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, and where you are at personally?
I just love your name, Fiona… it’s beautiful and unusual. Well, I’m Lillian Brummet, married to Dave for 30 years, and at 50 (just turned) I’m feeling wings sprout in my back. What I mean by that is: I am at the age where I feel less weighted by life’s angst and miseries, ready to fly toward my dreams and have lots of days off (I hope) too.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I live in the beautiful Creston Valley, in the heart of the Kootenay Region in BC, Canada. Do you remember the movie Roxanne with Steve Martin? It was filmed in Nelson, a city just a couple hours from here. Creston is a stunning little city with lots of agricultural activity in the way of farms and orchards. We used to vacation out here every chance we got and hoped to retire in the area, but life circumstances showed us that tomorrow may never come, so we decided to move on out here nearly 10 years ago now.
Fiona: Why don’t you share a little about yourself (…your education, family life, hobbies, favourite colours)?
I would describe myself as one who commits to things until they are done; I’m tenacious, ambitious (to a point), self-disciplined and organized. As far as education goes, I was on my own at 13 years of age… and so didn’t go back to school until I was 16… then went back again around 20 for university level Grade 12 (all those extra heavy courses) and then took hospitality management, permaculture – as well as -business management, writing, marketing and food preservation courses. At one time I thought of becoming a botanist, but I play in the dirt (aka garden) as my hobby and exercise. I spend a lot of time managing the fully landscaped, edible property – preserving and sharing harvests, making meals from scratch, etc. Typically I fill 2 freezers and a pantry every year, saving us thousands of dollars; I enjoy using the preserves as gifts – people love to try the different “gourmet” blends of jelly, jam, syrup, relish, etc. I suppose it is not surprising to learn that I’m fond of earth and nature colours like soft blue, muted purple, soft green, tan and pastel orange, I also love strong accent colours like burned auburn and burgundy. These colours can be found on our site, blog, book covers, my clothes and the paint / accents in our home. Except part of the basement where it was dark, with next to no natural lighting… we painted that a sunny yellow with natural pine accents and white doors, etc. It makes the area so much brighter. Normally, I’d not be so risky painting such a strong colour though.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Writing has come to me naturally. I feel more comfortable writing than speaking. I’ve memories that I’ve shared often when people ask me this… one is bringing an elementary teacher to tears as she read it out to the class and how overwhelmed I was by that… sort of scared, too. Then my poetry (the medium I used to pour out emotions and thoughts too powerful for expression in any other way), became acknowledged as something special… I thought – “hmmm. Interesting; I wonder if there is something to this.” But like many, I didn’t see writing as a reliable career, and honestly, I was intimidated by the idea that I might have something to say out of all those incredible works and amazing writers out there. It kept popping up in those aptitude tests – that writing might be my career path. It was after I got in a pretty bad car accident that I began to question this existence, the path I was struggling on and wanting to give reason and meaning to my life. Writing came up once more. My husband too, wanted to take an in-depth writer’s course and I became like a shadow student, studying what he got from the course. That’s how the addiction began J.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I won a few contests, had a short story accepted for publication, had quite a few poems published… started selling articles to magazines… picked up a small job doing interviews with unusual people;so I knew it could be done. It was when an article got picked up as a bi-weekly column that I knew something was really going on here. That column, by the way, ended up being published internationally and ran for several years before Dave and I churned that topic in another direction… book publication.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The column I just mentioned became the first book: Trash Talk… The first edition was published in 1999 and won several awards from recycling and environmental groups. It is now in its third edition and has become a 2 book series.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I know – those words have a different connotation… but it wasn’t until a few years after publication that I learned ‘trash talk’ means speaking negatively i.e. one sports team fan against another or some such thing like that. The bookseries runs on the topics of reducing waste by way of reuse, repurpose, refuse, rent, rot, conserving energy and water, recycle, compost. How your trash can actually benefit the community and by reducing waste you will also save some money.Included arelots of inspiring stats, quotes and resources. Thus the title… talking about trash – but shorter: Trash Talk.
Fiona: How much your work is based on your experiences or of someone you know?
The non-fiction writing that we have done so far is based on our personal real-life experiences, interviews and discussions and intensive research. For instance, with Purple Snowflake Marketing I learned from other writers whowere incredibly helpful with specific knowledge about every realm of writing I was interested in. I used to get teased about all my questions on forums, but they did it light-heartedly and always gave me the best advice. I would read voraciously and listen to talk radio episodes, research websites, and take courses. I once hosted a radio show that ran 3x a week, and it had a World of Writing segment where I interviewed all kinds of people in the writing industry from copywriters to publishers, publicists, agents and authors.Although my personal experiences played a vital role, without all those experts and generous helpers along the way I’d never have developed the skills to write a book like Purple Snowflake Marketing.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My husband Dave does all of our graphics and images, all the formatting and all the cover designs for our books and CD’s. He’s done work for others as well – some band CD covers, a few book covers, business cards, posters – that kind of thing. You can see samples of all that on our website. He also manages the website, by the way, and provides me with images I need for the blog or promotional purposes. His ad creation is so helpful, and he designs our bookmarks, business cards, flyersandposters … all kinds of creativestuff like that. Lucky me J
Fiona: Is there a message in your work that you want readers to grasp?
The main theme in everything we do is to empower people to feel more positive and make a real and measureable difference. With the first book of poetry, Towards Understanding – I wanted to reach out to councillors to help them understand better, and to comfort victims of abuse and neglect with the words they cannot say. I was so moved by some of the reader comments; it is a powerful book.
With the Trash Talk series, we wanted to help people realize that little efforts matter, that they can ease their budget issues with some proactive tips, how they don’t have to donate cash to help out the community – they can do it with their “trash”. We wanted to play a role in reducing stresses on the planet and felt this was one of the most effective ways of getting the message out there.
With Purple Snowflake Marketing– Remember me talking about those experts that I cherished? Well, I became the expert – people would come to me asking for advice, I was interviewed so much about the world of writing, I wrote articles about the topic and because I had all this information and experience at my fingertips I could share it. People began to call me a ‘guru’ and refer me to their friends. What makes this advice book different from others is it is highly informative, no words are wasted, there’s no white space taking up room and making the book look bigger than it is, the information is organized in such a way that it becomes a step-by-step guide to follow every time a book is published. There’s a ton of resources, quotes and images of promotional items we’ve used. Basically it includes everything we learned from 1999-2012 in this one book. We felt that releasing this would hopefully make the process of book promotion less daunting, authors would make fewer costly mistakes, and more information and creativity could be unleashed on the world.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely. We run this as a business. Every 5 years we go over our business plan – discover what worked, find out why we didn’t achieve what we hoped and write a new 5-year business plan. We do the annual taxes, have monthly meetings, and try to accomplish our “list” before the next meeting. JSo, yes we do all the things one does in managing the business. Querying and marketing, record keeping, managing the blog, bookkeeping and cleaning the studio, client bathroom and office take up a surprising amount of time.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No, we are thrilled with the latest – Rhythm and Rhyme… it’s a collection of poetry written by Dave and I. Readers will find it interesting to see my experimental style of poetry compared to Dave’s rhythmic almost lyric-like poetry. This book speaks about adult issues from finding purpose in life, choosing to be positive, grief and the joys of creativity. I’m personally very fond of the cover design Dave created based on images taken on Kootenay Lake (BC, Canada).
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Yes. We are currently in the final writing stages of our cookbook: From One Small Garden, and this book was a real challenge for me. I strove to fill it with nutritional information, interesting historical stories about some of the ingredients; I wanted to focus on what nutritionists call ‘super foods’, and foods that we have produced in our own gardens or can purchase from local farm markets. I had to learn how to condense information, yet be more flowery and creative with the wording.
One thing I noticed during the beta testing period was that I was assuming too much. Just because I know how to make it doesn’t mean the reader does. So I had to slow down and get real detailed, without having too many words involved and at the same time we aren’t teaching how to cook – we assume that you know how to cook. It’s harder than it sounds – believe me.
I also learned patience. Actually, I’m learning patience still. We had to set this project aside several times, delaying its progression for years… because other things took precedence. We’d just get back to it, and then something came up that we had to face instead.
Often in running a business you have to make choices as to what is practical and what takes precedence. You have to prioritize and when you choose something, you have to let something else go. Some things are very time sensitive and so you feel as if there’s no choice.
You also have to have a “shut-off” button, to be willing to give yourself time to recharge those energy batteries and refill that happiness bucket so that when you come back to the lists of do’s, you do so efficiently, with energy and enthusiasm, and with fewer mistakes.
You have to make time for the house duties, the meal making, the yard care, the shopping, and all those other life chores. Working from home can often mean you’re loading and running various machines while you are working on your blog. You have to train people to not just drop by because they know you are home. You might be prepping meals part of the day, doing housework, tackling that honey-do list and also answering the phone. You have bread baking while you are answering questions to an interview (like I’m doing today). You learn to multitask, that’s for sure.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Yes. Be patient with yourself and be patient with the process too. Don’t rush. When it comes to networking, offer more than you are asking. Always promote every single event you are a part of, and always thank the people involved. Remember to not make anyone work; supply everything they need in an easy to use format.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No my memory doesn’t go back that far Jbut the first book I do remember is in my possession… it was given to my mom when she was young, apparently by an aunt, or great-aunt or something like that. It was about a red hen that was captured and carried away in a sack by a hungry, browbeaten fox. She pulled out her sewing scissors from her apron pocket and escaped while the fox snuck in a nap before going home to his nagging wife. Filling it with heavy stones and sewing it up, she made her escape, ran home, locked the door and made a soothing pot of tea. The unsuspecting fox went home and ceremoniously emptied the bag straight into a pot of boiling water for the wife. It splashed up so much that it burned and killed them both and the hen lived safely, ever after. The book is worn, hosts my early colouring attempts, but I have it sealed in a plastic bag safely in a dark cupboard.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Pretty much everything lol I cry at commercials, or hear some sad news that doesn’t even affect me, or anyone I know… I’ll cry over a sad scene like a dying bird, my heart sinks when I see a worm drying out in the sun. I get totally scared when watching scary movies, sad and melancholy in the rain, cheery in snowfalls, nervous in storms. I apologize to plants. I treat my pets like children and giggle and romp around with them like a child. I laugh at all kinds of things, even stuff most people wouldn’t think was funny. I laugh at myself all the time, even if I’ve hurt myself or I’m sad about something and I’m getting teary eyed… it’s totally funny to me so I do a laugh-cry thing. I can be super stupid-silly too at times, just because it is entertaining to me. So yeah, I do laugh and cry often… more laughing, than crying though.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Garden. I find gardening offers so many ways to make a difference in the world. For your own household, the benefits include nutritious fruits, nuts and vegetables and full freezers/pantries every fall. Did you know – mature landscaping and gardens can increase the property value by 15%?
Composting keeps organics out of the landfill where they can do more damage to the environment than vehicle exhaust. The produce can be sold, traded or given away to those in need or soup kitchens, friends, family, neighbours and clients It offers a way to support birds, frogs, and a myriad of other backyard wildlife. Gardening cleans the air and improves the soil. It reduces water runoff. It entices others about the world of gardening, and encourages conversations with strangers as they walk by and ask questions. Perennials can be divided and shared with others, or sold to help mitigate the costs of seeds and transplants. Gardening produces flowers, helping those precious pollinators out; flowers can be taken to school events, churches, senior centers, old age homes, hospitals, elderly neighbours …and even the doctor’s office where they can cheer everyone who sees them.
Because the food is produced at home, you aren’t buying packaged food that has travelled 300 miles or more to get to you. Unused frozen fruit, berries, grapes or their juices can be taken to a u-brew outlet and made into amazing wine. I could go on and on about gardening…
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
What a unique question… in 20 years of being interviewed I’ve never been asked this. I know for sure what I would do: wake up super early and enjoy the sunrise, guzzle coffee laden with cream (or Irish Cream) to my hearts content, switching over to rum and ginger ale in the afternoon. During the dayI’d eat my favourite foods like scrumptioushomemade soup andbread, nachos with peach salsa and snack on fruit.
I’d write little notes of appreciation to everyone I know, noting their contributions in my life and acknowledging their efforts and asking for their blessing. I’d spend most of the time on the deck (season pending) and curl up with my beloved dogs. I’d cuddle with Dave for as long as he would let me (lol) into the night watching every star twinkle and hoping I can hear them sing when I pass over to the other side.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“She tried” (ha ha) Actually I plan to be cremated, as I’m not a fan of the idea of monopolizing a piece of land forever. I’m not that important… and land is precious. My ashes …under trees by Kootenay Lake, please – where our beloved pet’s ashes already lay and where my husband’s would join me.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Yes – it is called Brummet’s Conscious Blog: http://ConsciousDiscussions.Blogspot.com
You can find inspiring quotes, recommended resources, articles about music, business, green living, nature and gardening, author interviews, eco-events, and stunning photos taken in and around the Kootenay/Boundary/Columbia regions of BC, Canada. There are several pages on the blog as well, they can be found via the tabs under the header image. And the side bars offer a ton of information too.