Vonnie Winslow Crist, SFWA, HWA, is author of Dragon Rain, Benneath Raven’s Wing, The Enchanted Dagger, Owl Light, The Greener Forest, Murder on Marawa Prime, and other books. Her speculative writing appears in publications in Japan, India, Australia, 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.
You can visit Vonnie’s web site : HERE.
“The world is full of magic, mystery, and miracles. We just need to look, listen, and believe that wondrous things are still possible.”
– Vonnie Winslow Crist
THE INTERVIEW: Vonnie Winslow Crist
Would you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a mom and granny who lives in a rural area of Maryland (USA) with my husband and our rescue dog. Besides writing, I love to garden, walk in the woods, read, draw, and paint. In fact, I’ve had over 1,000 illustrations published. I’m also a clover-hand, which means I can find 4-leafed clovers easily. Supposedly, clover-hands can see Faerie Folk. I will neither confirm nor deny that I see gnomes, elves, trolls, fairies, and their kin.
Tell us a little bit about your latest project.
On September 3, 2021, Mocha Memoirs Press will publish my newest story collection, Dragon Rain. It’s an anthology of 18 dragon-filled stories set in locations around the globe or in fantastical worlds. The tales are brimming with magic, mystery, miracles, adventure, and dragons. Some of the stories were previously published (in whole or in part), but many of those are now out-of-print. If published before, the stories have been changed and expanded. I’m a constant reviser—always looking to improve. Even if a reader has seen a couple of the dragon stories before, they’ll be reading lots of fresh material.
What is your next writing project?
Publishers change schedules, so I cannot say for certain, but I believe a non-fiction book I co-authored on writing for anthologies will be next. After that, I expect a novel, Beyond the Sheercliffs, in my Chronicles of Lifthrasir series to see print. Then, there’s a collection of magical horse stories. Of course, I could be wrong, and a whole different set of books are released next!
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I love research and I’m often inspired by the information I discover along the way. I research for as long as needed—sometimes an hour, other times I do research for days.
Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Yes! I love to shuffle, mangle, and combine the names of family and friends, then use them as names of places, people, races, etc. in my books. There are also true family stories which have been fictionalized and woven into my narratives. One example is a grave-robbing scheme in my book, Beneath Raven’s Wing. In real life, my great-grandfather was involved in acquiring cadavers for medical schools. Another example, in my novel, The Enchanted Dagger, a boy must retrieve the body of his father from a distant graveyard. Once there, he finds the body has mummified, so it must be rendered in order to bring his father’s bones home. By the end of the adventure, the protagonist’s father is buried in two places. This actually happened to a relative of mine a couple hundred years ago. Lastly, a secret which will be hidden someday: I told an elaborate, supposedly true narrative while my husband and I were on a long train trip with another couple. At the end, I slipped in a Rip Van Winkle reference, so our friends would know the story was fabricated. I’ve yet to have that story published. When I do, the couple, my husband, and I will know when and where the tale was born.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Besides using names made up of bits and pieces of family and friend’s names, I love to research names which “fit” the culture I’m referencing or creating.
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.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Going to grad school in my fifties for a Masters in Professional Writing (Towson University). The classes helped me hone my craft and gain confidence in my writing. I was on probation for a couple of semesters, because my undergraduate degrees were in Art and Education. Once the dean saw I was doing well, he set aside his skeptism.
What is the first book that made you cry?
I don’t remember! I suspect it was an early children’s book where an animal was threatened—perhaps Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter. I do recall a couple of books which had me very worried: Corky by Mary Hanor (a lost dog story) and The Runaway Lamb at the County Fair by Sterling North (from Walt Disney Studio).
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’ve written isn’t perfect. Later, I’ll rewrite and polish the story.
Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Yes! I think if you’re 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 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.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
I suppose I’d choose a dragon, since I was born in the Year of the Dragon. They 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, it 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?
I hate to admit this, but 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’ve added the quote, “Finish the things you’ve started” to my writing bulletin board.
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’ve created.
How many hours a day do you write?
My writing time varies. When life and inspiration allow, I write for 12 or more hours. Some days, there isn’t even a minute for writing. Of course, when a book is in production, my writing time is spent rewriting and addressing the editor’s concerns. Also, when in promotion mode for a new book, my writing time is spent doing interviews, guest blogs, and looking for reviewers. The positive part of this is when finally I’m able to sit down at the keyboard and write again, my fingers can’t type fast enough to capture all the ideas waiting to find a place on paper.
What period of your life do you find you write about most often?
I view all of my life as equal fodder for stories. You see the same experience differently as a child, parent, and grandparent. As long as you can recall the feelings of childhood, young adulthood, and middle-age, you can incorporate them into your storytelling.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
Yes. I think it’s important to see if readers are connecting with my fiction. That said, I give the same weight to a review which says my book is wonderful as one which says it’s mediocre. Reviewers, like editors, are one person. Their opinion is the opinion of one person. If it’s a negative review, a writer has to remind themselves, “you can’t please everyone.”
Do you Google yourself?
Only if I’ve forgotten a link to an interview or guest post. Otherwise, no.
Do you like audiobooks, physical books, or e-books better? Why?
Physical books are my favorite. I like the weight of them in my hands, the smell of them, and the whispering of pages. To me, they are more “real.” By the way, I play no video games. I prefer “real” games where I can pick up a token, hold a handful of cards, or toss a pair of dice.
What is your favorite genre to read, and why?
Speculative fiction. I lean more toward fantasy/dark-fantasy than science fiction, but I love them both. When it comes to horror, I like scary but not bloody. I think it’s because I’ve loved folklore since I was small. In folklore, everything is possible. In speculative fiction, everything is possible, too.
Do you feel like you’d be a better writer if you wore sparkly socks during your writing sessions?
Ha-ha! Who’s to say I don’t? (I will not send photos to prove, but I do indeed own several pairs of sparkly socks).
Who is the most supportive person in your life when it comes to your writing?
My husband, Ernie, is the most supportive person. He isn’t a big reader, and when he reads he never reads speculative fiction. Nevertheless, he encourages me when I’m rejected and celebrates my successes.
How many drafts do your books generally go through before publication?
I write one draft. Then, I begin the revision process. But I’ve thought about the storyline for weeks, so the draft is putting down a narrative I’ve worked and reworked in my mind for some time. Of course editors, have input once a story or book is accepted. So there’s at least one editorial pass with comments. Then, I address the problems.
Do you have a writing blog?
What is your favorite word, and why?
Bloodguiltless, which means someone who is innocent of murder. I loved the image the word created in my mind the first time I stumbled across it. I even wrote a novelette (included in my book, Dragon Rain) just so the protagonist could utter “I am bloodguiltless.” Of course, this could change tomorrow. I love archaic language. There are some fascinating words that have fallen out of favor. I’m all for bringing the best of those words back.
— Thanks so much, Sue Marie, for hosting me. I’ve enjoyed reading the author interviews on your blog that other writers have done. I hope your readers will find my interview interesting.
— And, thank you so very much, Vonnie, for participating in the “Featured Authors” segment of my little blog. As a special ‘thank you’, please accept this virtual gift of sparkly socks to add to your collection. *wink*
Be sure to check out six of Vonnie’s books by clicking the book covers below,
***Dragon Rain is available for pre-order on Amazon***:
“We don’t create a fantasy world to escape reality.
We create it to be able to stay.”
— Lynda Barry