Corvidae Contributor Interview: Leslie Van Zwol

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Over the coming weeks I’d like to share interviews that I (and Magnus) conducted with the contributors to Corvidae and Scarecrow. This week we’ll talk with Leslie Van Zwol. Leslie is only beginning to build up a publication history but trust me when I say you really wanna keep your eye on her writing career because she is going places. And I’m not just saying that because she’s my friend, though I’m proud to call her such 🙂

Interview with Leslie Van Zwol

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

Suddenly the sound of hundreds of wings beating in unison is behind me. I have a brief surge of courage before I decide courage is a bad idea and dive into a juniper bush, holding my breath and hoping this camouflage isn’t as pathetic as it seems. The streetlights flicker and go dark. Shadows race past me converging into a solitary point as he materializes on the sidewalk. I watch the Nachtkrapp rise out of the darkness, his death-black sockets burning through the juniper bush.

He is at least three times my size. Matte feathers draping around him like a thick woollen cloak; he cocks his ebony skull to the side watching me as I free myself from the bush.

A sharp curved beak blends flawlessly into the coal-coloured bone like some macabre embellishment from the Devil’s wardrobe. He reaches one of his four bony talons towards me. “One for sorrow… six for gold.” His voice hisses like burning bark.

What is it about corvids that inspired you to write about them? Corvids are too smart for their own good, and their high intelligence often comes out in mischievous ways – this is what I love about them. You often see a group of corvids picking on a lone dog, a bird of prey, a human, or even a wolf. They just don’t care about anything. They lack the natural fear you see in most species. They are the embodiment of the ‘idle hands’ warning – too smart, too cunning, too bored!

Was there one corvid characteristic you wanted to highlight more than others? I wanted to highlight their faults and their talents. Corvids are notoriously resourceful and fearless, but they are not very physically strong. I really wanted to show how they use their skillset to get around their weaknesses – not much slows a corvid down.

Do you think you were successful? I think I did a good job… well I hope so.

If you were a covid, what would you build your nest out of? Anything I could find, but I would lean towards the side of ‘things that did not stink’. No garbage. I would use mint gum as an adhesive, and find the prettiest accessories and add some bling around the edges.

What’s your favourite ‘shiny’ thing? I am a fan of sequins and glitter, but I don’t like them in high concentration, more like a tasteful sprinkle. I am most assuredly not a corvid.

As you may know, one of Edmonton’s local Twitter personalities is Magnus E. Magpie who haunts Twitter as @YEGMagpie. I invited him to read an advance copy of Corvidae and Scarecrow and offer a short cawmentary on each story from a magpie’s point of view, which he did. When he was finished I asked if there was anything he’d like to ask the contributors. The italicized portions are mine because Magnus didn’t ask straight-forward questions on account of he’s a magpie 🙂

Mr. Yegpie: It would be cool to know where all these stories came from, I mean geographically – like I think I could tell who was from Edmonton and who was from Vancouver! (Where do you live, and did that affect your story/poem at all?Well first off, the story came from my vivid imagination. Which, is currently located in southern Alberta. More specifically Lethbridge.

Mr. Yegpie: I also would sure love to know where they got their ideas from! I caught several familiar references from existing books and mythology and fairy tales; I like seeing people riff off stuff. (What inspired your story/poem?How my story was inspired: I really wanted to highlight what a magpie would be if he was a person. His flaws (oh, so many flaws) and strengths. That preliminary idea grew into my grubby, fast-talking, bear-poking, adaptable, shiny-collecting detective. I also wanted to use the traditional magpie poem in a murder/mystery/fantasy setting. Mash those ideas together, blend for 3-5 minutes, then bake for an hour on 350 degrees and you have ‘A Mischief of Seven’.

Mr. Yegpie: I think I would like to know what people’s favourite corvid is though; and if it isn’t a magpie, WHYEVER NOT?!? (If they come back with some guff about crows using tools, PLEASE LET ME KNOW AND I WILL SEND THEM A COPY OF MY ROGERS BILL. Pffft, crows.) (What is your favourite corvid?My favorite corvid is a magpie. Although, I have this strange image of the corvids of the world uniting and taking over the Earth…. Just saying.

Leslie Van Zwol is an avid genre writer who enjoys adding a dash of grit to mystical worlds. She spends her days working for justice to support her nighttime writing habit, and is always on the lookout for her next adventure or inspiration. She also attributes the accuracy of this story to the noisy magpies that were constantly squawking outside of her window during the writing process. (Although the crows continually voiced their objection to the subject matter.)

Cover for CORVIDAE. Design by Eileen Wiedbrauk

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