially, I’ve taken what was done haphazardly and turned it into a ‘what-if’, where the tools and techniques are purposely employed.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I’ve done a lot of travel through the region prior to writing, and during 2015 I was able to take a trek from Antietam down to Appomattox Court House, covering many of the key battlefields in Virginia.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I did, but I’m planning to find a designer for a 2nd edition.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That’s a good question, and I had to sit and think about it for a while. Perhaps the idea that the messenger is as important as the message- the books really involve intelligence operations, and evaluating whether what you learned is true or false; the larger lesson is that we should stop and think about people in power urging us to act or believe a certain way- do they have our interests in mind, or theirs?
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?
My favorite writer is Alistair Maclean, he did a brilliant job with creating taut thrillers with memorable characters and vividly described locations. I’m also a fan of Lindsey Davis, who wrote the Falco books. Excellent characters, gripping plots, and she places you in the heart of the Roman Empire.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Two very good friends, both were proofreaders and have been strong supporters.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I could see writing as a post-retirement career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’ve gone back and revised so many times since 2014, I can’t tell you how many changes I made!
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Yes- just because I’m writing about historical events, I shouldn’t restrict myself to following them. I found myself getting too detailed regarding the Peninsula Campaign of 1862, and stalled out for months just outside of Richmond. While that happened in reality, it doesn’t work for me trying to get the book finished.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Honestly, I think I’d want a relatively unknown actor, so that the ‘name’ doesn’t overshadow the story.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Write down every crazy idea you think of. Write down scenes, conversations, snippets of dialogue. Write down concepts and questions. Whenever you have something on your mind, write it down. You can edit it into the story, save it for another story, or delete it- or maybe it leads to another plot angle. But write!
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Thanks for reading, thanks for taking a chance on self-published/indie authors, and I hope you enjoy this slice of the Civil War.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Haha, I’m translating a cookbook into English, many of the ingredients are eluding me.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Aside from kids’ books, probably King Solomon’s Mines- my grandfather gave me that when I was eight.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
That’s hard to say, it really varies based on where I am in my head.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Another tough question. I think Hammurabi, because so much of our current civilization and legal processes have their roots here and I’d love to know what his world was like, how he viewed it, what he was thinking when he compiled (or had it compiled) the list of laws. (By the way, these are always interesting questions because it presupposes that the meeting will take place in a mutually intelligible format.)
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Writing? My family and I like to play board games, and we’re big fans of Halloween- we usually build props for our haunted house display, so I guess you could say that’s a hobby.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Comedies, sci-fi, I watch a lot of documentaries. I probably should’ve put that first.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Anything spicy, I love Mexican/Indian/Middle Eastern cuisines most of all. Colors? Mostly blues and greens- I spent too much time in the desert, so anything not sand-colored. I’m more partial to classical music and classic rock.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Teach. I taught at a community college for a couple of years and loved it, I’d like to do that again.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
With my family, just having a fun day together.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
No tombstone- I want a memorial bench somewhere scenic, where people can stop and enjoy the view for a moment. It would have my name and “Take your time- Make it last”.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Here’s my Civil War humor blog: http://cwhumor.blogspot.com/