Fiona Quinn is an incredibly productive and wide-ranging writer, and I was eager to know more—so I asked!
VL: Since 2014, you have published 3 shorter works in anthologies and collections, 17 novels, and 7 coauthored books, been on the USA Today Bestseller’s List 4 times. How do you do all that?
FQ: Writing is my full-time job. My work day involves research, training, writing, and business/marketing. Though, I have found that being an author is a lifestyle more than a job. I enjoy it immensely, even when things become frustrating. There are lots of puzzles to be solved with each of my tasks. I crave the experience of growing and learning.
VL: Clearly, all that you are doing works for you! I’ve now read all of your books except Ours—which is on my list, of course, and found the variations fascinating. How would you characterize each of your series? And why did you go in each of these very different directions?
FQ: Because of the way that I like to read, I developed my books to be read in various ways. All of the books written in my Iniquus World can be read as a standalone, part of the series, or as part of a world. The Iniquus World is a place of tactical suspense.
My only series where it’s best to read books 1-4 (Book 5 out in May, 2019) is the Lynx Series. This is a series that has to do with the growth arc of my character Lexi Sobado and her psychic abilities. These abilities are both helpful and devastating as they put a bullseye on her back.
Strike Force – is the name of the team that Lexi works on. In this series, each book focuses on one of the ex-special forces operators and their love interest. These books are tactical military romantic suspense, heavy on the suspense. The women are strong, resourceful, and intelligent. Their capabilities are part of the solutions.
Uncommon Enemies are the books I wrote to focus on science. These books are tactical military romantic suspense. The women are PhDs in their fields. Their brilliant minds get them into trouble. Luckily, in each book they meet the man who is their compliment, intelligent, valorous, and capable, arriving on the scene with his own sets of expertise.
Kate Hamilton Mysteries are straight-up mystery novellas. Kate is a CSI high school teacher and very good at what she does. She is married to Reaper Hamilton and is having issues at home along with the mysteries she is solving. Mine is available on Amazon. Yours is available in a charity boxed set called Summer Snoops. Money earned through this set goes to support no-kill shelters. Ours will be available in the summer. But as this is part of the Iniquus World, characters from Iniquus are involved and soon her husband, an ex-SEAL, will be working with Iniquus, too. (That’s for a series that starts this fall.)
The FBI Joint Task Force – In this series, we see the other side of the Iniquus contract. What is going on behind the scenes at the FBI and why they are hiring Iniquus special operatives to intervene. These are also tactical military romantic suspense novels.
Aside from my World of Iniquus I write If You See Kay (Badge Bunny Booze Mystery Collection) along with my dear friend Tina Glasneck. It started out as a joke, but we have learned a lot by writing these short books. They are serious mysteries hidden behind some bad puns and jokes. It’s an interesting puzzle to write something that will make someone snort their drink laughing and at the same time have a good mystery running. Tina and I have our seventh book all mapped out and ready for writing as soon as I’m done with Gulf Lynx. It’s great to break away from my individual writing to collaborate and get different sounds and voices in my head. I think this exercise helps me to keep all of my writing fresh and interesting.
The Elemental Witch Series – This series was a writing challenge I took on to help grow my skills. A friend invited me to write a dystopian urban fantasy as part of a project she was developing. My characters focus on the strengths of women and have a similar vibe to my Iniquus World but set in a future dystopia and using witchcraft for survival.
VL: Do you have a favorite series? Why is that your favorite? If you don’t have a favorite, why not?
FQ: The books I’ve written are the books I’d like to read. I love all my books like they’re my children. I think my favorite series to write has been Uncommon Enemies. All my books are fact based. These books allowed me to research scientific information and politics and marry the two in interesting ways. Though, that’s true for each of my books… Hmm, well… Actually, I think my favorite book is the one I’ve just finished writing.
VL: I can identify with that! Different, but love them every one. Many of your plots involve pretty esoteric knowledge or skills—which I love! How do you come up with those ideas? And how do you research them?
FQ: The spark for my novels comes from different places. It could be an article I just read, a person I just met, or in the instances of my FBI novel COLD RED, a swamp that I just fell into.
My first choice in getting the writing right is to try something—or as close of a something as I can. I write about my research and training on my blog ThrillWriting. My second choice is to find someone who has performed that action as part of their job. For example, I’ve just made friends with a CIA analyst who worked in the USSR, and then the Middle East. We eat lunch together, and he talks about his experiences. I get to ask lots of questions. My third way to learn is to read autobiographies and lots of non-fiction. I gather all of the data, I knead it together, and out comes my plot.
VL: In my opinion, your work as a whole carries several meta-messages—things the reader take away from the story without it being explicitly stated. For example, your major women characters are all smart and capable, even the ones who are rescued by Iniquus, and active in meeting the plot challenges/solving the mystery. Virtually all of your primary characters are physically attractive and fit. All the hero(in)es are loyal, honorable, dependable, helpful, and as non-violent as the situation allows. Did you do that on purpose? Are there message you try to convey?
FQ: Yes, actually. I wanted to write about men and women that I would respect, and those traits that you’ve listed are the traits I look for in those I surround myself with, and the traits I tried to engender in my children.
Physically fit to get the job done, build health, and develop dedication/discipline. Morally strong. Generous and kind with one’s talents. Multi-dimensional with a breadth of knowledge as well as a depth of specialized knowledge. Grace in the challenges presented. I think people who have these traits are inherently attractive.
My characters all have to use their capabilities to survive. If someone says, “you do it,” then the task cannot be accomplished. All characters have something important to contribute and without their specific contributions, the solution would never be found.
I’d add to your list an ability to work with a team, setting ego aside.
VL: Hmmm, yes, good addition. Your plots are pretty convoluted and at the end, I say to myself, “Yeah, I can see that!” Do you know the ending when you start writing? Would you say you are a plotter or a pantser?
FQ: I call myself a planter, a combination of plotter and pantser. I know my story. I know how it ends. The journey often takes me in directions I hadn’t conceived. As the characters reveal themselves, as the tasks they are undertaking get thwarted, I enjoy the discovery. But there is a strong skeleton that I am fleshing out when I sit down to write.
VL: And what skeleton are you going to be fleshing out next?
FQ: I am finishing up book 5 of the Lynx series, Gulf Lynx. This year I plan to finish the Kate Hamilton trilogy and her husband is joining Iniquus, so I will get to know a new Iniquus team with the first book of a new series. I have another FBI book that wants to be written. Tina and I have some Badge Bunny books we want to get done. It’s a busy writing year! I give each book the time and space it needs, so we’ll see how far I get with my list.
VL: What about your personal life? From your FB posts, I know you have a “hubby” and more than one child. But do you have pets, hobbies, outside activities?
FQ: I have a husband, four children, one grandchild. I have a dog, Little Bear, who was on the team that developed the protocol for training diabetes alert dogs. He’s a very special dog, who has kept Kid #4 seizure-free for over ten years.
I am active in my community by volunteering with the Search and Rescue team, Community Emergency Response Team, and Medical Reserve Corps. Right now, I am training to take the HAM radio certification test. I’m about to take off for four days to learn about tactical K-9 field medical care. I read and do art. I enjoy my friendships. I travel and try new things. I just got back from Florida where I did indoor skydiving since I am too chicken to jump out of a plane. So, I stay busy.
VL: I’d call that the perfect example of understatement! But then, you’ve always struck me as a very energetic person. When I think of you at writing-related events, the image that comes to mind is bright red dress and lipstick, a flamboyant delivery. Is that the real you? How would you describe your personality?
FQ: I am multifaceted. I really enjoy putting on a red dress and my bright red lipstick and telling stories that engage people. I feel wonderful when I can make people laugh, or gasp. I also enjoy dressing in yoga pants and curling up on a friend’s couch for a quiet talk with a cup of tea. I’m also a nerdy introvert who likes to hide in my office thinking, thinking, thinking. And I find I’m my best when I mix up the three. My default, though, is the nerdy introvert. It’s a choice to get out there and extrovert (as a verb).
VL: Last but far from least, how can people get in touch with you and follow your writing life?
FQ: The easiest place to find everything you need—from a sign up for my newsletter, to my social media, to my news—is all on my website www.fionaquinnbooks.com. I hope you’ll visit!
VL: You are a fascinating and appealing writer. Thank you for sharing with my readers!