In this week’s author interview, we present Willow Croft – whose short story, “The Ice Dream of the Crow”, will be included in “Dimensions Unknown Volume Three: Warriors of Olympia”.
Could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I grew up in Florida, which gave me a lifelong love of mystic green swamps and tumultuous thunderstorms. Nature and animals have always been counted among my dearest friends.
Regarding writing, I have always loved the written word but I only started taking my own writing seriously within the past few years or so. I had spent so much time just trying to get a job and fit into mainstream society, and it got to a point in my life where I had to accept that it just wasn’t going to happen. It feels like I’ve had more success since I started writing than I have in over thirty years of job searching and my-place-in-the-world searching. Consequently, it’s been this amazing feeling to have the publishing world be so wonderfully supportive of my continued growth as a writer.
What genre are your books?
I guess my short stories fall under speculative fiction overall, but sometimes they lean more towards horror. One of them is in a collection of urban fantasy, and I really enjoyed writing that one. (Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Fantasy) I love having a bit of old-world magic in my stories. And I definitely love the idea of the agency of animals and nature. My activist work in animal rights and my dedication to animal rescue and wildlife rescue as a volunteer was part of my journey back to my innate self, so I still try to feature that in my stories. Anything where plants, trees, and animals start taking their world back works for me!
What draws you to these genres?
When I was a kid, I read anything I could get my hands on: classical literature, mysteries, epic fantasies, thrillers, Trixie Belden books. I also read a lot horror, too; Stephen King’s Thinner and Clive Barker’s Books of Blood were among books I read and reread. But the big treat was going to my grandmother’s house, where I could raid her bookshelves for helpings of V.C. Andrews and Victoria Holt. I loved that sort of atmospheric spookiness in stories, and I try to channel that into my own writing. Also, because I grew up in Sarasota (circus town), I also enjoy stories about carnivals and fairs and circuses. The movie Carnival of Souls is a good example of that otherworldly eeriness that I’m drawn to.
What is “Quantum Singularity”, and what were the inspirations and influences for it?
Quantum Singularity is a book of my poetry I self-published. From a real early age, I was drawn to anything outer-space-related. I remember this book of my brother’s that I loved to look at. It was titled “Our Universe” (National Geographic) and I was dazzled by the photographs of nebulas and galaxies.
But the main source of inspiration for the poetry book’s theme was the movie Roxanne. Even after all these years, I can still hear Darryl Hannah’s unique intonation when she was explaining strange and charmed quarks. She really captured the poetic side of astronomy.
That’s why I decided to use vocabulary terms and scientific theories from astronomy, astrophysics, and quantum physics to tie the poems in my collection together. The poems I wrote seemed to represent the connection between this world and the parallel, or alternate, dimensions that may exist alongside ours. More imaginatively, the poetry collection felt like an exploration—a journey—into the world of dreams; where anything can be made possible. It’s the world where I encounter a myriad of “imaginary” muses, and some of the poems pay tribute to those muses.
Could you tell us more about the short stories you’ve had published? Are they going to be released in a collection one day?
Well, I haven’t even thought that far ahead regarding a collection, truthfully. In addition to the story that’s going to be included in Excalibur 2020: Tales Beyond Tomorrow Volume Three, I’ve had short stories published (or going to be published) in “Rock N’ Roll Horror Zine”, “Speculative 66”, “Mad Scientist Journal”, “Econoclash”, and in anthologies: Bloody Red Nose: Fifteen Fears of a Clown, Fantasia Divinity’s Isolation anthology, Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Magic, and in Z Publishing’s America’s Emerging Horror Writers and New Mexico’s Emerging Writers anthologies.
As far as future publication plans go, I’m currently in the process of completing the rewrites for my middle-grade (possibly young adult) manuscript so that I can submit it to publishers/publishing companies. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing short stories and poetry.
Which writers inspire you?
Well, I also love science fiction too—Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin, of course. I just read of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, and that was awesome. Tanith Lee and Charles De Lint for fantasy. But one of my all-time favourites is Flannery O’Conner. Her writing is just…wow. I’ve even been to her house museum in Savannah, Georgia.
Do you have a special time to write? How is your day structured? Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you? Do you let the story stew – leave it for a month and then come back to it to edit?
Well, I have ADHD, so you betcha I have a million rituals to help me transition to sitting behind a desk for hours! I make sure to have plenty of snacks and hot tea: Earl Grey and dark, smoky teas like Russian Caravan and Lapsang Souchong. I light a scenty soy candle. I put on some ambient music; something classical, or a film/tv show/video game score. Harry Potter soundtracks, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, American McGee’s Alice, Myst/Riven—these are some that come to mind. There’s this carillon bells performer I discovered at a medieval fair—Cast in Bronze—and they are a good choice for background creative-inspiration music, as is my local classical public radio station, 95.5 KHFM.
I also have this bracelet I bought from a local artisan, Vallee Rose, from her Enchanted Rose Shop. In addition to the dark brown beads—I think they are a brown onyx—there’s a bead that absorbs essential oils. I apply her unique “Focus” blend and then I’m ready to write!
I grab a pencil and some paper and sit at my vintage Heywood Wakefield desk. I start with what I call a spider web outline, which consists of brainstorming ideas and connecting them with lines and arrows and such. It ends up looking like a chaotic piece of abstract art rather than an outline. I always write my first draft out by hand, and then I transfer it to the computer. I print out a hard copy, edit it, make the changes, and then leave it overnight. The next morning, I review it again, make more changes, and then send it on!
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
Oh, that’s such a quandary. I love my tree friends and I hate to think they were cut down just so I could read a book (I love that one episode of Doctor Who—the one about the library). But I would vote for traditional print books every time. Sometimes e-books are a necessity, like when I review books for Madness Heart Press. I just feel that I read more actual words on the printed page, and that I have a tendency to just scan e-books without getting the full-on immersive experience that comes from having a book in your hands.
What book/s are you reading at present?
Pirates! Arrr! A bottle of rum…ah, okay, sorry. I love pirates and pirate history, so I’m currently reading If a Pirate I Must Be: The True Story of “Black Bart,” King of the Caribbean Pirates by Richard Sanders—it’s a fantastic read! I’ve also just started another of Jasper Fforde’s “Thursday Next” novels, The Woman Who Died a Lot, that I picked up from the wonderful Pueblo of Pojoaque Public Library.
How do you relax?
I’m so mellow these days I hardly recognize myself—a long way from the goth/punk party girl I used to be! But being a writer is very stressful, so to relax, I cook my own dinner, adding in lots of stir-fry veggies from the local farmers’ market. I eat and read books or watch a DVD/video. When I’m not writing, I just spend time with my goofy cat Moon Pie. So, not very exciting or glamorous existence, but I could tell you all about my vintage matchbook collection…
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
I have a (new) website at: https://www.willowcroft.org, where you can sign up for my newsletter and get updates. And I’m on Goodreads and I love talking books and getting book recommendations, so come visit! I also have an Amazon author page as well as being on Twitter , Tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook. Because I live in New Mexico, getting access to reliable internet is an ongoing problem, but you can also email me: email@example.com. And I still love snail mail, even though it takes a lot longer to go “viral” that way!
You can find an exclusive excerpt of “The Ice Dream of the Crow” here on the Excalibur Books Patreon.