This interview was done by Kelly Blanchard-Dale and is available on her website.
Prolific Author Virginia Carraway Stark, Some of Her Many Books and Public Appearances
Kelly strode through the palace corridors, nodding and smiling at her characters as they passed in the hall, but then she stepped out into the courtyard, which led down into the gardens of the palace. This part of the gardens were well-kept and cared for with short trimmed hedges forming walls, guiding all visitors from section to section of the garden. Kelly strolled past a few statues of heroic warriors, and she passed the mesmerizing display of fountains—impressive for a medieval kingdom, but she sensed Lorrek or some other magic user had a hand in the display.
Most of the guests were content to wander through the stone paths and trimmed ivy on archways. They’d settle on the stone benches near the stream to chat or maybe even lay a blanket on the ground for a picnic. However, none of this interested Kelly. She walked beyond all this toward the shadows of the woods where the stone path gave way to a narrow beaten path.
Enter the Fantastic Realm of Author and Professional Interviewer, Kelly Blanchard-Dale
As she entered the woods, she looked around, finding much undergrowth and vines dangling from the trees—at least initially. The further she went, the clearer the woods became. The initial appearance was to ward away those who might cause trouble or be disruptive. Not many dared to venture this far—especially when rumors spread of how those who entered were rarely seen from again…unless they had magic like Lorrek.
Kelly ducked beneath a branch and kept walking in the cool shadows of the trees. She came to a stream but didn’t cross it—not yet. She knew what lay beyond it, and she would go there—just not yet. For now, she waited for someone, and she knew Lorrek would bring her visitor here.
At last, Kelly heard some conversation, and she turned to see the dark-haired sorcerer walking alongside a woman, and Kelly smiled as she drew near. “Virginia, so wonderful to meet you!” Then she nodded her thanks to Lorrek before shifting her gaze back to Virginia. “If you’ve read any of my ‘Someday I’ll Be Redeemed’ story, then you know who that is.” She motioned to the tall prince.
Virginia looked around at her companion and her surroundings, “I think I know you,” she said. She was suddenly nervous at the idea that she would fudge up protocol in the presence of someone she had more or less thought was fictitious previously
He smiled warmly at her then bowed to her. “Prince Lorrek of Cuskelom. A pleasure to meet you.” Straightening, he nodded at Kelly. “I will leave you to your conversation.”
“Thanks, Lorrek!” As he left, Kelly smiled at Virginia. “He’s an awesome guy, but anyway, you’re here!” She spread her arms out,gesturing to their surroundings. “The royal gardens of Cuskelom. Would you like to explore?”
“Please, that would be lovely.” Virginia exclaimed, looking around the garden in delight.
“Fantastic! This way.” Kelly grinned as she motioned for Virginia to follow. She made a small hop over the stream and led the way. “I think you’ll like where I’m taking you. So anyway, we’re here to talk about you. What inspired you to write?”
“Well, I’ve always been a story teller,” Virginia began. It always felt a little odd to her to talk about herself this way but she put that aside and pressed forward. “I think in another era I would have been a storyteller or a wisewoman and told parables and things, but since that isn’t really a job anymore, I write down the stories that come to me. The stories push on me to be told, it’s more like being bossed than inspired in many ways,” She laughed.
“Being a storyteller is great, but putting those stories down on paper…that’s a challenge sometimes. Have you always been writing too then?” Kelly cast her a glance then led the way up a hill in the woods.
“Yes,” Virginia thought for a moment, “I started reading and writing when I was very young, only three. I didn’t write whole stories then, of course, but I did read a lot. C.S. Lewis and Tolkien were my reading books with a dash of Lewis Carroll. They were good role models and made me eager to learn how to write so I could get the stories down to be shared.” Virginia looked around, “It’s getting to be more of a forest than a garden, where are we going?”
Kelly shrugged. “Guess you could say gardens have a different meaning in Cuskelom.” She chuckled. “I want to show you something. You’ll like it. It’s just over this hill.”
They didn’t say anything until they came to the top of the hill, and Kelly gestured at the bottom on the other side. “There…the Garden of Ruins.” Before them spread out ruins of a castle overtaken by nature once more. Archways and pillars still stood, but many of the walls were broken down.
Kelly glanced Virginia’s way. “But if you’d rather visit the actual Palace Gardens, we can go back…”
“You’re right to think of showing this to me! I want to go and see them!” Virginia exclaimed at the sight spread out before her.
“This way! Watch your step.” Soon they made their way down the hill into the ruins, and Kelly sat down on a huge stone—what was once part of a wall—and watched Virginia. “Go ahead an explore! But stay within hearing range. We’re supposed to be having a conversation—not get lost exploring. We’ll have too much fun.” She laughed but then plucked out the next question in her mind. “So, what’s your favorite genre to write? And why?’
“My absolute favorite genre to write is plain old speculative. I love the paranormal and I love to put spooky or interesting things into stories. Plus, it’s so freeing to have a wide-open genre, it’s all just speculation and there aren’t any rigid walls to confine me.” Virginia threw her arms open and turned in a circle, “It’s like these ruins, they aren’t defined enough to define me and there are endless places for the imagination to run off to!” She took a breath, her blue eyes twinkling, “letting my imagination off it’s leash is my favourite thing of all!”
“I can completely relate, and I’m glad you let your imagination run wild. The best works are really when the author doesn’t hinder him or herself.” Kelly shifted on the stone then hugged her arms close to her—should have asked Lorrek to conjure her a cloak or something, but oh well! She focused on the conversation. “So, what’s your current story about?”
“I have several on the go right now, but the one that is on my mind the most is a fantasy story that I started working on ages ago and am slowly coalescing into a solid story. It starts off in an orchard where an apple tree has started to attack the peoples who live there. The apple tree even attacks the trees next to him and the people (They are called Covemals) are forced to cut down and burn the tree. They discover that an evil treasure is buried at its roots and adventure is the result.
Kelly’s eyes widened. “A tree attacking people? Woah! That would be very…disturbing.” She then glanced around their surroundings at all the trees and hollered at them. “You better not think about attacking us, or I’m going to call Lorrek!”
Satisfied, she smiled and fixed her eyes on Virginia once more. “What inspired that story?”
For a minute Virginia couldn’t recall what exactly had inspired that precise story but then she recalled the challenge a friend had issued, “You know that one started off kind of funny, it’s part of a much larger story that didn’t always have attacking trees in it. Rhonda Parrish, a writing/editing type friend put of a meme on her page, it was one that was ‘find your sword name.’ I love those sorts of games and my sword name was ‘nighty naptime’ sword, or something like that. Rhonda challenged everyone to write a story about their sword name. So, part of the treasure is going to be my new sword. That’s not the evil part of the treasure though.” Virginia rushed to explain the last bit to prevent confusion. It’s strange, she thought how as soon as you ask an author what their story is about the floodgates open.
Kelly understood all too well, so she nodded. “I’m not going to ask you questions that’ll spoil your story, but who are the main characters here? Not the tree, I’m guessing…” She raised her brows.
Virginia laughed, surprised by the idea and a little chagrined at the charred remains of the poor enchanted thing. “There is the Cov, her name is Hazel and she is the mistress of the orchard but after she finds the treasure she is destined for adventure, and then there is a young prince named Anomare who is a bit of a geek and lives in the palace library. His kingdom is very backward and he is delighted to meet some more enlighted folk on the course of his quest.” Virginia tried to think over what she had just said. “Did all of that make sense?”
Kelly wiggled her fingers then shrugged and smiled. “A little. I know it’s not easy to summarize things off the top of your head. So what are some obstacles they run into….that you can tell me without spoiling the story?
“They are searching for seven orbs that have changed the landscape and the environment of the land that they live in. The entire world is called Dorian, which I named for the musical scale. The orbs were disrupted by a wizard who has been hiding out and making the whole place generally uninhabitable. The book is about them discovery the identity of the wizard and hunting these orbs to restore order to the land.”
Kelly nodded as she came to understand the full idea of the story. “That sounds really cool! Quite an adventure. Now though…” she set her elbow on her knee and rested her chin in her palm, “I need to ask—what makes this story of yours so unique from all the other quest adventure stories?” She raised her brows.
Virginia folded her hands thoughtfully, “The Hunt for Z’iastre is character driven and the world itself is highly developed and unique. For example, the land that Anomare is prince of has been blighted by acid rains and the only thing that has survived are the pigs and some weeds that the pigs eat. So he has some unique obstacles to overcome as his kingdom only has pig as a resource.” She considered for a few minutes. “They also have a lot of interesting punishments, crushing people with a ritual rock and things like that. Ultimately I think that it’s a successful melding of character and classic fantasy elements that make the beta readers look at me and say, ‘hey, I want to read more!'” Virginia laughed, her laughter echoing across the ruins.
“That does sound interesting!” Kelly nodded then hopped off the rock. “Our time is almost up, so we should be heading back, but we can talk as we walk.” She began to lead the way through the woods once more. “Now, I’ve been meaning to ask everyone I’ve interviewed but keep forgetting, but have you done NaNoWriMo? If so, how many times?” She glimpsed at her companion as they trudged up the hill and down the path heading back to the palace.
Virginia took a wistful look at the landscape around, it was always like this when it was time to leave the hole in the page and go back to reality. “Last November was the first time I did NaNoWriMo and I was successful in finishing it, a novel called, “Gendler’s Landing”. It still needs a lot of editing and some finishing work though.” Virginia wrinkled her nose. Those were her least favorite parts about writing.
Kelly recognized that expression and laughed. She completely understood. “Have you published any work? Or do you have something to be released soon?”
Virginia blushed, keeping track of her resume was not her strong suit. “Umm, ok, well, I made a couple of movies, they starred Rowdy Roddy Piper and one had Nick Mancuso in it, those can be found on IMDB.” No matter how hard she tried to be chronological it just didn’t work, Virginia started explained her eclectic resume further, “I have a whole bunch of short stories out, some of them in print and other soon to be in print. Some from Weaver Press, Magpie Press and then some online blogs but most of my writing goes through Starklight Press. I also have a novel out, called “Dalton’s Daughter” which is soon to be followed by the sequel, ‘Detached Daughter’.” Virginia’s eyes scanned an invisible page of reference notes. “I was also published in an anthology of poetry marathon poem and onflight magazine and several others that currently escape my mind.” She laughed, she was never sure why elucidating her writing achievements was so difficult, but it really was! “I think there are some I’m forgetting… I got an honorable mention at Cannes film festival.., oh, and I was nominated for an Aurora Award too! And I’ve been in four Starklight Anthologies now.” Virginia was nearly as red as her hair now. This was the embarrassing part! Virginia folded her hands nervously, wringing her fingers at the long list.
Kelly stopped and stared at Virginia. “And you’re talking to me? I’m quite honored to have had the privilege to interview you! Wow, now you make me all nervous with all those accomplishments. Quite impressive!” They had come to the clearing where they met, and soon they’d have to part ways.
Virginia laughed again. It was her response to the world to laugh at everything in joy. “It’s been my pleasure, Kelly!”
“Well, unfortunately, we must part ways, but I’m quite looking forward to going into your world and meeting one of your characters.” Kelly smiled then motioned to the clearing. “We shouldn’t keep Lorrek waiting. He’ll magick us both to our own world.”
“I”m looking forward to seeing what adventure you and Lorrek have as well.” Virginia smiled prepared to be sent back to her own home.
With a smile, Kelly nodded, and Lorrek stepped forward. He raised his brows. “Miladies, are you ready to go?”
Kelly crossed her arms and gave him a look. “Am I ever ready to leave Cuskelom?” But she then winked. “Yes, I suppose it’s time to go home. It was great meeting you, Virginia! I’ll see you online, I’m sure.” With that, both returned to their respective homes.
Being Interviewed by Kelly Blanchard
By Virginia Carraway Stark
Being interviewed by Kelly Blanchard about my upcoming novel, “The Hunt for Z’iaster’ was an interesting and imaginative romp that showed Blanchard’s clarity of vision of her world. I had never written about myself in the third person before and adding to the challenge of trying to think of how to describe and characterize my movements, voice and idiom was the challenge of being transported to Blanchard’s fantasy universe as well.
Blanchard encourages play over a standard, by the books interview and lets the interviewee lead with creation and imagination so that the interview takes place in another world, Kelly Blanchard’s world. In my case we started off in a royal garden and then rambled through a woods and into an ancient rune.
The suspension of belief and the removal of the bounds of reality are essential to the creative process, this is what was distinguishing about the interview, it was an effort of creation rather than a simple rundown of facts. There was no list of interview questions an it was much more a conversation between writers that allows others an inside peek into the world of not one author, but two.