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?
My name is Renee Dahlia, and I’m in my mid-forties.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I currently live in the inner west of Sydney, Australia, but I grew up in country New Zealand.
Fiona: A little about yourself (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
Common words used to describe me are: busy, restless, organised. I’m a bisexual writer and I live with my partner and our four children. I have a BSc in Physics and Maths, and worked in data analysis for infrastructure business, and then in horse racing, prior to becoming a writer. Outside of writing and work, my life revolves around our family, in particular, cricket, a sport played by all of our children. This season, the four of them are in seven teams.
My official bio, as well as an extended version, are on my website at: http://www.reneedahlia.com/about/
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
2020 looks to be another busy year for book releases.
– 12 Jan: Two Hearts Healing
– 1 Feb: Be Mine Anthology
– May: Racetrack Royalty
– June: Her Lady’s Honor
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve been writing for over a decade, beginning with non-fiction as an extension of my data analysis work in the horse racing industry. My debut romance novel was published in 2017, and my journey towards being a romance writer is largely thanks to being a romance reader. I didn’t discover romance as a genre until I was pregnant with my first child. I’d been a big reader of mystery prior to that, but couldn’t stomach the violence, and romance gave me the same happy ending/solve the murder satisfaction without the gore! After reading my first few romances, I was hooked, and very rarely read anything else now. I first began writing non-fiction when a magazine approached me to write up some of the data analysis work I’d been doing for another client in a way that was digestible. I enjoyed the process, and have since branched out to write for a second magazine as well. Writing for magazines is an excellent way to practice meeting deadlines and hitting specific word counts. “Can you please do an 800 word interview with this person by tomorrow evening?”
The shift to writing fiction was initially thanks to a “could I?” question, and I had to learn a lot of craft about fiction writing styles before I produced a book that was publishable. I was fortunate enough to have my debut novel published (To Charm a Bluestocking, Escape Publishing/Harlequin Australia), and have been slowly building a career as a romance writer since then.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’d been writing for a long time before I really thought about the concept of ‘being a writer’. Because I fell into writing from another career, it wasn’t a conscious decision to write, but rather a consequence.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
To Charm a Bluestocking is loosely based on my great-grandmother who was one of the first women to attend medical school in Holland and become a doctor.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
My publisher came up with the title. We wanted the word Bluestocking in the title as a keyword for readers, and we used the same style of title across the series. The second book is In Pursuit of a Bluestocking, and the third is The Heart of a Bluestocking.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I’m a storyteller first and foremost, and I’m learning fiction writing craft as I go. Since I studied science at university, I have no formal education with regards to writing and have had to learn via practice. I hope that every book I write is better than the one before. I do find description difficult, and many of my first drafts have notes like “Describe the room here.”
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
All of my books are fiction, but they do include little snippets of real life. A fragment of an overhead conversation, a piece of history, that type of thing. Usually I begin with a ‘what if’ question and build characters from that.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Having the means to travel is a huge privilege and with the internet, I don’t believe it is necessary for authors to travel. I set my first series in Amsterdam, where my father was born, without having been there, but with many elements based on family photos and stories. Having a close connection to a place (even without being there) helps by knowing which questions to ask about a place. Anyone can look at a map but getting an immersive understanding of a place is hugely assisted by travel and/or a close connection to people who have lived there.
Personally, I didn’t have the funds to travel internationally until I was in my late-twenties when I first travelled from New Zealand to Australia. Soon after that, I moved to Sydney, and two years ago, we had enough funds to visit London with our family of six. During that trip, we went to Wales, and I set my June 2020 release Her Lady’s Honorin Wales. I wouldn’t have written that story without that trip, so while I believe travel isn’t necessary, it certainly does open up opportunities to tell a wider set of stories. Knowing which stories are mine to tell, and which are mine to read is another question entirely, and one that requires self-examination of privilege.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My publishers (Escape Publishing and Carina Press) created the covers for the books they have published, while my indie covers are designed by Bear Plus Cat Designs.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Happy Ever After means different things to different people and that’s a good thing.
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?
Last year I read 98 books (http://www.reneedahlia.com/2020/01/14/2019-favourite-reads/) and my most read author was Talia Hibbert. Her books are so emotional; funny, heart warming, and guaranteed to make you cry. Everything you’d want in a romance!
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Romance Writers of Australia. My first ever writing conference was their 2016 conference, and I pitched the novel that would become my debut there. It was contracted by Escape Publishing/Harlequin Australia soon afterwards and released in March 2017.
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?
No. Once a book is written, edited, then edited again, it is the best effort I can do at the time. I hope to keep improving with every book I write, and I’d rather put the time into writing new books than continue to edit old books.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I’m currently writing the second book in the Great War series (the first book is Her Lady’s Honor) and I’m reading a lot of non-fiction about the Russian Revolution as well as about the suffragette movement post WWI.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I grew up without TV and don’t watch many movies, so I have no idea. If one of my books was made into a movie, I’d be taking the advice of casting professionals.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Keep writing. Practice matters more than anything. And read. Read a lot of books in the genre you want to write in. If a book hooks you, read it twice – once for pleasure, and at least once for craft. Figure out how the author dragged you into the book. Read books by a diverse range of writers; you’ll grow your own craft and you’ll discover many amazing books that aren’t white, straight, and able-bodied.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I hope you enjoy reading my stories.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’ve just finished Lucy Parker’s Headliners, and am reading Anna Zabo’s Syncopation at the moment. I’m also reading two non-fiction books; Sophia by Anita Anand and Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No. I grew up in a house of readers – we had no TV – and was surrounded by books from birth. The first book I read more than once was Black Beauty.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Life. Great books.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
There are so many!Richard Feynman, Marie Curie, and basically all the wives of all the well-known scientists in history! I’d also loved to have met both my great-grandmothers on my father’s side of the family. My Babushka died when I was in my teens, but I was never able to meet her as she lived in Holland while I was on the other side of the world. She led a fascinating life, although she was highly religious (Russian Orthodox then Catholic) and that might have been a strong point of contention between us.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I want travel to become my hobby, so if everyone could buy my books to fund it, that’d be great (ha ha). I do a bit of scrapbooking as a way of collating family photos and stories. I read a lot, and I like to watch cricket.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m not much of a TV watcher, although I did binge watch Lucifer recently. My teens are currently addicted to Brooklyn 99, which is very funny, and the teens send me a LOT of B99 memes! The last film I watched was Crazy Rich Asians, which I adored.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Food: Yum Cha, potatoes, summer salads
Colours: Bright colours and black
Music: The Rubens, Regina Spektor, Baker Boy, Hilltop Hoods, Thelma Plum, Alex the Astronaut, Bloody Beetroots, Tones and I, and of older stuff, I have a soft spot for Queen, Foo Fighters, Audioslave, Nirvana, Ella Fitzgerald, Janis Joplin, Nick Cave, Powderfinger, and Ben Folds.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I’d find something. I’ve had several careers before this. Life is an evolution and it’s impossible to predict what job I’ll be doing in ten years. I hope it’s still writing, because I’m still enjoying crafting stories, but who knows.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
With my partner and kids, probably at the beach, soaking in some Aussie sun and surf, and enjoying some beach cricket. Plus eating all my favourite foods!
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Ahh, that’s a morbid question. Spike Milligan has the best head stone “See, I told you I was sick.” I doubt I could improve on that from a humour point of view. If I have lived a good life surrounded by people I love, then the words on my head stone are irrelevant. I won’t be there to see them!
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Readers can sign up to my newsletter via the link on my website, or they can follow me on social media:
Amazon Authors page USA https://www.amazon.com/Renee-Dahlia/e/B079RVH2J7