Published in India
Interview from Scotland
Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie from Scotland.
Fiona: Where are you from?
I’m originally from a suburb of Detroit, Michigan, but spent my teen years and my early adult life in Florida.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I’m a wildlife artist and a published author with Hellgate Press. I live with my family, horses, and dogs on a mountainside in western Montana where I paint wildlife and write about our experiences living in the modern rural west. I live with my family, horses, and dogs on a mountain in western Montana where I paint and write about our experiences living in the west.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
About 10 years ago my husband retired from the United states Air Force. We decided to move the family to Montana and pursue a more pastoral lifestyle, hoping our days would be calmer and less hectic. We endured a steep learning curve those first five years, and the book chronicles many of our more comical and dangerous experiences. Now our nearest neighbours are hummingbirds, songbirds, magpies, crows, owls, ospreys, hawks, eagles, grass snakes, ants, spiders, deer, elk, moose, horses, cows, foxes, coyotes, wolves, chipmunks, squirrels, mice, rats, rabbits, skunks, marmots, beavers, badgers, bobcats, cougars, and bears – to name a few. Hardly a day goes by without a visit from one of them, though they’ve yet to bother me for a cup of sugar or flour. I began writing to friends and family, explaining in detail the interactions we were having with them. When the stories began to generate some keen interest, I decided to share them with a broader audience by writing a book about our modern frontier life.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
When I wrote the first chapter in my first manuscript and developed a working title, I considered myself a fledgling writer.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Well, I should point out that my first book was my first attempt at writing, so what I said before about the animal encounters was part of my motivation. Our lifestyle is quite unique, and I felt our experiences could inspire others to try to live their dreams. It isn’t fiction; it’s really a series of chronologically listed short stories about my family’s true adventures. I am happy to share the knowledge we have acquired along the way, and don’t mind if others enjoy a good laugh at our expense. We’ve also picked up a lot of new skills regarding how to deal with weather, cultural differences, and animals. Hopefully, anyone interested in rustic living can learn a few tips from our mistakes. I find it incredibly inspiring to share this information in story form with others through the written word. It has opened up a whole new career for me, and it coincides with being a wildlife artist.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
It was the title of the first chapter in my manuscript. The publisher suggested it would make a good title for the book. It really does encompass the whole idea of being modern day pioneers and coming west to start a new life.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
My writing style is quite fluid. I have an outline of topics I refer too, and I just dive in and begin writing. Somehow, it all comes together. I think having a good idea of what I want to convey in each chapter helps me stay on task. Being an artist, I try to “paint with words” and create a mental picture by choosing words and phrases that form a vivid image in the mind of the reader.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The book covers are reproduced from original photos we have taken of our homestead over the years. The publisher uses them to design the front and back covers. In Go West Young Woman! the cover features a rainbow rising over our stable and the mountains. It was a lucky snapshot my husband happened to take one day.
Fiona: Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
The events are true, though names, dates, and some locations were intentionally blurred for privacy reason. And, yes, there is a message which is reflected in the cover photo of the rainbow, which I think represents hope. This is a recurring theme throughout the book, along with perseverance and the need to cultivate a humorous perspective on life. Dreams don’t come true without a continual effort on your part. Even though you may fail at first, or encounter hardship, there is a greater success if one keeps on trying, again and again. Humour helps, especially when times are tough. If you can laugh through adversity, you’ve already beaten the devil. If you can’t, well, maybe someday you will see the comedy in retrospect. There is enough tragedy and despair in life to drag even the strongest of us down - if we let it. I want people to find my books uplifting; that is my primary goal.
Fiona: Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
The James Herriot series has always been a favorite of mine. Since I have a love of animals and the country life, he captured two of my interests with his stories about being a veterinarian in the Yorkshire, England, during the late 1930’s to 1950’s.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Hopefully yes, a long and happy career. I’m also branching out into producing videos about our western life, so who knows where that will take me? The programs are currently found on my YouTube channel.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Since it is a true story, I wish I could change some of the events that I wrote about. I think we all wish we could change some things about our lives.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I learned that writing an honest true life story is a lot like creating a painting. The shadows and the darker areas are necessary for a complete picture. It’s a catharsis, but that is sometimes necessary if we are to effectively deal with our dashed hopes and sorrows and find some resolution.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Janine Turner, who is best known for her role as Maggie in the television series “Northern Exposure”, would be my first pick.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
I have always loved books; they have affected my life in many ways. The written word is a powerful influence, so I believe I have a responsibility to my readers, as does any author, to write about what one truly understands. In my case, it’s focused on whatever makes my heart sing. That way I can offer my best to the world.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
I hope my readers will be happy they spent time with me and my family, and that I consider it a privilege to tell them my stories and introduce them to our unique way of life.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
It was called Little Black-a Pony I loved it, and now have two horses of my own.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Life in general; I’m usually doing one or the other! I try to find the humour in most situations. However, when I see people or animals in pain or suffering, it can bring me to tears.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I would have to say, my father. He died in a car accident when I was very young, and I only have a few faded memories of him. I know he was a noted artist, and I am fortunate enough to have found one of his paintings a few years ago. I have read about him, but a conversation with him would be life changing.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I like flower and vegetable gardening, baking, photography, and knife throwing. I’m currently giving fencing a try, but my shadow keeps beating me.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love period television shows from other countries, and mysteries. Combining the two are a great match for me. A few of my favourites are “The Dr Blake Mysteries”, “Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries”, “Murdock Mysteries”, “Grantchester”, and “Endeavour”. Right now I’m enjoying the new “Father Brown” series. I particularly appreciate his focus on saving souls over simply solving crimes and seeing the guilty punished. I also enjoy some past science fiction programs such as “Babylon 5”, “Star Gate SG-1”, and “Firefly”. The “Sound of Music” remains my favourite musical, and I think “Beauty and the Beast” is my favourite animated film. I guess I identify with Belle. So does that make my husband the Beast? When he snores I’m inclined to think so.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Oh, please don’t ask me to narrow that down. Is chocolate considered a food group? Since I lived in Florida for many years, I also enjoy seafood. Pasta makes the list, and ethnic foods like Chinese and Italian. Hmm…having difficulties answering this one…
I like the color blue. I like to wear royal blue sweaters and dresses and have many shades of blue in my home décor.
Since I used to sing professionally, I appreciate most styles of music. Sarah Brightman is my favorite vocalist.
I’m fond of folk music because I like to hear the stories that inspired the songs. I truly enjoy the recordings of Gordon Lightfoot.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I would continue with my wildlife art, and since I have always taken in stray animals, both wild and domestic, I would consider having a rehab and adoption facility. My other option would be working in interior design, but that could prove difficult while living on a mountain.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Her works live on…
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I hope everyone will take a moment to visit my website at http://quinnwildlifeart.com/ You will find my artwork, and links to my books, interviews, and YouTube videos. It also has updates on events, news, and special offers. Thank you for the opportunity to have this chat on your blog, Fiona, I’m much obliged.
When my husband retired from the Air Force we left Washington, D.C., to pursue a more rural lifestyle. We loved the mountains and had purchased land two years earlier in Montana. We discovered a steep learning curve to mountain living. We had to deal with wild animals, weather, and a host of other challenges when building and settling into our new home. We had many interesting and unusual experiences, and I found that sharing our stories with friends and family back east generated a lot of interest in modern frontier life. What started as amusement and entertainment for them soon evolved into a writing career for me.
Share a short excerpt from your book
"It looks like a modern-day covered wagon,” I quipped as I examined the heavy blue tarp that covered the back of our new pickup truck, a gunmetal grey Ford F250. Underneath, were stacked my husband’s tools, along with other basic necessities we would need for our new life in Montana. They filled the eight-foot bed, and overflowed into the U-Haul trailer his mother had managed to secure for us. It was the last one available in the tri-state area, and thanks to her dogged efforts, we acquired it, instead of one of the thousands of graduating seniors who were disgorging this same week from nearby Florida State University.
As we hurried about, checking the lashings one last time before we departed, I scanned the scene. It was a bright and beautiful spring day, and the sun glinting off of the metal body contrasted sharply with the shimmering tarp. Colorful as it was, I tried to imagine it was not unlike the prairie schooners of the pioneer stories I loved reading in my childhood. The idea that I too was moving west was like a dream finally come true. But it had started as a nightmare...
If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go and why?
I would love to see Greece. I missed an opportunity to visit it when I was young. It has so much history, and I think walking among the ruins and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea would be amazing experiences. I’ve also heard that Scotland and Ireland have truly beautiful scenery, and Italy’s Tuscany region would be great to explore.
Share something with us not a lot of people know about you.
I have a keen interest and background in music. I studied voice for years and sang professionally for a while. Even though I’ve remained a novice, I enjoy playing the piano and guitar.
Who designed the artwork for your cover? Or did you design it yourself?
The book cover is a photograph taken from our front porch. In my opinion, the rainbow represents hope, which is a recurring theme of the book.
How do you promote your books? Any tips you can share?
I have recently begun making YouTube videos, and started my own channel. I share recipes from my books, visits with our horses, and have future projects in development. Essentially, I focus on various fun and informative aspects of the high mountain western lifestyle. I keep them short in duration and always try to include a bit of humor.
What are your hobbies aside from writing, if any?
I enjoy reading and collecting books about design, decorating, and architecture. I also like to refinish old furniture, and collect antique glass candy dishes. I think it is fun to research their history and find out in what part of the world they were designed and manufactured. I like to garden as well, growing both flowers and vegetables.
Any last words?
I hope my efforts as a wildlife artist and author will provide a smile to those who see my work, and help inspire people to discover and pursue their own dreams.
A New Ulster May/2017
Your journey has taken you from Michigan through Florida and Washington D.C, all the way to Montana. What are your defining memories of each of these places?
I was born in Michigan, so it will always hold my earliest childhood memories. Since my father, the noted artist Boyd A Zimmer, died there when I was 6, it is the most defining memory of my life and it shaped my future. One of my strongest memories was shortly before his death, when he carried me out of our house one night after it had caught fire from a lighting strike during a violent storm. Some of my happier memories from the Great Lakes State include sitting in a Sanders Ice Cream Shop enjoying a hot fudge sundae, and spending summers in Traverse City where I played at the lake and picked cherries from the local orchards. A favourite memory is playing board games with my maternal grandmother, “Gram”. Regrettably, a couple of years after my father’s death, my mother remarried, and we moved to Florida. It would be many years before I was able to reconnect with my family in Michigan. Living in Florida was much different from life in Michigan. The intense cold of winter and the overcast days were replaced by sunshine and very warm, humid weather. The extra time spent outdoors provided me ample opportunities to pursue activities that engaged my love of both wildlife and art. By age 19 I was working in conservation law enforcement as a Duty Officer covering a third of the state, where I monitored and controlled the movements and communications of state wildlife officers responding to both routine calls and emergencies. In my spare time l handled all kinds of birds and mammals as a volunteer for the Audubon Society. This included taking many different species of birds into the schools and teaching the children about them. Seeing their faces light up is a memory I hold dear. Eventually, I gave up the security of my law enforcement post to pursue my passion for art. Perhaps it was my bond with my late father, but I always felt that my true calling was drawing, painting, and sculpting wildlife. It was a struggle at first, but eventually I established a reputation for myself and was managing fairly well. A few years later, after I had married and started a family, another pivotal moment occurred in my life. My husband had been recalled to active duty as a United States Air Force Officer, and was stationed at the Pentagon when the terrorist attack took place. My husband, fortunately, survived, but the next six years dramatically changed our daily lives. The demands of a military at war meant precious little quality time spent together, so I put my art on hold and focused on raising our two daughters. When he retired in 2007, we moved as far away from Washington, D.C., as we thought practical, preferring rural Montana and an opportunity to begin a new kind of life. We eagerly embraced the wide open spaces and breath-taking scenery. Designing and building our western home was our first big challenge and the beginning of our new adventure, and that’s really where this story starts.
As a mother, what is your view of the world that your girls have grown up in, especially when compared to your own childhood and adolescence?
Without going into upsetting details, I will admit my experiences growing up were unpleasant. Therefore, my first priority has been to give my children a happy and safe family life, filled with fun and loving memories. Country life has advantages that I wanted them to experience, and regardless of where we lived, I wanted to raise them with a sense of hope. Stepping into the outside world will have its difficulties, so my goal for my daughters is to have them prepared to face life’s realities while still achieving their dreams.
You successfully made the leap from law enforcement to art: a massive change in career path. Was it daunting to take that decision, and if so, what gave you the courage to try?
The most daunting aspect was giving up a regular pay check! The transition itself was rather smooth. I had been supplementing my income from my animal and nature drawings. Officers or biologists often asked me for wildlife illustrations and I sold some commissioned artworks as well. When I started to feel the deleterious health effects of years of erratic hours and midnight shifts, I decided to change my life and “retired” at age 23. Most of the people I knew thought it was a huge mistake and I would pay for my error in judgement. But those who knew me well were encouraging. In the end I decided I had developed a well-planned and calculated risk which was worth investing in, and so the next chapter in my life began.
Your debut book Go West, Young Woman! marks the start of another chapter in your creative life. How would you describe your writing process?
I am fortunate that I can write from my own recollections and perceptions of our family experiences. Sometimes I struggle to find the best way to present a story, but usually it flows from my mind to my keyboard. Whenever possible, I look for the humour in most experiences, and list a few notes in an outline, which makes my writing style very fluid. I prefer to write when it is quiet, but I often find myself challenged to block out the fray around me. Having a cup of tea nearby helps.
Which species is your absolute favourite subject from an artistic point of view amongst the various creatures that you have encountered?
I find that a very difficult question to answer. I love the birds of prey, with their singlemindedness and focus on the hunt. The colorations in their feathers have always fascinated me and challenged my ability to capture them realistically in my work. I have also spent countless hours with some of the larger cats – Bengal Tigers, Florida Panthers, Western Cougars, and Clouded Leopards. They have so many dimensions to their personalities, but since I now see cougars here in my own backyard, I have grown to appreciate them even more. As an artist, I love to capture that certain look in their eye that portrays their individual spirit.
What would be your advice to aspiring conservationists?
I would suggest that aspiring conservationists find the area they are most interested in and explore the possibilities. There are many opportunities in the career field: education, law enforcement, biology, marine studies, wildlife rehabilitation, forestry, and of course, art. As an example of the last option, the proceeds from one of my limited edition art prints was used to provide college tuition grants for students in New Jersey who studied conservation. Having a love and respect for nature and wildlife can be a part of your life, but doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make it a career. I recommend they explore groups and clubs that focus on conservation and find one that appeals to their ideals. Volunteer opportunities abound for all ages, but finding that spark of interest and dedication that reaches you somewhere inside is the beginning of a true conservationist.
Book Squirrel April/ 2017
What inspired you to write?
Books have always been such an influence in my life; I secretly wondered if I would ever write one. I had greatly admired the books written by James Herriot, and being a wildlife artist and having a love for animals, I enjoyed the stories of his encounters and relationships with dogs, cats, and livestock. As I grew older and began to have my own experiences with both domestic and exotic wildlife, I often thought my own true stories might make an interesting read. When my husband and I moved our family from Washington, D.C., to a rural mountain in Montana, I felt I finally had a story worth sharing in written word. My debut book, Go West, Young Woman! tells of our adventures living with our new neighbors - wolves, cougars, and grizzly bears.
What’s your favourite thing that someone else has written?
I still adore the pioneer stories like Little House on the Prairie and the Nancy Drew mystery series, so much so that I read them with my daughters.
What’s your favourite thing that you have written?
I enjoy writing about nature and the behavior of animals, so I try “painting” a picture with my words. I think some of my best writing describes the weather and climate here in Montana – thunderous summer hailstorms, water-colored sunsets of ever changing hues, and autumn frost twinkling on golden brown leaves. Other favorite topics include my “conversations” with animals, and their discussions with each other. It’s fun to describe their unique personalities by expressing their thoughts in words.
What’s your favorite season? Why?
Summer! Summer in Montana is warm and dry. We don’t have much humidity here, and I can stay outside for longer periods of time. The rolling mountains have shed their blankets of snow, the green grass is cool underfoot, and we can pick wildflowers throughout the meadows. After the morning rain passes over the mountains, we can see a rainbow or two. I get to spend more time with the horses, enjoy a different sunset every evening, and marvel at the night skies so intense with stars.
What’s the best vacation you’ve had?
Prior my husband retiring from the United States Air Force, we were investigating where we wanted to live, so we decided to take a trip out west and see a part of the country unknown to me. We rented a mini-van for a month, and spent that time exploring Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and Colorado. We traveled at our own pace and explored countless towns, looking for one to call home. The feeling of freedom from not having a schedule, combined with the scenery of the wide-open spaces and the self-reliant and self-assured people we met along the way, are memories I hold very dear.
What’s the best book you’ve read this year?
Spy Handler, a Memoir of a KGB Officer. I enjoy true stories and this book is a fascinating memoir by the Soviet agent who recruited Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames, two of America’s’ most infamous traitors. I also am a fan of Sherlock Holmes, so any story, book, or movie involving the fictional sleuth is a must read or see for me. Did you know there’s a recent book about Holmes and Watson visiting Montana?
What movie can you watch over and over again?
I love the movie Overboard with Goldie Hawn. It has some hysterical one-liners and situations that make me laugh every time.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a vocalist and win a Grammy Award! As a young woman I studied voice and learned opera with a retired instructor from Julliard. I used those skills to sing in night clubs, much to her chagrin. I sang professionally for a few years and even generated some mild interest from MCA records. Since I was never offered a contract, and it was hard juggling music with a job in law enforcement, I decided to pursue my art, and later my writing, as a career.
Name two things in life that you wish were easier.
I wish marketing my book was easier! I also wish I didn’t have to be so careful with my diet; I used to be able to eat anything without gaining weight. Now, I find myself passing up some of my favorite foods (is chocolate a food group?) for the sake of my health.
The Next Favorite Author June/2017
Nancy Quinn, Why are you THE Next Favorite Author?
My writing focuses on my family’s true life experiences in the modern west, told humorously, but with heart.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
Go West, Young Woman! is an in-depth look at what life is like in a modern western rural setting where cowboys, cattle, and carnivores are a regular fact of life. For anyone contemplating a lifestyle change or simply curious about what it’s like to live a frontier adventure, this book allows them to experience it from the comfort of their favorite chair.
As an artist I use paint and brushstrokes to create images on canvas, so words are not necessary. As a writer I strive to create colorful images and ideas using words that can engage the reader’s senses and imagination. To make it even more vivid, I’ve incorporated some of my illustrations and personal photos into the book.
Whenever possible, I prefer to write from a humorous perspective, but also incorporate some moments of pathos. I want the book to be uplifting, so hope is a recurring theme throughout, especially when life offers those difficult twists and turns we all must occasionally face.
About the Author:
Nancy Quinn was born in Royal Oak, Michigan, but has lived in many areas of the country. She is an internationally known wildlife artist whose work is noted for its detail and accuracy, and she is the recipient of two World Wildlife Art Championship awards.
Nancy has always had a love of animals and nature. After college, she worked as a conservation law enforcement duty officer for the state of Florida. She volunteered her spare time at wildlife rehabilitation centers, bringing their birds and reptiles into the schools to educate children of all ages.
Over the years she has handled many domestic and exotic species, including cougars, leopards, and tigers, and always had interesting stories to tell about her encounters with wild animals. Upon leaving a suburban lifestyle in the metro Washington, DC area, to live in rural Montana, she discovered a new world of exciting and unusual adventures. Encouraged by friends and family alike, she wrote her first book, "Go West, Young Woman!"
She now happily resides on a mountainside in Montana with her husband, daughters, dogs, and horses, where she continues to paint and write about her experiences living in the still Wild West.
Where can we buy the books?
It is currently on sale through Hellgate Press https://hellgatepress.com/nancy-quinn/go-west-young-woman
How can we follow you on Facebook? https://www.facebook.com/nancyquinn0/notifications/
What is your Twitter Handle? @nancyQauthor
Are you on GoodReads? https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14787070.Nancy_Quinn
Are there any other sites we should know about? The book trailer is fun overview of the story. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rmxcrrunEYg
Wildlife Art http://quinnwildlifeart.com/