This Friday Night Inteview features a woman of many talents: Virginia Carraway Stark! Getting an early start on writing, Virginia has had a gift for communication, oration and storytelling from an early age. Over the years she has developed this into a wide range of products from screenplays to novels to articles to blogging to travel journalism. She has been an honorable mention at Cannes Film Festival for her screenplay, “Blind Eye” and was nominated for an Aurora Award.
Virginia took some time out of her busy schedule to chat with us about punk literature, Starklight Press, what inspires her creativity.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
My friends call me ‘Adventure Girl’. I am extremely adventure prone and have been learned to accept that the curse of an interesting life is upon me. I graduated from high school and emancipated myself from my family when I was 16. I dropped out of some of the best universities in Canada to travel the world. While traveling I continued to write. I made some money with writing travel blogs and articles but mostly I just wrote.
I have been run over by a speeding taxi and walked away. The year before that I nearly died from blood loss and had emergency surgery. I had a really tough childhood which if you’re interested in you can find at www.ihavememory.wordpress.com I am an outgoing, extroverted person and I love to take on new projects (and finish them), I love working with people and I really like not getting run over by taxis.
If you’re familiar with the ’16 personality types’ I’m a strong ENFJ (If you don’t know about it Google it, it’s so accurate it’s freaky). ENFJ’s are the protagonists and this is a good way to sum me up. I am loyal and strong willed and I stand up for myself and my friends. I believe in finding the good in everything and try to learn from the curve balls that the Universe seems to enjoy throwing in my direction.
What road did you walk to become a writer?
I was an imaginative child with a lot of imaginary friends and I saw the world through eyes that saw magic and wonder everywhere. I have never grown past that. I still find wonder in everything and I still have imaginary friends. I tell people stories, especially my friends who love to hear about the things I come up with. Sometimes when a friend of mine has been sad they have curled up on my lap and said, ‘Could you tell me a story?’. Of course I comply!
One of my friends told one of her friends about my stories and he happened to be a movie producer. He asked me to write some of my stories into screenplays. I refused on the basis that I had no clue how to write a screenplay but he persisted and offered to help me out with the things I didn’t understand. I agreed and spent the afternoon curled up at the library with a pad of paper and a book on ‘how to write screenplays’. The first screenplay I wrote for him he pitched to someone who loved the aspects of Asian mysticism I had put into it and he offered up gobs of cash to the producer. After that Rowdy Roddy Piper and Nick Mancuso and helicopters and extra explosions were added. The movie was called, ‘Blind Eye‘ and it went on to the Cannes film festival where it made a good impression. A new investor asked me to write ‘The Mystical Adventures of Billy Owens‘ which starred Rowdy Roddy Piper again, this time as a magician.
I decided I really preferred plain old writing to screenplays and switched to writing. I was nominated for an Aurora Award (The Toadstools of Rire, a short story in another person’s universe was involved in that).
My husband and I had witnessed some unfortunate writers lose their worlds and their rights to their characters. My husband wanted to protect my writing as well as his own and the writing of others and so he decided to start Starklight Press as a way to share worlds, writing and to generally promote while keeping writing safe for the authors who wrote it.
This lead to a huge blossoming of writing and publishing, not just with Starklight but with many other presses as well. I also wrote a lot of scientific articles that took medical papers and broke it down so lay people could understand it as well as about scientific breakthroughs and other factual articles. I worked for the National Paranormal Society for several years and started a Journal of the Paranormal called Outermost that has received far more publicity then I intended from my humble ideas for a start to it.
I have a lot of publications and books out and am working on many more projects at this time. I try to keep a cohesive listing of these on my ‘about me‘ part of my website www.virginiastark.wordpress.com because there are a lot of them!
Have you always been interested in punk fiction or is this a recent development in your life?
Writing punk fiction is pretty new to me. My first actual Steampunk was written for a Christmas Starklight Anthology featuring Steampunk and my second one was my “King Pest” from Writerpunk Press. I love it! I am currently working on ‘Anne of Black Fables’, an urban punk version of the classic, ‘Anne of Green Gables’ and a cyberpunk version of Othello for next year’s Shakespeare anthology from Writerpunk Press.
How did you end up getting involved with the Writerpunk group and Writerpunk Press?
Apparently I caught someone’s eye at Writerpunk Press. I received a private message from Lia Rees who said she had read one of my interviews and thought I would be great to work on the Punked Poe Project. I jumped in with both feet and had a blast and now it keeps going!
What anthology are you helping with or hoping to help with?
Poe, Classics and hopefully the next Shakespeare anthology. Othello is a cyborg in my version and Iago is one of those hacker types who hangs out on 4chan and other underworld creep places. I feel this clarifies his motives in subverting Othello. Most of the criticism of the play circulated on Iago’s apparent lack of morals in corrupting Othello but I felt putting Iago into the context of a hacker would make him explicable to most people because there are so many hackers who just enjoy mayhem for mayhem’s sake.
What inspired you to work on this specific project?
King Pest inspired me to write in the Diesel Punk genre because it fit the post war component of Diesel Punk and the Spanish Flu that decimated the world compared well to the world of plague depicted in King Pest.
What it is about the punk genre that inspires you as a creative?
I like mind puzzles and moving things into worlds that are reminiscent of here but in a dimension slightly off is a fun way to let my brain play.
For example, in Anne of Black Fables I had to think: Why would people in an urban setting be upset about Anne for being a girl and being different. I had a good think about things and decided that in the modern era and decided that a modern Anne would probably be diagnosed with Asberger’s or Autism (they’ve been combined into one now in the new DSM-5).
It’s things like that and finding a translation for things that really excites my creativity. What if Othello had been a Cyborg? Let’s find out…
Of all the various *punk genres and subgenres, which one would you like to live?
This is a really hard question to answer. I think Urban Punk but the thing about the punk worlds is that they aren’t by and large very nice places. Part of the punk aspect is that life isn’t optimum and people are set apart from the mainstream. A lot of punk is about chaos and anarchy. Punk is a genre I work with that I wouldn’t necessarily like to live there but it’s cool from a safe distance.
Can you tell us a bit about some of the people that influence you the most?
My husband is a HUGE influence on me. Whenever I have a problem that I’m trying to figure out I always go to him first to try to talk the problem out. We’ve also done a lot of collaborating on worlds and writing and he makes my mind blossom.
I love other writers to bounce ideas off of and the right internet writing groups can bring out the best of my creativity while other groups are really suppressive.
I’ve always been a reader. I grew up reading Tolkien, C.S.Lewis, Lewis Carroll and by the time I was about to move into elementary school I was into Stephen King and later a dash of Clive Barker. Piers Anthony, Mercedes Lackey, Andre Norton, Tanith Lee…
God, so many good authors out there and I learned so much from all of them!
Do you have a set routine when you work?
Nope. I prefer to sit in my favorite chair with my laptop and a nice drink and a view outside of the birds who come to visit the bird feeder. BUT that isn’t my set routine by any stretch. I’ve written whole scenes that have suddenly come to me on my iPhone notepad function. I write on napkins and notepads, ANYTHING that will hold up to pen or pencil can fall victim to my writing.
I worked at Starbucks for awhile and between making lattes I used receipt paper to write on. I was so good that I could make a latte with one hand while still jotting notes with my other. I’ve used my hand or arm in a few rare cases but yeah, anything will do when it strikes.
What is your favorite genre to read/write?
I like the supernatural/paranormal/alternate dimensions or worlds, pretty much anything out of the ordinary. I have a tendency to include a bit of horror and writing in a strictly mundane world as part of a collaborative was one of the hardest challenges I had ever written. I also like science fiction. I generally put it all under the umbrella of ‘Speculative Fiction’ and let people wonder what that means, or rather speculate on what that means bwahahaha!
You are the editor in chief and “wearer of many hats” at StarkLight Press. Could you tell us a bit about StarkLight and your role(s) there?
I guess I’m a bit of a talent scout. If I see someone I like the look of I will often approach them to get involved in a short story event or something else. I read the stories and make sure they make sense. That’s my main editorial job. We have a separate line editor, Sharon Flood who is our wonder woman. I have a good eye for finding holes in plots and asking why something was or wasn’t included.
I often handle the co-ordination of projects and arrange them, plot them out and pick a crew to work on them. I also do a lot of public relations and promotions. I have a passion for writing and at Starklight that translates into ‘doing all the stuff that needs to be done’. Sometimes that’s communicating with personalities, writing letters to ask well known authors to write forewords for our books or whatever pops into my mind as a good idea at the time. I have a lot of energy.
Does StarkLight have any new projects on the horizon?
So many new projects! Starklight Volume 4 is set to come out this month and then we will be accepting submissions for Starklight 5. We have six different collaborative works coming out, new novels, new anthologies (the next one is Shamrocks, Saints and Standing Stones which was an invitation only anthology for writers we’ve worked with and had fun with in the past).
There is always something new in the works and endless possibilities for fun if you are an author who works well with others and doesn’t take yourself too seriously. Pretentious writers aren’t really up our alley. We like people who are real in their writing and reject people who are unfriendly, unwilling to take constructive criticism or open their minds to new ideas.
What you have taken away from working with Writerpunk Press and the Writerpunk Facebook group?
This is one of the groups that I love. The people in it are fun and supportive of each other. I’ve learned a lot about the various genres of punk but I still have a lot more to learn. The premise of re-doing the classics like Shakespeare, Poe, etc was a really cool one and I love the concept–got my brain wheels turning!
Do you have anything else you want to tell our adoring public or add to this interview in any way?
Just, be real. Actually do the writing, don’t just talk about writing endlessly. Don’t be boring. There are 7 billion people on this planet. In theory each one has a story to tell so you’ve got to be exceptional to get my attention. You do this by not being a sheep. Be strong. Stand up for yourself and your writing and don’t let people bully you into being ‘normal’. Don’t be awful but and stand up for yourself in a reasonable way but don’t ever let people criticize you for your passion and don’t let them curb your energy because you aren’t fitting the mold.
Stories that fit the mold are the worst and writers who aspire to that frankly make me gag. Be yourself and believe that you’re one in seven billion who is worth sharing your voice and speak loud, strong and clear.
Virginia definitely speaks loud, strong, and clear! Virginia works with other writers, artists and poets to hone her talents and to offer encouragement and insight to others. You can catch up with her on Facebook or Twitter. Be sure to grab a copy of Merely This and Nothing More: Poe Goes Punk on May 31st to read her dieselpunk story “King Pest”. </shameless plug>