Tuesday 12 March 2013

Author Interview - Ailsa Abraham

Today I am excited to introduce Ailsa Abraham to my blog. I met Ailsa quite recently through a Facebook group, and I find her very fascinating. She interviewed me on her blog here, so today it's my turn to provide the tea and biscuits, and a very large box of chocolates that my kids bought me!

Welcome to my blog, Ailsa. Your latest book, Shaman’s Drum has just been released. Congratulations. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
Sure thing. It's a pagan-based romance/fantasy. Set in the near future when the mainstream religions of today have been banned in an effort to stamp out terrorism, the “Old Religions” (paganism in all its forms) have taken over.

Iamo is a priest of the Great Mother (equivalent to Wicca) and in a previous adventure he fell in love with Riga, a woman who is a magical assassin, a Black Shaman. The rules forbid them being together so at the beginning of Shaman's Drum they are both in prison.

Iamo is offered a deal that could buy not only their freedom but the chance to marry. To do this they will have to solve a mystery, defeat demons and overthrow rebel cultists who want to take over the world.
In the end they find themselves unsure of who is on their side so they call on a very mixed bunch of helpers including hippies, eclectic pagans, an undercover Christian Granny and three very enthusiastic Goths.

Where did you get your inspiration for that?
That was just completely weird! I have been a pagan all my life, finally ending up as a practising Shaman but I was just sitting in my back garden when the first scene of the book flashed into my head, rather like the trailer to a film.  I saw a woman in a nun's outfit being rescued from a convent cloistered garden by a man in a monk's habit.

Well, wouldn't you want to know more? So when Jessica Macbeth, a dear friend and mentor bullied me into entering NaNo in 2011, that was the obvious story to pursue. I finished it and then after a lot of work and polishing, Stephanie Patterson at Crooked Cat published it.

I suppose the book was very easy for me because my background is purely pagan but I have studied most of the world's major religions too. I'm on nodding terms with Buddhism, Christianity, Druidism etc and so it was good fun for me to put the monotheistic religions out of the scene and see what would happen.

Is it possible to explain paganism and Shamanism to me in a few sentences…?
I'll try. Paganism usually involves the worship of various gods and goddesses. It comes from the Latin “pagani” meaning “of the countryside. Neo-paganism, which is what we see becoming more popular today, has sub-divided into groups that seek back for their roots in various mythologies of the past. Odinists (otherwise known as Heathens or Norse) go back to the Vikings. Druidism, while mainly based on some writings discovered in the eighteenth century and proven to be fake, claim to reach back to antiquity. Isis of the Egyptians, The Roman pantheon, many have been revived. Wicca, which is the most common form of paganism is in fact an invention of the 1950s but has grown at such a rate that many adherents now would defend to the death that this is based on solid fact handed down through generations.

Shamanism has existed throughout history from neolithic times. It is animist and believes that everything has a spirit. There is one great sacred spirit and all other spirits are connected to it. A Shaman learns to journey into the the three worlds – lower, middle and upper. Their constant companions are a power animal and a spirit guide which find them early on in their training. Whatever “magic” a Shaman is going to work is called a “journey” and starts by going to the appropriate world. For example if a friend of mine were ill in THIS (the middle world) I might “journey” to their house to bring spirit healing to them.

Both are fascinating subjects and can be studied endlessly.

This isn’t your first book, is it? And I believe a gentleman called Cameron gets involved too?
Hahahah – no, that's true. I started writing detective fiction where my two heroes are gay. So obviously the books got labelled as “gay erotica” which annoys me more than a little because, for example, the last one, Cancel Christmas, was a thumping good murder mystery where the two investigators hopped into bed together. Had that been on  TV on a Sunday evening and the detectives were heterosexual it would not have raised an eyebrow.

Now, however, as the reading public for the two genres is so different, I write under two names and Cameron Lawton has become my (gay) twin brother and I'm actually very fond of him. We have disagreements on Facebook and he sometimes steals “my” style to write things on our joint blog but I love him really.  The fact is that I did have a twin brother who was still-born and so maybe bringing Cameron into the family has balanced things up a bit. I just wish he wouldn't object to me stealing his expensive aftershave!

How do you balance writing such different genres? Do you alternate, or wait for inspiration to strike whichever genre it wants to?
My real problem is too much inspiration! I never have enough time to write down what I have thought of. Yes, I suppose I do tend to go through phases. It rather depends which characters are kicking me hardest (or which editors)  It just seems that when I am writing “my boys” I have my Cameron head on and when I'm writing magic; then I have my Ailsa head on. I have been known to write both in one day without ever getting the two mixed up.

The thing is that my two detectives are hardly likely to run into my magical characters or vice versa. Problems could arise if I DO ever bring the boys over here. I would find them intruding into my “real” life!

How do you organise your writing day?
Simple answer? I don't! I am possibly the world's most disorganised person. As I no longer go out to work (I'm an invalid) I have all day every day to write. Which, of course, means I don't. I find every reason in the world not to and then I get up at 2am and go like the clappers to get something finished.

I also suffer from Bipolar Condition which means that some of the time I am curled up in a ball and not wanting to come out. That's not very conducive to writing but at other times when I am on a manic high, I can write for 15 hours a day which gives me tendonitis …. I'm a bit of a mess really (laugh).

Some great minds – now and throughout history – have had bipolar/depressive issues. Do you think one breeds from the other?
I discussed this at great length with my psychiatrist and he agreed that it does tend to be a very beneficial side-effect of the condition although, unlike some famous cases (such as Stephen Fry) I have agreed to be medicated without losing my creativity. Some are in such fear of not having the creative highs that they will not take medication. I felt that whatever I lost (and to be honest I do not think I have lost anything) was worth it for the relief my family felt when I stopped trying to commit suicide on a regular basis.

You live in France, does that have a detrimental effect on your writing career, or has it brought lots of benefits?
Oooh that's a hard one! I think being bilingual helps me explore language more. I'm an incurable people-watcher and in my village there isn't much else to do so a lot of that has crept into my writing.

Physically it is really frustrating because I want to join Associations, go to meet-ups and generally get together with other writers, which would be fine if I lived in London but if you add the six hours (plus fuel) it takes me to get to Dunkirk and the ferry fare and all the travelling in Britain, it becomes a non-starter and I have had to limit myself to one or two trips a year by train.

I would absolutely love to write a book based in the village where I live in France, possibly a detective novel. Maybe I will bring my “boys” over here on holiday and Cameron can have fun taking them around the countryside and meeting the local characters … including that funny Scotswoman who rides a motorbike and writes books!!!! Whooo – now I am meeting myself coming back!

You’re bilingual – have you written, or would you consider writing, a book in French?
No! Never! While I can speak French fluently and translate from French to English with no problem, I cannot write in the convoluted past-historic, subjunctives and other grammatical forms that are needed to write in French. All my friends keep saying they wish I would but, to be honest, they would buy the books only because they know the author. Whether they would read them or not.... is another matter.

Which published book(s) do you really wish you’d written?
Any of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books featuring the Witches. I do humour in real life but I just do not seem to be able to do it in prose. Most people who know me say I have a “wicked sense of humour” but that only slightly comes out in Shaman's Drum through little asides that Riga the Black Shaman makes.

I'd really love to have written anything as side-splittingly funny as Witches Abroad and yes, I am Nanny Ogg even though Sir Terry doesn't know me – I have been asked if I were the prototype for her; Unfortunately not!

What are you working on at the moment?
Too much! Like a total twerp I went and wrote Shaman's Drum and then realised that it was Book Two and Book One is now WIP. Everyone wants to know what happened, how the major religions got banned, why Riga and Iamo were in prison etc, so I am working on that very hard.

Cameron is on Book Three of his series in the Military Police which is going to be much more light hearted; The last one was very serious and quite gruesome in places so this time we are going to let the boys have some fun as well as investigating a crime.

There are two more works on the back-burner (including the one set in my village where I might just get to murder my husband fffnnarrrr!!!) The other is an adventure novel featuring a trans-sexual Female to Male which is not a sexual orientation that features very highly. One publisher has expressed an interest but my problem is TIME!!!!

Wow, that’s a lot of work! I won’t keep you much longer. Where can we find you and your books? 
Goodreads: Shaman's Drum, Cancel Christmas, Yours to Command
Website: Ailsa Abraham
Amazon Author's Page

Thanks again, Ailsa, it's been great talking to you!

About Ailsa Abraham
Celt by birth, now living in Eastern France. Has had more jobs than she can remember but retired due to ill health so can now concentrate on writing full time.Having followed a pagan path all her life, Ailsa writes novels that feature this with huge helpings of adventure and romance. What she does NOT write is the usual "dungeons and dragons" or "willowy teenage witches" stories.In her village she is a shaman and healer but finds time to knit, cook and collect an unfeasibly large number of homeless teddy bears. Her pets have included a bat, ferrets, and a raven as well as the more usual domestic ones. Her only ambition is to continue writing and perhaps return to the UK to live one day.


  1. Wow, Ailsa's writing sounds fascinating and eclectic! What an interesting interview. I did not know that druidism was fake - you always think of those guys in white robes at Stonehenge... And great to meet another Discworld fan, the dialogue in the witches series is hilarious. :) Good luck to Ailsa in all her projects!

    1. I've never read any Terry Pratchett, so that part of the interview went over my head a bit. Yes, Ailsa is very eclectic :-)

  2. What an interesting concept for the book! And a great interview. Really piqued my interest.

    1. I love the way Ailsa realised she'd written the second book first!

  3. Love the new blog look Annalisa! Best of luck to Alisa!

  4. Sounds like a great book-- and you have so much more in the works. Wow. Impressive. (Nice look to the blog, Annalisa!)

    1. She does have a lot planned, doesn't she? I'd get confused! (Thanks!)

  5. This sounds really good! Great to meet Ailsa and learn about Shaman's Drum, will have to add this title to my TBR list.

    Love the new look of your blog, Annalisa!

  6. Good to discover some more about Ailsa - great interview, girls!

  7. Wanting to know what happens next is a brilliant reason for writing a story.

    1. I agree - if you're intrigued, others will be too :-)

  8. Wicca and paganism are fascinating. Thanks for introducing me to Ailsa and her writing.

  9. Ailsa - what a lovely name - owes her magic to her place of birth, if you ask me. She sounds very intriguing. Good luck with the book :).

  10. THAT was a great interview! I feel like I know her now! I can especially relate to the invalid part after so many health struggles over the last three year.
    Ailsa - very nice to meet you. Your books sound really, really good. Do you think I should wait until you write book one, or go ahead and get #2 and then treat #1 as a prequel? I'm fascinated to read a book that has a world rid of religion. I'm a Christian, and am really looking forward to reading your point of view. I'm also a sucker for lovers stuck in prison and having to go on quests...regardless of their religious orientation ;-)

    Tina @ Life is Good
    Co-host, April 2013 A-Z Challenge Blog
    @TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

    1. I've started reading the book, Tina, and although there are questions about what happened prior, it doesn't get in the way of the story that's being told - so you should be okay to start Shaman's Drum, then the next book will answer all the questions you've been storing up!

  11. Wow. That was one long and very insightful interview.I like the idea of being a bilingual author!

    1. Yeah, sorry about the length - I tried cutting, and couldn't! I could have asked a lot more questions too - some people are just great to interview, aren't they?


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