Name Crystal Lynn Hilbert
Where are you from probably the most backwoods corner of Pennsylvania, but close to Pittsburgh
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’m super excited to announce that my story “Stone Woken” will be appearing in EGM’s upcoming anthology “Women in Practical Armor.” (You can’t see it, but I’m doing the Kermit flail over here.)
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I’ve always told myself stories as a way to pass the time. One day it just occurred to me that I could write those stories down. As a twelve year old, the idea that I could just decide to be a writer was a heck of a rush. I’ve been doing it ever since.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I considered myself a writer that very first second I sat down at the computer and started waxing poetic about beloved purple-eyed women and their dragon familiars. I was a flaming ball of intolerable prose and unbridled confidence. Now, when I find myself mired in tricky plot twists, I try to channel the enthusiasm of my twelve-year-old self. There’s something to be said for that kind of unshaking surety.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Since its original publisher went under, my first book “Dead on Arrival” is currently available for free on Smashwords. (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/472279). It’s a story about a dead screw-up haunting his old apartment and in the process, the secretive new renter.
I’ve always been fascinated by ghosts. What do they do with their time? Are they stuck reliving snapshots of their past over and over? Or do they hang around in utter boredom, waiting for something to break the tedium? “Dead on Arrival” tries to answer that question, with some degree of shenanigans thrown in for good measure.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I tend to refer to my stories as “a haunting blend of high magic and Eddic poetry.” I’m only half joking. Cadence and sentence flow are very important to me. Sometimes my stories (like “Dead on Arrival”) mimic the speaking voice of the main character. Others, like the upcoming “Stone Woken” in Women in Practical Armor, wouldn’t seem too out of place recited from memory in an ancient mead hall.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
“Dead on Arrival” amused me, being that I was writing a ghost story and “dead on arrival” is sort of thing they write on hospital paperwork. It also has a deeper meaning to the main characters of the piece.
“Stone Woken” is a little more abstract. Euphemistically speaking, it’s the thing the main characters fear most, and the thing they overcome.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
For “Dead on Arrival”? Well, if you believe in ghosts, all of it. If not… eh, maybe like 20%.
For “Stone Woken” it’s all fantasy from start to finish, but there’s a lot of Norse Mythology floating around in there.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
One of my (admittedly weird) hobbies is to research real world magical beliefs. I love collecting things like grimoires and old herbals, so most of the time when you read a story of mine, the magical systems are based on magical systems that at one point existed in the real world. A good example of this would be my story “Soul of Soup Bones,” over on Apex. (http://www.apex-magazine.com/soul-of-soup-bones/) Almost all of the magic detailed there has been practiced in antiquity by one group of people or another.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
When I first started writing, I read a lot of Joanne Harris. I think it’s because of her (and my abiding love for Norse mythology) that my writing took on such a poetic quality.
Then, in college, reading Octavia Butler was an epiphany in character depth and female narratives. Until that point, I had somehow swallowed the idea that a story could either be about a female experience, or it could be an adventure. Her book “Dawn” was the first time I realized a story could be both.
Lastly, in 2010, I read the story “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window” by Rachel Swirsky, and it was like finally realizing what I wanted to be when I grew up. I want to be the kind of person that can construct women that flawed and that beautiful. You can read her story here:
I can’t recommend it enough!
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Same as my old projects: research old world magic, jam it in a blender, use the resulting paste as ink on the next story. In the coming weeks, I’ll also be supporting the Women in Practical Armor Kickstarter.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
I see writing as a calling. I’ll be writing until they put me in the ground, but I don’t think I’ll ever be paying the mortgage with my short stories.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
The characters in “Dead on Arrival” have a pretty unhealthy relationship. If I wrote it again, I think I’d explore that dynamic a little deeper.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
You know those times when you’re sure everything you write is terrible and nothing will ever be worthwhile again? When that happens to me, I like to take stories I really admire and look in them for the things I hate in my own writing. Telling not showing, over abundance of metaphors, certain word choices, that kind of thing. Sometimes it really helps to be able to say, “Look, they do the thing and this is still very beautiful. I am probably also beautiful. I will be okay.”
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I like to crochet while binge-watching TV shows. I also enjoy collecting nail polish and making messes every time I try a new design.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
My latest passion is Steven Universe. Rebecca Sugar has a real gift for visual storytelling.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I sometimes think that if I weren’t a writer, I’d have been an artist instead. I have too many stories just to leave them fester. They’d have to come out somehow.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
Yes! I keep something like a blog over at http://cl-hilbert.tumblr.com/ and if you’re looking for something to read, my two novellas are free on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Cyprith
I also have a Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/crystal.lynn.336717 but I am admittedly very bad at using it.
Crystal Lynn Hilbert lives in the forgotten backwaters of Western Pennsylvania and subsists mostly on old trade paperbacks and tea. A fan of things magical and mythical, her stories tend towards a peculiar blend of high magic and Eddic poetry. You can read her latest stories “The Many-Named” at Betwixt (http://betwixtmagazine.com/the-many-named-by-crystal-lynn-hilbert/) and “Duplicate” on Flash Fiction Online (http://flashfictiononline.com/main/article/duplicate/). A monster masquerading as her sleeps at http://cl-hilbert.tumblr.com/