I spoke to Fiona Quinn about her recently launched novel, WEAKEST LYNX, the first in the Lexi Sobado series. WEAKEST LYNX is a Kindle Scout winner published through Kindle Press, and the second novel launches on May 21st.
Fiona:It’s been very interesting. This is my debut novel. All of my other projects have been collaborative efforts, so I feel like I’m wobbling without my training wheels for the first time.
Jennifer:But a good feeling, yes?
Fiona:Lovely. My cheeks are sore from smiling.
Jennifer:I think readers would love to know more about you. Can we start with your ‘Toolbox Philosophy’?
Fiona:A Toolbox Philosophy: “My poor children,”–that’s the way many of my stories begin. I’ve experimented on them their whole lives. One of the things that I wanted them to master was the ability to learn – to feel uncomfortable, to (exert) effort, and then to gather their speed until they took off. I felt that the more disparate skills they knew, the easier it would be to gather new abilities. Let me explain. An ability to ride a horse provides patience and leg strength; the patience helps them to stew over a math problem, the leg strength helps them kick better in martial arts; the martial arts then allows them to rise above the stress in a situation where they need to think on their feet – in a debate or an interactive speech or even a conversation where they should not let emotion manipulate outcome – and so forth. I try to apply it to my own life as well. It makes life an adventure.
Jennifer:Some of the qualities I’ve picked up about you include this amazing competence and dedication–to family, to writing, to discovering new things, like joining the Police and Fire Citizens’ Academies. Can you share with us what drives you; how you find the energy to do all this and keep up a blog with thousands of followers and over a million views?
Fiona:Well, I’m super woman. And I tell that to anyone who will listen. It gives my kids the opportunity to exercise their eyeballs with vigorous rolls. The truth is I have set a goal to become a know-it-all. I love learning new things and sharing the learning experience with my family and friends – it’s also a great way to meet fabulous characters. In the big picture, my family gives me purpose and grounding; my writing takes me to my own worlds that I get to create. I think that I aim for balance and this is my juggling act so I get to choreograph it the way I want to with the tools available to me in that moment – and sometimes life juggles me in return.
Jennifer:Yes, life does do that:). What draws you to the thriller genre?
Fiona:I didn’t know I was a suspense/thriller writer until I started writing A.T. (That’s AFTER TEENS – I’ve processed one set of teens through to adulthood and am now working on my second set.) With my background in psychology I would think that I’d write women’s fiction. With my background in history, I would think historical or historical romance. With my background in languages and traveling, I should perhaps have penned a Traveling Pants kind of story but when I put my fingertips to the keyboard, people start to die. Freud would have a field day with me.
Vincent:How long have you been writing, Fiona?
Fiona:I have been telling and writing stories since I was two years old at Montessori School. I remember some of them even now and the friends I would tell them to. I love to tell stories. I kissed the Blarney stone three times. Well, four – but that last one I took an actual bite. When I went to college I wanted to be a travel reporter – travelling the world and getting paid to have adventures. But I fell in love and with love comes responsibility. Now that I’m down to only two kids – and half the noise – I’ve been writing my stories for others – so for 4 years.
Jennifer:When you start a book, is it a character or a plot that gets you writing?
Fiona:It’s a scene. A scene comes to me full blown. I know everything about the scene. I know the characters. I know EXACTLY what they are wearing, saying, doing, and why they are doing it. My task is to get a story to reach that scene and then be resolved. In WEAKEST LYNX it was the balloon scene. Kidding. In Weakest Lynx it was the howling scene. I needed to tell the story that made Lexi howl.
Jennifer:So Lexi is in place. (And we’re not going to dodge that balloon scene.) How did Lexi come about? In some senses, she seems quite connected to Fiona Quinn. You’re physically incredibly active: a 2nd Dan Tae Kwon Doe Black Belt and archery instructor, who just so happens to shoot (guns).
Fiona:I actually used my daughter #1 as a template. Some people tell me that Lexi has too many skills for 21. But here’s what my daughter could do at 21: she became a telemetry nurse, a champion horseback rider, hunts her own food, shoots better than anyone I know (professionals included), 2nd dan TKD, is an award winning artist, can take a truck apart and put it back together, is a gourmet cook – ha! I raised a know-it-all. (And like Lexi, she has no clue that her bag of tricks is unusual; she is very humble and sweet.) These are just some of my daughter’s qualifications; but you see, she was raised with the toolbox philosophy that I explained through Lexi’s unschooling days – she didn’t spend her time on dioramas and memorizing State capitals. Kid #1, like Lexi, spent her time gaining skillsets that overlap and feed each other. That’s what I was trying to portray.
Jennifer:Gosh, she sounds incredible. I was intrigued by the notion of unschooling as opposed to home schooling. I should say, one of the things I love about the novel is how people who don’t perceive themselves in any conventional sense as extraordinary, are exactly that. Master Wang at the dry cleaner’s, who teaches Lexi Kung Fu, and her Kitchen Grandmothers. That’s what makes Lexi interesting to me. Can you talk a bit about this?
Fiona:So a bit of vocabulary. Homeschooling often follows a set curriculum that includes a certain number of hours per week with a fanny in the chair and activity sheets – tests etc. Unschooling is more exploratory and in my house it means we take advantage of anything that presents itself as a lesson – it could be anything from baking, to dissecting the dead thing we found in the woods, to a midnight call from the herp society that the salamanders are spawning and a trip out to the woods to see nature in action.
Jennifer:I love that; it makes good sense to me. Another element that struck me in the novel is the way relationships are built between Lexi and the Iniquus team (fabulous name), with food an integral component. Do you see food as rallying in general or as a facet of Lexi’s generosity? Both, maybe?
Fiona:Sadly, it just means that I wish someone else would cook dinner. So the Kitchen Grandmothers were stepping in to Lexi’s life at the behest of Master Wang’s wife Snow Bird. Lexi’s mom was dying and she would only have her father left. Snow Bird was trying to give Lexi roots. The language, culture,and culinary skills cooked up under the watchful eyes of her kitchen grandmothers were just the kind of roots that Lexi would gravitate toward and enjoy (Snow Bird was a wise woman). Lexi is naturally a nurturing person and food is a way to be communal and make connections. Lexi was never made to be a lone wolf – she wants to run with a pack. After I wrote the food scenes with Strike Force I had a chuckle over the idea that the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.
Lisa Weaver:I’ve only begun reading your fabulous story, Fiona, but I am enjoying it immensely! I love how, the moment we meet her, we get a sense of Lexi’s many dimensions and complexities.
Fiona:In Lexi we see someone who was never told she was special. She was encouraged, and given opportunity, but she never performed on a public stage until she was performing in front of Strike Force and then Iniquus (her employer). No grades. No awards. No sports medals. Instead her parents set it up so that everything was a challenge. A learning experience. A tool for her toolbox. Lexi didn’t do it for glory or strokes. She exerted effort because that’s what kind of animal Lexi is – a naturally gifted athlete, intellect, human – who was shaped and molded by the loving hands of those around her who wanted her to be her best self whatever that was. Nobody set expectations for Lexi because Lexi never needed that – her curiosity and drive to learn did that for her.
Jennifer:Here’s a question about Angel: I wondered whether he was a McGuffin and why you chose to have Lexi married. He’s a key obstacle to Lexi’s connection to Striker, but is there more you want us to know?
Fiona:My original book is 5k words longer than the end result. In those 5k purged words, you meet Angel through his correspondence and phone conversations. But they watered down and slowed the story. You have to remember my “scene” that seeded this whole story was Lexi howling for Angel. So Angel was a required element. I really love Angel, and I still sob big gloopy sobs when I read that scene. Angel is incredibly important to the whole story and to Lexi. He gave her roots (a family), a purpose and a drive and a goal (setting up her home) when Lexi’s whole world came shattering down at the fire. He was the focus of her hopes and dreams. His coming home was the horizon Lexi focused on so she could deal with the fear that the stalker had infected her with. Angel drove Lexi’s story and still drives it through book 2 MISSING LYNX.
Jennifer:I want to talk about the series and your other books, but just a quick question about the psychic and metaphysical facets of the novel that are so compelling, for example healing and Reiki. You’re a Reiki master and teacher, right?
Fiona:Yes, I am. And like Lexi, I have had many inexplicable experiences while using this healing tool.
Jennifer:I found some of Lexi’s responses intense and visceral, beautifully rendered.
Fiona:Why thank you.
Jennifer:Tell us about your other books and what it was like to co-author/collaborate with other writers.
Fiona:I was first published with two short stories in a book called Virginia Is for Mysteries, a book put together by my Sisters In Crime chapter and published by Koehler Books. My next effort was a novella Mine that was part of Unlucky Seven that was lucky enough to be a #1 bestseller in Mystery Anthologies. spearheaded by USA Today Bestselling author Jamie Lee Scott. And I co-wrote Chaos Is Come Again with a man I met on Twitter, John Dolan. He was a CEO for an electrical company in Dubai – but hailed from London and lived part time in Thailand. We Skype-wrote the book – it was a fabulous learning experience and quite the adventure!
Jennifer:Not an easy thing to do, but definitely rewarding if it works. Moving on to Kindle Scout…what made you want to join the program, and what do you like about the experience?
Fiona:I wanted to be part of Kindle Scout because it seemed to embrace the best of the indie world and the traditional publishing world. One of the things that drew me to it was that KS was pioneering a new take on publishing, and I enjoy being on the front end of an adventure. It’s been a fabulous experience. I’m so pleased with my edits and the quick publication of my work. The crew over at Kindle Scout and Kindle Press couldn’t be lovelier. I appreciate their enthusiasm.
Jennifer:And now it’s over to you–is there anything you’d like to add or chat about that we haven’t covered (the balloon scene comes to mind)?
Fiona:Ha! I loved the balloon scene – Lexi has no idea that she’s such a crazy mixture of femme fatale and pure innocence. I also love the idea that her mom knew what Lexi was learning from Chablis and must have thought that was a good thing because she didn’t intervene. So when Lexi got the reaction she did from Striker Rheas, she was truly confused by his laughter. Poor sheltered girl. Funny that that scene is the one that people seem to hold on to.
Jennifer:Anything else that you want to share with your readers?
Fiona:I loved every minute of working with Lexi’s story. And I love that I finally get to share it with you – thank you all so much for you kind words, questions, curiosity, and support. It’s been a humbling and fabulous experience. I feel like champagne is dancing in my veins.
Jennifer:I’m sure we’d all like to know about the series:)
Fiona:Ah well MISSING LYNX will be out May 21 – Lexi has a new neighbor move in, and it’s not good. Lynx has a long time enemy that wants to use her as a pawn in her game with Marcos Sylanos. Here, poor Lexi finds herself in a 3rd world hell hole trying to escape. CHAIN LYNX is out June 21. CUFF LYNX Book 4 has presented its seed scene, and I am plotting it out now. I’m really going to have fun with number four – and the scary part is — well that’s another story for another day.
Joseph Souza:Great job!
Kate Kelly:I’m completely captivated by your book, Fiona. It’s keeping me up at nights! Congratulations. You’ve done a beautiful job.
Fiona:Thank you most kindly. There’s no bigger compliment to a writer, I think, than lost sleep and cereal for dinner.
Jennifer:That’s awesome; lots and lots to look forward to! Thanks for talking to us, Fiona. I enjoyed the book and finding out more about you and your process.
Fiona:My great pleasure, thanks Jennifer!
Linda Sands:(Sorry I stepped out of this, but I’m starting the book tomorrow and didn’t want any spoilerz.) Will you adopt me, Fiona? You have to know. I screen shot your 21 yr old daughter’s attributes and texted it to my 21 yr old son. 💕💕
Fiona:She was already snapped up and is happily married, Linda, though that might have been the start to a very fun story. What is that a face of? I can’t see the emoticon; is he crying?
Linda:Yes. Laughing so hard he’s crying. less of a hook up than a-hey, look how cool some girls are-moment, as my son just turned 21 last month and still trying to figure things out. Ps. How can you possibly have a married daughter??? You must have started very very very early!
Fiona:Yes, I was a scientific anomaly. I actually have 2 settled daughters. (I’ll be 50 on Halloween.) So, did your son roll his eyes at you?
And on that cliffhanger, let’s wish Fiona and Lexi success out there. Videos and images of WEAKEST LYNX can be found on Pinterest, and both the Kindle and paperback editions can be found on Amazon. MISSING LYNX is available for pre-order here.