August 23, 2012

Keeping it Short: an interview with Voni Ryan

After reviewing The Light Side of Dark by Voni Ryan this week, here is an interview with the two authors behind the pen name, Toni Cantrell and Violet Ryan. Enjoy.

Gef: Collaborating on a novel is one thing, but I suspect collaborating on a short story is quite another. How does that process work for you? Is there a particular genre you find lends itself best to collaborative stories?

Voni Ryan: We didn’t ‘collaborate’ as such, we each wrote our own stories then combined them into a collection. We did collaborate on choosing which stories we wanted in the book and where to put them, and the critiques to polish and perfect the works. Since The Light Side of Dark is fantasy based, I’d have to say it’s a theme that is really well suited to our collection.

Gef: When putting together a short story collection, how much thought is put into the placement of stories? Is there a rhythm or flow that's sought out?

Voni Ryan: My stories are first in the book, then Violet’s to keep each collection as a unit for the reader. Our publisher said between 60,000 and 70,000 words was a good length for a short story collection, so we chose stories to equal approximately 33,000 words each. The stories have a fantasy/sci-fi theme and are of various lengths, some very short, some longer.

Gef: For you, what's the draw towards flash fiction?

Voni Ryan: We don’t set out to write ‘flash fiction’. They’re whatever length works best for the story we’re writing.

Gef: How do you find short fiction has been affected by the rise of e-books and the digital age overall?

Voni Ryan: Since we were fortunate enough to be accepted by a micro-press whose owner began as my agent, I’m sure being published is much easier than in previous years.

Gef: How have your experiences in writing and publishing it changed?

Voni Ryan: We now have a collection of short stories published which we didn’t have. Our writer’s group is responsible for whatever interest we have in writing short fiction, due to our weekly prompts and short writes. We pick a topic and have ten minutes to write about it. We’ve learned to love writing and reading short fiction.

Gef: Authors often cite other authors who influence their work on novels. Are there any who have influence your writing, particularly short fiction?

Voni Ryan: We write what we read, to a degree, but we’ve also developed our own style and voice. We may be influenced by favorite authors when we choose the subject matter about which we write, but what emerges is uniquely our own.

Gef: What other projects are you both working on for the future?

Voni Ryan: In addition to Absentminded, The Light Side of Dark, Strangers and Pilgrims, If Ever That Time Come and The Gazebo, Toni has also collaborated with Bea Simmons to produce Like Him With Friends Possess’d by Allen Simmons-Cantrell. She also has several other projects in the works, A Soft Place to Fall, a modern romance about a rodeo cowboy and a former Vegas show-girl/pit boss who raise Friesian horses in Bozeman, Montana, another about two forty-something women who find romance and murder on a Mediterranean cruise called Murphy’s Law, The Stone Family Saga, about four families whose story begins in 1870’s California, continues through two world wars and ends in the 1970’s. A Death in The Family which is a ’30’s murder mystery. Tales from Za’ar is a fantasy about flying horses and a wicked shape-shifter. The Dangerous Summer of Beauregard Clark is a coming –of-age novel about a Vietnam vet and his buddy set in the 1960’s and Class of ’57 which is a nostalgic novel about being a teenager in the late 1950’s. As you see, her taste in stories is quite eclectic.

In addition to The Light Side of Dark and Absentminded, Violet has published two more novels, titled The Ambassador’s Daughter and Homecoming. She has recently finished her very first historical romance, The Contract, which tells about a reluctant bride and an uncommitted bridegroom in 1860’s Montana, and has several other finished novels as yet unpublished, among them Dos, about a brash angry young man who must learn to control his temper. Accountable tells the story of intentions gone wrong and the results of a horrific auto accident. Love Strikes Twice is a tale of two college students separated by time and circumstance. Till Death Do Us Part tells of a young entrepreneur facing certain death and the girl who rescues him.

You can find previews of Violet’s work at

Toni’s information appears at

Also check out our publishers web sites:, and

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