I asked Author Chrys Cymri to describe herself and I was told: I live with a small parrot because I can’t afford a dragon. Fair enough! Please welcome her to No Wasted Ink.
Priest by day, writer at odd times of the day and night, I live with a small green parrot called Tilly because the upkeep for a dragon is beyond my current budget. Plus I’m responsible for making good any flame damage to church property. I love ‘Doctor Who’, landscape photography, single malt whisky, and my job, in no particular order. When I’m not looking after a small parish church in the Midlands (England) I like to go on far flung adventures to places like Peru, New Zealand, and North Korea.
When and why did you begin writing?
I still have the first short story I wrote when I was around seven years, based on a dream I’d had. The idea that I could capture something in writing fascinated me, and I didn’t stop writing from that moment on. It was just something I did.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve never had a moment when I considered myself a writer. I just wrote. If I don’t write, the characters pound against the inside of my head until I get them out.
Can you share a little about your current book with us?
I’ve just finished the ninth and last book in my contemporary fantasy series. Penny White, the main character, is a full time Church of England priest whose life changes forever when she stumbles across a dying dragon who asks for the last rites. This is her first introduction to the magical world of Daear, which is parallel to our own and can only be entered through ‘thin places’. Along the way, she changes from being a somewhat lonely young widow to falling in love with a dragon and developing a new family around her. Penny loves science fiction, ‘Doctor Who’ in particular, and drinks a little too much single malt whisky.
What inspired you to write this book?
The first scene of the first book, when Penny stops at the side of the road and stumbles over a dying dragon’s tail, came to me in a flash. As the story revealed itself to me, I found myself writing humour as well as about loss and loneliness. I’ve particularly enjoyed the long character arcs which a nine book series has allowed me. Everyone develops over the course of the novels, perhaps most dramatically the main dragon character, Raven. He changes from a James Dean type person to someone who will stand by Penny no matter what happens.
Do you have a specific writing style?
I don’t like writing long descriptions. My focus is on the characters. I also like to make sure that the sound different when they talk, even as real people do, rather than sound all the same.
How did you come up with the title of this book?
All of the Penny White books are ‘Penny White and…’. So in order, these are ‘The Temptation of Dragons’, ‘The Cult of Unicorns’, ‘The Marriage of Gyphons’, ‘The Vengeance of Snails’, ‘The Vexation of Vampires’, ‘The Nest of Nessies’, ‘The Weariness of Were-Wolves’, ‘The Business of Bees’, and ‘The Humility of Humans’.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
That diversity is wonderful and to be embraced, not feared. Penny is inclusive (except she doesn’t like unicorns that much) and that’s the outlook of the series. I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking through and portraying different cultures for the various magical creatures in the books.
Are experiences in this book based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Penny’s encounters in her church derive from events that have happened to me or to colleagues of mine. Of course, I’m very careful to have changed things so that no confidences have been betrayed. Some of the characters are based off people I know, like the dragon Bishop Aeron, who was inspired by my own bishop. (He knows this and is quite pleased!)
What authors have most influenced your life? What about them do you find inspiring?
Three authors in particular taught me the wonder of story telling. The first was Susan Cooper, with her children’s fantasy series ‘The Dark is Rising’. I loved the magic and the weaving of British myths and tales into the stories. Second was ‘The Riddle of Stars’ trilogy by Patricia McKillip. Her use of language is extraordinary. Finally, the ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ books by James Herriot, with their close attention to human experiences and daily life.
If you had to choose, is there a writer would you consider a mentor? Why?
Patricia McKillip. My heart rose and sank throughout ‘The Riddle of Stars’ trilogy, and I cried at the end of the third book. I was only fifteen years old, and had no idea that a fantasy tale could affect me in that way.
Who designed the cover of your book? Why did you select this illustrator?
Anna Crosswell from Cover Couture. She was able to take my ideas and do something better with them than I could ever have hoped for. There is a common theme to all nine covers which ties them together as a series.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
You have to be willing to write for the writing’s sake alone. Very few of us will be able to make a full time living as an author. But along the way you’ll develop a group of dedicated fans, and their appreciative emails will keep you going.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you for the emails I receive about how much you love Penny’s world. And I’m amazed that, time and again, it’s Clyde, the carnivorous, hymn-singing snail, who is your favourite character in the series! I was certain it would be the darkly handsome dragon, Raven.
Cover Artist: Cover Couture