Thursday, December 1, 2011

Authorsday: Vonnie Winslow Crist

Author Bio: Vonnie Winslow Crist is a contributor to Faerie Magazine, a columnist for Harford's Heart Magazine, an illustrator for The Vegetarian Journal, and editor of The Gunpowder Review. Her fantasy short story collection, The Greener Forest, in which the world of Faerie mingles with our workaday world, was published in 2011 by Cold Moon Press: Her award-winning fiction has appeared in Dragon's Lure, Tales of the Talisman, Shelter of Daylight, Cemetery Moon, While the Morning Stars Sing, Dia de los Muertos, Potter's Field 4,Sideshow 2, and elsewhere. You can find her at:
1.      What drew you to the subject of The Greener Forest? Since I was a child, I've always believed magical beings existed in the most mundane places: The moth fluttering around the porch-light could as easily be a fairy as not. The mouse nibbling on a few seeds scattered beneath the birdfeeder might be gathering intelligence for the garden gnomes. The creature that scoots into a hole between the roots of a tree before you can get a good look at it might be a woodchuck or it might be a goblin. And it's that “why not?” attitude about the mysterious and supernatural that I wanted to write about in The Greener Forest.
2.      Did you encounter any obstacles in researching it? I think the hardest part about researching the individual supernatural creatures I used in the stories was the limited number of resources with specific details about the less familiar Faerie beings. It's easy to find lots of general information, especially on well-known creatures like mermaids, flower fairies, dragons, and elves – but there's limited information on the more obscure Faerie beings like spriggans, gremlers, bogles, and such. I ended up “filling in the blanks” with my own details when it came to the habits and physical appearance of those lesser-known creatures. Since I totally made up a couple of beings (applehead gnomes and Muds), those necessary leaps of imagination were great fun!
3.      What was the name of the first novel you wrote? Did you try to publish it? Enchanted Skean is the first novel I wrote. It's a YA-Cross-Over fantasy novel set in Lifthrasir – a world of my creation. Against odds, I secured a New York agent for the novel, but not long afterward, her agency closed and the agent retired from the business. Sigh. I've just recently decided to try and find a publisher for Enchanted Skean  myself. I'm hoping if the manuscript was good enough to attract the attention of an agent, it will catch the eye of an editor at a publishing house. We'll see! By the way, a “skean” is a dagger.
4.      What was the best writing advice someone gave you? Best advice: Always have multiple submissions “out” at publishers at all times. You can't get published if you don't submit your work. You increase your odds of publication if you have lots of your stories (or poems or artwork) on the desks or in the in-boxes of various editors. And while your poems, stories, novel, etc. are looking for a home – you should be busily creating new work.  Practicing your craft and persistence really do work!
5.      What was the worst? Did you know it at the time? The worst advice was actually included on a rejection slip. Years ago, I submitted a speculative short story to a small press publisher who not only rejected the story – but send me a handwritten note that said not to send anything else to him, and as a favor to all editors, to stop writing/submitting my fiction. After my initial gasp, I decided to prove him wrong rather than listen to his advice. I sent the story to another editor the following week who accepted the tale, and published the story (without any changes) a few months later in his small press magazine. What's the message? If you work at the craft of writing and believe in your work – don't let others discourage you.
6.      Tell me one thing about yourself that very few people know? Though I haven't taken karate classes in years, I earned a blue belt in Kenpo karate and was about to take my test for a brown belt when I suffered a wrist injury. Since I'm an illustrator as well as a writer, I sadly stopped karate classes. I still miss the concentration, beauty, and dance-like movements of karate.
7.      What’s your favorite quote? “Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”- St. Francis of Assisi. I think this advice works in the writing world as well as life. I started out writing poetry, then flash fiction, then short stories, and finally novels. When I wrote my first 7,000-word story – I could hardly believe it. When I began submitting my writing, I sent it to small, local publications. Gradually, I built up the courage to send my words out to larger publications in the USA and beyond. When I saw a book of mine displayed at a bookstore for the first time, I felt like I'd done the impossible!
8.      What’s your favorite thing about your book? I love the fact that I was able to include not only my fiction, but also a few subject-appropriate poems and illustrations in The Greener Forest. My editor was receptive to using poems and drawings of some of the Faerie creatures as “bridges” between stories. But you can only view the illustrations and old manuscript-like borders in the print or PDF versions – other electronic versions include just the poems and stories. For those interested in seeing a bit of my art (besides the cover illo), here's a link to a free, down-loadable Greener Forest maze that I drew:
9.      What is your favorite writing reference book and why? As much as I value a dictionary, a thesaurus is the ultimate reference book for a writer. I think we all have our favorite words and “go to” verbs. A thesaurus gives us other options, many of them wonderfully nuanced, some of them archaic, others truly poetic. I know and use lots of words, but I'm always amazed at the words from various cultures and sources that pop up in a thesaurus. And a rich vocabulary is a boon to any writer.
10.  What is the one thing your hero would do that you wouldn’t? There are 13 stories in The Greener Forest, so there are 13 heroes. But I must say that in the tale, Blame it on the Trees, the hero, Berg, jumps into a grizzly bear enclosure at the zoo to save a teenager who's fallen in with the bears. As brave as I'd like to think I am, and as much as I'd like to think I'd face anything for the sake of my children, grand-kids, or anyone's child – I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have the nerve to jump into a grizzly bear enclosure. And that's probably a good thing! But not only does my character, Berg, face off against the trio of bears – he chooses to try and save someone who'd just been unkind to him and his friends. Brave and forgiving. I think many of us would like to have those traits.

Book Blurb: In The Greener Forest anything is possible. Silver maples sing in angel-song. Spriggans skulk about cypress knees and wreak havoc at an amusement park. The Applehead Lady's true identity is revealed by moonlight. A scarecrow finds true love in an ash grove. And a wayward beech tree sends a woman into the arms of a kindhearted giant. These stories and more lead the reader into the places where Faerie and the everyday world collide. Discover that all is not what it seems at first glance, and wondrous things still happen in The Greener Forest.


1 comment:

Alice said...

Interesting interview. Thanks for posting it.