A few weeks ago, I promised a fan I would answer some questions. So here is the whole Q&A Session!
1). You’ve had a very adventurous life. how did your early life bring life to your writing?
There are many parallels to my books and my early life. Maggie Maddock from Dark Root has three sisters, and I do, too. However, in the Dark Root books Maggie was the third oldest, while I was the second oldest. And just like in the Dark Root books, the eldest sister left to be with her biological father, leaving the rest of us feeling somewhat scattered, and alone.
Another similarity is that Maggie’s mother is a ‘witch,’ and my was also a practicing ‘witch.’ In my childhood, she embraced Wicca, and dabbled on her own. Our house was filled with Ouija boards, candles, incense, and The Eagles. Later, she embraced the New Age movement and became a fortune teller, reading Tarot Cards and practicing automatic writing. Like Maggie, I was also dubious about my mother doing this, and longed for a normal life.
Unlike Maggie, we moved a lot when I was a kid. In the eighth grade I went to four different schools as my mother and my stepdad attempted to find financial security in the man odd and service jobs they took. They even worked the carnival circuit for several years and my siblings and I got to spend some summers ‘on the road,’ (which made its way into my semi-autobiographical novel The Universe is a Very Big Place.)
Finally, my stepdad was smart, funny, and controlling and was the model for my warlock character, Armand. He often resented that I was a package deal with my mother, and found interesting ways to punish me for it, his favorite being to ‘lock me in the closet.’ It was there that I developed my imagination, and told myself stories. This, more than anything, shaped me as I still ‘go into the closet’ to tell myself stories, meditating there in the dark to conjure up the next scene.
2) How did the situations you have been in incorporate into your writing, emotionally and inspirationally?
I think the biggest influence on my emotional and spiritual writing has been my ‘faith.’ When I was 15, my stepfather left, taking all my siblings with me, and leaving me with my mother, who lost her mind a little. We were living in one of our many rentals during the time, and I had no sense of community, nor any support to draw upon.
A ‘revival’ type of church appeared at the park behind my house, and I started going to escape the depression of being trapped indoors. At first, I found it ridiculous, with it hallelujiah’s and loud music and faith healing, but soon, I not only felt a sense of community and acceptance there, I converted to Christianity. And though I would leave the church a year later to go and live with my biological father in California, I never forgot Jesus’s message to love one another, as he did for us.
In California, I was introduced to a wide variety of new things. My father was a famous martial artist, and a theology student, and I fell in love with him and the new ideas he introduced me to. He took me on many adventures, including trips to dozens of different kinds of Christian churches, Buddhist temples, synogogues, and mosques. During that time, my mother and biological father reconciled, and she was in California too, working on her own spirituality.
I asked as many questions as I could, every time we met someone new. Why are we here? What is our purpose? Why are men and women treated so differently? Why do we hate that group, when their beliefs are very similar to ours?
I dove into study, reading The Bible, the Quran, old manuscripts from the Catholic Church, Work from Madame Blavatsky, anything I could get my hands on. I especially became enamored by the concept of Nephilim and angels, and read whatever I could get my hands on.
Having a broad view of religion and spiritually, I began to realize we were all more alike than different, and formed one core idea for how I was to live my life, an idea that Bill and Ted expressed in their famous 80’s movie: Be excellent to one another.
3) When you wrote Dark Root, how were you able to find research on spells and terminology?
I’ve always been a researcher. I love to study. In school, I was the bookworm who wandered the library when the others were outside playing. In my youth, having watched my mother, I formed my own ‘coven’ in girl scouts, and we spent many hours hunting down spells and trying them out. Whether or not they worked, I can’t say, as I moved on to the next house before I ever found out.
As I’ve said, my m other practiced Wicca as a kid, and I watched her. She loved to curse people by throwing a homemade doll into the freezer, representing a person she disliked. I always tried to discourage it, but when her heart was in something, it was in it. It was only later, as an adult, that I realized she had been abused by my stepfather, too, and that was the only way she found control in a world where women still had few options.
How I find them now is through documentaries, reading books on the craft (old ones and new ones), combing the internet for classic spells, but most surprisingly, through meditation.
When I meditate to get a scene for my story, I sometimes ‘see’ pictures of something—a six-sided star, a rose, the color purple, etc. I usually write in whatever I see, and then afterwards, go research the item, and see if it was used in spells, and what kind. Its surprising how often I’m right! I believe, like Carl Jung did, that we all draw from a collective conscious, and when I clear my mind I’m able to pull it down into my story.
4) How did you feel when The Witches of Dark Root went public?
It was scary. I loved the book so much. Still, it was so revealing, and one thing many authors have a problem with, is revealing themselves.
The first reviews were nerve-racking too. But they were good and it made me so happy. Others were connecting to Maggie and her adventures, and I wasn’t even sure if anyone would read Maggie’s story. She was such a stubborn, hard-headed, defiant character, hiding her wounds behind her apathy, that I wasn’t sure if she could be relatable. But she was! I got so many emails and messages of people telling me they could relate to her and that I made the family ‘feel so real.’ That is actually the best compliment I can get—when people really connect to someone and see them as part of their own family, I feel like I’ve given them a gift—and when they read, they give me one as well.
5) Did you ever imagine the success you have received?
All I ever wanted to do was to become a writer. In the first grade, when kids were asked what they thought they’d want to do, I remember saying, “I’m going to be a famous writer.” Not just a writer—but famous (haha).
Back then, I suppose the ‘fame’ part was important to me, but not so much now. It’s wonderful that people appreciate my work, but its also hard at times because I spend so much time lost in my own imagination thinking up stories, or actually writing the stories, than I don’t have the time to devote to reaching out to my readers. Still, they are very forgiving and supportive, and I appreciate them.
I am thrilled that Dark Root took off. Its my favorite world to ‘play’ in. I’m as much a part of Maggie as she is of me, and we grew together. In the beginning, we were both walking wounded, but through family, faith, and magick, we were healed.