It's Writer Wednesday, and today my guest is Ailsa Abraham, a Brit living in France but often wandering far from the fields we know. Ailsa, why don’t we start with you telling a little bit about your new book!
Shaman’s Drum is a pagan adventure/romance novel which started as my NaNo piece last year and then took a few months to tidy up with a great deal of help from Stephanie at Crooked Cat.
The plot revolves around two lovers from opposite sides of the magical tracks in a world where mainstream religion has been banned and paganism is the norm. Magic use is commonplace but they broke the rules and fell in love. In this book they are offered the chance to redeem themselves by fighting demons and foiling a plot by renegade cultists. The idea came to me in a flash while I was sitting out back chatting with my lizards and the whole of the first scene in the story came to me like a movie clip. I thought that had to go on to a complete story and that was how it all started.
Do you have a favorite character in Shaman's Drum?Apart from Iamo the utterly gorgeous monk and Riga the kick-ass shaman who are the main characters and obviously closest to my heart? Well I'd have to say Dagda who is the Head of the Black Shaman Guild. He's Native American, very cool, has a really dry sense of humour and a mind like a switchblade. He usually has a cigar hanging from his lips that smells faintly of “dreamweed” but he is one powerful shaman!
If you could live within the pages of your book, would you?Oh most definitely. I'm a practicing shaman and healer and I would fit right into that world. There is still a lot of suspicion about “witchcraft” and a lot of misunderstanding of the chanelling of natural energies. It would be fabulous to live in a world where my gifts are accepted as naturally as being able to sing or paint. I'd love to live amongst the characters I've created, too, because obviously I rather like them.
I know you must have plans for more books. Can you tell us about what you have in the works?
Yes. Like a total blithering idiot, once Shaman's Drum was finished I realised that I had written the middle book in a trilogy. Everyone who read the Nano copy commented that they wanted the first adventure as well. That is how Riga and Iamo met and how they end up being in prison at the start of this book. Even people who are not “airy fairy” said they'd love to read how it came about that the mainstream religions could be banned and why. So I'm working on the prequel. And if we have two there has to be a third.
Did you have to do much research while writing Shaman’s Dream?Not for this book, no. I was writing about the things I have lived with all my life. I had to do a certain amount of research on medieval Christian beliefs about demons but that only took me a little time. I write in another genre under another pen name and that takes huge amounts of research to make sure the military background is correct. I enjoy that too.
Would you ever want to write a non-fiction book about the same thing?As far as non-fiction goes, I write about practical shamanism and witchcraft on my blog and some people come to me for advice. I wouldn't want to write a book on it because … because I'm too busy writing fiction!
Everyone has their own story to tell. When did you start writing and what got you started?
Ever since I can remember I've been writing stories. As a small child I didn't like the books I was told to read , so I went off and wrote my own. As an adult I constantly wrote stories (even novellas) to amuse my friends. I used to publish them on a blog or just share them around but never thought of submitting them. It was only when the inspirational and amazing Jessica Macbeth bullied me into entering the NaNoWriMo 2011 as her writing buddy, that I found myself with a finished manuscript and thought – why not?
How do you find the time to juggle work, family, writing, and/or everything else you do?Simple answer is that I don't. I was declared an invalid and forced to give up work a couple of years ago. I have a deformation of the spine and Bipolar Disorder and although I tried to continue, my doctors ganged up on me and forced me to accept that I just couldn't go out to work any more. That gave me the time I need to write. As for family, we only have the dogs and when I'm in full-on writing mode, my very accommodating other half takes over.
What do you think drew you to your genre, and what keeps you there?My path. I grew up in a family of hereditary witches so the things we did were just “normal” to me. As an adult I took instruction in a Wiccan coven and got to High Priestess level before leaving to concentrate on shamanic practice. It's what I know. I do write in other genres but this one is closest to my heart.
Just for fun, are you a dog or cat person?I'm an animal person, period. When I lived in the UK I worked as a veterinary nurse. When I was very little I tried to steal an elephant from London Zoo and since then I've had all kinds of animal companions—a bat, ferrets, a raven. I love cats but the two dogs we have now (used to be four!) wouldn't take to kindly to a newcomer.
Aside from reading or writing what is your favorite thing to do with your free time?My selfish pleasure is zooming around the lanes on my motorbike. That's my release valve. I also seem to have acquired an orphanage for homeless teddy bears – St. Ursula's, of course! Some stay forever, others get cleaned up, re-dressed and sent to new and loving homes. They've gone as far as the States!
Somehow I'm also chief knitter around here so I crochet toys for sick children or new babies … don't tell anyone but I put wish-spells in them too, so they're really poppets.
I never get paid in money for healing but my neighbours bring me bucketfuls of green beans, branches of cherries or several pounds of tomatoes as gifts.
Tell me about your secret plan for taking over the world.I don't want to! It's responsibility enough caring for one small village in France. Of course I'm working as a subversive to make magic acceptable through my books. I'm a firm believer in— start with yourself, then with your household, then your street and just quietly plug away at making life better in your little corner. If we all did that, there would be no need for world domination.
Thanks so much, Ailsa, for sharing you thoughts with us.
Win a copy of Shaman's DrumAilsa is longing for your (substantive) comments. In fact she’s even willing to part with a copy of Shaman’s Drum to encourage you. Please respond before next Writer Wednesday (1/23/13) to be eligible. Ailsa will announce a winner here on 1/24.
Where can you find Shaman’s Drum?