Glad to see you again!
We have another author to talk to: Vonnie Winslow Crist! She's a fantasy author with...well, why don't I let her tell you?
Vonnie Winslow Crist is author of Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps; Dragon Rain; Beneath Raven's Wing; The Enchanted Dagger; Owl Light; The Greener Forest; Murder on Marawa Prime; and other award-winning books. A member of SFWA and HWA, her speculative writing appears in publications in Australia, Japan, India, Italy, Spain, Germany, Finland, Canada, the UK, and USA. Believing the world is still filled with mystery, magic, and miracles, Vonnie strives to celebrate the power of myth in her writing.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I have loved words since I was young. An avid reader, I began to write poetry with some seriousness in my late twenties. It wasn't until ten years later that I started writing prose. At first, I tried to write mainstream fiction, but I found I couldn't keep the speculative elements out of the stories. I think I comfortably settled into the "speculative writer" niche in my late forties, and have happily been writing science fiction, fantasy, and horror poetry and prose for more than 20 years.
Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
For my short stories, including those in my newest book, “Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps,” I usually begin with an unusual celebration, a scrap of mythology, a bit of quirky scientific information, or an event from my life. An example would be the Night Raven character from German folklore that I used as inspiration for the final story in the collection. I asked (and answered in my story): What if the child the Night Raven intended to kidnap asked the creature to be instead a Good Raven and sing her to sleep?
I used a modern day celebration in my fantasy novel, “The Enchanted Dagger.” The costumed dog parades sponsored by various Animal Rescue groups were the beginning place for my Clock Day Parade: “Dogs were welcome to accompany their owners to Clock Day, for it had been watch dogs that had warned the town of the approaching villains on that legendary morning when the Millak flesh-eaters attacked. The central square and nearby side streets swarmed with tail-waggers of all sorts, from the fancy lapdogs of the wealthy to the flea-bitten mongrels of street urchins...” In the novel, not only do the dogs wear costumes, they march in an honored position with the mayor's guards.
I also used a grim family story of one of my ancestors who was buried in two places as the inspiration for the reason “The Enchanted Dagger's” main character, Beck, has to journey to a distant graveyard to retrieve his father's bones. Here's the link for those who would like to read an excerpt: https://www.wattpad.com/226314378-the-enchanted-dagger-an-excerpt
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love to read, draw, garden, cook, stitch creative projects, and spend time with my family and friends. I also love to travel. When I travel, I enjoy reading about the places I visit before I go there. After I'm home, my travel experiences often worm their way into my writing.
How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?
I began the author journey with the publication of a children's book, “Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales.” Next, I had 2 volumes of poetry published, “Essential Fables” and “River of Stars.” Then, a fantasy novel, “The Enchanted Dagger,” 4 speculative short story collections: “The Greener Forest” (filled with Faerie creatures), “Owl Light” (packed with owls), “Beneath Raven's Wing” (over-flowing with ravens), “Dragon Rain” (bursting with dragons), and a science fiction novelette, “Murder on Marawa Prime,” appeared. My most recent Middle-Grade/Young-Adult story collection, “Shivers, Scares, and Goosebumps,” was published on September 3, 2022.
As to my favorite book, it is the new novel I am working on at the moment!
Do you have any suggestions to help someone become a better writer? If so, what are they?
Persist! 1-Write as often as possible. 2-Study the craft of writing. 3-Read the genres you are interested in writing. 4-Research markets. 5-Submit your work following guidelines carefully. 6-Celebrate acceptances. 7-Learn from rejections. 8-Repeat steps 1 through 7 again and again. 8-Persist, because “overnight success” takes years of hard work to achieve.
What do you think makes a good story?
A beginning, middle, and end. Characters who are interesting. A problem the protagonist must confront which feels real and overwhelming. A valiant attempt by the protagonist to solve their problem (whether they are able to do so or not). A satisfying conclusion.
Does writing energize or exhaust you?
Both! Sometimes I feel a terrible need to get a narrative onto the page. When that story or chapter is finally out of my brain and onto paper (or screen), I feel both exhilarated and tired. Of course, what I have written isn't perfect. Later, I will rewrite and polish the story.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to do both! While I challenge myself to bring fresh ideas to my fiction, I know if I don't write something readers want to read the book or story will never find a place in their hearts. An example, is my tale, “Henkie's Fiddle.” I created a modern take on a couple of lesser-known Faerie creatures AND I tried to write a tale readers would enjoy. Here's the link to a “Cast of Wonders” free podcast (and text) of my dark fantasy story, “Henkie's Fiddle.” http://www.castofwonders.org/2016/03/episode-202-henkies-fiddle-by-vonnie-winslow-crist
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Yes! I think if you are writing non-fiction, you need to remove your personal preferences and emotions from the prose. When I write non-fiction, I try to stick with the facts and keep “me” out of the writing. But as I have taught creative writing students for years, poetry and fiction rely on your five physical senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch), and that ambiguous sixth sense—emotions.
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Just go for it! I was, and sometimes still am, hesitant to send my fiction out to publishers. I suppose it goes back to my younger years when a female was discouraged from taking a non-traditional path. And writing science fiction, dark fantasy, and even fantasy was certainly not considered traditional.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I suppose I would choose a dragon, since I was born in the Year of the Dragon. Dragons are a creature of imagination, though some might say they were born of science (paleontology and dinosaur bones). Since I love fairy tales, myths, legends, folklore, and science fiction, a dragon seems the perfect spirit animal. That said, I do love ravens, owls, wolves, dogs, horses, cats...
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Sigh, I am embarassed to answer this one. I have at least a dozen books, both fiction and non-fiction books, in various states of begun-but-not-completed. One of my flaws as a writer is too many ideas and not enough time to address them all. To help with the situation, I have added the quote, “Finish the things you have started” to my writing bulletin board. But I am not sure it is helping.
What does literary success look like to you?
Telling all the stories in my head, having them published, and finding readers who want to share the worlds I have created.
What do you have coming next?
Lots of short stories appearing in various speculative anthologies, a “Best of Fantasy” collection titled “By Scant Moonlight,” another collection of MG/YA scary stories and illustrations, a collection of science fiction stories, a collection of horse stories, several non-fiction books, and another novel or two. I try to keep busy!
Links to Vonnie's social media:
Amazon Author's Page: https://www.amazon.com/Vonnie-Winslow-Crist/e/B001KCR6PE