Priest by day, writer at odd times of the day and night, Chrys lives with a small green parrot called Tilly because the upkeep for a dragon is beyond her current budget. Plus she’s responsible for making good any flame damage to church property. She loves ‘Doctor Who’, landscape photography, single malt whisky, and her job, in no particular order. When she’s not looking after a small parish church in the Midlands (England), she likes to go on far flung adventures to places like Peru, New Zealand, and North Korea.
1.What is it about your genre that speaks to you?
I like the freedom fantasy gives to me. In my ‘Penny White’ series, I enjoy taking some of the traditions associated with fantasy creatures (unicorns can heal with their horns, dragons love gold and are ruthless) and use these to build up distinct cultures for each. And, unlike when you write about human cultures, no dragon has popped in to say that I’ve got something wrong. Sadly.
2.Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about your ‘Penny White’ series?
I’ve loved working out the character of Clyde. He looks like a (rather large) garden snail at first glance, but in reality he’s a snail shark. His belly opens up to reveal sharp teeth, and he tears apart garden birds for his supper. Many people are prejudiced against snail sharks, but Clyde is an innocent, courageous being, and the main character, Penny, loves him. And he seems to be the favourite of most readers.
3.What character from your series fills you with hope?
Penny White. Like me, she’s a Christian minister, facing the joys and frustrations of looking after a parish church. She makes mistakes, she’s not always certain where God has disappeared to, but she does her best. And she has this overwhelming belief in accepting people as they are.
4.If I were stuck in a room with Penny White, what would we be doing?
Drinking either red wine or single malt whisky and talking about ‘Doctor Who.’
5.You have unlimited money to buy a gift for Penny. What would you buy?
Last year, here in the UK, there was the opportunity to have breakfast with five of the actors who have portrayed the Doctor on ‘Doctor Who.’ I would buy that experience for her. It’s one I would have loved to have had for myself!
6.How do you police your production? Do you have a word quota, or a page goal, maybe you work for a set amount of time? Do you place demands on yourself when you’re working? How do you meet those demands?
I find NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) a good spur. I wrote 50,000 words of the first Penny White novel, ‘The Temptation of Dragons’, in the month of November 2015. Otherwise, I try to write around 1000 words a day, perhaps double that on my days off. I do find Facebook a great distraction, though.
7.You’re going to go back and visit yourself when you first started writing, at whatever age it was, and you can give yourself one piece of advice. What would it be?
Don’t expect to get rich. Expect to be disappointed. But keep hoping. My first two novels were picked up by the first agent I approached, and in turn by the second publisher he approached–and then, when the novels only sold around 5,000 copies each, both agent and publisher dumped me. I’d tell her to hold on until the self-publishing revolution. You don’t need an agent or a publisher now.
8.Let’s talk about tools. Do you have a word processor that you would tell us to use? Is there a certain computer that has become your favorite? What do you look for in a keyboard? What would you absolutely have to have if you were to sit down and write your next book?
I’m an Apple groupie. I work with Word on an Apple desktop, I have a Macbook, as well as an iPad and an iPhone. The keyboards are easy to use. I’m a touch typist, and it’s essential that the little raised bits are on the ‘f’ and ‘j’ keys. But, above all, I need music. I can’t write without it. My ancient iPod died recently, so I’ve bought an Amazon Echo and subscribed to their music service. So now I can call up whatever music I like–so long as Alexa understands my verbal commands!
9.Describe your muse.
I live with a small green parrot called Tilly. She’s about the size of a cockatiel, and both cuddly and playful. She’s inspired several characters in my ‘Penny White’ series, namely the snail shark Clyde and Jago, a small gryphon who loves adventure is, strangely enough, the same size as my parrot.
10.What piece of art, that is not writing, moves you?
A friend of mine draws (that’s the phrase, rather than ‘paints’) Christian icons. I asked him to draw me one of Maximilian Kolbe. My grandfather was a member of the Nazi party, and I feel some residual guilt about this. Kolbe offered his life for another prisoner’s when they were both in a concentration camp, during WWII, and so I’ve sort of taken him on as ‘my’ saint. I have the icon in my living room, and I’m always moved when I remember his sacrifice. ‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’
11.If we wanted a good story—book, show or movie—one that you didn’t write, where would you send us?
My favourite books are the Riddle Master Trilogy by Patricia A McKillip. I first read them when I was fifteen years old, and they opened my eyes to the beauty of storytelling. As for show, I would recommend ‘Babylon 5.’ That TV series was groundbreaking for an attempt to tell a cohesive story over five seasons.
12.What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
My mother started to bring parrots home to live with us when I was only seven years old. I have remained a bird fanatic, and I had a long held dream of seeing parrots in the wild. A few years ago, I went on a trip to Peru and we visited a parrot clay lick. It took three hours for the macaws to finally descend from the trees to feed on the clay. I tried to take photos, but I had to stop to wipe my eyes. I was crying out of sheer joy at my dream coming true. I wrote about that trip (and others) on my travel blog www.travellinghopefully.co.uk.
13.You have a chance to hang out with any literary character for one day. Who would it be and what would you do?
I’d love to meet Aslan, the great lion from the Chronicles of Narnia series by CS Lewis. I’d want to ride on his back whilst he took me on a tour of Narnia. If he could introduce me to Reepicheep, my day would be complete.
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