Author Dorothy A. Winsor writes young adult and middle-grade fantasy novels. Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.
I’m Dorothy Winsor. As a kid, I loved reading so much that my mother once tried to get me to go outside more by limiting me to five chapters a day instead of burning through Nancy Drew novels. Eventually, I became an English professor. Then the writing bug bit, and I quit teaching to write full time. I live with my husband in the Chicago area, not far from our son, daughter-in-law, and granddog.
When and why did you begin writing?
Much as I loved fiction, I didn’t start writing until I was in my fifties. All my writer friends wanted to write even when they were kids, but I never thought of myself as creative enough.
Then I became enchanted with Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies. Poking around on the web for more information, I discovered fanfiction. Anyone who’s looked at fanfic knows it’s written with a wide range of skill. I looked at stories posted by brave twelve-year-olds and decided if they could do it, I could at least try.
Once I started, it was hard for me to stop (I tend to get obsessive). Raymond Chandler supposedly once said you have to write a million words of crap before you can write anything decent. When my word count hit that number, I decided to try my hand at writing my own stories. The Wind Reader is my third novel.
The moral of my story is there’s no wrong way to become a writer. Also, it’s never too late.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
When I finished a first draft of The Wind Reader, I wrote a tweet-length description of its premise:
Street kid Doniver is taken into the castle to be the royal fortune teller. Good news? Food and a safe bed. Bad news? He can’t tell fortunes.
That sums up the plot but it probably misrepresents the tone. Doniver is in a grim situation, plus an assassination plot is underway that the prince is relying on Doniver to uncover. He survives only with the help of two street friends and his own wits and courage.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’m a little embarrassed to admit where my inspiration came from, but what the heck. I’ve already confessed to writing fanfic.
My husband was watching the TV show “Psych,” which is about a guy who pretends to be psychic and winds up helping the police solve crimes. I realized I could tweak that premise into a fantasy plot about a fake magician solving a mystery.
For me, inspiration often comes like that, noticing events and stories around me and twisting them a little sideways.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
I was wrestling with exactly what Doniver could do to tell fortunes. We were living in Iowa at the time, and on the edge of the prairie, the wind is a constant force. Doniver is from the mountains and now lives in a prairie-like environment, so I thought the wind might be one of the most powerful forces in his world and made him a wind reader.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I think in terms of themes (observations about life) rather than messages (advice on how to think or act). A theme can be as simple or even clichéd as love conquers all.
For The Wind Reader, I’d say the primary theme is if you lose your honor, you lose yourself. And by the way, one of the most satisfying parts of writing young adult fantasy is that you can use the word “honor” unironically. In this book, honor means living by your core beliefs and values.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know or events in your own life?
I don’t deliberately insert people or events from my life, but I think all writers draw from their own experiences. What else do they have to draw from?
So I find I repeat emotional notes from one story or book to another, sometimes in ways that are a surprise to me. For instance, I had parents who did their best, and yet, over and over, I find myself writing about troubled relationships with a father. All I can say is, “I’m sorry, Dad!”
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
Marco Pennaccietti did. My editor at Inspired Quill found his portfolio online and asked me if I thought he’d be good for The Wind Reader’s cover. I liked his work so my editor contacted him. I found it exciting to see how someone else came up with a visual representation for my book.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
I’d give the same advice my aerobics teacher gives our class: consistency is more important than intensity. Write regularly, every week, every day if possible, even if it’s only a line. Waiting for inspiration is a fool’s game. It’s consistent work that creates the conditions for inspiration to appear.
Also, trust your instincts. If a scene or a line or a characterization feels off, it probably is. Learn to love revision because of the way it lets you see the book getting better.
Do you have anything specific you want to say to your readers?
Dear Readers: Most importantly, I hope you enjoy The Wind Reader. I hope you can’t wait to get back to it after you have to put it down. I hope you have fun with it.
But also, I once heard George R. R. Martin say that he thought of himself as the sum of his experiences and reading was an experience. Sometimes the experiences he had reading felt more vital and important than what was going around him day to day. I hope The Wind Reader leaves you feeling that your experience of life has been expanded and enriched.
Dorothy A. Winsor
The Wind Reader