Author Interview: Virginia Kroll

Virginia Kroll was born in Buffalo, New York. She attended the State University of New York at Buffalo and Canisius College and later became a fifth-grade teacher in the Buffalo area. She has written numerous short stories, articles, poems, and books, including I Wanted to Know All about God (Eerdmans, 1994) and Masai and I (Four Winds Press, 1992). Virginia is married and has six children, one grandchild, and 49 pets.

Books by Virgina Kroll
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What made you decide to become an author?
Virginia Kroll: I actually became an author because of poverty. I had just had my fourth child in 1983, and my husband and I were out of work. I knew I needed to make a difference, but I also needed a job that would allow me to work at home. I had no car, either, at the time. One day, when Hannah was a year-and-a-half old, I announced, "I'm going to be a writer." I knew absolutely NOTHING about the business. So I copied addresses out of magazines and began sending. My children's stories were accepted often, so I decided to concentrate in that area. I had two more children. When the last one was almost 2, I tried a book manuscript, which was immediately accepted. I now have over 1,700 magazine items to my credit and have had 43 books published, with five more under contract.
What's a typical workday like?
Virginia Kroll: A typical workday goes something like this: I get up at 7:30, do some chores, and go to Mass at 9AM, where I do the readings twice a week. Since I look at my writing as a ministry and not just a job, I pray for guidance and center myself in God. I feel that my writing is a gift, and my mother always said that when God bestows a talent on someone, he/she has an obligation to use that talent to make life better for others. I try never to forget that. I try to write every day, but it's not often easy with three kids still at home and lots of pets, though we all care for them (2 dogs, 11 cats, 3 birds, 2 rabbits, 12 guinea pigs, 3 degus, 6 turtles, 5 tortoises, 3 mice, 1 rat, and 1 hedgehog). So I go to my local public library three times a week, which is where most of my actual writing takes place. And I usually try to squeeze in a meal with a friend AT LEAST twice a week. A few years ago, I became such a workaholic that my relationships were suffering, so I made a New Year's resolution to change that.
Where do the ideas for your books come from?
Virginia Kroll: My ideas come from my six kids and their experiences, my animals, my own childhood experiences, or just things and people I encounter daily.
Especially Heroes was written about your own personal experiences. Is it easier or more difficult to tell a "true" story than one that is pure fiction?
Virginia Kroll: Especially Heroes was an account of incidents that occurred in my life. I guess I'd have to say that it is easier in many ways to tell a "true" story than a purely fictional one because most of the material is already there, so you need only to add a bit here, subtract there, and change small details. True-to-life stories, for me, virtually write themselves.
How much research do you do before you begin writing? Can you give any examples of unusual research for any of your books?
Virginia Kroll: Sometimes I do loads of research before writing a book. The book that took the most research was With Love, To Earth's Endangered Peoples (Dawn Publications, 2000). It's important to be accurate, so I try to check several sources for information, especially on other cultures. I do a lot of multicultural writing, and I love learning about the ways people throughout the world do things. Life is endlessly fascinating. I love Nature too, and researching animals is always a lot of fun.
Do you rewrite much?
Virginia Kroll: Fortunately, I don't usually have to do extensive revising once a book is accepted. I guess I try to make it as perfect as possible before I submit it. But there have been times when editors have asked for changes, and it has made a world of difference. A good editor knows how to pull the best from his/her authors.
Do you have any advice for would-be authors?
Virginia Kroll: My advice for would-be authors is to read all you can and try to write something every day. Believe in yourself, and look at your writing as a craft. The old adage, "Practice makes perfect," applies. The more you write, the better you'll become. That's no secret; it's just a fact.
What characteristics do writers need most?
Virginia Kroll: Writers need tenacity, perseverance, and patience. We also need to be positive. Rejections are a part of any writer's life and experience. We have to learn to accept them and move forward. Writers also need self-discipline. Writing tends to be an isolating profession, and we have to push ourselves to get things done.
Can you tell us one thing people may not know about you?
Virginia Kroll: One thing people may not know about me is that I love stickers! I've been collecting them since the year I started writing. I now have eight filled books and have just started a ninth.