Today on Paws4Thought I’m pleased to welcome Laura Cowan. Laura stopped by to chat with me on her blog tour celebrating the release of her new fantasy novel, Music of Sacred Lakes. Laura and I have worked on a number projects together of late and she begins by talking a little bit about these.
There is just nothing like the stories being published these days. Genre-bending fantasy is top of my list, as an author and as a reader. Take the work that you and I have coming out this year, for a quick example. We’re both taking part in a historical horror anthology called Sins of the Past, where your story Griddlebone, about genetically modified werecats fighting Nazis, and my story Good Puritan, about a preacher laid out on the meetinghouse floor by visions of the devil and suspected of himself being possessed, can play side by side with other stories of the fantastic and strange. We have both written stories of secret powers and secret dimensions. Heck, I even just wrote a story about a magical swinging pair of bellbottoms that tries to pick up a girl in a bar. It’s a great time to be a reader and a writer. Anything goes, as long as it works.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, Laura.
I call myself The Dreaming Novelist, because all of my work involves dreams, as well as various aspects of consciousness, the imagination, and the intersections between the natural and spiritual worlds. I write everything from supernatural stories with religious themes to imaginative books about dreams bleeding into waking reality.
When did you first start writing?
I wrote my first story, about animals playing a spy game over a stolen motorized grocery cart, when I was eight. I don’t think my stories have gotten any less crazy since then.
Who are your favorite authors?
Jorge Luis Borges, Lewis Carroll, Italo Calvino, Neil Gaiman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Juan Ramon Jimenez, Margaret Atwood, Alice Hoffman, oh I could go on. Basically, if it’s imaginative and spiritual, I’m in.
What inspires you to write?
The inspiration comes from a love of the natural world and some pretty inexplicable spiritual experiences I’ve had. I suppose I’m always exploring the world.
What attracts you to fantasy?
Fantasy is the only genre with few rules, where almost anything is possible. It’s also a friendlier place for me than literary fiction, even though a lot of my writing is quite literary in style, because literary fiction is controlled by the gatekeepers of the publishing world, and I don’t think playing by existing rules is particularly good for creating new forms of art. Also, I have a rule I adapted from my late mentor, the famous automotive journalist David E. Davis, Jr. He always said “No Boring Cars,” and I say, “No Boring Stories.” Fantasy is a great genre because you can’t write a story where something amazing doesn’t happen.
Tell us a little bit about Music of Sacred Lakes.
Music of Sacred Lakes is a story about a young man in crisis, who feels cut off from everything he should love and doesn’t know what to do with his life. Just when he’s trying to figure out how to solve this, he gets in a distracted driving accident and kills a young girl. His friend sees he is suicidal and takes him to his uncle, a pipe carrier of the Odawa tribe, who tells him he must live by Lake Michigan until the lake speaks to him. He only goes because he has no other options left besides putting himself out of his misery. So he’s not in great shape as he heads off on this vision quest of sorts. He makes a terrible mess of a love triangle he gets himself into, and he breaks his mother’s heart when she tries to help him. It’s really a story about hope for an unlovable mess. But in the end, he does find his answers, and they come to him in the form of the girl he killed rising out of the lake itself and trying to give him a message.
Tell us about the two anthologies you are involved in.
I’m a part of several anthologies right now. Sins of the Past is a historical horror anthology, so the closest I can come to that is psychological horror, of course. My story is set in Puritan New England, about a preacher laid out immobile on the meetinghouse floor by visions of the devil, in an attempt to understand how Satan has infiltrated his community. His parishioners begin to wonder if he might be the one possessed. It’s a romp through shifting landscapes and a realization that the scariest part of meeting the devil is seeing him in the nature of humankind. (Sins of the Past will be released later this year.)
Shades of Fear is a unique anthology whose common thread between stories is simply dealing with the subject of fear in some way. My story, A Testament to Finer Things is about a young boy named Alice, who finds himself facing down a hurricane threatening to swallow his already flooded post-apocalyptic New York City. He struggles against the urge to throw himself into the sea as a sort of human sacrifice for all the suffering caused by his forefathers who caused the changes to the natural world. He imagines the ocean as thrashing mermaids and grasping octopi reaching for him on the pier, so the story has a magical realism or contemporary fantasy flavor to it.
What are you currently working on?
Oh my. Here’s the good news about the changes in the publishing industry. I don’t get put on medication for my current work pace. I wrote 6 full-length works of fiction in the last year and a half, and my rate of output is still increasing! So, right now I’m working to publish my first short story collection, The Thin Places: Supernatural Tales of the Unseen, a book all about the different ways the natural and spiritual worlds might intersect, and I’m editing Lone Cypress, a novel about a ballerina on the run whose nightmares are bleeding into waking reality. I’m writing a novel in the shamanic storytelling style about suffering (always something light and fluffy with me!), a story about a woman resting in heaven and talking to God, and I’m editing a psychological murder mystery, a set of fantasy stories about being lost and found and the nature of the universe that involves dream mazes and dimension-shifting mice, and a story for younger people about what happens when people’s nightmares capture them and take them back to a world that is built out of their worst fears. So… yeah.
With all that you must need some down time! What do you like to do to relax?
The beach! That should be no big suprise, lol. You can tell from the language in Music of Sacred Lakes that Lake Michigan has been a love affair of mine for a long time.
How can readers connect with you?