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?
Hi, I’m John C Adams, and I’m 49. That’s just old enough for me to pause before being honest that fifty is just around the corner!
Fiona: Where are you from?
I grew up in Essex, England. However, I’ve moved around a lot for work and lived in the north and the Midlands for long periods, too. Our family has lived in rural Northumberland since 2003 very close to the Scottish border in a former mining village.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I went to my local comprehensive school and sixth-form college in Essex. I read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Somerville College, Oxford, and afterwards became a solicitor.
I’m married to Brian, who is now severely brain damaged after a near-fatal heart attack. That’s why since 2003 I’ve been his carer and we’ve been living quietly in a small village. We have two kids, one grown up and the other now in sixth form. I’m nonbinary.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
My latest fantasy novel ‘Dagmar of the Northlands’ is out now on Kindle and Smashwords!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I wrote alot as a child and really loved it. Then I didn’t write for ages and ages because I was studying and working, but after my daughter was born I started writing again. It was really important for me to have something that was for me when I was otherwise run off my feet caring for Brian and raising the kids. I’m really glad I went back to it because I’ve had alot of fun with it since, and it really has given me some space to call my own.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I was fifteen I won a £20 book token for first place in a writing competition. We’d gone on a school trip to the Mediterranean that winter. It was held by the cruise company that ran the trip for kids who’d gone on them every year, and I won! That counts, right?
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
I write horror as well as fantasy. Before I wrote my first book ‘Souls for the Master’ I wrote alot of short fiction about a family called the Flintsthat was published in various magazines. Some of the Flint clan are farmers and others live in urban areas, but they are all very strange. It’s really liminal horror. For the novel, I featured the same family but wrote a very different tale full of action about a group of rebels trying to destroy a very centralised power structure where a government is trying to control everyone’s movement and thoughts via their leader, the Master.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Initially, it was called ‘Estate of Ash’. This was the first version of the book and it was Highly Commended in the University of Winchester Writer’s Conference Competition 2012, ‘First Three Pages of A Novel’ category. This was quite early in my writing career, and after I’d done my Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing, I rewrote it completely as ‘Souls for the Master’.
The title ‘Souls for the Master’ was intended to give the reader a glimpse of the central importance the political structure places on controlling the population and the fact that their power to do this comes from the shadowy figure they worship as much as fear. He urges his followers on to some pretty dark deeds.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I tend to vary my writing style alot within short fiction because the style depends on the magazine or publishing house you’re submitting to. Each one knows what they like. I write stories with quite a strong plot line but with deep characterisation. I’m not a fan of too much dialogue. My writing style varies alot between horror and fantasy because they are really quite different, and unless I’m writing dark fantasy I have to be careful to keep to the right side of the line because readers do expect the styles to be quite different.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
‘Souls for the Master’ is a horror novel based around a government’s attempts to wipe out unproductive members of society in their millions to placate a dark god they worship. Thankfully, it isn’tovertly biographical.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Almost all my work is done at home in rural Northumberland. I have to fit writing around what are pretty heavy caring responsibilities. We don’t travel much due to my husband’s ill health. He finds busy places overwhelming, although wheelchair access gets better with every year, we find.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The cover for ‘Souls for the Master’ and for my current fantasy novel ‘Dagmar of the Northlands’ were designed by Fiona Jayde Media. She always does a fabulous job in realising my vision and bringing the characters I’ve created to life on the front cover. She also produced the cover for ‘Aspatria’, the prequel to Dagmar.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Every human being is valuable to society and to mankind even if (perhaps particularly if) the ethos of those in power is that certain types of people are worthless. Our most positive feature as humanity is our compassion, and while some see that as a weakness it is actually our strength when we stand strong together.
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?
As a reviewer with the British Fantasy Society, the Horror Tree and Schlock! Webzine, I see alot of really amazing new writers emerging and it is an absolute privilege to review their work. It’s always hard to narrow it down to just one or two to mention, but just recently I reviewed ‘TheNew Voices of Science Fiction’ (edited by HannuRajaniemi and Jacob Weisman). It was jam-packed with emerging writers who are already making their mark, and the diversity of the collection was amazing.
My favourite writer in horror is probably John Wyndham, because I read so much of his stuff when I was growing up. In fantasy, it’s probably David Gemmell, because he combined romance and epic battles, which I love.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
I’ve had an immense amount of support over the years from Albedo One Magazine, based in Dublin. I was longlisted for the Aeon Award in 2012 and 2013. Then in 2015, the award director Frank Ludlow contacted me to ask if I wanted to train as a Submissions Reader. I’ve been reading entries to the competition and submissions to the magazine since then, and in 2016 I got promoted to be a Contributing Editor alongside the rest of the team. They probably did more than any other single entity to support me in the early days when I was just starting to get published. Every author needs that when they are new and uncertain, and it made a great deal of difference to my confidence. I owe the guys there a world of thanks for empowering me as a writer.
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?
My latest book is a fantasy romance called ‘Dagmar of the Northlands’, which has a Nordic theme. It features a heroine, Dagmar, whose father and stepfather were leaders of the Men of the North. Her stepfather has just been killed by her stepbrother Njal, and he’s taken over as konung. Njal orders a raid on the island of Orkna to divert attention from how he got to be the leader, and it all starts to unravel from there.
Like most fantasy novels, it’s pretty long. Any novel of that length goes through so many revisions and alterations and improvements that it just leaves your head spinning. If I had to change anything, it would probably be to include more flashbacks. I’ve only just recently had the confidence to start using them, and this novel includes a couple, but since then I’ve used them more and more, and I think they really give something special.
Just the other day ‘Dagmar’ had its first professional review from Bookshelf Adventures, and their feedback was really positive. I’m so relieved because getting reviews is such a nerve-wracking process! In terms of learning, they said make sure the characters are carefully introduced because otherwise it’s alot for readers new to the series to take in. I’m definitely going to act on that reviewer feedback. Other than that, they really liked it.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I didalot of historical research about Nordic cultures and even picked up a little bit of Old English and Old Norse. I also read lots of sagas to understand Nordic literary works as well.
Every novel is a massive challenge, but that brings with it opportunities to grow as a writer. As I mentioned just now, I used flashbacks for the first time in ‘Dagmar’ and this was really special but took a bit of working at. Also, this was a follow up to my first fantasy novel ‘Aspatria’, so it was crucially important to make sure the details and continuity were right in what is quite an expanding universe.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I’m clear that the central character of Dagmar should be played by a Scandinavian actor. I’d love to see Noomi Rapace, who I first saw in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and then in Sherlock Holmes, play that role!
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There’s plenty of it out there, and it will help you to grow as a writer. It’s easy to feel that paying large amounts of money is the answer, but by far the most helpful support I’ve had has come for free on a ‘like for like’ basis through beta reading, editing, critiques and mutual support in writing groups online.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
As a nonbinary writer, I work hard to portray vivid and varied characters of all kinds, but I’m always keen to see more diversity in horror and fantasy. I try to make that happen via my own writing and also in my choice of which books to review.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m re-reading Brian Attebery’s ‘Strategies of Fantasy’. I get more out of it every time!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I was quite an early reader, and I read an awful lot as a child. I think every kid who grows up to be a writer would say that! One of my most treasured reading memories from childhood was Noggin the Nog. I think it might have created an early love for the fantasy genre!
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
One of the best feelings in life is to laugh until you cry. We have frogs, hamsters and cats so there’s usually some antics going on here to make me laugh!
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
My great grandmother. Her husband was a fireman, and they lived in the East End of London. I have a photo of her holding an open book on her lap, which has been such an inspiration to me over the years in terms of becoming well educated. I like to think she’d be proud of what I’ve achieved, and I bet she was really proud of her youngest daughter (my grandmother) who was a solicitor’s clerk until she got married to my grandmother.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
We grow quite alot of our food, because living in an old miner’s cottage we have one of those enormously long gardens. Over the years, I’ve returned it to something akin to how the miners would have used it: to grow veg that was expensive and to help the budget stretch.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m quite eclectic in my tastes for TV and film. I love comedies, because laughter is such a tonic. We’re just getting Season 11 of Modern Family here in the UK. I thought Season 10 was the end, so when my daughter said it was coming back I was delighted. She is hoping to go to drama school, so we watch alot of TV and film as part of her learning to be an actress.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
We went vegan about a year ago, and I’m glad we did and would recommend it, but it takes some getting used to. Favourite food is now cake because it’s hard to get really decent vegan ones here. I love bright colours, so scarlet. Heavy metal and rock on the music front.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Wonder what had gone wrong. For me, it’s a love affair with words and characters. Something in me will have died forever on the day I’m not writing.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
In 2003, we literally had that experience when Brian suffered a near-fatal heart attack. Although he survived, the brain damage meant the person he was has been lost forever. Counsellors call that a living bereavement, and we really do feel like we’ve lost him.
One of our neighbours has a pond, and our gardens have dragonflies every summer. They are so cheery and happy, making the most of their short lives. Every time I see them I feel both sad at how little time they have but also inspired by how they are determined to make the most of it.
Brian’s illness has taught me to make the most of every day, not just to wait for the last one. You don’t know when that will be – unless you’re a dragonfly, of course.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
‘Shouldn’t that be hyphenated?’
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I’d love to offer your readers ten free copies of ‘Dagmar of the Northlands’ via Smashwords code to download a copy on Mobi for Kindle or e-pub. If that’s acceptable to you, I’ll generate the codes and email them to you so you can give them direct to your readers. You don’t need to share their details with me, and there’s no requirements for review or follow up contact. All privacy is retained!
Amazon Authors page UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/John-C-Adams/e/B018EXJ2V2/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
Amazon page for Dagmar:
Smashwords page for Dagmar: