Welcome back for another of our author interviews. Today, Virginia Winters has come from Ontario, Canada to chat with us. I’m going to step aside and let her have the floor. Virginia, mind getting us started with a little bit about yourself and where you come from?
- I come from eastern Ontario, in Canada, but live in Lindsay, On, a small town to the northeast of Toronto. I studied Medicine at Queen’s University in Kingston, On and practiced Paediatrics here for thirty years. My husband, George, a retired internist and I live with a Standard Poodle called Charlie, since our children have long left the nest.
Do you remember what inspired you to start writing?
- My interest in writing started with an English teacher in high school who was very encouraging. I began my first book, thinking I could do as well as the author I was reading at the time. I couldn’t and didn’t but I began to learn the craft at that time. I met my first success with short stories
- In 1998, I was reading an early novel by a writer I liked. It wasn’t very good and I thought I could do better. So I took out a writing journal, one of those cloth-covered one people gave as gifts to young women in the 80’s, and wrote a book, longhand. Only it wasn’t a book of course. I had no idea of craft and had forgotten most of the formatting I had ever known. It was a mess.Eventually, after 10 years of education and work, it was published. Murderous Roots, the first Dangerous Journey.
- I remember telling myself stories, with me as heroine, when I was quite young. One of my earliest memories is an essay I wrote at about age 12. I wrote poetry for a time in my thirties, but started writing fiction seriously in 1998.
Is there something in your past that you can point to and say, “There. That is what made me a writer.”?
- In 2005, I attended a writing retreat, led by two amazing women, Ruth E. Walker and Dorothea Helms. At one point, Dorothea said, “You write, therefore you are a writer.” At that moment, I accepted my identity as a writer.
Since you’ve been writing for a while now, do you have a particular style you’ve developed?
- I’m never sure about style, but I write short and lean and often must go back to put in details. My first drafts are never too long, always too short.
Have there been any books that have helped influence you towards this style of writing?
- I’ve been influenced by the novels of Rex Stout, Ross McDonald, Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey among other writers of mystery and suspense.
Would you consider their work some of your favorites?
- My favourite author is Rex Stout. I can return many times to the world of 1930’s New York that he created.
Are you revisiting these old friends, or has someone new captured your attention?
- I’m reading Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead at the moment.I recently discovered Suzanne Chazin and Kerry Greeenwood, both new to me, although not newly published. Alison Pick’s recounting of the year she rediscovered her roots and converted to Judaism, Between Gods, was the most memorable book so far this year.
Do you look up to these authors as mentor figures, or are there others who fill that role for you?
- A mentor? The writers whom I think of as mentors are the two women of Writescape, Ruth E. Walker and Gwynne Scheltema, who introduced me to a writing community.
Sounds like a wonderful pair of ladies. Were they your main source of support on your journey to where you are, or were there others?
- The retreats hosted by Writescape, and the writers I met there, have been very supportive, as has my publisher, Arline Chase.
Has writing become your career, or do you still have other work you do?
- Yes, I do think of writing as a second career although I’ve come to it late in life.
Even a delayed entrance to the writing world can be as exciting as one from an early age. I’m sure it has given you quite a large repertoire of experiences and knowledge to draw from if you wanted to. Do you find this to be the case?
- I don’t take much from my own life, although the kidnapping of a little girl in Spain was in the news for a long time. She’s not the model for Naomi, the child on the terrace, however.
- I do a great deal of research for my books. While writing The Child on the Terrace, I learned about the experiences of Jews in Assisi in Italy and the brave people who sheltered them from the Nazis.
Surely, though, with your genre you try to include realism in your works.
- The geography in my book exists, in Spain and France and Italy, but I’ve invented details within that geography to suit my purpose. One of the characters tells a story about Assisi in Italy in WW11 and that is true as well. The rest is fiction.
Has that presented any challenges you’ve had to overcome, or lessons you’ve had to learn along the way?
- As always with my writing, I’d like to have including more description.
- Outlining is a difficult task for me. I’ve been a pantster but I think outlining is a better way to go.
- The middle, always the middle is the most difficult section for me to write. In The Child on the Terrace, it was timing, getting all my characters across Europe from Spain to Italy to the same place at the same moment.
In your writing do you ever leave messages for the readers to find?
- The behind-the-scenes villain of the last two Dangerous Journeys was an arms cartel. I would like my readers to think about the impact of the international provision of arms and the companies who manufacture them on violence around the world. I see the trade as fomenting destruction as well as profiting from it.
Are you at a point in your work where you can share your latest news, or perhaps an excerpt?
- The latest in my Dangerous Journeys suspense novels, THE CHILD ON THE TERRACE, published July, 2015 by Cambridge Books, an imprint of Write Words Inc.
- I’m revising a novel about a young woman art conservator, who finds what she believes to be a lost Caravaggio. That discovery brings life-threatening danger and life-affirming love to her.
- It’s too early to share any of my work-in progress. The first chapter of The Child on the Terrace is available on my publisher’s website, http://www.writewordsinc.com. I’ve included here the scene in which Anne McPhail, the protagonist, on holiday in Spain, meets the child.
She ordered a glass of white wine, sat back in her chair and took her first free breath since she left Bermuda.
One of the dozen or so children, a girl perhaps five years old, with red hair tied back in a ponytail, stood watching the others. The young woman with her, not her mother, Anne thought, tossed her long dark hair and chattered with the man who sat at their table. She shooed the child away towards the other children.
The little girl sidled around the edge of a group of three others of about the same age. They stopped playing with their dolls, fell silent and watched her. She drifted away, towards Anne’s table.
“Hello,” said Anne. Before she could switch into Spanish, the little girl answered.
“Hello,” she said in British-accented English. “What’s your name?”
“My name is Anne.”
“My name is…Maria Sofia.”
Her minder looked around, leaped up and ran over to her, chiding her in angry Spanish for talking to strangers. At least Anne caught the word “estranja” and knew that meant stranger.
“I’m sorry—” Anne began, but the girl hissed, tossed her hair, grabbed Maria’s hand and hauled her away.
The waiter bustled up to her table, apologizing. “I am sorry, Senora. Maria Sofia is not allowed to speak to the tourists.”
“That’s okay. I shouldn’t have answered her but the other children wouldn’t play with her.”
The waiter leaned closer and lowered his voice. “They don’t think she’s Spanish. They think she’s Basque and have been told not to play with her.”
“What have they got against the Basque?”
“Some of us lost family in the terrorist attacks.”
“Esti is not her mother?”
“No, no.” Another couple sat down and he drifted away.
Esti was Basque, but the child— None of her business. Her business was to sort out her emotions and her beliefs after the episode in Bermuda. She hadn’t talked to Thomas since.
When you were writing Child on the Terrace how did you come up with the title?
- The title, THE CHILD ON THE TERRACE, was put to a vote on my blog among three others. It was the favourite, and mine too.
What about the covers – are those your design, or did you work with someone else?
- The covers of my first two books were designed in-house by the publisher, but the last two were designed by Karen Phillips.
And, now the big question. What advice would you give to new authors?
- Advice to young writers: read widely, especially in the genre you choose to write and continually work on craft.
I can fully agree about reading widely. Will have to disagree slightly on staying only in your genre, however. But, that’s my preference. Any last words for our readers before I wrap things up?
- I hope they enjoy reading the books as much as I enjoy writing them. I hope they get in touch if they would like to.The Child on the Terrace is widely available as an e-book, including Amazon.ca, Kobo, and in paper from Amazon.com and the publisher at Write Words Inc.
Virginia, it has been wonderful having you stop by to visit.
And, mark your calendars, Virginia will be back again with us, bringing Anne McPhail to visit with us first, then Thomas Beauchamp to wrap up the weekend.
If you enjoyed the interview, and wish for me to host one for you, please stop by my Offered Services and send me a submission.
In the mean time… happy reading everyone!