Tell me about yourself.
I am a writer, blogger, and podcaster, living in Chattanooga, TN. I grew up near Asheville, NC in the Great Smoky Mountains, which means I lived a spoiled life with the magic of the Appalachians in my backyard. I sometimes not-so-secretly want to relocate to Vermont or Maine, but right now the Scenic City has a little bit of everything I love.
My only daughter, Brighton, is currently in college studying film production and photography. She is mad talented, and I am proud of her both as a mother and an artist. You can follow her on Twitter @brightonwinter and Instagram @brighton_wingfield.
I also have a dog named Blitz Zen — though I have a strong suspicion he’s a cross-dressing cat. He’s a Bitchin’ Frizzy (that’s a Bichon Frise, horribly mispronounced, but strangely still appropriate) who is highly invested in me being a writer because it means more lap time.
When did you start writing?
Technical answer: So long ago that I don’t remember a time when I didn’t write. I’ve always been creative and story-driven. I found my oldest poem a couple of years ago, written when I was four.
The answer you’re probably looking for: I started toying with the dream of being a published author in my mid-thirties.
My story is probably similar to a lot of late-blooming writers out there — at some point in my childhood, important people in my life told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t write, and I believed them.
So, I set my dream of writing on a shelf like a snow globe. Every few years, I would take it down and give it a good shake, admire the shimmering What-Ifs swirling around a Me that I could never be, behind a glass wall I was not meant to breach. Then, I would set the dream down and let it settle back into stillness while I went about being a “proper” adult.
It took some time and some soul-searching before I came to the realization that writing is what I was born to do. It’s my lucky charm. When I write, good things seem to happen — for me, for my loved ones, for coworkers, for people I don’t even necessarily know.
Writing calls me, and writing answers me. It’s a gift to others that began with a gift to myself.
What do you like to write about?
I like fairy tales with gruesome endings and twisting stories you think you know into new and fascinating shapes. I enjoy whispered fireside tales and dust-covered manuscripts and chalked
I believe that dark tales hold deep magic because they remind us that we are Light. In the dark, the smallest light carries the fire of a thousand suns. When I tell a story, I want something to flare like a torch in the night and illuminate something you’ve never seen before, something you’ve been afraid to look at, something you’ve longed for and knew was out there but didn’t know where it was.
What/who are your influences?
Edgar Allen Poe was my first literary crush. Books by Michael Moorcock, Piers Anthony, Marion Zimmer-Bradley, Diana Paxson, Tolkien, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Anne Rice, Guy Gavriel Kay, Charles De Lint are some of the deepest laid fantasy foundations from my teenage years. Robert Jordan, Frank Herbert, and George R.R. Martin are my world-building heroes.
Directors have influenced me as well. The Star Wars trilogy was my first exposure to myth-building story craft and led me right to Joseph Campbell and down all sorts of esoteric bunny trails. Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth showed me that there was a place in this world for strange, dark stories and how much we still need their truth.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the impact roleplaying games had on my desire to write. I’ve gamed since my late teens, and gaming has been instrumental in expanding my ideas of character creation and active storytelling. Gamers are some of the most creative, out-of-the-box thinkers you will ever meet. Have a plot issue you can’t figure out? Find yourself a gamer — it will soon cease to be a problem! And gamers can sniff out a plot hole at fifty paces. I love gamers!
I also have literary heroes:
N. K. Jemisin, for blazing trails that I want to see become full-fledged thoroughfares.
Margaret Atwood, for the courage to speak to a future that only she could see and that looks terrifyingly imminent.
Stephen King, for showing me the gritty nuance of character creation and how stories are nothing without the people in them. He is also a master at enlisting my mind to play tricks on me so that I’m jumping at sounds for hours after I put a book down.
And then there’s Neil Gaiman.
I discovered Neil through Sandman, fell utterly in love all over again with American Gods, and since then, I may have read everything he’s written. At least twice.
I’ve never met Neil, but without him, I wouldn’t be here now, drawing from the dark well of dreams, making the best art I know how to make. He showed me there is a place in this world for strange and unusual stories, and that myth-makers are still needed — perhaps now more than ever.
Anything else you want us to know about you?
As passionate as I am about writing, I am equally passionate about encouraging and coaching other writers. I host a podcast, Method and Muse, with tales from the trenches, as well as tips and tricks for improving writing and dealing with the ups-and-downs of pursuing the craft of making things up and writing them down.
I love facilitating writing workshops and running writing tracks at fantasy and sci-fi conventions, and I will sit on a panel to discuss writing any chance I get. I’m extremely active in the Writing Community on Twitter and run the #WritersBreak daily prompt as a fun exercise to make writers think and laugh and reflect on the journey we are making separately but together.
If you want to write, I want to encourage you. If you’re a reader, I want to entertain you in a way that inspires you to give to the world whatever is special about you. If you’re an artist of any kind, I want you to find the courage inside to bring forth what only you can.
I spent so many years believing I couldn’t write, or I shouldn’t write. I know those years weren’t wasted — my experiences flavor my writing, and my style is all my own. But I also don’t want anyone else wasting a precious minute of their life that could be spent in the pursuit and practice of something they love.