11-21-2011: Never to be forgotten! Today is the day that Ian Somerhalder responded to me on facebook! Hey, that may not be a big deal for you, but for me.. HUGE. *swoon*
Conversation copied from FB:
ME: Finally! After an hour of searching facebook, I find the REAL you. Hi Ian!
Ian Somerhalder: Thank you.Nice to meet you
ME: My pleasure! Thank you for taking the time to notice. :)
Ian Somerhalder: you're welcome
Ian Somerhalder: I try not to disappoint my fans!
ME: Well, you're doing a wonderful job. :) It's nice (and a bit scary) to talk to someone like you!
ME: lol... (I'm secretly freaking out cuz I got to talk to Ian! *sigh*)
Ian Somerhalder: Thank you Theresa!
ME: lol... you're welcome! Just do me a favor and don't knock when you invade my dreams tonight. The husband probably wouldn't like that. hehe!
Ian Somerhalder: well I will not:)
ME: Perfect! Thanks. LOL
Guest post: Inanna Arthen, author of The Vampires of New England Series
WRITING TO THE BEAT OF A DIFFERENT DRUMMER
Writers often hear the advice, “write what you know.” I’ve adapted that old chestnut to, “either write what you know, or get to know what you write,” which is especially applicable to historical fiction. But what happens when the truths a writer knows best aren’t something that are easily conveyed to a reader? What happens when a writer has personal experiences with things that are common topics of fantasy fiction, and writes from his or her own knowledge rather than following the accepted conventions of the genre?
What happens, I’ve found, is that the writer produces fiction that readers sometimes aren’t quite sure what to do with.
I’ve been an occultist and a practicing magic-worker for most of my life. In the late 1960s when the so-called “occult explosion” flooded out of the counter-culture into the mainstream, I was an immediate convert, to the bemusement of my parents. The books that came out in those years weren’t very good, but I supplemented the paperback reprints with extensive library research and developed quite a complex skill set. By my late teens I was designing elaborate rituals. Ritual work that consisted of a daily practice repeated for a long period of time became one of my habits.
In the early 1980s I joined a magical order whose protocols matched my natural inclinations, with multiple daily disciplines and “magical work” that typically ran for three months, or a full year, or longer. I was initiated into that group and stayed with them for ten years. For me, “magic” isn’t a metaphor, a stage show or something out of Harry Potter. It’s a whole way of living in the world and thinking about one’s place in it.
You’d be surprised how hard-headed I am about the topic. I’ve taught adult education classes in psychic development and “practical magic working,” and I begin by showing the students how fake psychics and stage magicians perform their tricks. Then I go on to demonstrate what real magic and psychic work involve and how to tell the difference.
About the same time that I got involved with occultism, I sprouted an equally passionate obsession with vampires, and started out by reading Montague Summers’ tome on vampire folklore, The Vampire in Europe. From there I read every scrap of nonfiction and fiction dealing with vampires that I could get my hands on. I was determined to get past all the clichés and stereotypes about vampires to the very heart and soul of folklore beliefs and how they evolved into the world’s most eternal fictional archetype. I ended up knowing more about vampires than almost anyone else I met.
Like many fiction writers, I write the kind of fiction that I’d most like to read. My vampires, like folklore vampires in numerous cultures, are aliens living disguised in human society, almost imperceptible to those around them. They are as benign as the average human; I prefer complex and conflicted characters to “evil” mustache-twirling villains, and I don’t like stories with easy answers to difficult problems. But my vampires live in a world where real magic, as I know it, and real psychic abilities, like the ones I have, are also part of the equation. I don’t want to write anything else: this is my world.
Mortal Touch, the first book in my Vampires of New England series, began in my mind with a single scene: an independent woman who runs a small store meets the new guy in town when he stops by after hours. The woman is a psychometrist—a psychic who reads people and objects by touching them. The newcomer is a vampire, and he’s come to the store to persuade the psychic to touch him, something she avoids doing carelessly, and see if she perceives his secret. But he doesn’t want to harm her; he’s fascinated by her ability and wants to enlist her as an ally.
That was it; that was all I knew at the start. But it was based on my own experiences with psychic work, especially an occasion when I received an undeniable and overwhelming psychic message about bad news that I did not want to hear. As a result of that, I closed off a great deal of my psychic openness for a long time. The idea that a psychic would inadvertently learn something she doesn’t want to know and which causes her a world of trouble wasn’t just a narrative conceit for me. It was a painful personal reality.
My main character, Regan, developed from that single fact. I decided to use National Novel Writing Month to push myself into getting the story out, and it worked well for me. I let the characters take charge and I learned a lot about them that I never deliberately invented. Regan, the psychic, had been severely traumatized when she helped police catch a child murderer. She is now wary of using her abilities and prone to rationalize away negatives because they’re too frightening to bear. But she’s also a self-sufficient, hard-working and dedicated business manager. Jonathan, the vampire, is tired of being a solitary outsider and welcomes someone who will see him for what he is, without skepticism or lengthy explanations and tiresome “proofs.” The rest of the plot evolved from their meeting and all the consequences it has for those around them, but I’m not exaggerating when I say that I didn’t know how the story would end until I was actually writing it.
The second book, The Longer the Fall, took me much longer to write. Part of that was due to some structural problems I had to solve. But The Longer the Fall deals with magic, and some of the most challenging pitfalls and dangers that magic-workers face in reality. Diana Chilton is a character who, like me, essentially grew up accepting and studying magic as a basic fact of life. She meets a vampire, Thomas, who is also a magician and convinces her to help him with a magical working that takes two years of complicated daily routines to complete.
The Longer the Fall deals with questions of magical hubris and pride, of self-delusion and wishful thinking, of what happens when you lust for power and refuse to admit to yourself that you’ll do anything to get it. These are questions that all magic-workers face, and there are many anecdotes and stories about what happened to people who overreached themselves, or ignored their own motivations, and suffered unpleasant consequences. That’s what The Longer the Fall is really about—playing with power, failing in self-honesty and getting the blowback right where it most hurts.
These patterns apply to non-magical life, as well, but most readers aren’t as familiar with the theory and practice of magic as they are with psychics. Following the fine standard advice of “show, don’t tell,” I let my characters and their actions bring out the point of my story and tried not to beat my readers over the head with long explanations of why this happened and what that meant. From the feedback I’ve gotten, I should have been a little more…well, obvious. I live by magic. I was writing about issues and dangers that are always in my mind. But long-term magical workings and narrative that shifts into alternate realities and back aren’t as familiar to most readers. Magic that smoothly integrates with the everyday world isn’t something most people take for granted.
I sometimes call my books “magical realism” because of the way they depict the “normal” world—as most people believe it to be—with some elements which most people think of as fantastic or supernatural, simply added as though they belonged there. But my stories are much closer to my own personal “realism” than most readers would think.
My forthcoming third bo0k, All the Shadows of the Rainbow, carries this blending even further. Diana Chilton joins a coven that works magically, throughout the 1950s and 1960s, to cause social change. The whole story raises the question of what might be influencing events of history we take for granted, and who might be pulling covert strings that no one suspects. The most heavily researched of my books, All the Shadows of the Rainbow goes the furthest in blending fact and fiction. But which is which? Your assumptions will probably be wrong.
Some readers like fiction that takes them into another universe and allows them to return to the safe and familiar, with a clear boundary line between the two. But I’ve always liked books that expanded the everyday world I knew and made me see new aspects of it, especially when they suggested that there might be more to the safe and familiar than most people were willing to admit. That’s the kind of story I write—because if I didn’t believe that anything was possible, I wouldn’t be a magician.
————– AUTHOR BIO ———————-
Inanna Arthen is an artist, actor and the author of The Vampires of New England Series. She will be at Chicon7, the 2012 Worldcon, over Labor Day weekend and will participate in panels on Magical Realism and Incorporating the Personal into Speculative Fiction. For more information, see http://inannaarthen.com.
Mortal Touch http://bylightunseenmedia.com/
The Longer the Fall http://bylightunseenmedia.com/
All the Shadows of the Rainbow (forthcoming) http://bylightunseenmedia.com/
Inanna Arthen / Vyrdolak
By Light Unseen Media http://bylightunseenmedia.com
The Vampires of New England Series http://vampiresofnewengland.
Seven years ago, Regan Calloway learned a bitter lesson about the pitfalls of using psychic ability to help catch a vicious criminal. Since retreating to the small mill town of Sheridan, Massachusetts, she has focused her life on the second-hand store that she manages there. But she can’t completely escape her reputation, her past, or her powers of perception. When a psychologist, Dr. Hiram Clauson, recruits Regan to help him interview victims in a series of bizarre assaults around Sheridan, Regan gains more knowledge than she counted on.
Her investigation attracts the attention of Jonathan Vaughn, a writer who has recently moved to Sheridan. Many locals are curious about Jonathan’s mysterious book project and his interest in a crumbling old former commune outside of town, but no one is more intrigued than Regan’s best friend and confidante, Veronica Standish. When Veronica begs Regan to help her find out more about Jonathan’s past, she unwittingly sets up a collision that has a shattering effect on all of their lives. Jonathan Vaughn is older and more unusual than anyone realizes: one of the tiny and scattered network of men and women known as vampires only to the very few whom they trust.
Jonathan never anticipates the cascading series of disasters that will ensue when he decides to trust Regan with his secret. Along with Veronica, and a curious young friend, Sean, Regan plunges headlong into a new reality, one in which death is temporary, love is everlasting and blood is an elixir. As her friendships and loyalties are torn apart, and former associates turn into ruthless enemies, Regan must learn what can be relinquished, and what is worth protecting at any cost. Ultimately, she confronts choices that she never dreamed she would have to make.
How much would you risk…if you believed you could never fall?
It’s 1952, a time of upheavals and social tension as America rockets through the years between world war and domestic revolution. Diana Chilton, raised within a secretive magical organization, the Order of the Silver Light, has reached a crossroads in her life. Over 30, her marriage ended, burned out on political activism and frustrated by the restrictions of the male-dominated Order, she leaves Boston for a tiny town in Maine. There she tracks down Thomas Morgan, a member of the Order who she believes may be immortal. She hopes he can help her find, or create, a more dynamic and worldly organization that will use magic to catalyze social and political change.
Thomas Morgan is indeed immortal, but Diana never expected that he would also be a vampire, transformed by the faery folk two centuries earlier when he made a rash bargain to cure a disfiguring illness. Now he enlists Diana to assist him in his struggle against the power that he feels enslaves and controls him. Together, Thomas and Diana dedicate themselves to the most ambitious and dangerous magical working either of them has ever attempted. Their plan spans two years and draws several other people into its vortex.
Both Thomas and Diana have hidden motives behind their decision, and neither of them is fully aware of who else knows about their plan and is subtly influencing it. Their refusal to be fully honest with themselves and each other leads to a disaster beyond their worst nightmares. They are forced to confront the deadly consequences of their fully developed spell turning against them and those who helped them. Ultimately, they learn that the only way to get what they each wanted is to accept the very things they wished most desperately to avoid.