Friday, 12 February 2016

Nimue Brown

Author's Name: Nimue Brown
Recent Work: Pagan Dreaming
Where you can find her?: Blog, Website, Twitter
Top Writing TipDo it your way. There are any number of people who will tell you how to write, how to structure your time and your story, how to write a bestseller - and most of that information is going to be useless to you. Try anything that sounds worth your bother,  but remember that we're all different and there's no one magical solution to this. Especially not to wtriting a best seller. Also, most of us make very little money writing, so you may as well do something you're going to enjoy. It's easy to devote vast amounts of time to doing a thing you don't like but are sure will tick all the boxes and bring success, only to find you're made yourself utterly miserable and still aren't successful.

Tell us a little about yourself, what are the main life experiences that have led to this book?

I grew up in a broadly Pagan family, so that’s always been part of my reality. There were dream dictionaries around the house when I was a kid. As a child I suffered a lot from incredibly vivid and haunting nightmares, as a teen I had a lot of issues with insomnia, but a rich dream life when I could get there. I've always been interested therefore in how we make sense of dreams. I lost that richness of dreaming in my twenties; sleep deprived and down to a handful of reoccurring nightmares. The last few years have been a journey towards better sleep, and a return of my ability to dream well. Add to that an interest in the science and psychology of dreams, in rewilding, and in wellbeing. Having struggled with dreaming, I want to share what I've learned about how to have a better relationship with sleep and dreams. I’m something of a sleep evangelist –we don’t do it enough, most of us, and it is so very good for us.

When did you realise that you were Pagan?

As a conscious awareness – it came in my mid teens. “Thou, Nature art my goddess” was about the size of it for me then. I had a great interest in mythology and folklore, found my way to the Pagan Federation at 18, which took me to Druidry in my early twenties – the Druid Network and study with The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids followed, and I’ve been following the Druid path ever since.

What, or who, do you enjoy reading?

I’m an omnivore when it comes to books. I like to be surprised though, so I tend to stay away from anything that looks like formulaic genre fiction. I’m reading a lot of non-fiction at the moment – I love Robert MacFarlane. I read a lot of fiction from smaller publishing houses because that tends to be more innovative and one of my current favourites – Matlock the Hare, has just funded it’s third book through kickstarter. Increasingly I’m finding the kinds of stories I want to read just don’t get picked up by bigger houses. Sheena Cundy, Anthony Nanson, Kim Cayer, Bill Jones  – those are the authors on my recent fiction reading list, and they're all at small presses or self publishing.

Is this your first published piece or have you had work published before? 

I’ve a number of Pagan titles to my name – Druidry and Meditation, When a Pagan Prays, Druidry and the Ancestors, Spirituality without Structure and I just have the pleasure of editing the anthology Pagan Planet. Alongside this I write speculative fiction, short stories, poetry, and the graphic novel series Hopeless Maine - all sorts really – I get bored easily if I keep doing the same thing, and I love to experiment.

Have you ever met one of your characters in real life?

More than once. It can be more than a bit creepy. When I was first writing, in my late teens and early twenties, I used a lot more reality in the mix and would, all too often end up writing things that were true, and that I shouldn’t have known. It taught me to deliberatly create a bit more distance, especially if I want an option of killing characters off! As a superpower, slightly predictive writing and the ability to write people I’ve not met yet does not leave me with any urge to stick on a cape and use it to fight crime, so that’s something, at least.

Do we see some of you in your book?

Always in the non-fiction work. I’m not a scholar, and I don’t have any ultimate truth to share. What I’ve got are experiences, and ideas – I make sure that’s clearly personal in no small part to avoid dogma. I want readers to feel free to say ‘well, that’s interesting, I’ll ignore 90% of it and just use this bit’ if that makes sense to them. In my fiction work it’s a different thing entirely because I don’t want to write autobiography (honestly my life has been far too unbelievable for that to work). I draw as widely as I can and bring a lot of influences into the mix to create characters and situations that are as plausible as I can make them, but also firmly fictional.

 Who encourages and inspires you?

Some years ago, I fell in love with one of my cover artists...Tom Brown.  I’d been working with him for a while on the graphic novel series at that point. He’s been tremendously supportive, and is an ongoing source of inspiration to me. I would be entirely lost without him. My publisher at Moon Books – Trevor Greenfield - encourages me and keeps me going, I owe him a lot. Beyond that, I’m blessed with a lot of generous and supportive friends. There isn't space to name check and do them all justice here, but I hope they all know how much I value them. Many of them are highly creative people and its really inspiring just being around them. In terms of other sources of inspiration, hilltops, big skies and the ancient dead remain important to me.

Where do you go when you need to recharge?

Out! I love hilltops, and there’s a lot of those around here, but equally I may head off into the woods, along the canals, or through the valleys. The part of Gloucestershire I live in is amazing in terms of landscape, I always end up seeing wildlife, there’s always something to lift my spirits and clear my head.

Do you socialise with other writers or are you a solitary author?

Most days, there’s an artist right across the table from me. If I go out for a coffee in Stroud, the chances of running into another author, or a poet are really high. It’s part of the reason I moved here – I love being part of a creative community, and there’s all kinds of everything creative in Stroud. I read books my friends have written, and when I can, I make friends with people whose books I’ve really liked. I want to know what other people are thinking, what they’re interested in. It’s easy to retreat to the ivory tower, but its bloody lonely up there, and easy not to notice if you’re saying something that’s old hat, or totally out of touch with the rest of reality. I’m also keen on supporting other authors – it’s not an easy industry to be in, and we all depend a lot on word of mouth advertising, so when I can do that for someone else, I’m very glad to do so.

 What are your future plans for writing?

 There’s definitely more to come on the Hopeless Maine series, as we’ve just moved to Sloth Comics with that. I’m sort of writing a novel at the moment, but I have no idea if it’s working, and sort of writing a short Pagan book. I find it hard to talk about what I'm working on, and need to get over that! I never really know until I finish if a thing is going to come together, and they frequently aren’t the books I thought I was going to create when I started them, which makes me wary of saying too much. I fear offering something I can't deliver, and occasionally big projects fall over part way through and don't happen, or I finish them and they stall for other reasons. 
For example, I wrote a novel called Fast Food at the Centre of the World, and had no idea what to do with it, for years. It ended up as an audio project over at Nerdbong and now Pendle craft magazine are serialising a text version. I never really know how anything might be gonig to play out, and when I think I know, i'm generally wrong. I blog pretty much every day at Druid Life, and I’m experimenting with doing a book on Pagan Pilgrimage in blog posts – I figure if all else fails, I’ve at least written some good blogs! Aside from that, much depends on what people ask me to write, or who asks me to write for them, so it’s often in the lap of the gods.

Thank you again for giving us a glimpse into your passion and your process, Nimue!. We wish you all the best with your informational guides and look forward to reading your new graphic novels!

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Wren Paasch

Author's Name: Wren Paasch
Best Known Works: Son of the Sun
Where You Can Find Them: Facebook
Top Writing Tip: Find something that you are passionate about, and write that. It's easier when you're excited about what you are writing about!

When and why did you begin writing?

I wrote my first "story" when I was three years old. It was illustrated with stick figure drawings, and went: "Once upon a time there was a happy family with a mommy and a daddy and a big sister and a little sister and a dog. The end." I haven't stopped writing since then. It is as necessary and inherent to my being as breath.

When did you realize you were Pagan? 

I had been devouring anything I could about Celtic history and Druidry for some time, like a person who has just crawled through the desert might guzzle water, filling a hole I hadn't previously realized needed filling. I made it "official" when I self-initiated on Beltaine of 1999 with a ritual of my own design. It would be years before I met another Druid in person, though I read every inch of the OBOD's website and was very active on their message boards for many years.

What were the main life experiences that led to this book?

I have been rather obsessed with the Ulster Cycle since before I even truly considered myself Pagan, when I was just beginning to learn our history. It started with Red Branch by Morgan Llewellyn and the album A Celtic Tale by Mychael and Jeff Danna. Historical fiction novels, and music as well, for me, often prompt me into further research because I want to know more (and what was muse for that writer/musician and what was "canon"). It would be an honor to me if my novel did that for someone else, especially as I wrote it from Laeg's perspective and so explanations that he would not have known, I did not detail.

Is this your first published piece?

Yes. This is the first book I've ever written that I still liked when it was done, and wanted to show to the world. The books I wrote in my teens and twenties my friends read, but after I wrote them, I felt they were awful.

How did the topic of the book come to you?

As I said earlier, I had been obsessed with the story for years, but had never really considered doing my own take on it for most of that time. It began to solidify in my mind probably after I read Mary Renault's Alexander trilogy, where she told the story with the generally now agreed upon idea that Alexander the Great was gay. I had long felt that that was the case with CuChulainn; seeing it done with Alexander inspired me to make the case with CuChulainn.

Tell us a little bit about your novel. 

Son of the Sun is the story of CuChulainn, the half Dannan, half mortal son of Lugh Lamfada, as told from the perspective of Laeg macRiangabair, his charioteer (and in my version, his husband). CuChulainn and Laeg are both historical persons, but the story is over two thousand years old, and like so many of our Pagan stories, has been mythologized, propagandized, forgotten, distorted, and edited through many lenses, Pagan and Christian, scornful and romanticized. CuChulainn is the nephew to the king of Ulster, Connor macNessa, and quickly earns a reputation as a warrior hero, and becomes the king's champion. CuChulainn is described as what we might call a "berserker" in battle, but reserved and brilliant otherwise; this is generally attributed to his Otherworldly abilities, but I also believe, like modern day warriors who "berserk" on the battlefield, that there is some mental illness at play. His mother is considered touched, and it's not hard to imagine that being known as a demigod from the day you were born and being raised by a mad mother and a stepfather who might resent the God who bedded his wife, and subsequently the child that came of it, might take its toll. So I tried to be very human in some respects while also running with the Otherworldly manifestations of spirit in physical form.

Is this work published or self-published? And what was your experience?

I self-published through Amazon. There is a bit of a learning curve involved, especially as this was my first time doing it and I am a one person show, but overall the experience was good. Amazon puts out free Kindle books that detail how to format for their platform, and these were the most helpful tools for me. The most frustrating thing was catching an error, or not thinking about a difference in formatting between print and ebook, and having to go back and correct it for what felt like the ten billionth time. I finally realized I was probably never going to achieve perfection, and so I let a big glaring error slide in the end... chapter two got deleted from the table of contents. I call it the hidden track, like on a CD: on the album, just not in the liner notes.

Do you plan your stories before you begin?

Yes, now I do. With Son of the Sun, I knew the story by heart so well, I didn't need an outline as much as I needed a reminder checklist: don't forget x, then y, then z. I of course did a ton of research for details and names and such, and added in a part or two I didn't remember at all before doing said research (the whole Derbforgaille story is actually weirder than I wrote it, so I just had to include it). The structure was already in my head. With the new book, I actually started it twice and aborted both of those attempts as it was either too rambling or too compacted; I wrote an outline to pace myself and restarted and am now happy with how it's going.

Do we see some of you in your book? 

Yes, I am all over this book, in different parts and in different characters. I think that's probably true of a lot of fiction writers; we have to relate to our characters first if we're to make them relatable to others. The piece that probably most people would catch was my decision to make Emer asexual. She does not bear CuChulainn any children, and the "bitter straight wife of a gay man" trope is overdone to me. Making her conveniently a lesbian didn't feel right either, as by all accounts she loved CuChulainn very much (and only grew jealous when he schtupped a Goddess, if you believe that version of the story). So a contentedly intimate but nonsexual relationship seemed right to me.

Are you a fast writer or a slow writer?

I'm probably on the slow end. My goal for the first draft of Son of the Sun was to complete it in a year and a day, and I finished it a few days after that self-imposed deadline. Then edits, and formatting, and making a cover when I am technologically challenged... and of course transposing the whole thing into a Word document, as I write first drafts on my typewriter, Amergin... all took much longer than I'd anticipated.

What one book do you wish you had written?

Just one? Egads. Can I say the whole Alexander trilogy, or perhaps the Sevenwaters trilogy by Juliet Marillier?

Who encourages or inspires you?

You can probably guess that Mary Renault inspires me; I adore her books! My friends online encourage me daily.

Where in the world would you most like a writing retreat?

Ireland (were you expecting a different answer?)!

What are your future plans for writing?

The book I am working on now is called Tales From The Northern Winds, and it is a novel about the Tuatha De Dannan. It's not a small time frame, as in the Invasion Cycle, though it does include that and reaches to present day and immediate future.


Thank you Wren, for giving us a glimpse into your process and your passion! We wish you all the best with Son of the Sun and look forward to reading your next novel!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Ellen Evert Hopman

Author Name: Ellen Evert Hopman
Best Known Works: A Druid's Herbal for the  Sacred Earth Year and A Druid's Herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine
Where can you find her? WebsiteFacebookAmazonTwitterLlewellyn
Top Writing Tip: Being a writer is not something you “want to be”, rather it is something “you are”. There is a tremendous amount of sacrifice associated with this profession. Also, there is very little money in it and not much glory, so it had better be something you “can’t not do” to use a double negative. The only reason I have been able to write so many books is that I have always worked part time, just to have the energy to keep writing and teaching. Sitting and dreaming about “being an author” has nothing to do with it. You have to want to sit in a chair for hours every day and thump out pages of work, in solitude.

What are the main life experiences that have led to this book?

I have been a Druid since 1984, officially. I was born in the Hallstatt area of Austria which some say is the birthplace of Celtic culture. There were Celts around before that but it was only when the Celts had salt mines in that area that they were able to accumulate enough wealth to commission distinctive jewelry and weapons. In my early years my mother would talk about the Celts with great reverence, I never thought much about it and it was only in my thirties that I heard there were “Druids” in this world. I immediately felt drawn to that word and have spent the rest of my life learning about the Druid path and founding or co-founding Druid Orders in the US. 

I was one of the first members of ADF. I co-founded The Henge of Keltria and was its Vice President for nine years, and The Order of Whiteoak where I was co-Chief for five years. I am currently Archdruid of Tribe of the Oak . 

I have taught and initiated many Druids over the years. As a teacher I wanted to understand the full scope of what Druids once were and what we are now. That was the impetus to travel to Britain to 
see what Druids on that side of the pond were doing and teaching. I interviewed the major Druid leaders at that time and those interviews eventually became this book.

When did you realise that you were Pagan?

I had an actual epiphany on Winter Solstice morning 1978. I was riding in the car with my then husband and he was listening to a hockey game on the radio. I had no interest in the game whatsoever but at one point the announcer casually mentioned that it was the day of the Winter Solstice, in the midst of his patter about the game. I suddenly felt a strong urge to “do something”, I knew not what. I begged my husband to stop the car. He wouldn’t get out and kept listening to the game while I bounded out of the car into a forest. I had no idea what I was doing but I stumbled upon a stream that was partly frozen over and saw the sun shining in the water. I anointed myself with the water and I “knew” I had done it. Whatever “it” was.

It was years later that I learned how Fire and Water were considered the basic building blocks of creation by the ancient Celts. For Scandinavians, of course, it was Fire and Ice.

When and why did you begin writing?

When I moved to New England I was amazed at the shortness of the growing season here. I couldn’t imagine how settlers and Native Americans survived through the long winter with no fresh greens. Then I looked out the window and realized they must have been using the trees somehow as food. I looked for a book that would tell me how to do that and never found one. That was in the mid 1980’s. So I made a leap of illogic and decided I had to write the book myself! The book that emerged was Tree Medicine – Tree Magic which covers the herbal, practical and magical properties 
of trees. There were no books like it at the time and it is now out of print. I later went on to pen a sequel called A Druid’s Herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine which is arranged around the trees of the 
Ogham alphabet and also gives the herbal, magical and practical uses of those trees, based on Celtic scholarship.

Is this your first published piece or have you had work published before?

I have quite a number of books out these days, both fiction and non-fiction. There is a Druidic trilogy of novels starting with Priestess of the Forest – A Druid Journey that is focused on the time when the very first missionaries were appearing in Ireland and Scotland and written from the point of view of the Druids. There are a number of herbals including A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Earth YearSecret Medicines of Your Kitchen, Scottish Herbs and Fairy Lore, Walking the World in Wonder – A Children’s Herbal, and the newest herbal which is due out in February, 2016 called Secret Medicines from Your Garden.

How did the topic of your books come to you? 

What usually happens is I wake up at five AM with a sudden inspiration for a book. I “see” the outline of the book and once I “see” that I know that all I have to do is write it! I have always felt that some deity was behind all this – I suspect Brighid.

 Tell us a bit about your new book, A Legacy of Druids.

The new book A Legacy of Druids is the story of how the major Druid Orders of today came to be formed, in the words of the founders. It gives the reader an insight into what they were thinking and what their hopes were for the future of Druidism. It also tells us about how these Druids were raised and what led them to become a Druid in the first place. Each of them defines what the term “Druid” means to them and the variety of opinions and insights is astounding.

The book is becoming more valuable by the day since a number of those interviewed in it have since passed over. Isaac Bonewits, Lady Olivia Robertson, Tim Sebastian and Septimus Myrrddin Bronhave crossed the veil since I recorded their bits. I am immensely grateful to have spoken with them and these may be the last words we will see from them in print.

Do we see some of you in your book?

There is a bit of me in the new book A Legacy of Druids which you will find in the questions I ask. I steered the conversations towards the topics I was interested in and cared about, others might have done it differently. I have another book out that was done in a similar way called Being a Pagan – Druids, Wiccans and Witches Today. That is also a book of interviews and The Huffington Post named it one of the twenty seven most important books on Paganism. I am hoping that A Legacy of Druids will receive similar accolades. 

How long does it take you to write a book, are you a fast writer or a slow writer?

It usually takes me about two years to write a book. Then I hand it over to a reader or readers who make comments and I revise accordingly. Then I hand in the whole book (I have never had luck with queries) to a publisher that I think is suitable for the genre and they make their comments. Then I revise again. Finally the publisher edits and corrects the grammar and spelling and I approve the process, chapter by chapter. After that there is the work of promotion which usually takes at least another year. The exception to all this was the first novel in my Druid trilogy – that took nine years! I was writing other books at the same time but I had never tackled fiction before and I had to learn, step by step. I did not go to school for this, I am not a trained writer, I just do it.

Are you published or self published, and what has been your experience of this process? 

I have never self-published, I rely on good editors and distributors to help birth my books. One of my pet peeves is self-published authors who throw a book on Amazon and then ask for positive reviews when the book is filled with bad grammar, misspellings, strange lacunae in the text, anachronisms, etc. This is what editors are for, to correct and point out those kinds of failings. It is the responsibility of publishers to provide a second or third set of eyes to double check a manuscript. In the absence of that process the quality of books is just going down, in many cases.

Do you think ebooks have changed the publishing market for better or worse?

I do not own an ereader and I have never read a book electronically other than on my computer. I dislike reading books on my PC, I find that I miss or gloss over many things when I do that. I prefer to read a book on paper. I also like having reference books on the shelf where I can mark chapters or passages, bookmark favorite herbs, etc. 

The worst aspect of ebooks, as far as I can see, is that they are putting book stores out of business. Book stores are still the best place for people to browse and get to know authors they have never heard of. They also provide a place for authors to speak to a live audience. It makes me very sad to see book sellers being pushed out of business. Also, books do not have to be made from trees. There are many other options out there such as hemp. I hope that paper books remain a viable business in the future.

Where do you go when you need to recharge?

I am blessed to live in an oak forest so mostly I will just go for a walk outside my kitchen door. There is a natural stone circle out back and a lovely little stream that I have used as a clootie well for thirty years. I get moose, bears, possums, skunks, foxes, coyotes and fisher cats here at the house plus owls, eagles, woodpeckers, crows and many other birds. If I get stuck while writing I will go outside and see what the weather is doing or what animal, herb or tree has put in an appearance, and that often provides an idea for the next chapter.

Do you socialise with other writers or are you a solitary author?

I do like to socialize with other authors, especially when I am in the throes of writing a book. I belong to a writer’s guild and I participate in writer’s lists on Facebook. Meeting with other authors is a good way to get tips on writing and ideas for how and where to promote your books. Writers who are blocked for some reason can get pointers on how to overcome that hurdle or face whatever fear is in their way. It’s is thrilling to read passages from a new book out loud, especially an unpublished one, and get feedback from your peers.

But in general, this is a very solitary occupation where most of the time it’s just you, your PC, and the cats for company, as you bang away on the keyboard.

What are your future plans for writing?

At the moment I am “between books” and waiting for the next idea to drop on my head. I am also in conversation with a script writer and an actress about hopefully turning my novels into a film. I trust the Gods to guide this process because, once again, it is completely strange territory for me and I am learning as I go!


Thank you for giving us a glimpse into your passion and your process, Ellen! We wish you all the best with your next inspiration and we look forward to seeing where that inspiration takes you!