There’s that axiom, “Write what you know,” and that’s certainly a factor. I have an easier time writing Pagan or spiritual-but-not-religious characters because I understand them. I have a harder time writing characters know who were raised in various Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or other religions and dominations.
Writing Pagan characters also allows me to work with various metaphysical topics that it might be more difficult to explore otherwise. For instance, many of my stories are paranormal romance or urban fantasy. It’s a challenge for a book with a fast-placed plot to work in the learning curve for a character who doesn’t understand anything about magic or deep spiritual mysteries. However, if they are already even loosely Pagan, then they might already understand energy work, for instance. In the future it’s possible I might explore characters like a Jewish Kabbalist or a Gnostic Christian or Sufi Mystic, since the mystic/esoteric angle is something I understand and feel I could accurately portray. I’ve learned enough about world religions, mysticism, and metaphysics in the past years that I’d feel comfortable incorporating characters like that into my stories. But Paganism, both the religious side and the subculture side, is something I know pretty well and it’s easy for me to write.
A Winter Knight’s Vigil is not a paranormal story, it’s about regular Pagans without any whiz-bang powers, so in this case the story was very much focused on a close-knit coven and them just doing normal things that humans do together, it’s just that there’s a Pagan twist to that. In this case, I give a nod to some of the other subculture crossovers; the Pagan community tends to have overlap with the Ren Faire and Society for Creative Anachronism communities. There again I’m writing what I know, as working at the Renaissance Faire is what got me into Paganism in the first place, and I know a few SCA folks.
I think more than writing about Pagans, I tend to write about those misfits on the edge that have been looking for a home, for a family. And sometimes, if they’re lucky, they find that particular elusive magic that is a group of friends that they can call Home.
Does this change how you market your work?
It really depends on the book. Currently, most of the folks who are familiar with my work know me through my nonfiction Pagan writing on Pagan leadership and ritual arts, or from me traveling and teaching at various Pagan festivals and conferences on those topics, and so on my main Facebook profile I’m largely speaking to a Pagan or alternative spirituality-focused audience. I can use Pagan jargon and get away with it.
However, when I promote my stories in other places or on my FB page for my fiction writing, I might lead less heavily with the Pagan focus. With A Winter Knight’s Vigil, it’s not really a paranormal story, it’s actual Pagans doing the type of ritual work that’s common when I myself facilitate events. No werewolves, vampires, or lightning bolts from the fingertips.
However, the main characters are in a coven together and they are exploring the very human issues of what happens when you put a bunch of people together and they become close friends, and two of them fall for each other. That isn’t about being Pagan, that’s just about being people. While the characters are unabashedly Pagan, I think this shows how very human Pagans are, that we have our quirks but we’re just like everyone else, and that the word “coven” or “witch” isn’t a bad word to be scared of.
On the other hand, my novella Werewolves in the Kitchen features characters that live at a Pagan retreat center, but during the entire story I never once use the word Pagan, Witch, or Druid. There is an old Priestess who runs the retreat center, and there’s some discussion of spiritual work, but the conflict in the story is more about Ellie coming to grips with being mated to two werewolves. I think if you’re Pagan and reading the story, you’ll really get that they are Pagan, even though they aren’t standing around talking about Gods, Goddesses, elements and athames. They’re living their spirituality, they’re being Pagan, not talking about it. But I think that non-Pagans won’t find the story overbearingly didactically Pagan; it’s about people falling in love. Well, werewolves too.
What message do you want the general public to take away from your books, besides being great tales?
Certainly I want my story to turn people on; it is an erotic romance. I want people to root for the characters and enjoy all the hot scenes. Beyond that, I wanted to write a story about a group of Pagans that aren’t going on and on about spellwork and magic or how powerful they are. I worked to write a story that is highly engaging for the Pagans “in the know,” but that will also be just as interesting and exciting for non-Pagans.
The Pagans in A Winter Knight’s Vigil are on a retreat. So they hang out and talk about sex, they share meals together. And yes, they do ritual together. It was a challenge to articulate the experience of an ecstatic ritual in a way that a Pagan reader would connect to and recognize, but that would also be clear and readable for a non-Pagan audience.
I focused more on the experience of the characters vs. the structural format of the ritual. I avoided some of the focus on the arcane and esoteric (Circle casting, wands, athames, chalices) and focused more on symbols that more people might understand. Most people know a little bit about the story of King Arthur, and the Sword in the Stone. It’s still a powerful esoteric image, but you don’t need to know anything about calling quarters to understand what they are talking about.
Actually, one of the reasons my own ritual work uses ecstatic ritual techniques is that it focuses less on theology and someone’s personal spiritual path and more on giving someone a way to connect to the divine in their own way. I think that guided trance journeys, like what is described in A Winter Knight’s Vigil, could be useful for anyone doing some personal introspection, not just Pagans. The ritual scenes use accessible, jargon-free language so that the ritual work is understandable for non-Pagans.
Several people have told me that they are planning to use the trancework rituals in the book for their own spiritual meditations and seeking. That wasn’t what I’d intended, but I think it’s great.
Shauna Aura Knight
An artist, author, community leader, and spiritual seeker, Shauna’s work is inspired by the mythic stories of heroes, of swords and magic, and of the darkness we each must overcome. That the challenges we face shape us, and help each character—each person--to become heroes.
She’s a fantasy artist and author, including the paranormal romance Werewolves in the Kitchen (JGP), the urban fantasy The White Dress, the Autumn Leaves (JGP) and A Winter Knight's Vigil (Pagan Writers Press). Her mythic artwork and designs are used for magazine covers, book covers, and illustrations, as well as decorating many walls, shrines, and other spaces.
Shauna travels nationally offering intensive education in the transformative arts of facilitation, ritual, community leadership, and personal transformation, and is the author of numerous articles and books on those subjects. She is passionate about creating rituals, experiences, spaces, stories, and artwork to awaken mythic imagination.
Sexy, kilt-wearing Tristan has captured Amber’s attention on many occasions. But as members of the Kingsword coven, which has strict rules about intimate relationships inside the circle, dating him is out of the question. When the coven heads to a secluded woodland cabin to celebrate the Winter Solstice, Amber finds herself closer than ever to Tristan. As the Longest Night approaches and their group’s ritual workings intensify, the pair realizes that they can no longer hide from their feelings.
Just as King Arthur held vigil before being knighted, Tristan and Amber face their shadows—and the realization that one or both of them might have to leave the coven. Or can they be together without breaking their honor?
Excerpt 1: Low-level spice http://shaunaknightauthorartist.wordpress.com/2013/10/26/teaser-excerpt-a-winter-knights-vigil/
Excerpt 2: Spicy hot http://shaunaknightauthorartist.wordpress.com/2013/12/06/book-release-a-winter-knights-vigil/
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