Vonnie Winslow Crist, BS Art-Education & MS Professional Writing, Towson University, is the award-winning author-illustrator of “Owl Light” (sf/f stories), “The Enchanted Skean” (YA fantasy novel), “The Greener Forest” (fantasy stories), “Leprechaun Cake & Other Tales” (children’s), “River of Stars” and “Essential Fables” (myth-based poetry collections), and several eBooks. Her prose and poetry have been published in Australia, Canada, Italy, Spain, Finland, the UK, and USA. And over 1,000 of her illustrations have been published. A clover-hand who’s found so many 4-leafed clovers she keeps them in jars, Vonnie believes the world is filled with mystery, miracles, and magic. She celebrates the power of myth in her writing and art.
What made you decide to be an author?
I’ve always been a storyteller. As the eldest sister, I entertained my younger siblings with stories. As a mom, I made up tales to tell my kids, and I do the same thing for my grand-kids. Perhaps it’s because from a very young age, I loved to listen to the family stories my great aunts and uncles would tell. Then, I’d imagine all the “what-ifs” and “this happened next scenarios.”
What do you like best about being a writer?
The opportunity to create a world for my characters to inhabit, then share that world with my readers. I also enjoy meeting readers, answering their questions about my fiction, and just talking about books.
How do you think your life experiences have prepared you for writing science fiction and fantasy?
I’ve always been interested in reading, folktales, fairy tales, myths, legends, science, and art. I’ve also always had a vivid imagination. All my life experiences help prepare me, because I see the world through the prism of myth and magic. When writing speculative fiction (science-fiction and fantasy) I think it’s important to see the world a little differently, but in the end, the story is about your characters. Whether you’re writing about mermaids, dwarves, or space travelers, an author needs to remember the story is always about the people.
Have you ever felt as if you were being dictated to while you wrote a book–as if the words came of their own accord?
Yes. When I was writing my Young Adult fantasy novel, “The Enchanted Skean,” I felt like I was in the world of the story, and I was just recording what the characters were doing. The same thing happened with many of the stories in “Owl Light” and “The Greener Forest.”
You’ve written one novel and two story collections, and are working on a second novel. What’s your favorite time management tip?
Write whenever and wherever you find yourself with a few spare minutes. Most of us don’t have the luxury of days and days of free time to sit in front of a computer to write, so those bits and pieces which are jotted down while you’re waiting in the doctor’s office or sitting at a restaurant waiting for a friend are valuable.
Are you a plotter or a pantser, i.e., do you outline your books ahead of time or are you an “organic” writer?
I wish I were a plotter, but even if I create a rough outline, I never stick to the plan. I love the term “organic,” it sounds so much nicer than “pantser.” Though often, I know where a story will end, just not how it will get from the opening sentence to the conclusion.
If you had one take away piece of advice for authors, what would it be? Read, write, revise, polish, submit – then repeat. Persistence and practice go a long way to getting your work published.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Not usually, I like to listen to sounds from nature: bees buzzing, birds and treefrogs singing, the wind in the trees, etc. Do you have a theme song for this book? At night when I put the dog out for the last time, I listened to the owls calling in the woods. What music did you go back to over and over as you wrote it, or as you write, in general? The calls of the owls, the rustle of tulip poplar leaves, and the gurgle of the stream across the road were all inspiring as I compiled and wrote the tales in “Owl Light.”
Tell me more about Owl Light.
“Owl Light” is a collection of dark fantasy, science fiction, and ghost stories which occur between dusk and dawn – in other words, during “owl light.” Owls also play a part in each tale, as does love (of one sort or the other). Plus, I used a few owlish poems and illustrations as links between the stories. (Sorry, Kindle readers, you’ll have to check my blog and website to see the illos). “By the Sea,” one of the tales included in “Owl Light” (which features a sideshow mermaid) is an L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Honorable Mention winner. There are several other award-winning stories (and poems) which feature selkies, a fire-cat, the Day of the Dead, a trow, an ancient god, a clockwork owl and time traveler, ghosts, space-traveling anthropologists, and more.
How about an excerpt from Owl Light?
Here’s a link to an excerpt from “Feathers,” my take on the Rumpelstiltskin tale: http://vonniewinslowcrist.com/stories__more/happy_tell_a_fairy_tale_day
And a little snippet from “The Clockwork Owl:”
As many of the timepieces in his shop clanged or chimed noon, John the Third looked up from the back of a mantle clock he was repairing to see a strange man stroll through the door. Strange was perhaps the wrong word, though there was a strangeness about him that made John the Third uncomfortable. The man was dressed much like many others who strolled up and down Water Street, occasionally darting in and out of businesses. His top hat, scarf, coat, gloves, vest, trousers – even his face, had a blend-into-the-background quality to them. But his gray eyes gleamed in a way John the Third had never seen eyes gleam.
“May I help you?” he asked the man.
The man pursed his lips, tilted his head slightly, and removed his gloves. “I have need of a watchmaker,” he said.
“The men in my family have been makers of quality timepieces for seven generations. And I carry on the family trade, so perhaps I am the person you seek.”
“Perhaps.” The man stepped closer, removed a packet of folded papers from inside his coat, and then, handed them to John the Third. “Can you make this?” he inquired.
John the Third untied the string that held the bundle together, unfolded the papers, and carefully smoothed out the drawings. Meticulously sketched and labeled in black ink with a draftsman’s hand, were the directions for constructing a clockwork instrument of some sort. He noted the instrument’s motor was powered by a mainspring wound up via a ratchet device with a key. Finely drawn were a complex series of springs and gears, small wheels linked by gear teeth, that redirected the motion in the wind-up mechanism diagrammed. Even the escapement was inked in clearly. And each part’s measurements, down to the tiniest detail, were included.
“I believe this is within my ability to construct.” John the Third rubbed his chin as he continued to study the drawings. “Watches are my specialty, and this…” He lifted the sheets of paper and searched for the appropriate word.
The man with the gleaming eyes had stepped closer. With his right hand, he pulled his gloves through his left hand again and again. He was obviously high-strung, but this small gesture was the only outward sign of his nervousness that John the Third noticed.
“Yes, owl.” John tapped the diagrams with his forefinger. “I either have or can make all the parts save…”
“I have brought that part with me.” The man reached inside his trousers’ pocket and produced another bundle. This one was wrapped in what appeared to be some sort of cured skin.
Calf-skin, perhaps. Or lamb’s skin. John swallowed hard. As he handled the skin he thought about the young animal that had been killed for its hide. Inside the skin was a tiny box…
Where can readers find more about your stories, books and you on the Internet?
Amazon Authors Page: http://tinyurl.com/Vonnie-Winslow-Crist-Amazon
Thank you so much for being with us here today. I know my readers will enjoy your work and your interview.