Forthcoming Work: Grandmother Mælkevejen's Belly: A Novelette of the Lodhuven
Where Can You Find Her? : Website
Top Writing Tip: Never, never, never give up. It's simple advice, but I believe it's both the hardest and most important thing a writer can do for her career.
Hi C.S., thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us!
When and why did you begin writing?
I began writing science fiction in the 5th grade when my class was assigned a creative writing project, and I never looked back. In fact, my 6th grade teacher separated me from the rest of the class for sharing my stories and poems and forced me to sit beside her because she felt I was a distraction to other students. A better case for home-schooling I never did see.
When did you realise that you were Pagan?
When I was a girl, I had the experience so many Pagans report of a deep connection with the natural world, but I didn't have the language for that connection then that I do now. In my mid-teens, I was introduced to The Spiral Dance and The Mists of Avalon. The first book gave me that language, and the second gave me a vision of spirituality tied to the Earth, the divine feminine and my own body, mind and spirit. That's when I began using words like 'Pagan', 'priestess' and 'witch' to describe myself. My words are a little different now (Druid and Heathen, most notably), but my core spirituality is still tied to that connection with the land, sea and sky.
How do the topics of your stories come to you?
They come from everywhere! Science articles, other stories, conversations with my husband and friends, spiritual experiences, dreams. In fact, my story "Sing the Crumbling City" is the retelling of a dream I had some years ago. It's featured at Mythic Delirium during the month of April 2015, and you can read it there free of charge (though I encourage you to subscribe to the magazine if you like good speculative fiction and poetry).
What are the main life experiences that have led to this story?
The original draft of "Grandmother Mælkevejen's Belly" was written during the final week of the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers' Workshop in 2006, an infamous year for the course by any estimation and an experience I wouldn't repeat for my weight in gold or chocolate. The second draft came a few years later as a sequel to a story that appeared in Murky Depths Issue #7 entitled "The Longest Road in the Universe." That story is still available, but you don't need to read it to enjoy this one.
I was playing djembe in a West African performance ensemble during the writing of that second draft and thinking about the often-contentious relationship between spirituality and science. I wanted to write a story about a strong spiritual community and a strong scientific community in need of each other to solve a hard problem. So I created a group of drummers and dancers who made out-of-body excursions into a supermassive black hole, interviewed a couple of friendly physicists to make certain the science in my fiction was plausible and expanded my original short story from Clarion into a longer piece.
Tell us about your story, key characters and plot.
The Lodhuven are a sub-species of humanity genetically-altered for various reasons, most notably to enslave them. This enslavement is generational and manifests as a Lodhuven addiction to their masters. In "Grandmother Mælkevejen's Belly," the descendants of these slaves, who have long since broken this addiction at great cost, are seeking a way to repair the devastating damage to their genome and become fully human again.
The scientific community has at its disposal a string engine (think Hadron Collider) of massive proportions left behind by the slavers when they disappeared five hundred years ago. Banthren Kavid is the science director of this string engine; a man who believes the best way to repair the human genome is to bring the engine online and use it for that purpose.
However, a group of drummers and dancers called the Bodh Speakers stand in opposition to the scientific community. They believe there are two vessels full of healthy human beings trapped in the event horizon of the supermassive black hole the string engine orbits. Gryph is the lead drummer of this group, which uses an entheogen to induce out-of-body shamanic journeys into the supermassive in search of these vessels. They believe the best way to repair the human genome is to rescue these people somehow and make use of their genetic samples. But if the Yost String Engine comes online, the vessels and their precious cargo will quickly be destroyed.
When Aris, lead dancer for the Bodh Speakers, deliberately steers her own vessel down into the supermassive in solidarity with the people she thinks are trapped there, the scientific community and the Bodh Speakers come to blows.
What, or who, do you enjoy reading?
Science fiction, fantasy, comics, scientific non-fiction, spiritual non-fiction, animal rights non-fiction and anything else that strikes me as interesting. My Kindle presently contains books by Garth Nix, Peter Watts, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Dion Fortune, Nicholas R. Mann, H.R. Ellis Davidson, John Michael Greer, James Gleick and people like them. I'll read anything Lois McMaster Bujold writes. Not kidding. Pass me her grocery list.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you most like a writing retreat?
Siberia. It's where my next novel is set, so I'd love to spend some time there.
If you could pick one book you wish you’d written, what would it be?
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. Hands down. What a novel.
Who encourages/inspires you?
My husband Sean, who is my anchor, cheerleader and patron of the arts. My friends, who understand that what I do is a career and treat it like work. My fellow writers, who never give up on their own craft. My readers, who 'get' my writing in ways not even I do sometimes.
Are you published or self published, and what has been your experience of this process?
I'm a hybrid writer, which means that I'm both traditionally-published and self-published. On the traditional publishing front, I've had some success selling my short stories and poems to semi-pro and pro markets (semi-pro and pro are pay categories and not statements about the quality of a given publication). I've completed the first novel in a series and shopped it out to agents and publishers with some expressions of interest but no offers of purchase, so I'm revisiting the beginning of that series at a different point in the universe's timeline with another book I'll begin drafting in April 2015.
The traditional publishing market is extremely competitive right now for both long and short fiction, which makes self-publishing attractive to many writers, myself included. But while self-publishing provides a ready platform for publication, fewer people are actually reading, and fewer still are attracted to independent work for a variety of reasons. So I'm not inclined to pursue a career as a solely independent writer. I think my career benefits from the attention my traditionally-published work receives, while self-publishing provides me with an additional outlet for work readers might be interested in.
What are your future plans for writing?
As I mentioned, I'll begin drafting a new novel in April. I'm also writing for an ongoing anthology series based on the letters of the alphabet, edited by Rhonda Parrish. A is for Apocalypse is already in print and contains my Pushcart-nominated short story "N is for Nanomachine," and B is for Broken is forthcoming with my novelette "C is for Change." I'll be writing stories for the "C" and "D" anthologies this year. I'm also planning to write a one-act Pagan, science fiction play for possible local production via a Pagan friend and actor. In the meantime, I'm working on the production of an audio version of "Grandmother Mælkevejen's Belly", which I hope to release through Amazon/Audible soon.
On that note, here's a blast from the past as well. I recently completed a bit of practice recording using poetry and stories from my first collection, The Ruin of Beltany Ring: A Collection of Pagan Poems and Tales. This practice work is freely available via SoundCloud, and you can buy the collection itself in either paperback or Kindle from Amazon.
Thank you again for giving us a glimpse into your passion and your process, C. S. We wish you all the best with your stories, novelette and novels!