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The following is an interview with Willow Croft, author of the short story “Salted Earth,” which appears in Neon Druid: An Anthology of Urban Celtic Fantasy (available now on Amazon in digital and paperback).
1) What inspired you to write your Neon Druid story, “Salted Earth”?
I’ve worked in animal rescue and wildlife rescue for years, both as a volunteer and as a paid employee. I even had the opportunity to become involved in a hoarding case investigation, and wrote an affidavit for a court case involving neglected cats. The cats were relocated to a new, no-kill cat shelter that had been formed to house them (which is still in operation today). So, the cause of animal rights is still close to my heart, even though I haven’t had the opportunity to get involved in the cause in my new location. Lately, I’ve been thinking about what would happen to all the pets left behind in houses and in apartments and other livespaces in the time of an apocalypse. And that’s where the kelpies came into my story, as aided by the Cailleach, and old-world magic.
2) What’s something that always seems to pop up in the stories you write?
I’m just starting out in writing fiction (for print), but I’d have to say animal and nature advocacy, and agency of animals and nature, whether it’s supernatural, mythical, or just some plain fed-up critters and trees. And, sometime, I would love to incorporate a human chess match into one of my stories. James Patterson’s Zoo is probably an influence in there somewhere.
3) Which book/story has had the biggest influence on your writing?
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. It was my favourite book when I was eleven. Every time I see or hear that opening line, I get chills. After all this time.
4) Cross over into the Otherworld and tell us about a deceased writer you would most like to chat with and learn from.
Daphne Du Maurier. As an introvert, I’m not good at small talk, so it would probably be something lame, like “Will you be my BFF?” Like when I met some members of the band The Cure, or the author Stephen King, I couldn’t even think of a thing to say. But I carried on a scintillating conversation with them in my head, rest assured.
5) Excluding your Neon Druid story, what piece of writing are you most proud of, and why?
Oh gosh, that’s a hard one. Having grown up in the 80s, I think it I was when I wrote a review of Monica Richard’s Kindred album for Renaissance Magazine. (for those of you who aren’t familiar with old-school goth music, aka “coffin classics,” she was in a band called Faith in the Muse, among others back in the day). Especially when I got to communicate with her a teeny bit via email about that album. Renaissance Magazine helped put me on the path to being a freelance writer, as they were my first real gig, and I wrote not only reviews, but two full-length articles for them.
6) What’s a “universally loved” book/story/movie/TV show that readers would be surprised to learn you are NOT a big fan of?
I have never seen any of the Tolkien films. Even if a preview came on, it would be an automatic reflex to where I had to look away. There are certain movies (or series), that, if I read the book first, I won’t ever watch the movie. Especially if I read it during my middle school years.
7) Now flip it: What’s a “universally disliked” book/story/movie/TV show that readers would be surprised to learn you ARE a big fan of?
I follow this movie blogger, and they review a bunch of Christmas movies at the end of the year. I don’t like sappy movies, and I have about as much romantic sentiment as a rock (apologies to my rock friends!), but I was tired, and had a million things to do, so I put on The Princess Switch in the background. I’ll be darned if I didn’t like it. I still don’t know what got into me that evening. Let’s just say I had something in my eye. [Language alert but here’s the website of the blogger I follow: ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES: The Princess Switch].
8) What do you do when you’re NOT writing?
Drinking large quantities of tea. Russian Caravan tea is my favourite. Dreaming of my maybe someday ocean cottage on a remote and desolate shore. Taking care of my rescued stray cat that I socialised. Her name’s Moon Pie, and she still has attitude in spades, but, after a lot of hard work and patience, she’s settled into my house. I care for two TNR feral cats that were abandoned that I’m also working with to socialise. Please, make sure you have your pet spayed/neutered. And remember, please, adopt, don’t shop. So many wonderful pets are waiting for their forever homes, in shelters around the world.
9) What writing project(s) are you currently working on?
I’m working on a middle-grade fiction book, partially inspired by R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series. I recently took R.L. Stine’s MasterClass online, and it was great. Very inspirational, and with some good writing tips. Plus, I’m a substitute teacher, so some of my work is also inspired by that experience.
Willow Croft is a freelance writer and poet who currently lives in the high desert but dreams of a home by a tumultuous ocean. When not writing, she cares for her rescued stray calico and two very fat TNR feral cats.