Canadian born, Fiona Quinn is now rooted in the Old Dominion outside of D.C. with her husband and four children. She unschools, pops chocolates, devours books, and taps continuously on her laptop.
Time to chat with Fiona!
What is your latest book?
I was involved in a project with two local Sisters in Crime chapters. Sisters in Crime (SinC) is a national support organization for female crime writers, though males are welcome, as well.
Our book, Virginia Is for Mysteries is a compilation of 17 shorts stories set in and around the state of Virginia. Each story features a Virginia landmark, from the shores of Cape Henry Lighthouse to Richmond’s Old Hollywood Cemetery to Jefferson’s Monticello, transporting readers across Virginia’s rich, unique and very deadly landscape. I have two stories included, “Key to a Crime” and “Caged Bird.”
We do many public appearances — library talks, presentation, signings – getting together is always fun. We’ve hit the Amazon top 10 with our effort. And now, we are gearing up for our second book.
You have a website called ThrillWriting. Can you tell us about it, and how you help authors?
ThrillWriting celebrated its first birthday by sliding over the 100k page-view mark. (May 2014) That was hugely gratifying.
A year ago, I was looking through my notebook of research for my novels, and I thought that it might be useful to other authors. I hoped to create a resource that was a beginning point for finding the kinds of tricky details that might show up in writers’ works – sort of a one-stop-shop for mystery/suspense/thriller writers. Though, there are things on psychology and body language that could inform any genre.
In my articles, I include links to further information if an author needs to go deeper in depth, as well as videos – some I make, some I pull from YouTube – to support the ideas and make them clear.
My readers have asked me if I’m afraid of the consequences for researching some of the topics that I do, such as date-rape drugs and the NSA. I point out that I always cheer for the heroine and give her as many options for surviving as possible. I like to joke that the strip searches at the airports and the midnight interrogation visits are just another perk of my job.
While I believe the best way to write something correctly is to have experienced it, that’s not practical. So talking with someone who has expertise is a best secondary avenue. I have met fabulous experts willing to share their time and knowledge. Interviewing them and asking carte-blanche questions has really been a great deal of fun.
Writers looking for research information, or maybe just something to spark their muse, will find a bevy of information at ThrillWriting – and it’s supposed to be interactive. I have a group of experts who are willing to answer authors’ questions, and I have written many of my articles in response to writer queries.
What else have you written?
I am working on a series based on a young woman raised as an unschooler. Unschooling is like homeschool on steroids where everything is fair game for use as a learning experience. My heroine, Lexi Sobado, has the great good fortune of having an amazing brain, great physical abilities, and is pretty in a girl-next-door kind of way. But that’s the end of her good luck. The rest of her life is a non-stop nightmare, and Lexi has to put her skills to good use just to stay alive.
How often do your characters surprise you by doing or saying something totally unexpected?
All of my most dramatic scenes showed up unexpectedly. They often went further than I thought I wanted to go with a set of circumstances. After I let the idea marinate for a while, I saw that these scenes were necessary and truthful. I like that very much – stretching into a new mind set.
What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?
I love when I have my teeth into a project. I could write from the moment that I open my eyes until my fingers simply cannot type another word at the end of the day. Sometimes the characters’ voices are so clear in my head and the plot is unravelling itself before me, and then ARGH kid interruptions. I adore my kids, but being pulled between my two worlds – my true life and my creative mind space – I find actually physically painful.
Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?
I start putting words on a page when I know my story in my head and all of the quirks and details about characters. I write, flipping back and forth along the time line – very seat of the pants-y.
Right now, I am experimenting with working with a writing partner. We have an idea that sets our characters in two separate parts of the world. I write in Virginia, USA and he writes in Thailand. For this kind of writing, we are being extremely methodical about our characters and our plot line. He has even made a spreadsheet, and I only got hives looking at it the first two or three times. It’s a fabulous learning experience and mental challenge. I’m very much enjoying the process.
Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?
I believe I was born to write. I write/think about writing all day every day whether I am, paid or not. When I was in college, my aspiration was to become a travel writer. I thought that it would be the ultimate job to travel the world at someone else’s expense and to get a paycheck for doing so. I thought doing spa critiques might be my specialty… Ah, but then came young love and marriage and life and four children. I homeschooled/unschooled all of my kids. When my first two left the nest, I thought, At last! Now I can write. I thought I might write about unschooling since I was one of the pioneering families. I started unschooling decades ago, before there were any resources available. But characters kept popping their heads out and getting killed, so I thought I’d better ditch the non-fiction and stick to romantic suspense.
What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
My husband has a gift for knowing where he is and how to get from Point A to Point B. I do not. I can get lost in a building that I had just walked into. It’s very disconcerting. I would be travelling in a different city from him and call hubby all in a panic, “I’m lost. I can’t get back to the interstate.”
And he’d ask in his calm voice, “What do you see?”
“Well, there’s a funeral home and a doughnut shop.”
“Fine, turn right at the next light, and you’ll see some highway signs.”
And he’d be right, every time. It was uncanny.
Anyway, he was in a contest years ago and won a Garmin – one of the very first ones available. Being a human compass, he had no need for such an instrument and gave it to me as a gift. I LOVE it – it’s one of my all-time favorite things. It makes me feel very free. Thanks to the Garmin, I felt comfortable packing my youngest kids in the car and driving them around the United States for six weeks on an unschooling odyssey. We were never lost, and we had such a great learning opportunity.
Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?
Yes! Camel, dogsled, almost anything to get me to the next adventure – though boats might rank up with my least favorite modes of transportation right before skis.
Once, I was in the Alps on a glacier during the summer, thinking for some reason that it was a great time to learn to ski. I went to the top of the black diamond, iced slopes where little kids, that I couldn’t imagine were much past the toddler stage, and the graceful figures of women, in their bright red bikinis and matching ski boots, shot down the mountain side. I wore everything I owned, knowing I might fall a time or two while I got the hang of things.
Turns out, I could not glide gracefully like the Swiss ski bunnies. Instead, I chose to flail wildly. I ended up slipping off the path and rested during my descent by gripping a sign that I translated to mean, “Return to the path. Dangerous crevasses.” Huh. If I only had the skills to comply… I did finally get to the bottom, one lost baton and one chipped elbow later. There, Rescue had the St. Bernard dogs, I kid you not, attached to a sled ready to pull me to the top. That and a cheering crowd of laughing Swiss citizens gleefully snapping my picture. Sigh.
While that was my first ski attempt, sadly, all of my ski stories go downhill from there.
For Mother’s Day this year, my husband is taking me to try zip lining over a zoo. I get to play orangutan. I’m very excited.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?
I could live on a simple picnic – wine, bread, cheese, and fruit with chocolate for desert. I’m not a big fan of meat and am a mostly-vegetarian. I can do without heat-spice. I like to eat regionally when I travel – that’s part of the adventure.
What simple pleasure makes you smile?
Oh so many. Simple joys are the best kinds. Holding hands with my husband. My kids’ laughter. The perfect temperature outside. My dog jumping to catch his ball. The scent of freshly mown grass especially if there were wild onions in the mix. A graceful orchid.
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