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