Recent Work: Pagan Dreaming
Top Writing Tip: Do 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!