Good morning! We've been lucky enough to get an interview with Winter Pennington, author of the Kassandra Lyall Preternatural Investigator Series.
It's a real pleasure to have you with us here at the Bibliophilic Book Blog! We have a few questions for you today:
(BBB) What inspired your decision to write about paranormals (weres, vampires, etc.)?
(WP) I had the idea for Kassandra’s story a few years before I actually sat down to write it. I’d been intrigued for a very long time with the dark beauty and cold sensuality of vampires and the struggle between human and animal, the qualities that make the inhuman mysterious and dangerous, but at the same time beautiful and fascinating, like coming face to face with a wild tiger. You know your breath would catch from the combination of fear and awe while at the same time, some part of you would want to reach out and touch it, dangerous or no.
I wanted to write about preternatural beings that hadn’t lost that edge, about a world that has its dark and its light, it’s beautiful and harrowing, and a character that was neck deep in it all. I’d say Kassandra is what ultimately launched everything and ignited the creative fire. When she first came to me, her voice was strong. I immediately knew she was a Preternatural Private Investigator and a lycanthrope. Her inner struggle to find a balance between woman and wolf, to maintain her personality as dominate to the wolf and control of her life really sucked me in. It feels to me like everything else branched off of her, her journey, her world, her colleagues, her cases, her struggles. That’s typical for me, though, and probably one of the main reasons I write first person point of view. When writing a story, the main character is the siren voice that initially lures me to the page. I get an image, my thoughts take on a tone of voice, and I run with it. Needless to say, the creative process is a very interesting thing! I’ve had moments when an idea has hit so strongly that it’s shattered my ability to focus and I’ve had to ask someone to stop speaking long enough for me to jot something down in a notebook.
(WP) I’ve been writing since I was a child. I had a very active imagination and a healthy curiosity about things that fueled it. The first thing I can recall writing though was a poem when I was eight. At about ten years of age I started writing erotica in one of my diaries. I eventually tore the pages out, because I wasn’t exactly sure how someone would react were they to find what I’d written and a part of me knew I was treading a territory that I wasn’t supposed to be treading. Fortunately for my parents, it was solely an inward exploration. When I hit my teens, I’d gotten it into my head that I wanted to be a journalist. I went out and interviewed local bands and wrote an article that made it into one of the college newspapers. I studied and practiced. I wrote all the time. Alas, that wasn’t meant to be. I tried to get into the journalism course in school and the teacher rejected me telling me that my writing style wasn’t suitable for her class. Now that I think of it, I’m pretty sure she was right.
(BBB) Do your personal relationships (family, friends, partner) influence those of your characters? And if yes, how so?
(WP) No, I don’t feel my personal relationships influence those of my characters. My imaginary friends are separate and individual. They’re two different worlds. I do agree with Anais Nin, that everything around the writer can nourish the writer. Maybe there are some subconscious threads I fail to see, but there’s no distinct reflection or influence that I can pinpoint.
On the other hand, I’ve known a few people that have gotten a bit squeamish about some of the scenes. I guess if you know me, seeing what I put to page is either intriguing or frightening. There are a few people that instead of saying, “When Kassandra did this,” actually said, “When you did this.” I’m a stickler about making that differentiation. It’s just kind of weird hearing, “When you did this,” considering...I think my writing has influenced friends and family in the sense that it seems now everyone’s wondering what I do behind closed doors. Yes, I’m laughing.
(BBB) Are there any tips you can give writers who are just getting started, especially LGBT writers?
(WP) My first piece of advice is something a lot of writers say...write. If there’s a story inside of you, get it out, put it on page. Work hard, be diligent, and believe in yourself. Find your market. Follow submissions guidelines. Edit harder than you write. Be courteous. Be professional. Don’t take rejection personally. Shape your craft and sharpen your skills. Find your style. Find your voice. Go for it.
(BBB) Aside from your Kassandra Lyall series, I've seen mention of another series coming in 2011. Can you tell us more about the new series (Rosso Lussuria)?
(WP) Darkness Embraced is the first of the Rosso Lussuria Vampire Novels. The Rosso Lussuria are a clan of vampires living in our world, but completely unseen. Unlike the Kassandra books, the modern world does not know about the existence of vampires. Epiphany is the main character from the Rosso novels, my subservient heroine. She was brought over by Renata, the Queen of the Rosso Lussuria herself. She played the role of the Queen’s pet until Renata cast her aside. When she’s called forth to face the challenges that could elevate her status within the clan, she not only has to confront and survive those, but unravel a treacherous plot that could bring down not only Renata, but the entire clan. This series is much more erotic-horror-fantasy with a healthy dose of intrigue.
(BBB) Speaking of Kassandra, are there more books planned in the series?
(WP) Bloody Claws, the third book, is scheduled to be released by Bold Strokes Books in early 2012. I do plan on continuing her series. Though, I don’t have a set amount of books planned. When I first started her series my goal was nine books. It’s pretty much open-ended. As long as Kassandra speaks to me as a character, I’ll keep writing her.
(BBB) How much of your personal spirituality do you express through your writing?
(WP) That tends to leak into Kassandra’s stories quite a bit. There are still a lot of misconceptions about Paganism. Yes, I’m Pagan. I don’t discredit the existence of any form of Divinity. I am polytheistic. I honor nature and her cycles and the Divinity in all living beings. I think the goal of most religions is for us to learn to better ourselves as individuals. Perhaps, that is one thing that reflects my life in the stories. Kassandra has a lot of different friends, friends that are gay and friends that are straight, friends that are Christian and friends that are Pagan. There’s nothing wrong with diversity. In my personal life, I have friends from all walks of life. I don’t understand the need some people seem to feel to try and get another to conform to their way of thinking and to practice their beliefs. What a person practices spiritually does not concern me. What concerns me is how they treat themselves and other human beings. It was important to me to reflect that in the stories and to honor some of my own spiritual beliefs through writing. Writing and spirituality are tied up for me. I love the mythos of The Morrigan and I think she’s a really great reminder of a woman’s inner strength. She seemed to be a perfect fit for Kassandra, I could see an ex-law enforcement officer and a spiritual warrior being drawn to her. And there are a lot of things regarding her mythos that are tied into Kassandra as a character...symbolism that if you’re familiar with The Morrigan’s stories, you’ll catch. Surprisingly, some of the threads I weaved into the story I hadn’t even realized I’d done until after the fact.
(BBB) Are there any authors which inspired/encouraged you to get your stories published?
(WP) The works of Anais Nin were a big inspiration to me. I started reading her books in my early teens. My biggest inspiration, I’d say, wasn’t another author but my mother. She saw the writer in me at a young age and nurtured it.
(BBB) How much stock do you take in the reviews that you read of your books, either positive or negative?
(WP) I enjoy feedback, I always have. I think there’s a sacred relationship between author and reader. But reviews, positive or negative, do not change my characters, the worlds, or the direction in which my muse decides to guide the stories. I respect and honor reviews and opinions; I just don't shape my art around them. I can't do that and remain true to my creative process. The positive feedback is certainly very uplifting, but I don't take negative feedback to heart. People have different tastes. There’s always going to be someone out there that thinks, “Well, she could have done this differently.” And, that’s very true. With writing, more than one path is always present. What’s important to me, as a writer, is staying true to my characters and their voice. Do I want a reader or reviewer to like spending time with them as much as I do? Absolutely, and I’m constantly striving to better myself as a writer, but I won’t risk losing myself or a character’s voice trying to please everyone or for the sake of conformity.
Winter, thank you so much for your time today!