[This issue, we sit down for a quick interview with author Vonnie Winslow Crist. Here, she discusses her use of mythology and folklore in her stories; her brand new short story collection, Dragon Rain; and
ev0ke: What mythologies and folklore do you draw on for your writing? Do you tend to stick with specific sources, or look to multiple sources depending on the story?
Vonnie Winslow Crist: I love ALL mythologies and folkways. I find myself most drawn to folklore and legends associated with nature and places I’ve visited or would like to visit. Though if someone mentions or I read an interesting bit of folklore or legend, I must investigate. I suppose I’m naturally curious, and open to the magic, mystery, and miracles that I believe still exist in our world.
As for sources, in addition to reading books and online material, I’m always looking for a storyteller willing to share folklore from his/her culture, childhood, and life experiences. Older relatives, neighbors, friends, and people you meet in your day-to-day travels are wonderful sources of folkways. Then, of course, I make the leap from legend/mythology/folklore to story.
ev0ke: Many of your stories can be classified as fantasy or science fiction. What draws you to the speculative genres? What do you find so appealing about them?
VWC: The roots of speculative fiction (fantasy, dark fantasy, science fiction) are burrowed deep in folklore, mythologies, legends, fairy tales, and rituals. It’s an easy jump to fantasy or science fiction from the interesting practices and beliefs of the past. I suppose I find speculative fiction appealing because the writer gets to ask, “What if?,” again and again. It’s like bringing dreams to paper.
ev0ke: Dragon Rain has just been released. Congratulations! First, why a book of dragon stories?
VWC: Perhaps because I was born in the Year of the Dragon, I’ve always been fascinated by dragons and their kin. My dragon stories are set in the past, present, and future. The dragons (or wyrms, wyverns, drakes, etc.) are drawn from different cultures, and the stories are set in the Middle East, Japan, Scandinavia, Appalachia, England, the swamps of the USA, a distant planet, etc. There’s something mysterious and powerful about the idea of dragons. Most cultures have some version of them in their folklore.
ev0ke: How did you decide which stories to include? And was there any one story which was the most difficult — but ultimately the most satisfying — to write?
VWC: Dragons have forced their way into more than the eighteen stories included in Dragon Rain, so it was a matter of selecting the stories which puzzled together to form the best collection. I wanted to have dragons from various cultures, and from the past, present, and future.
The hardest story in the collection to write, but the story which I really like now, was “Veil.” It’s a time-travel story where the main character tries to right a wrong for which she feels responsible. I used the folksong, “The Long Black Veil,” as my beginning place.
ev0ke: Your short stories and poems have been published in a wide variety of venues, from Something Wicked This Way Rides to Faery Playground to Nevermore. What advice can you offer to other writers trying to place their own stories and poems? Things they must do? Mistakes to avoid?
VWC: Over one hundred publications have included my speculative stories in the last few years. Plus, I’ve had quite a few poems published, as well. Here’s my advice: Write a lot of stories/poems. Edit them to the best of your ability. Then, send them out to a market. Don’t wait for an answer on that batch of stories/poems. Instead, write and edit more, and send those stories/poems out to markets. If a submission is rejected, find a new market, and send it out as soon as possible. If you have twenty stories and twenty poems submitted, you’re more likely to be accepted than if you have one story circulating.
Another must do: always read the submission guidelines and adhere to them. Never give an editor a reason to reject your work by not following their rules. The biggest mistake: becoming discouraged because your writing is rejected. Remember, an editor is just one person. Their opinion, whether they love or hate your story/poem, is the opinion of one person. Continue to send your rejected work out until you find an editor who likes your story/poem enough to publish it.
Lastly, sometimes it comes down to luck! Your story lands on an editor’s desk on a good day – you’re accepted. Your story lands on an editor’s day when they’re having a bad day – you’re rejected.
ev0ke: Many of your stories are also drabbles. What draws you to that story form? And what are some of your favorite examples?
VWC: I discovered drabbles, 100-word stories, in 2019. I liked the fact that as a writer, in order to write a drabble, you must whittle a narrative down to its essence. For some drabbles, I came up with an idea, then wrote the story for a specific submission call. Others, I tried to condense a longer story into its 100-word core.
By the way, after their initial publication, some of the narratives which originated as drabbles have been expanded into 3,000+ word stories. I find drabbles to be a great exercise for a storyteller.
ev0ke: Your story “Pony Express” appears in Something Wicked This Way Rides. What sort of research went into this story? Stacks of books? Long hours online?
VWC: Ha ha! Hours of research were required. I did most of it online. The Pony Express is a romantic sliver of the Old West, though it only existed for a brief time. I wanted to include as many “facts” as possible in the story while still adding a fantastical element. In “Pony Express,” the folklore I used was the idea of the Wild Hunt or an old forest god pursuing a rider.
ev0ke: “In Egypt’s Shadows” appears in Slay, a collection of stories about vampires of the African Diaspora. Did you write “In Egypt’s Shadows” specifically for this anthology? And how did you go about giving vampire mythology your own unique twist?
VWC: I wrote “In Egypt’s Shadows” specifically for Slay. Since childhood, I’ve always been fascinated by Egypt, its culture, and art. The connection between immortality, vampires, and Egypt seemed a natural choice for me. My main character is in love with a woman from his human life. He can’t let his love for her go, even after her death. So century after century he pines for his true love and stalks her granddaughters. I wanted to examine a negative aspect of immortality while immersing the story in Ancient Egypt and her ways.
ev0ke: Where can readers find your work?
VWC: On Amazon, of course! Seriously, most online sources have my books: The Greener Forest — stories bursting with dark fae; Owl Light — tales filled with darkness and owls; The Enchanted Dagger — a high fantasy, coming-of-age novel; Murder on Marawa Prime — sf story set on a distant planet; Beneath Raven’s Wing — raven-filled, dark fantasy tales; and Dragon Rain — dragons, dragons, and more dragons!
By the way, though written with adults in mind, all of my books are Young Adult friendly.
I try to keep my website up to date, so readers can check there for more information.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
VWC: I’m working on a story collection featuring horses, unicorns, winged horses, etc., plus two other story collections — one sf and one fantasy. I’m also working on two follow-up novels to The Enchanted Dagger, as well as several non-fiction books. Of course, there are several other books in the early stages which might suddenly demand to be finished.
[Biography: Vonnie Winslow Crist, SFWA, HWA, is author of Dragon Rain, Beneath Raven’s Wing, The Enchanted Dagger, Owl Light, The Greener Forest, and other books. Her fiction appears in Amazing Stories, Cast of Wonders, Chilling Ghost Short Stories, Faerie Magazine, Mythica, Unreal, Samhain Secrets, Blood & Beetles, Fae Wings & Hidden Things, New Tales of Old, Arcane, and elsewhere. Believing the world is still filled with magic, mysteries, and miracles, Vonnie strives to celebrate the power of myth in her writing.]