Interview with John Kaiine

John Kaiine is an artist, sculptor, poet and story-teller, who’s worked with Immanion Press since 2011, both as an author (through his novel Fossil Circus) and an artist, in providing the sumptuous cover artwork for most of the books by Tanith Lee we’ve published. John and Tanith were married for 25 years, a relationship that ended with her death in 2015. John is currently working on intriguing new material, including the cover art he’s providing for the Tanith story collections we’re publishing this year. We thought it was time we asked him to tell us more about his work and what has and continues to inspire him.

JK Self Portrait 2018Self-Portrait by the artist, April 2019

 IP: It’s clear you’re interested in the peculiar and the macabre, John. What were your early influences in respect of films, TV shows, fiction and music?

JK: I didn’t go looking for the weirdness, it was just there. Perfectly natural. Environment was part of the influence. I was brought up in a weird part of London, Roehampton. (Roers) More on that later. It was early 1970’s, all was grim-garish post-hippy pre-punk inbetweeness. Fifty shades of brown tartan. There was still some respect in the air. Not much, but enough. Precious little hope, the three-day week with Gothic candlelit shadow’d evenings, but we had colour TV, so that made it alright. (Yeah.) But it was always the old black and white movies viewed on those screens that entranced me. King Kong, the original with Fay Wray, was the first film I ever saw. BBC2 showed old horror flicks on Friday nights; Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula. Beautiful visions, so much detail and emotion compared to TV with its old game show queens in sequin suits, Carry On movies, Northern soaps. Jimmy Savile O.B.E.  Kids TV was surreal and shite. Monty Python was cool. And wonderful Dr Who. Radio 4 spewed out the Goons. That was enough to be going on with. Fiction, to me, was all of the mythologies and American comics; same thing. I was what would now be called the Geek, who knew all the names of the DC and Marvel heroes and villains, and Atlas and Charlton’s, too. When all the school was drooling over Kevin Keegan, I was finding out as much as possible about Lon Chaney Snr. I was never really into music as a kid, although I always had a huge crush on Suzi Quatro. My brother had a massive record collection and I would sometimes root through some of the boxes, looking at the cover artwork. I recall some cool Roxy Music, Budgie and Wishbone Ash. He played me Napoleon XIV’s ‘They’re Coming to Take Me Away Ha Haa!!’ one night and then he played the B-Side, which is the same song in reverse. That did something to me. Later on, the first album I heard and fully took on-board was Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Kinda went downhill from there… And so, early creative influences and absolutely no respect at all must go to my prescription junkie psychopathic father who taught me to read and write when I was 2 or 3, respectively. My rest of ‘early’ was stuff that Universal Studios couldn’t, and really wouldn’t wanted to have churned out. Dear old Boris and Bela withstanding.

IP: How did you begin writing and creating art? Can you share details of your early career with us? 

JK: I was always drawing, making notes. It was a form of escape. I don’t have old artwork, just a remnant from when I was making notes/sketches for Fossil Circus. I have some early photographs. I always wanted to be a comedian – laugh or cry. That thankfully didn’t happen, but I was apprentice for a while to the wonderful special effects expert, Ian Scoones. That was amazing. I love the working film crew atmosphere. Other stuff happened. I was always creative throughout.

IP: Tanith wrote the previously unpublished story ‘Iron City’, which appears in ‘Strindberg’s Ghost Sonata’, around the time she met you. How did you meet? Would you say that the creative sensibilities – including a love of the unusual – you shared were part of what forged your relationship?

T&J1991John and Tanith in 1991

JK: We met at a Forbidden Planet publishing ‘do’, (‘Crying in the Rain‘) London 1987. We had never met, had no idea either existed and were both going to leave for different reasons. We were both persuaded to stay by two different lots of people. We ended up being in the upstairs bar and the old cliché (eyes across a crowded room etc) happened. We met for dinner a week later and that was that. When we first got together, because of age difference, Tanith was 39, I was 20, there was a lot of negativity from others. Age and also height discrepancies, I’m 6’6, she was 5’2. I recall some twat saying, ‘I give it six months’. Twenty-eight years later, twenty-five of those married, the only way we were parted was by death. Tanith literally died in my arms. But that was only the physical. She’s still around. And always will be. ‘Unusual’ to the both of us was natural for different reasons. That was apparent from night one. Iron City came around from word play. We both wrote a line each and at the end of the evening, she said. ‘Whatever happens with us, I will never be bored with you.‘ Creative sensibilities may have had something to do with it, we just liked throwing words and ideas around. Nothing more, nothing scholarly or pretentious. Kids who had finally re-found one another’s imaginary friends. Just the love of creating with images which came to be stories sometimes. Novels. Even trilogies. Our joint love of cats was integral too. We were forged by one another. (I have almost three decades worth of ornate tins/boxes full of notes, ideas, scribbled details, possible character names, titles. Some got used. The rest are gathered together.) I have an entire book of Sherlock Holmes short story ideas we came up with over the years.

Tin of IdeasThe Tin of Ideas, photograph by John Kaiine

IP: You collaborated on many of Tanith’s works. Could you talk about some of these collaborations?

JK: After Iron City ~ October ’87. We were walking through Richmond Park the weekend after the ‘nothing like this for 80-100 years‘ hurricane had arrived in England. Tanith had just signed up for a massive commitment. An epic erotic vampire novel. That was her real first time ‘ Vampire novel’. (Aside from, Sabella) Her working title was ‘The Colour of Blood‘. I said, ‘That’s crap, and it’s already been done.’ She laughed, nodded, agreed and for the rest of our afternoon picking through the devastation of uprooted trees, we came up with the title’ The Blood of Roses.‘ We worked well together; I could think of ideas as swiftly as she could write. Tanith had written so much; she appreciated a new fresh voice in her vast cacophony. Sometimes my suggestions fitted, sometimes not. At the end of the working day, we would sit down together, and Tanith would read what she had written, we would talk about it, very seldom making small changes. Any other editing was done when she typed it all up on her electric typewriter. Sometimes what I was making on Photoshop would trigger an image and she would write about who or what that was. (Israbel. Cold Fire.) She was always being asked to contribute to anthologies and when approached for a tale on vampires, dragons etc, her response would normally be “OMFG, I’ve done that to death!”

My response, “Do you want me to have a think about that…?”

“Yes, please.”

Then after dinner I would approach with a possible idea. If it struck the right note, the question would be if I ‘had written that down’.

We would always talk about plots, characters, ideas when out at lunch. Many a heavily-scribbled tablecloth was purloined, and fellow diners freaked out by enthusiastic new ways of killing. Sometimes we did that on purpose. Death by flamingo will always take first prize for that. (A Bed of Earth ) Another perfectly normal Indian lunch wrapped up with another unique death. The novels/ideas that come to mind are: Vivia – I suggested the whole kicking in the castle door, walking up to the bridal chamber with the dead horse image and actually quite lots of it, as she was getting to the stage where she wanted to write contemporary or at least not fantasy, however dark. Elephantasm – which came from a sketch of a skeletal giraffe looming over/through a Victorian four-poster. Reigning Cats and Dogs (how to find a new way to kill in a Jack the Ripper style… do it by time. Victims found ancient, bits newborn, child, embryonic) and all of The Scarabae Blood Opera. We had so much fun with that. She loved the true historical myths/legends of vampires, I just added new insights, days out wandering around the weird London that I knew and introductions to odd contemporary stuff. East London then was in the beginnings of being ‘gentrified’, so there were still real people and real places alongside the encroaching suits and overseas investors.

Tanith 1999Tanith Lee in 1999, photograph by John Kaiine

The highlight of OMFGness was when Tanith couldn’t get into the first Piratica book. It was meant to be about real pirates, yet she had a massive block on it. We found out why later. She went away with friends for a few days and I had that time to think about it. Return. Lunch. ‘About that pirate thing…’

<sigh> ‘Yes…’

‘You don’t want to write about real pirates, so why don’t you write about your favourite people.’

‘Do what? (it was actually, ‘what the fuck are you on about, John?’)

‘Who do you like best?’

‘Actors, you know that.’

‘OK, so they’re not pirates, they’re actors convincingly playing pirates.’

Long, silent stare, wine glass in hand, not knowing if she was going to launch it at me, then a lift of an eyebrow, and ‘have you written that down…?’ Result. Those books were always an excuse to intrude upon each other’s workrooms with lists of stupid names and surprisingly intense newfound pirate facts. She had a wall full of intricately detailed illustrated fighting pirate ships and everything else I could find for her.  Another short story, Black and White Sky, came about from one of our monotonous hour-long journeys to Maidstone when she was having to have radiotherapy every day. We were out in the wilds, stuck behind a tractor. I looked out the window and saw a magpie flying up out of a field of reeds, and then another, then another. I told Tanith to look and she saw what I was seeing, magpie after magpie rising up, rising up. She only said, “Are you writing that down?” I wasn’t, but I did later.

Years ago, when Coronation Street had excellent writers, we happened across an episode where an old witless guy was left to a character in a will. The germ of that became the short story, ‘Antonius Bequeathed.’ See, it was all very intellectually cultural and stuff. An idea could happen from a passed remark from a cab driver, and often ended up fifty pages later. I would begin writing novels or more often than not, long short stories and me being me, would hit ‘bored now’ and discard it. ‘Unlocked’ was one such, and Tanith asked if she could add to it. She did, I did some more, and the end result was especially beautiful. There are endless such examples, short stories, novels. All genres. I will always miss it, but so damned pleased that I wrote most of it down.

IP: I know there’s a story about what gave you the idea for ‘Fossil Circus’. Would you tell us about it?

Jerusalem Car Chase‘Jerusalem Car Chase’
Illustration from ‘Fossil Circus’ by John Kaiine

JK: Early 1970’s, I grew up in South-West London. Roehampton Village. Roers. <sigh> OK… Enviroment can manipulate character. It was one of the biggest housing estates in Europe, slab blocks, point blocks, low-level housing nestling within the Georgian landscape, ‘considered by many British architects to be the crowning glory of post-World War II social housing.’ Everywhere was concrete grey and leaf green. Science fiction architecture growing up, out of an endless forest. Now Grade II listed buildings. To the East and to the West the wilds of Wimbledon Common and miles of Richmond Park skirt the perimeters of the village. It was the home of a massive hospital, Queen Mary’s. Base of original false limbs making, burns unit, psychiatric specialist wards. Most of the patients there were encouraged to live within the local environment. So everywhere you looked were either limbless, horribly burnt, psychiatric, geriatric passers-by. Or any mixture. There was a substantial head count of Down’s Syndrome folk too, ministered to by heavily-veiled and wimpled nuns. It’s the home of The Priory, where celebs rush to now if they have any ‘bad’ publicity. In its glory days, Mervyn Peake convalesced there for a while. Looking back at it all, I don’t think I could have lived anywhere else. Everything was twisted, distorted, disfigured, beautiful, brutal… Different. Double amputee war veterans with tall steel crutches loomed on every corner. Shell-shocked old geezers rattled through Le Corbusier’s walkways. I recall a woman who had been in a terrible fire – she had no face, just an empty black shape held in place by a metal cage. A glamourous tobacconist lady with a wooden hand. Dangerous inpatients would often go AWOL from P1 and be at large. There were colourful fly-by’s from the pandemonium of escaped parrots that lived on Wimbledon Common. 1960’s bronze sculptures – The Three Watchers and The Bull, all verdigrised. It was near Heathrow and the planes were so low and loud. The first episode of Minder, Gun-Fight at the OK Laundrette, was filmed there. The Pope visited in 1982 and all the pubs in the district ran dry. Epic twilights. There always seemed to be a full moon. There is a tiny graveyard dedicated to the bones of nuns. It was totally fucking Weird and I loved it. (You can see now why I lost my job at the English Tourist Board advertisement agency…) My Mum worked at the hospital and sometimes brought me home junked artificial hands and arms to play with. I was brought up in an atmosphere of violence and nearly always threat in the air (my C word of a father was the inspiration for the seemingly indestructible serial killer Jerusalem Lamb), so losing myself in the much-needed escapism of myths, comics and horror films, it’s little wonder that my future landscape had already been painted for me. These memories and encounters forged the characters and backdrop to Fossil Circus. A much-used piece of advice to aspiring authors is Write about what you know. I did.

IP: What are your current inspirations for your art? Are there any stories behind the pictures displayed on your new Instagram page?

JK: OK ~ Instagram. It’s a free gallery for my art until I decide what I want to do about/create my own website. It’s waited this long, it can wait longer. I’m no lover of social media, (Neither was Tanith. She was offered a financially substantial publishing deal 2 years before she died, and she/we knew she was dying, and turned it down because contractually she would have had to have blogged the trilogy’s ongoingness. ‘Why fucking blog when you can use that time to write?’ Unquote.) I don’t FB, Tweet or whatever solipsistic rubbish. But I do understand the commercial viability of such. Instagram seemed the most contact-free option.  Inspirations… Not really. There are book covers there spanning twenty years. Life, therefore illness, death, grieving, mistakes and consequences got in the way and needed to. Art happened when it did. Art (for me) is easier than writing. Right now, and for a while, writing has been tucked away until I can be in that fucked up arena of luscious thought again. It’s coming.

MotherWentAwayToMakeYouCry‘Mother Went Away to Make you Cry’  by John Kaiine

Stories: There are quite a few Doctor Who images there. Reason ~ I had an art show in USA where I couldn’t attend. Apparently photographic images of mine of cemetery angels were taken to be Weeping Angels. These were popular and sold. Therefore: Doctor Who images sell. Gosh, really that obvious… Yep. So, taking advantage of several long weeks of disability last year, when all I could do was be stretched out and immobile, I opted to be stretched out in front of my lovely big work screen and submerged myself in hundreds of hours of past and present Who. I/We (Tanith and I) had been lifelong fans. I had been lucky enough to operate a working Dalek and she was asked to reincarnate the Doctor years before BBC reinvented the series. (The actor name in that particular Doctor frame then was Brian Blessed). I created myriad Who images, past, present and future. There will be (all being well) a Doctor Who art exhibition of mine later this year. (More on that later.) Other images are Giger inspired, long term doodles that slotted into others and become complete, and/or just stuff sitting around in ancient files and re-layered and re-curved.

WUTHERING DEPTHS‘Wuthering Depths’ by John Kaiine

Can I vent about Doctor Who here now…? Who is Epic, legendary, mythological. Enchanting, much-needed escapism since 1963. We/I followed it from Hartnell/ Pertwee through good, bad, indifferent, heart-rending, stupid, ‘wow, I wish I’d thought of that’, ‘meh’… We stopped watching during the 12th Doctor era (Capaldi was, and is, brilliant. But criminally let down by erratic writing: Midlife crisis sunglasses, electric guitar playing, bursting into scene on a “I don’t like soldiers, don’t like guns, weapons” Sherman tank forchristsake, and totally miscast choice of co-actors, feeble must-have PC companions, misandry and hijacked rank SJWness. Fair and equal rights to all, but please (no pun intended), please stop trying to ram it down our throats. To cannibalise a quote from a much-loved, wonderful writer friend of ours, who puts it so succinctly ~ “As if Tanith gave a fuck about this faddish, ridiculous PC stuff. She just told stories, since that was her vocation in life, and her own wisdom shone through as a natural part of her work. Others simply seek to demystify authors’ work, making it fit a certain agenda. They’re just draping their whatever’s trending right-on clothes on the mannequin of others’ genius.” (That being said, I’m really looking forward to that new possible Marvel movie re-boot with Dame Judi Dench playing the lead role in Black Panther.) I truly hope The Doctor returns one day, in whatever gender, beautifully written, acted and supported. With more Cybermen and Zygons.

IP: Do you plan to produce any more fiction or graphic novels in the near future?

JK: Yes. Absolutely. An editor has recently very unwisely approached me to participate in a Weird Landscapes U.K anthology, which will be a good way of easing back into writing all day long again. Bliss. Before Tanith died, I was working on (writing, photographing, Photoshopping) an on-line graphic novel, Flowers, for inclusion in David Lloyd’s, (V for Vendetta) online magazine Ace’s Weekly, but stuff happened and it’s sat on a hard-drive somewhere for four years. I’m not sure if I’ll revisit it or dramatically change it or offer something new. I have three unfinished novels which all need completing; Hollow. Mind-Sea-Wreckage. MoonThief. Or I may just piss everyone off with a sequel to Fossil Circus.

FlowersFrom ‘Flowers’ by John Kaiine

IP: Can you tell us what plans you have for your artwork? Is it available for people to buy?

Fuchsia copy‘Fuschia’ by John Kaiine
(Appeared on the cover of ‘Animate Objects’ by Tanith Lee (Immanion Press 2016)

JK: Some of my work is on Instagram, if anyone wants to buy an image, they can DM me. I am looking in to having an E-Commerce website build sometime this year. I offer a unique service – especially for Doctor Who fans. They tell me their favourite Doctor, companion, monster and I create an image incorporating all of those elements. One image, one layer, printed, Photoshop file deleted, they own the only copy. I will frame the image too from one of my many effected frames. I am going to begin having some of my designs printed on to fabric material and wallpaper too.

Our Lady of Maggots‘Our Lady of Maggots’ by John Kaiine

IP: Now, on to more frivolous things. What is the weirdest thing that ever happened to you?

JK: How long have you got… Aside from my childhood and things that blur legality ~ a séance on a ripped-up snooker table, coming face to face with rutting stags in Richmond Park in 3am darkness and steaming, misty rain. Shopping trolleying down Caterham hill at great speed into oncoming traffic, falling off a cliff on the Isle of St. Mary’s, my time gravedigging and un-ivying Howard Carter’s neglected gravestone, meeting my doppelganger on the roof of Notre Dame cathedral, having my ‘soul realigned’ by my kinesiologist, Beryl. Walking through ghosts in The Stag pub, Hastings, being the only audience to an brass band of Down’s Syndrome folk playing Christmas tunes (1975), being accused of being German by Japanese tourists in Utrecht on our honeymoon! Being banned from Cornwall (1985), unearthing a Victorian human jaw bone while mud-larking on the Thames, and any of our numerous meetings with Harry Harrison and/or Ken Campbell. Every visitation in The Clown pub, Hastings. And just living in Hastings. I wouldn’t call Tanith and I meeting, weird. That was written, meant to happen. Weird is relevant. All of the above were great fun and very interesting. Weird to me is how the majority exist.

pirate day 2012
Tanith and John at Hastings’ ‘Pirate Day’ in 2012

IP: Who are your favourite authors, musicians and film-makers?

JK: Writers ~ Mervyn Peake, Graham Greene, John LeCarre, John Banville, Jean Rhys, Isak Dinesen. Angela Carter. Kafka. John Fowles. M.R. James.

Artists ~ Klimt, Beardsley, Edward Gorey, Howard Pyle, Durer, H.R. Giger.

Films ~ Plunkett and Macleane, Brotherhood of the Wolf, The Hitcher, BladeRunner 1 and 2, Freaks, The Man Who Laughs, Nosferatu, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Dog Soldiers, Alien, Karloff’s Frankenstein, The Legend of the Holy Drinker, Fatherland, The Happy Time Murders, Mad Max 1, Mad Max Fury Road. Jumanji 1 and 2.

Recently – the excellent series Taboo, Bosch, The Punisher and of course every single episode of South Park. The Tick is very funny too.

Music ~ depends on what I’m doing – art or writing. Gary Numan, Tubeway Army, The Stranglers, Fields of the Nephilim, Marillion old, Marillion new, Curve, Gorecki, David Bowie, Killing Joke, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Dead Can Dance, Rammstein, David Sylvian, Depeche mode, Sisters of Mercy, Fever Ray, Peter Gabriel. And my guilty Youtube video secret – Panic at the Disco

My favourite albums to work to are The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway by Genesis, The Tubeway Army album, Marillion’s F.E.A.R, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Outside by David Bowie. Security, Peter Gabriel.

Favourite tracks ~ Sinister, The Stranglers. Freaks, Marillion. Jo the Waiter, Tubeway Army. Comfortably Numb. Rakim, Dead Can Dance. Carpet Crawlers, Genesis. Small Idols by Cyclefly. Panic at the Disco – We Write Sins Not tragedies. Anything by Rammstein.

IP: What is your ambition for 2019?

JK: I’m just 52 now and have an overwhelming feeling that my time is running out, so I need to achieve lots more. Working towards getting more of Tanith’s work back in print, The Blood of Roses will be republished by Immanion in 2020, more art shows, getting back into writing, a massive Doctor Who art project (Time is a Forgery), my own website and creating a series of Gothic portraits made from a hybrid of antiquing mirrors, photography, Photoshop and lots and lots of dirty white candle wax…

 Thank you, John, for all these wonderful stories you’ve shared with us.

John’s Instagram page: https://www.instagram.com/johnkaiineartist/

 John’s novel, ‘Fossil Circus’ is available from Immanion Press. Following the recently-published Tanith collection ‘Strindberg’s Ghost Sonata and other Uncollected Tales’, we’ll be releasing two further collections of rare stories and curios in ‘Love in a Time of Dragons’ and ‘A Wolf at the Door’. John will provide the cover artwork for these as well as the forthcoming ‘The Blood of Roses’. All details will appear on this blog, and our page on Facebook.

THE PHOTOGRAPHS AND ARTWORK FEATURED IN THIS INTERVIEW ARE COPYRIGHTED. PLEASE DO NOT REPRODUCE ANY OF THEM ONLINE OR IN PRINTED FORM WITHOUT THE PERMISSION OF JOHN KAIINE, WHO MAY BE CONTACTED THROUGH IMMANION PRESS. info(at)immanion-press(dot)com

Meet Two More Para Kindred Authors

Continuing on from last week, Para Kindred: Enigmas of Wraeththu contributor Nerine Dorman has continued to host other anthology contributors on her blog This Is My World.

Three  more to add to the ones we mentioned in our last post:

Enjoy!

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Para Kindred Authors on Writing and Wraeththu

Over the past week, Para Kindred: Enigmas of Wraeththu contributor Nerine Dorman has been generous enough host other anthology contributors on her blog This Is My World. So far five posts have appeared, each one offering a glimpse into the inspiration for the various stories and also the writer’s connection to Wraeththu.

Authors (and editors) who’ve appeared so far, with links to their posts:

We expect a few more posts and will share here when those are up.

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Michael Ventrella interviews Storm Constantine

Storm

MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA: I’m pleased to be interviewing author Storm Constantine.Storm’s work has covered many genres from fantasy, dark fantasy and horror to science fiction and slipstream. She has so far written twenty-three novels, and currently has most of her short stories collected in four Immanion Press editions. Let’s start by discussing the re-release of SEA DRAGON HEIR. There is always an urge to rewrite older materials when it gets re-released; what has changed with this edition?

STORM CONSTANTINE: My urge to tinker with old works is simply that some were written when I was much younger and certain incompetencies in the writing and structure of the stories were just too much to ignore. Also, in some cases, publishers had asked for sections to be removed, simply because they wanted a shorter book. When I came to republish the books myself, I could restore them to my original vision. As I’m an editor as well as a writer, it was impossible for me to keep my hands off revising and refining!

To read more of the interview go here!

An Interview with Lisa Spiral Besnett

LH: Firstly, for our readers can you introduce yourself?

Lisa Spiral Besnett: This is my first book, so I’m new at this publishing and interviewing stuff.  I’ve been a student of spiritual practices for much of my life and I’ve been an active member of my local Pagan community for over 30 years.  I’ve done public speaking and chaplaincy work in interfaith environments.

LH: You mention in your book as being aware of magic at a young age, was that something that was frightening for you or was it something that was ‘encouraged’ by those around you?

Lisa Spiral Besnett: I was never “frightened” by it.  Magical experiences were pretty normal in my household.  When the phone rang my Mother always told whoever it was for to answer it – back in the days of landlines.  Whenever anyone would ask how she did that my Dad would say, “She’s a witch.”  We just took it for granted that was a good thing.

LH: How do you find divine connection works within communities that perhaps have a much stronger leaning towards ‘academia’ do you see issues of connecting the divine when the divine is viewed as somewhat the ‘last’ step in the stairway so to speak?

Lisa Spiral Besnett: I’m not quite sure what you mean by the “‘last’ step in the stairway” but I don’t really see an issue given how broadly I’ve defined the Divine.  Even academics acknowledge first hand experience as valid data and the book is full of primary examples of what I am addressing.  The Awe experience happens to all of us, regardless of our religious framework or lack thereof.  There is nothing in the book that demands looking for the Divine where it would be uncomfortable.  It simply offers a perspective of possibility that may be broader than many people have ever considered possible.

LH: Do you think that one of the issues in accepting Divinity is in the fact that people put gods into ‘boxes’ or label them making it impossible for them to see ‘variations’ or alternative faces of the gods they are looking to connect with?

Lisa Spiral Besnett: This is the advantage polytheists have in that they acknowledge a multiplicity of Divine forms.  I actually think putting Divinity into a form sometimes makes it easier to deal with as “real”.  The problems come in communicating with someone who’s framework of the Divine is vastly different than yours.  I hope that I emphasize that whatever personal experience the reader has with the Divine is valid, and that experience does not invalidate someone else’s different experience.  The language and variations that I offer, I hope, will make it easier to communicate those experiences when they are different.

LH: What do you think are the absolute NO NO’s for people to avoid when manifesting divinity?

Lisa Spiral Besnett: I think giving up free will is a huge no no – hence an entire chapter about Choice.  Doing everything the voices in your head tell you to do without question or concern for the consequences is, to my personal, unqualified, non-medical point of view, psychopathic behavior.

LH: What importance do you think prayer plays within manifestation?

Lisa Spiral Besnett: Prayer is a form of incantation.  It is a means to call on the Divine, either for invocation or evocation.  Prayer can be an expression of Divine Inspiration.  It can be a means to Divine Alignment.  But I also think that prayer classically is different from what many people practice today.  The prayers that we hold over time are not “gimme” lists, but rather honor and glorify an expression of the Divine nature.

LH: Do you think that most people have lost the connection with divinity because of the ‘tight’ regulations often surrounding the ‘structured’ religious organization

Lisa Spiral Besnett: Any time you have a regimented form it can become rote, and practiced without feeling or meaning.  Much of spiritual practice is about what you bring to the practice.  I think that people have looked to organized religion for the evocation of the Divine and for a community connection.  When the form and regulations do not meet the experience of the people they look elsewhere.  It is the groups that have been disenfranchised by organized religion (women, GLBT) who lead the exodus into simply spiritual practice.  But with personal practice there is no community.  Again, having a language to discuss personal experience with someone else who’s personal experience may differ can help build a community within personal practice.

LH: How did you come to know Immanion Press?

Lisa Spiral Besnett: I am friends with a few of your authors and they encouraged me to look at Immanion.  I wanted a publisher that had a connection to the Spiritual community.  I also wanted a publisher with credibility.  I really like that Immanion is looking to fill a niche between the basic 101 material that can be found anywhere and the dry entirely academic texts.  It was a good fit.

LH: What do you think of working with an independent and how has it benefited you so far?

Lisa Spiral Besnett: I appreciate the support I’ve gotten from Immanion as I go through this process for the first time.  The publishing industry is so dynamic and changing so rapidly that there is no way I could keep up on my own.   In particular I appreciate the editing process Immanion offers that is missing from so many self published works.

LH: What can we expect from you in the future?

Lisa Spiral Besnett: I’m working on a second book and thinking about a third on the same theme of exploring the Divine.  I’m also working on a series of Meditation CDs. 

LH: Is there anything you would like our readers to know about you or the book?

Lisa Spiral Besnett: I really hope this book provides a platform to begin a conversation about spiritual experience and practices.  I certainly don’t think that what I’ve written is the “only” way to look at the Divine.  I read a blog the other day about a Catholic pilgrimage.  It was a very personal experience and the author did a great job of conveying his connection with the Divine.  We don’t see the Divine the same way.  We don’t share common views on some core political issues.  But I could easily recognize his experience as Invocation and Evocation of Alignment and Inspiration and appreciate its Awe-someness.

LH: Do you offer any workshops related to manifesting the divine?

Lisa Spiral Besnett: I do.  I have a workshop I’m giving at the Women and Spirituality Conference at Mankato State University in MN in October called “Daily Practice Sucks!”.  I encourage daily practice in the book, but it’s not easy and the workshop addresses ways to make it easier and more effective.  I also have a workshop called “The Path of the Oracle” based on the premise that Resonance plus Inspiration defines Oracular work.

LH: Finally, what strikes you as the one most important thing you wanted people to take away from the book??

Lisa Spiral Besnett: Truly I hope what people take away is the sense that we are surrounded by the Awesome Divine.  That the Awe experience is available to us if we are willing to be open to look for it.

Interview with Neil Robinson

The best part of my job as Public Relations Officer is to get to know our authors and to read their books! Reading Monday Luck inspired me to request an interview with author Neil Robinson in order to find out more about the man behind the words.

So without further delay here is my interview with author Neil Robinson about his latest book Monday Luck!

Larisa: What inspired you to start a career in writing?

Neil: “Career” is too grand a word. A much better writer than me once said, “I write to understand, not to be understood.” To some extent that’s true of me, though I’m not convinced it’s the best way to write. Writing is something I do sometimes. It would be nice if one day I was paid lots of money for it.

Larisa: How long have you been writing?

Neil: As a child I lived in a world of my own; at least, that’s what adults kept telling me. I had lots of fantasies, which grew more complex as I grew older. I used memory to keep track of things, but once complained to my mum that I was having difficulty remembering where I was in a particular storyline. She suggested I write my thoughts down. I was thirteen or fourteen. Because I’d daydreamed too much at school, my writing skills weren’t great; but for some reason I persevered. And I’m still persevering now that I’m old.

Larisa: What do you feel are the benefits to being published with an Indie Press?

Neil: Like Indie music, I think the Indie press is often, in artistic terms, ahead of the conventional big-business side of the industry, which these days gives the impression it’s only interested in publishing the work of celebrities, top chefs, or established authors with huge earnings potential. If you’re part of the Indie movement you’re riding the crest of an imaginative wave – the mass of water beneath you is the traditional industry, which might swallow you up and carry you along with it, or drag you under and drown you. Still, there’s nothing more exhilarating than riding the crest of a wave.

Larisa: How did you come to work with Immanion Press?

Neil: Immanion Press were nice enough to publish my first novel, Oliphan Oracus, a while ago now. As I recall, another writer, a friend of mine, heard that Storm had launched Immanion, and he suggested my work might suit its brief. So I submitted Oliphan Oracus, and Storm phoned me a short time later. The rest, as they say, is history.

Larisa: How did Monday Luck evolve? And what inspired you to make the main character a children’s entertainer?

Neil: I’d long been interested in the idea of a modern fable – something that wasn’t a direct allegory, but which tried to describe a modern mythological landscape. I was influenced by authors like Michael Moorcock, James Joyce, JG Ballard, Angela Carter and Iain Banks (with and without the “M”). And I was fascinated by the Fortean Times and its record of strange phenomena. For many years I was a journalist, so I also wanted to use some of my reporting experiences, suitably adapted of course. All this was knocking around in my head with stuff I’d learned about Robin Hood and the Arthurian Cycle. Some of the first drafts of Monday Luck were quite different from the end product.

At the time I started writing the novel I was caring full-time for my two sons. I saw the shows of a lot of children’s entertainers. I have to say, those acts were not like Lenny’s; they were very good, and I admired them greatly. Lenny’s occasional incompetence is no reflection on real children’s entertainers. He’s the wandering clown: a bit sad, a bit funny. And his specialty, juggling, is a good – if slightly clichéd – metaphor for the way he manages the relationships in his life. I was juggling too, trying to deal with the various sub-plots and concepts of Monday Luck.

Larisa: Was the use of slang intended to integrate readers into the culture of the book?

Neil: Yes. I wanted to give the impression that the characters moved and spoke within a world of their own, which was similar to our everyday world, but a little out of synch with it – sometimes a lot out of synch. You’ll find many London expressions and some Cockney rhyming slang. I hope it isn’t too confusing for non-natives. There is also mention of a rhyming slang created by Lenny, Simon and co. and based on the names of celebrities. I suspect all families and circles of close friends communicate in the context of a private mythology, which of course is reflected in their language.

Larisa: The characters in the book seem to be inspired by the 1980s. Are you yourself a fan of this era?

Neil: I’m not exactly a fan of the 80s; I just lived through them. In Monday Luck I’ve tried to produce a portrait of my generation, so the 80s, which was a time of great social upheaval in the Britain of my youth, feature prominently. So many business kingdoms like Marian’s rose and fell. It was a time of internal conflicts and big hair, and of metaphorical dragons that scourged the land and have still to meet a knight capable of slaying them. You can’t beat that stuff. Of course, the 60s, 70s and early noughties also play a big part in the book. The 70s, which had punk rock and so much fascinating TV, are particularly important.

Larisa: How much research on Gene Roddenberry went into the development of Greg’s character?

Neil: I’m aware of the salient events in Gene Roddenberry’s life, but I wasn’t conscious of using them to construct Greg’s character. He is, of course, hugely influenced by Star Trek, among other science fiction and fantasy shows. In many ways he is the character I identify with the most, though I didn’t grow up in the US or experience the kind of unhappiness he experiences in his childhood. Like Roddenberry, he’s an active, driving personality, in contrast to some other Monday Luck lead characters who are quite passive.

Larisa: Are you, yourself a fan of Star Trek and Mr Roddenberry?

Neil: I am a massive fan of Star Trek and Mr R, though I don’t attend conventions. I think I’ve seen just about every episode of Star Trek: the original and the Next Generation as well as all the films and all the spin-offs. I’ve forgotten a great deal over the years, so maybe it’s time to start re-watching them. Some episodes are among the greatest works of science fiction. One double episode, The Menagerie, springs to mind. It includes footage from the original pilot, The Cage, and has a complex, thought-provoking and moving plot. I found the use of illusion, which takes a crucial role in this and many other Trek stories, very inspiring. Interestingly, Majel Leigh Hudec, later Mrs Roddenberry, plays Number One in the pilot. In the series proper she changes character and is “demoted” to the position of Nurse Chapel, possibly on the insistence of network chiefs. But her former role was more in keeping with Roddenberry’s vision of the future, where women would share equal status with men. In numerous ways Roddenberry was a radical thinker, and Trek’s portrayals of race, religion and politics reflect that. Naturally, because I love Star Trek, I’m not averse to poking fun at it now and again. I adore the way Kirk and his crew bowl up like cosmic cavaliers on some remote planet where cultural injustices have existed for centuries, and, within the space of about half an hour, our good captain and his mates have sorted everything out, leaving the locals looking pathetically grateful but rather shell-shocked.

I was about nine when Trek first aired in the UK, and in those days we had no VCRs. The show clashed with my Cub Scout weekly meetings, and I had to make a choice. It was no contest – the Cub Scouts got the boot.

Larisa: People often say an author is inspired by their surrounds; did you find this true?

Neil: I’m not sure “inspired” is the right word. My surroundings wouldn’t leave me alone. They surrounded me – there was nothing I could do about it – and took me prisoner. The only way I could escape was to put them into a story, mythologize them in fact, and let them have their day in court. I live in Essex, a mundane place that is also extraordinary. That’s one of the main themes of Monday Luck: the strangeness of familiarity. Essex is full of paradoxical landscapes and contrary people. I feel I’ve done what my surroundings asked of me, but they still won’t let me go.

Larisa: Do you personally have any experiences with the paranormal?

Neil: I don’t. I’m sceptical when it comes to the existence of the supernatural. Still, existence is a slippery concept. I think it was the philosopher Kant who said that existence is not an attribute. If you ask me if I believe in a Father Christmas who once a year plunges down chimneys, consumes tonnes of mice pies and litres of sweet sherry and leaves presents for every child in the world, then I would express considerable doubt. But the idea of Father Christmas exists in our collective consciousness and is very powerful.

Larisa: What do you think fascinates people about the paranormal world?

Neil: Many things fascinate people about the paranormal. It invites so many possibilities, some frightening, but others quite appealing. You sometimes hear people say about life: Is this all there is? Well the paranormal says there is something more. It may simply be the possibility of a life beyond this one. Which, actually, is pretty exciting. In evolutionary terms, humans need to exploit their environment, so we’re hard-wired to have a sense of curiosity and wonder, and to seek new experiences. Few things stimulate wonder more than the paranormal. I’m intrigued by what it tells us about ourselves. It’s often a coded way of expressing desires, fears and hopes. Vampires, for instance, tell us about “otherness” and sexuality, among other things.

Larisa: Did show like Destination Truth or similar inspire the book?

Neil: I have to admit that I’ve never seen Destination Truth. I believe this show is on the Syfy channel, which I don’t have access to. However, I was devoted for a long time to the X-Files, which is often very impressive. Like some apparently unrelated series, such as the Sopranos, it is a marvellous “portrait of America” show. The work of Joss Whedon, particularly Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, is also terrific. In Buffy he subverts the Vampire myth with great skill; and the dialogue is always scintillating fun. An episode called The Body, in which Buffy’s mother dies, stands alongside the best of Star Trek.

Larisa: What can we look forward to from you in the future?

Neil: I’m working on a story set thousands of years in the future. From that short description, it doesn’t sound as if there are any links with Monday Luck; but there are – distant links, but present nonetheless. Much of the action takes place in a fishing town which bears a slight resemblance to places like Hull or Grimsby in the early part of the 20th century.

I want to create a surrealistic world where most people are lost most of the time. A Grand Guignol artist uses a swarm of nano-thingies, possessed of a colony intelligence, to create a planetoid. It’s meant to be the ultimate artistic statement rather than a world for human settlers, but many centuries after its creation people set up home there and often find themselves subjected to the bizarre whims of inscrutable, invisible, sub-microscopic artificial beings.

 Larisa: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about your writing?

Neil: I think that just about covers it…for now.

Thank you to Neil Robinson for taking the time to speak with me. The book Monday Luck is available now!!

A Chat With Tanith Lee

Tanith Lee stops in for a chat with Storm Constantine. Her new book Killing Violets is now available at Immanion Press

Storm: The Colouring Book series comprises new, unpublished titles, except for L’Amber, which appeared through Egerton House a few years ago. How did the ‘colour’ theme come about?

Tanith: It just happened – if anything just ever does that…In a way, the colour theme started a while before, in the late ‘90s, when I wrote 2 short stories – The Sky-Green Blues and Scarlet and Gold. These tales were utterly unrelated to the novels, as to each other, the first an SF Futurist Kafkaesque – er -thing, on another (green-skied) planet, the second a sort of werewolf story in a parallel 18th Century Eastern Europe. However, I realised I had green/blue and red (scarlet)/yellow( gold) , and something formed for me a third title, a take on the other obvious colour combine, purple/orange – which became lilac/amber. Lilac then abbreviated itself to L’ : L’Amber. No story properly evolved, but the title lingered on. And in a while (about a year?) characters began to encircle my campfire, their eyes glowing.

What the title meant came clear for me, as for the main protagonist, with the novel’s progression.

Then, about a year and a half after that another contemporary-ish (as L’Amber had been) novel made its presence felt: Greyglass. Aside from the fact that they were both (sort of) about the so-called ‘here and now’, I made no connections, colour-wise. But by the time the third one laid its paws on me, I’d begun to see these really were Colouring Books. For there was to be a colour, (and always a mixed colour, not a primary (Red, Yellow, Blue)) in the title of each. The titles, without exception, are completely relevant to the plots.

Only the book which now appears fourth in publication – Killing Violets – was not originally part of this series. I wrote it some while even before L’Amber, and it went by the tag Gods’ Dogs, which remains its secondary title. However, its inner preoccupations, for me, undeniably fit the series, and the Colouring title that now flies top of its mast is entirely compatible with its theme, and its sad, sad heart.

Ivoria, which comes next in publication order, is also true to its name. As is, in the oddest ways, the fifth novel, Cruel Pink.

I realise belatedly that I do have a few unrelated other books with colours in their titles – e.g.: Red as Blood, The White Serpent, Black Unicorn. These things happen, and I can’t restrict the rest of the pack. (There is another Garber book too, that sometime I hope to get written, called Cleopatra At the Blue Hotel – and it is nothing to do with the Colouring Books.) I’d suggest, whether primary colours or not, red, white, black and blue are definitives in their way. NOT mixed. To get a really hard black you need black. And though all the colours together make white, outside a controlled experiment one doesn’t often witness that.

Nevertheless, I can’t one day exclude writing some volume called, say, The Mauve Mountain. Or (doubtless under the influence of strong coffee and alcohol) Tawny Rose and Smoky Jade. (Or perhaps not.) Continue reading