My third of the three interviews is with Stephen B. Pearl, the author of Samhain Anthology’s Sorrows End and the novel “Tinker’s Plague”.
Sorrows EndHe’s lost her. She’s lost him. A dead spouse drives both Richard and Sally to seek the lay lines of the forest nearby to ask the god and the goddess to unite them with their loved ones for just one day. What they receive is a chance meeting with each other, not having seen each other in ages they remember old feelings and talk of the lost loved ones, freeing them from being bound to linger with them.
You can’t go wrong with a love story with two broken hearts, finding each other to mend and heal, and take another chance on love. I definitely wanted to read more of this. I bet a whole book could have come out of this and it would have been great!
Niina : Welcome to For The Love of Reading, Stephen! I’m glad you could make it. Can you tell us 5 fun facts about yourself so we can get to know you better?
Stephen B. Pearl : Five whole facts, oh my, you do know I write fiction don’t you? ;-) By the by, thanks for having me on For the Love of Reading.
Well I’ll start with things about me. I am an Egyptian path Pagan. I only mention it because this interview came via the Samhain Anthology of the Pagan Writers Press. Interestingly enough my blood line is Celtic / Saxon but Ra taped me on the shoulder. Ultimately it doesn’t make much difference because I believe there are only a few gods administrating the archetypal rays of the universe’s nature, but each has been given many names and faces by the various cultures of man. Okay side step into metaphysics there, sorry.
I am also a writer with three novels published and a forth coming out in May. Tinker’s Plague is my flag ship then Slaves of Love and the Hollow Curse with Nukekubi coming out in May and of course my story Sorrows End in the Samhain Anthology, hint hint. You can learn more about these and find buy links at my website: http://www.stephenpearl.com/.
I worked as a lifeguard for a very long time but had to leave it behind because I developed arthritis in my knees that the eggbeater kick was aggravating. Eggbeater is the only kick suitable for bringing in a deep water spinal victim, and I just couldn’t recertify my National Lifeguarding sertificate, which in Canada must be done every two years, without it. I still do some teaching on the side.
I was in the Society for Creative Anachronism for nine years and know how to use a long sword and shield, bastard sword, saber and epee. I’m rusty but I know the basics. I also made my own suit of armour.
I’m a good general handyman and backyard mechanic. I based the skill set for my Tinkers, Doctors of General Applied Technology, in my post-apocalyptic novel Tinker’s Plague on a vastly exaggerated version of my own skill set.
Niina : I’m an Isis girl myself. ;) Now, what did you most enjoy about writing for the Samhain Anthology?
Stephen : It let me touch on issues of loss and moving on. I could also just cut loose and not have to worry about the story appealing to the main stream because the target audience are fellow Pagans who share a similar knowledge base and set of expectations. I didn’t have to explain things like why we cast a circle or the fact that the beloved dead hold no fear they were just givens. It was also nice to give something to my community.
Niina : So, how do you bring out pagan beliefs in your books, if in any way?
Stephen : This varies from book to book. In Slaves of Love I practically ignore religion all together.
In Tinker’s Plague I paint the world as a religious mosaic with all sorts of faiths getting cameos mostly in people’s swear words. My Leads Brad and Carla are both Pagan but aside from their basic moral stance it doesn’t factor in much. When you’re up to your butt in plague victims you aren’t likely to set up for ritual. Carla is a Herbalist and she and her Grand Mother Meb are very Witchy in the modern sense but not so it unbalances the book. I think that is an important point. If you rub peoples’ noses in it when it isn’t appropriate to the nature of the story you come off as having an agenda and their defenses go up. If you just let it be a casual part of the character they come to accept it. Pretty much like in everyday life. I have a friend who coined the saying, “it is one thing to wear a pentacle openly on your chest, it is another to wear a hubcap openly on your chest.” There is wisdom for all minority groups here if you think about it.
The Hollow Curse is very Pagan. Two soul mates are cursed in a previous incarnation to be forever distance by a gulf of years and social norms until they live a life and raise a child together. The two souls are on a Pagan path and the mending of their relationship, over several lives, becomes entangled with the mending of the archetypical sword and cauldron representing the balance of the projective, masculine, and receptive, feminine, forces. The story is really about how unbalanced society has become. I will warn folk, if they at looking for a wyman good man bad read I don’t do that. The imbalance has messed everybody up and everybody has to work to fix it.
Nukekubi is probably the most Pagan of my soon to be available works. Ray a modern day Pagan wizard/priest must neutralize a nukikubi that is feasting on the people of Toronto. Nukekubi are a form of Japanese goblin that looks human during the day. At night they separate their head from their body and fly around scaring people to death to feed of the energies released. Ray has a working system that is based on the principles of Pagan mysticism and really exemplifies a modern Pagan mystic in a world where ‘Magic’ is just a little more demonstrative than it is in our own.
Of course my story in the Samhain Anthology, Sorrows End, is just all out Pagan. The venue called for it.
Niina : I really like the idea for Nukekubi, sounds very interesting. :) So, what drew you to write more futuristic romantic fiction?
Stephen : I’ve always loved the speculative fiction generas. If you look at it you can tell any type of story, romance, action adventure, horror, ext in a Speculative Fiction setting. Note: I say speculative fiction to include fantasy. What you also get to do is explore big ideas. What will happen when we have to stop burning fossil fuels if we don’t have alternative energy supplies in place? What could be the consequence of a world where people cannot commit a direct act of violence. So much of the science fiction genera is cautionary and says open your eyes, look at the consequences of our new abilities both good and bad. As we learn things and gain new skills we change our world. A simple example is medical advances. We mitigated the infant mortality rate at a global level, good thing babies live. We now have mass overpopulation; Hmmm. Things like this is what the SF writer explores before they blow up in our face, so we act as an early warning system. The genera also reflects the Pagan moral stance of personal responsibility, Karma, there are no get out of jail free cards what your characters set up in the story they have to live with. If you use nuclear energy you have to deal with the waist and so on. In this sense SF is probably the most morally challenging of the generas. I also love taking an idea and turning it over and over to explore its consequences and seeing how my characters react to the idea.
Another aspect of sf is you can take an old idea, let’s say a tough as nails detective, and set it in a new setting that forces the archetypal character to adapt and take on a new form. Now your tough as nails gumshoe also has to know how to plant a listening device, hack a computer, or maybe his girlfriend can do that part of the business thus empowering her and making her more his equal in the business. The point is a worn out idea can be made new again by putting it in a SF setting and allowing it to change to suit the setting.
Niina : What about, which character in your story became your favorite?
Stephen : Hmm, Favorite to date. Astra from Slaves of Love, she has a sweetness about her and I adore smart women and she is that. Doesn’t hurt that she is hot enough to melt your fillings. I have a Y chromosome I make no apologies for it. ;-)
Favorite character over all would be Brad from Tinker’s Plague. He chose a profession where he could make a difference despite the fact that tinkers after their first ten year stint doing a wrought fall into three categories. Rich, crippled, dead in roughly equal numbers. Brad doesn’t take crap from anyone but is also the most determined and loyal friend you could ever have. I like him, though he is a bit of a ladies’ man.
Niina : What do you think makes a good story?
Stephen : Everything. Not overly helpful I know. As I see it stories are more woven than built. Character leans on and reflects setting, setting is the result of the actions of characters. The conflict must grow logically from the circumstances of the book. If a plague was released today there would be an effective quarantine, hazmat teems a whole organized response. If it happens in a post-apocalyptic setting those go by the wayside. Taking action must be in the characters’ nature and the action they take must grow naturally from their nature. Jim Kirk isn’t going to pass up the chance to save the pretty woman, it’s not going to happen because it isn’t in his nature.
Niina : Now little about how you write… What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Stephen : Gods a process question. For starters my process is more like Role Playing Gaming than anything else. I set up the world first. Then I populate it with characters that have the right personality to take the actions I need and the skill set to be effective then I’ll throw the characters into situations and let them deal with it while I record what happens. Often the first few pages, that the audience never sees, are garbage. It takes a little while for the characters to come to life and start directing their own actions. After that I just play Game Master setting the scene and tossing up challenges and my characters take control.
Going in I’ll know where I’m starting and where I want to finish, though that can change, and I’ll have an idea about some scenes I want to do along the way but my system isn’t very formal. I tried to write to a plan a couple of times and what came out stank.
This of course is how I work, other folk work to a plan and it’s great for them. People need to find their own method and not let other people tell them there is only one way to do things.
Niina : What is the biggest “no-no” when it comes to writing for you?
Stephen : Forcing a character. If I make a character do something against their nature I’ll get along ten or twelve pages and the whole process stalls. Character action grows from character nature.
Another one would be making people too good. Darkness adds spice. Wolverine of the X Men is a great character because there is darkness in him that compliments honor and nobility. The fact he can be vicious makes his kindness stand out in stark relief.
Stephen : Lord of the Rings I’ve probably been cover to cover 11 or twelve times. Other than that it’s rare for me to reread a book. I’m dyslexic and read at about half the speed a person with my level of education, university, should to compensate I have four times the average retention of what I read. Rereading a book tends to bore me because of this. Besides, my to be read pile is threatening to fall over and bury me. ;-)
Niina : The Lord of The Rings! Well that’s just my favorite, and the reason I met my hubby and got married. :D Oops, hoggin’ page space here, back to you… What’s the worst advice for writers you’ve received?
Stephen : I tend to forget it as quickly as I can but there was one person who felt I should front load scene description at the start of a story. Another thought I should show off more vocabulary by using ten dollar words where a two dollar word would do just as well. You’ll always find people telling you things the trick is to sift the wheat from the chaff.
Niina : Flirting with the idea of bringing a new mythological/paranormal creature to page, what would be exciting to write about?
Stephen : There are so many. My advice is pick up a copy of the Dungeons and Dragons monster manuals. Leaf through them then use the name of anything that strikes your fancy to find some real information in books like the Encyclopedia of Fairy Lore and the like. See if your initial interest is sustained by the actual lore.
A specific, how about a love story. A widower moves into a house built in the forest and encounters a beautiful mysterious woman trespassing on his isolated property. He doesn’t know it but this woman’s secret is she is a Dryad, the spirit of a nearby oak tree. Add some conflict with an unscrupulous lumber baron who is trying to cut down the forest despite the fact that it protects the nearby town’s aquifer recharge zones and place the oak just off the lead’s property to make the threat to the Dryad personal and immediate.
That’s just one example but there are loads that spring from even a cursory study of the old lore.
Niina : Hey, I’d read that! :D And now before we say goodbye here are some Quick Fire Questions!
Cats or dogs? Cat’s three at present.
Coffee or tea? Coffee except medicinal.
Dark chocolate or milk chocolate? I’m allergic to cow’s milk, so since I’m still breathing.
Rocks or flowers? Why limit the expression of beauty. Rock gardens.
Beach or forest? Depends on my mood. I live on the shore of Lake Ontario so I can have both.
Night or day? Day.
UF (Urban Fantasy) or PNR (Paranormal Romance)? UF, hay I still have a Y chromosome. ;-)
Bad boys or good cops? Good Cops.
Brunettes or Blonds? Brunettes, Claudia Black be still my heart.
Vampires or werewolves? Both over done and done poorly. Going back to the original skin walker myths werewolves.
Romance or erotica? It depends on your definition.
Women: Talkative or wallflowers? Wallflowers but it is an unclear question. My wife speaks when she has something to say she just doesn’t clutter the air with noise.
Male POV or female POV (Point Of View)? Who cares as long as the character is interesting.
Pick-up or Mini-van? Pick-up, a Mazda B2200 series to replace my recently departed steed.
Beer or Wine? Dependent on quality beer though I drink both.
Pizza or Restaurant? Restaurant.
Cake or Donuts? Cake.
TV or DVD? DVD, no commercials.
Movies: Romantic comedies or Action/Adventure? Action/Adventure.
Winter or Summer? Summer.
Times New Roman or Courier? Times New Roman the industry seems to like it more.
Crayons or markers? Markers.
Pens or pencils? Pens.
Niina : Thanks for visiting the For The Love of Reading, Stephen!
Stephen : Thanks for having me. And remember folks you should check out the Samhain Anthology at the Pagan Writers Press: http://paganwriterspress.com/ and check out my work at http://www.stephenpearl.com/ . Looking is free and you just might find something you really like.
At any rate, I am a man of middle years who lives in a house in Ontario, Canada with three cats, a wife and a sincere hope that you will enjoy my book.