Good morning lovelies. So today starts the day of my ‘Meet the Author‘ week! I’ve got five fabulous authors for your to get to know this week, starting with the lovely Alice McVeigh. We’re talking living her childhood dream, ghost writing for celebs, travelling in an orchestra, embarrassing moments, interrogation, her most recent book, Susan, and more……
Historical/women’s/Jane Austenesque fiction (contemporary fiction for Orion/Hachette, Jane Austen fiction for Warleigh Hall Press).
How many books have you written and published?
Two novels with “big four” publishers Orion/Hachette, one thriller with UK publisher Unbound – and one historical novel I rejected every offer for, and chose to publish personally.
I trained as a professional cellist, and have performed with most of London’s main orchestras.
Now you learn a lot about human nature playing in orchestras: people are in very close contact, often travelling the world together and well, we all know about musicians’ egos!!!
So I used to scribble short stories about the orchestras I loved and/or hated, and, one day, I wove several of these short stories together into a novel.
I sent it off to five agents, not expecting anything, but I was super-lucky, and one of the first five agents I approached accepted me, and won me a two-novel contract with Orion (now Hachette: one of the “big four” publishers).
But the publishing world is tough, and – even though I sold the film rights to my first novel to UK’s Channel 4 – Orion dumped me after my second novel failed to go above 75 on the UK bestseller list.
So, I turned to ghost writing books for celebrities. I’ve ghosted (or novelised) over fifty memoirs for others, but it wasn’t until my daughter went off to Oxford that I started writing for myself again.
Since then I’ve written four novels and published two: a thriller called Last Star Standing and the first in a series of Jane Austen novels called Susan: A Jane Austen Prequel. (The third, a sequel to Susan, will be released next January.)
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A writer! I started writing at eight, scribbling stories for my younger sister. I finished my first – embarrassingly bad – novel when I was 13.
The reason for this was probably that I grew up in Asia, in Seoul, Bangkok, Singapore and Myanmar. My father was a US diplomat and, in those days, expats couldn’t get American TV. So my sister and I did almost nothing but read and write. A bit like the Brontes, but not so talented!!!
I first told my mother I was going to be a writer when I was six… BUT I changed my mind at 13, when we moved back to the USA and I first heard Rostropovich playing the cello.
From 13 to 30, all I wanted to be was a professional cellist. I still combine playing cello with writing novels, but being a classical musician is rather like being a ballet dancer… not something one can really combine with anything else… so, I mostly write now.
Other than writing, what else do you enjoy doing?
Before Covid, I loved to travel. (I have lived in seven countries and visited 44.)
Before Covid, my husband and I loved seeing plays in London. I’ve missed that so much!!
And I love love love tennis – not only playing, though I play four times a week – I also waste many happy hours watching professional tennis. In fact, having watched so many hours of amazing tennis, it’s pretty amazing I’m not a better player than I am… ☹
I also love being in Crete, where we have a second home by the sea.
I love looking at the sea from my desk – and then turning to the computer and writing.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
This would probably date back to when I used to spend weeks at a time working with the Ulster Orchestra, in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Wonderful, amazing group of people!!! – but, back then, there were the “troubles”.
I once felt an IRA bomb, under my feet, in Belfast. It was in the next street, but still, I felt it.
And once, the British army pulled me – and my cello – off of a plane from Heathrow to Belfast, and interrogated me. Apparently, I closely resembled a female IRA terrorist, and they thought my American accent assumed!!! Luckily, I was able to convince them that they’d got the wrong person in the end.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you (that you’re willing to share?!)
Well, I was touring Japan with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, which I did several times.
Now orchestras tend to make fun of the viola sections (long story!)
Anyway, this conductor, who was quite a funny guy, used to get the viola section to stand up – to wild applause – simply because he’d played viola professionally himself, before he’d become famous. And one day, at breakfast in the hotel where the orchestra was staying, I teased him about this, saying that the cellos deserved this honor, because we were waaaaaaaaaay better than the violas.
At the next concert, in Osaka, he got the violas to stand (wild applause) and then turned and pointed at me – me, and me alone – and remember, I was only the FOURTH cellist, NOT the first cellist – and forced ME to stand up too (wild applause).
And the funniest part was that quite a few Japanese kids in the audience, wrongly assuming I must have done something clever, queued at the exit and asked for my autograph!!!!
(Yes, that conductor got his revenge…)
What drew you to write – as much as you can – like Jane Austen?
Jane Austen was always my favourite writer: I must have read each of her completed novels between 50 and 70 times. I even asked my starry agent if I could write about Austen’s Lady Susan when she was only sixteen, but she didn’t think it was a good plan, not literary enough.
For that reason, I gave up on the idea for quite a while… but I still wanted to write it – and now I have!
It’s already been #1 in Amazon’s Classic Historical Fiction and four other Amazon categories, and Publishers Weekly BookLife rated it as perfect: 10 out of 10. So I’m really, really happy with its first few months!! (published June 30, 2021).
It’s on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Waterstones (in the UK), and all good bookshops. Also available in audiobook.
If you’d like, do please connect with me on social media!!!
thanks so much to alice for being my first author of the week!
If you have any questions or comments for Alice make sure you get in touch.
See you tomorrow lovelies