Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Some Wednesday fantasy for you

Wednesday Welcomes are extended to my one of my cat friends at Crooked Cat Publishing - Vanessa Knipe.  

Unlike most of my cat-mates at the Crooked Cat cattery, I had the pleasure of a real live meeting with Vanessa for a little while in Edinburgh last summer. I find it's always a great feeling when I can talk face-to-face with someone rather than the virtual 'avatar' meetings which are a lot more common. Vanessa's agreed to put herself on my interview chair today and has given us fantastic answers, so let's get to know her a bit better and about the genres she writes in...

Welocome, Vanessa! Tell us a few things about yourself that aren't covered in your bio below.
Here’s something I don’t tell everyone. In order to research A Date with Darkness, one of my Urban Fantasy books, I signed up to several online dating websites to see how they worked. And you know, they really would be a perfect place for vampires to hook up with dinner dates. I virtually met some really odd men. One had a hair fetish (I have waist-length hair) and another was a religious – well probably not a religious manic, but certainly very religious. When I had finished, I deleted the profiles and felt a tinge of conscience: had I been fair to the men I flirted with? That’s why the hero taunts the heroine with “And that’s fair to the men is it?” 

That was definitely research in depth! Not everyone would go to that length, Vanessa. Is your current favourite reading genre the same as your favourite writing genre?
My favourite reading genre is travelogues. When I am down or sad there’s nothing I like better than to take a virtual holiday reading about somewhere far away. For writing, I tend to stick to Fantasy and Science Fiction which could be considered travelogues in imaginary worlds, but that’s probably stretching it a bit. Except for the Epic Fantasy I’m currently writing; all epic fantasy requires a quest and a lot of travelling around.

The readers/reviewers of my contemporary novels seem to love that I've included wonderful world-wide locations, but those mystery thrillers aren't in any way travelogues. But onto the next question. What do you find the most appealing aspects about writing a mix of fantasy and horror?
I think horror writers would take exception to calling my work horror. At best it’s Horror-lite. I like to give my Fantasy stories a bit of an edge of danger and that has got to be ‘monsters’ of some kind or other. While in Pill Wars there are obvious ‘monsters’ in the form of the monster-addicts, the real monster is the creator of the happy pill that turns people into addicts; he cannot see that he has done anything wrong in not having enough medicine despite knowing the side effects.  There has to be a surprise way to solve the problem that is actually very ordinary – for one of my Urban Fantasy stories the ghost could be revealed by throwing talcum powder in the air or the Yeti defeated by frozen peas. It’s finding the surprise in the story that I like best.

Do you think your imagination is the most important element in the creation of your novels, or have there been stages where you’ve had to do a lot of research as well?
Research is the most important part of my stories. I get the idea but there has to a basis in reality or how are readers going to get that thrill of fear – This could happen to me! For Pill Wars, my medical background was a great help. As a Biochemist I am always interest in new medicines but in many cases the Pharmacological company that made the drug doesn’t have to publish any of the negative results from their drug trails – so doctors often don’t learn about side-effects until their patients start to suffer from them. I had to learn all about the campaign to get better reporting. I also learned about ‘just in time’ manufacturing so that stock is never kept on the shelf. It is always delivered, just in time. It is a regular concept in modern manufacturing and sales. There are about three days of food available in each city in the country because of this principle. Unfortunately when that system breaks down there can be consequences, as shown in Pill Wars.

Every writer's reasons seem so different, but what trigger got you into the business of published writing?
The death of my husband in 2001 was the main trigger. I could no longer work in the NHS because I had a child and no one to help with babysitting to cover any night or weekend shifts. Then my son was diagnosed with Autism and I had to be ready at any time to dash to school and help calm him down. So in order to keep occupied I turned my hobby into a career. I’ve always been writing. My mother died when I was 17 and after her death I discovered she had kept a collection of my short stories and cartoons that I had written from the age of six or seven and I had never known she was interested.

I turned my hobby into my career in the properly scientific way by taking courses with the Open University and learned all about editing and then in 2006 I had my first collection of short stories published. I chose to go with ebooks because I saw how people read books on their phones on their commute to work.

Describe a typical day for my blog readers.
At 6.30am the dalek alarm clock drags me out of bed by threatening to exterminate me, if the cat hasn’t been purring around my head for half an hour before that. I get up and make tea. I take a cup in to wake my son at around 6.45am. 7-ish am we are downstairs having breakfast. He catches the 7.25 bus to his school across town. I take my second cup of tea to the computer and take half an hour to catch up on emails, facebook, twitter all those things. Between 8 and 10am depending on the day, I am busy with housework and shopping. The remaining time in the morning is spent either making up promotional posters or doing critiquing of other writer’s work if there is any for the inbox. Lunch for the cat is 12-noon – or she gets very loud. Lunch for me is 1pm. After lunch there is 20 minute brisk walk to whichever music is the soundtrack to the writing I am working on. Afternoon, up until 5pm is mine for my writing or editing. My son is home by 5pm most evenings and while he is doing his homework I can do a little bit of not-to-deep work. I have caught him looking for military airports on Google before now, not realising with his Autism how bad that is, so I have to keep a close eye on his computer use. His computer is in full view of mine – we both have desks in the dining room. After 8pm my son will go and listen to his music or watch Top Gear reruns. At 9pm the television is mine for an hour. After that it’s bed.

Of course that is an idealised day. Mostly I classify it a good day if I get an hour or two of writing done amid all the procrastination. Daydreaming is writing too, honest gov.

What do you do to escape the routine aspects of writing i.e. escape the promotional tasks that are part of the writer day?
Oh but I love making posters for promotion. I’ll do that over writing and editing any day. And most of the other promotional tasks, such as Facebook and twitter are procrastination and I should be writing to avoid them.

I love the diversions (I call them procrastinations with an outcome) of poster making as well! Have any particular authors, or indeed any novels, been formative in you developing your personal writing style?
Andre Norton was always my first love. From her I learned the bad habit of failing to stick rigidly to a genre. The current publishing fashion seems to be for endless series with one central character, such as the Harry Dresden books by Jim Butcher or the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne – both of which I thoroughly enjoy I hasten to add. But I find that too difficult with my butterfly mind.
Even in my Urban Fantasy, the Theological College of St Van Helsing series it’s not just one character taking the lead in the stories. I switch characters; the only constant is the College. With Pill Wars I am planning a sequel, but Jessica Fleming is not going to be the main character in Stellar Parallax, it will be her granddaughter Emily Oakwood who takes the lead.

What are your most recent releases and what’s next on your writing plan?
I had two releases last year. The first was a collection of short stories in my regular College of St Van Helsing Series from called Shadow and Salvation. And my latest release was a very different direction. Pill Wars is post-apocalyptic thriller, from Crooked Cat Publishing with some almost-zombies called Monster Addicts.

I have second book coming out this year with Crooked Cat Publishing called Last Days Forever which is a post-apocalyptic, time travel thriller as disgraced guardian angel, Jack Foyle, barges through time trying to find his girlfriend and triggers some of the most momentous events in history like the invention of the two-thread sewing machine. I hope to have another of my St Van Helsing books out this year as well. The novel, A Knight of Wolves, is in the final edit stage. I’m writing the second Jack Foyle story, Midnight Angel, and I’m editing an Epic Fantasy called A Place of Mud and Bones, which I hope to find a place for.

That all sounds like an excellent plan, Vanessa.  And now some quick question/answers for fun:

What’s your most favourite place to visit?
I don’t really like travel, yes I know I’m addicted to travelogues but arranging the tickets and packing the case and taking the cat to the cattery etc really stresses me out. I do an annual pilgrimage to Texas to visit my father and brother. My son usually manages to squeeze another short break out of me to either Cornwall or Edinburgh but besides that we do daytrips. I love visiting all the waterfalls in Yorkshire – Ayesgarth Falls is one of my favourite. They have a tearoom there with cheese on toast to murder for.

I know you’ve done a lot of canoeing and maybe other sports, but what's been the most scary activity that you’ve ever tried?
I’ve done a few activities, I’ve been pot holing, climbing, and abseiling down a gorge and of course my beloved canoeing. I’m not really a risk taker, but when I was teen I took to canoeing alone in the alligator infested bayous near my home. Not only did they have alligators – rarely seen and generally removed by the park keepers as soon as they appeared – they had alligator gar. Gar are prehistoric fish with a snout like an alligator. They bumped up against the canoe as I paddled between the banks full of Live Oak trees hanging with Spanish Moss. If you want to look them up you’ll see they can grow as big as eight feet. Shorter than my canoe, but still pretty scary. 

Wow! That certainly beats any canoeing that I did, years ago, in Scotland. Thank you for those wonderful answers, Vanessa.

Buy information for Vanessa's novels: 

Read more of her work at her 

More about Vanessa:
Born in Malaysia, moved to Australia, Vanessa first saw England at 3 years old. As a teen, Vanessa learned her love of canoeing in the alligator infested bayous of the Texas Gulf Coast. Now back in her favourite place in the world, Yorkshire, she watches the River Ouse rise every winter and wonders if she needs to revive an old skill: so far she and her son have been lucky. When not writing, she juggles fighting for a decent education for her autistic son with wrestling the Creatures of the Night, though that’s not a nice thing to call her cat.
Vanessa has concentrated on her writing since becoming widowed in 2001, as being a single mother of a disabled child made it impossible to work the required shifts in NHS Biochemistry laboratories. 2006 saw her beginning her writing career proper with the publication in the US of Witch-Finder, a collection of short paranormal adventures. Since then a further collection of paranormal short stories, Hard Lessons and a related novel, A Date with Darkness, have also come out.
The dystopian fantasy novel Pill Wars is an exciting new direction. It was released in the summer  of 2014.

Thank you for visiting, Vanessa. I wish you mega success with all of your writing! 



  1. Great to learn more about Vanessa and about Pill War, which is working it's way up my Kindle library - which if full of Crooked Cat books it seems.The 'just in time' principle has a few writing implications for me as I attempt post-apocalypse. Also my reading perhaps ;-)

    1. Thank you for visiting Roland. I, too, have loads of Crooked Cat novels on my TBR pile.


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