When I asked Vanessa to describe herself as a writer, she answered: I can never settle to one genre – I’ve written stories from Space Opera to Epic Fantasy – so I hope that everyone who loves Science Fiction or Fantasy will find something I’ve written that they can enjoy. Please welcome author Vanessa Knipe to No Wasted Ink.
My name is Vanessa Knipe. I’m a widow bringing up an autistic son. I hold a BSc Hons Biochemistry, and trained as a biochemist to work in the NHS as a Scientific Officer working with blood. I’m a real vampire – all right for you purists I’m a phlebotomist. After my husband was killed in 2001, I couldn’t work the shifts with a disabled child so I had to leave work. As there was nothing which would allow me to work, I filled my time with writing stories. I took writing courses with the Open University – a Online University primarily for more mature students who cannot attend a brick building – in order to learn how to turn my scribbles into books people wanted to read. I gained a Diploma in Literature and Creative Writing and one day, when the house repairs don’t take all my spare cash, I will take a Masters degree. It is a joy to me to help other people who want to write.
When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing when I learned to write. After my mother’s death I found a package of stories and cartoons I’d written and never knew she kept. There was a lovely series of cartoons that I drew where a monster growled outside rich houses threatening them into giving gifts which the monster then gave to the poor people. I had no idea she was interested – she said nothing to me. I was eleven when my English teacher gave me a grade of 60/60 for an assignment – not because it had perfect spelling and grammar but because she had laughed herself silly over a story I had written. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a writer, but as I grew up I took onboard my parents’ views that writing wasn’t real work and instead I took Biochemistry.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
In 2006, when my first book, Witch-Finder, was published. Before that, I never allowed myself to hope that anyone would want to read my stories.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
I had two books out this year, Shadow and Salvation and Pill Wars, but I’ll concentrate on the Urban Fantasy, Shadow and Salvation. It’s a short story collection and the latest in my Theological College of St Van Helsing series: think Van Helsing goes on holiday in St Mary Mead and you have the tone of the books. A Secret Branch of the Church of England – nicknamed the Witch Finders – hunts demons which have been driven into the United Kingdom over the years because it’s surrounded by water and that makes it a good prison for spiritual creatures. The older Witch Finders are burning out and the pool of potential recruits is too small. This book starts by showing two regulars in the College when they were in training and ends with a hope of change for new recruits.
What inspired you to write this book?
This book needed to address the fact that in the previous books only rich, upper class men ever get to be Witch Finders and what happens when the Leader of the College, Laird Alasdair Dunkley, tries to expand the pool of recruits. The first words I had for this book were “Do you have an Archbishop’s license to experiment with basilisks?” To me there is a whole world of inspiration in those words. I often find hints of my stories in the news or in the activities of people around me. If I am stuck I will ask my friends on Twitter or Facebook to challenge me to write a story saving the world with some everyday item. This time it was frozen peas and a tin of paint.
Do you have a specific writing style?
For the St Van Helsing Books I like to have an ordinary object help defeat the demon, something like talcum powder or a butter dish – I like to keep a little humour to lighten the demon-fighting.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
It reflects the soul of the chief Witch Finder – he is one of the foremost Dark Mages in the country, yet he refuses to use his powers for evil.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I not sure I do messages. The closest one would be always do what you think is right, even if you have to stand alone.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
The first ever Witch Finder story has a man selling his soul to the devil to win the annual village vegetable competition. I grew up in a village in Yorkshire and know the intense competition there is to win these prizes. In Shadow and Salvation I have looked to the mythology of the UK. There are four stories about ‘Black Dogs’ – including the Barghast in York – these come from my son’s acting. He starred in a play where he had to recite the whole of The Black Dog of Newgate jail (mentioned in the first story of S&S) while around him the rest of the acting club enacted the scenes. In my head all my characters are played by well-known celebrities – it makes it easier to describe them.
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
Andre Norton, she had me asking at NASA how one became an astronaut. She has such a breadth of work that it encourages me when when I don’t stick to one facet of SF&F and the current really successful writers write on one theme. Alan Garner who wrote about the mythology of the British Isles, which first made me realise how deep the folk stories are in this country. John Wyndham who wrote in the 1970s with the overhang of the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war, his Trouble with Lichen is the reason I chose to be a Biochemist. More recently I admire Jim Butcher, who made me realise that magic and the modern world could co-exist.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
I learn from every book I read, what works and what chimes false, that makes every writer I ever read my mentor. At the moment I am listening to Rayne Hall and Chuck Wendig – I find their advice fits with the way I think.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
My publisher designed the cover, though I have a say in whether I like it or not and can change elements. That’s why I like working with the indie publishing houses; they allow more input from the author.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Find the best way of editing for you, so that it never becomes a chore. I learned that hating editing meant I was doing it wrong for me.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you, I appreciate that you chose my books when there are so many choices out there.
Publisher: Rob Preece at BooksforaBuck.com
Shadow and Salvation