[Editor’s note: This post is part of a continuing series on how writers craft words to express their ideas and to connect with readers. The interview with Ms. Quinn was conducted by Miriam Ruff on May 15, 2019, and is divided in two parts. It has been lightly edited for length and clarity. AceReader had previously interviewed Ms. Quinn about being a homeschool mom, and you can read that interview here and here.]
MR: In our previous interview, you stated that you “always knew I’d be a writer and a storyteller when I grew up.” When did you first start writing seriously? Did you take classes to learn how to craft stories, or did you learn mostly by doing?
FQ: I became a full-time author in 2015. I have taken and continue to take classes in the craft of writing as well as seeking out research opportunities and classes that provide fodder for my plots. I am of the belief that what I learn in the classes then needs to be to be applied with copious amounts of practice so that it gains my voice not the voice of my teachers. I work to improve my writing with each project.
MR: What was your first published work, and where did it appear?
FQ: I was in middle school, and I won the National Story League’s Story Contest. My story appeared in their national magazine.
MR: Which writers or books did you find inspiring or influential when you first started? Do you have different ones now that you’re a well-established author?
FQ: One of the best things I did for my children and for my writing was that I read all the Newbery Prize winners aloud to them. I read many of the classics from Lewis to Rowling. As I read, I focused on pacing, voice, and descriptive language. Now, I read a lot of non-fiction. Covers that catch my attention. Books by authors I’ve met that have intrigued me. I pick from all genres. It just has to spark my curiosity.
MR: You not only read diversely, you also have an amazingly diverse educational background. How do you draw upon that background when approaching your stories, and how/when do you look beyond what you’ve previously learned to pick up new information?
FQ: I have a history degree that helps me with research. I have a foreign language degree that helps me play with words and sentence construction. My psychology degree helps me to work with the personalities of the characters, their body language, and the trajectory of the plot based on their unique perspectives. A master’s in counseling helps me to grow my characters.
Of my non-degree education — I ’ve traveled around the world. Many of the scenes I paint, I’ve experienced. The foods, I’ve eaten. The smells, the sounds, the colors, actions, architecture, they are all part of my repertoire. I have a black belt and am trained in different types of firearms as well as other weapons and hand to hand combat, that comes up a lot in my writing. I also have spiritual training including being a Reiki Master Teacher, which is a component of my Lynx series. I am trained by FEMA and the Department of Emergency Management as a Search and Rescuer and first responder.
I am always seeking out new opportunities to add tools to my tool box. Last month, I trained to be a field medic for K-9s — everything from doing a field surgical tracheotomy to dealing with a sucking chest wound — as part of my search and rescue credentials. I think that might be showing up in a novel I’m writing this fall. This week, I wrapped up my HAM radio classes and am studying for my exam. That, too, will probably work its way into a plot line.
So fun! Learning for me is so much fun! I use my knowledge and experience in my works, hoping to bring these experiences to my readers.
MR: Do you think always learning something new, doing something different, are important things for all writers?
FQ: I highly encourage it. I am out there learning and experiencing. I understand the constraints one might have though. For example, I want to write a scene where my character is sky diving. I will not be going sky diving. However, I did go to a wind tunnel where I got to have the experience of being suspended by a 160-mph wind. It was very interesting, and I never would have guessed that it would feel like it did (especially the next day when the soreness showed up).
Another example, I’ve never been in a plane crash and hope never to be, but I was a volunteer at a mock plane crash. I got some of the sights, sounds, and smells as well as the time line, the professionals’ actions and details that I couldn’t have made up accurately.
Not everyone has the physical ability to do what I do. Not everyone lives in an area where they have access. I try to share my experiences and help my fellow writers by running a blog, ThrillWriting.blogspot.com.
MR: That’s great information. With your diverse talents, how do you tailor your writing for your specific audience(s)?
FQ: I don’t. I’ve tried, and it came out as plastic. I spend so much time with my writing; I have to write what I enjoy. I do write in different genres, but those are all aspects of things I find interesting and want to delve into deeper as a subject matter.
MR: Has writing changed the way you look at the world? If so, how?
FQ: I’ve always been an unabashed observer. Now, it has a more focused purpose. But I really like details and sitting quietly taking mental notes with all my senses.
MR: Have you thought about teaching writing, or do you do that already? Where and/or at what level?
FQ: Not at the moment. Not beyond what I teach on my blog or the talks I give for writing groups like Sisters in Crime or Romance Writers of America. I’ll keep an open mind for the future, though.
Come back next week to read Part 2 of our interview with Fiona Quinn, which will delve into more of the specifics of her writing.