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Top Writing Tip:Make sure you HAVE to do this. If it is just a passing whim or you think it is a quick buck to be made, forget it. Writing is a slow and painful process to which you have to be dedicated. Highly rewarding when people like your work enough to leave reviews but don’t give up the day job.
Hi Ailsa, thank you for taking the time to talk with us!
When and why did you begin writing?
At school. When given a reading book I didn’t like, aged about five or six, I went home and re-wrote the ending to please me better. After that kept on to amuse my friends and myself.
When did you realize that you were Pagan?
Almost impossible to grow up in Cornwall and not realise it. From earliest childhood I was exposed to many different religions and realised that most of them were the same but with different deities. It followed that the natural world around me was the source of all things and therefore the most logical source to go to. Eventually I found a coven within five hours’ drive from me and studied seriously, being elevated to High Priestess before leaving to follow a solo path which is now mainly shamanic, as I am the village healer here.
Tell us a little about yourself, what are the main life experiences that have led to this book?
I’m nearing OAP status, have lived all over the world including on a boat. I’m insatiably curious about everything. I’ve had more jobs than the Pony Express had horses, which was grand fun. My passion is animals and I was lucky enough to work as a veterinary nurse for four years. A lifetime of study of religions past and present plus philosophical questions that most thinking people post themselves and a romance element that was drawn from one of my own resulted in the Alchemy series.
How did the topic of your book(s) come to you?
Shaman’s Drum was pure inspiration. I saw the first scene like a movie clip in my head while sitting in the garden. I watched a man in monk’s robes come to rescue a woman from a convent who obviously didn’t belong there. I had to go on and find the story behind it. From there it was easy to write the prequel because I already knew their backstory in my own head.
Tell us a bit about your story, key characters and plot.
Riga is brought to the Black Shamans’ Guild as an unmanageable and untrained strong shaman when she is seven years old. Iamo defies his aristocratic parents to follow the Wiccan path he learned from his nanny, Rowena. A scientific discovery which eliminates the need for fossil fuels makes it possible for the present established religions to be banned but paganism is overlooked.
When demons take advantage of a population who no longer have a spiritual focus, the pagans have to come to the rescue. Iamo and Riga must work together although they find each other anathema to start with.
All the characters are drawn from life and I’m told they are all, in their own ways, very likable.
Do we see some of you in your book?
Hysterical laughter - oh yes! Riga is me in my younger days. I rather hope she will grow less impulsive with Crone-hood (although I haven’t).
Do you plan your stories before you begin?
Yes, slightly. I have a faint outline of the whole story. Once I get going the characters take over and kick me to change things or suggest a good twist. If this sounds chaotic, it is. That’s how I live my life and I can’t imagine doing it any other way. I often write in patchwork - when a scene grabs me I write it and then “stitch” the scenes together to make a pretty quilt.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block and, if so, how do you overcome it?
Yes, due to loads of health problems and accidents I am often brain-dead. I get around it by writing my blog which is bite-sized chunks of writing and leave my WIP to rest. There’s no other option. If I try to force myself to continue books when I am in a mind-fog I just suffer from terminal frustration and am likely to get violent.
Is this your first published piece or have you had work published before?
As with everything else in my life, I published Shaman’s Drum first and then due to public demand had to write book one as a prequel. Now I would prefer people to read Alchemy first. Before that, I was published under my brother’s name writing crime fiction mixed with male romance.
Are you published or self published, and what has been your experience of this process?
Published by two houses and have tried selfies. Will do both again. I’m unusual in that both genres were accepted immediately. I have only ever had one rejection letter from which it was obvious that the woman hadn’t even read the second page properly.
Who encourages/inspires you?
My characters inspire me. I swear that they live in my house and come for walks with me, chatting about what they want to do next. I even had one of them, a Native American shaman, join me in Quaker Meeting with my aunt and dictate a section of Book Three.
Where do you go when you need to recharge?
I’m fortunate enough to live in the middle of nowhere in the east of France surrounded by woodlands, young mountains and rivers. I simply call the dog and walk outside. Immediately I am amongst “friends” in spirit. I sit by the river and chat to them or I just lose myself in the beauty around me. Telling jokes to ducks is a goodie - they always laugh. I have a favourite tree who gives me a lot of grounding and strength when I need it so a visit to Uncle Walnut is a must.
If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you most like a writing retreat?
I have a favorite campsite in the Aude by the Canal du Midi. I go there to write when I’m finding things difficult. It’s handy because I can take the dog, cat and old feller with me and I’m still in open country which is essential. I couldn’t write in a big town or city. I need to be able to get out in the open air to practice my rituals (even just sun-up and sun-down) which usually gives me inner peace to keep going.
What are your future plans for writing?
I’ve been asked by a publisher to write non fiction on herbs and healing. Alchemy will have at least Book Three if not Four. I am going to take over my brother’s work and develop it with more crime and less sex. At the moment I am still getting back to writing following a severe motorbike accident that nearly wiped me out and left me in a coma for three weeks.
Thank you again for giving us a glimpse into your passion and process, Ailsa! We wish you all the best with your non-fiction and fiction work!