Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
I’m Storm Constantine, 60 years old
Fiona: Where are you from?
The Midlands in the UK
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I’m married and live with my husband and four cats in an old house. Education – not much to speak about, other than a short stint at art college. I hated that because they were so against figurative art. We had to sit in front of sheep skulls and other ancient dead objects and draw and paint those endlessly, when I wanted to be painting landscapes of imaginary worlds.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
I’m currently putting the finishing touches to two books that will be out in early December through my own independent publishing house, Immanion Press. The first is ‘Darkest Midnight in December’, which is a collection of supernatural tales with a loose Christmas theme, and the second is ‘Songs to Earth and Sky’, an anthology of Wraeththu stories connected with the eight seasonal festivals of the year.Both of these books include stories by me and also by other writers.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Before I learned to write as a young child, I made stories up in my head. I embellished reality always, and often got into trouble for it. I simply had a natural impulse to make things up and it’s been part of me all my life.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I suppose I always have, but it became a ‘career title’ after my first book ‘The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit’ was published in 1987.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
The first book I wrote has never been published – it was a huge, rambling fantasy that I never finished writing, but which I enjoyed dabbling in for years as a teenager and in my early twenties. It was inspired by myths and legends and pop culture icons I admired.
But if you mean the Wraeththu books, this race of androgynes had been in my head for years before I began writing about themseriously. The earliest piece I wrote, which I uncovered when delving through old files for material recently, was from 1977. The Wraeththu were inspired by the idea of the alchemical rebis, the hermaphrodite, who is regarded as the pinnacle of human perfection, the best of both genders. That idea always fascinated me and eventually I started to write about these beings. I go into far more detail about how and why the Wraeththu came about in my introductions to the recent short story collection ‘A Raven Bound with Lilies’ and another recent book ‘Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose’, which is a trilogy of novellas in one volume with an alchemical theme. So if anyone’s particularly interested in how Wraeththu developed, they can find more there.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I can’t remember where the title for my first novel came from unfortunately, but the title for ‘A Raven Bound with Lilies’ came from researching alchemy for ‘Blood, the Phoenix and a Rose’. Both those titles are adapted from alchemical terms.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Friends have told me that I have a different style for the Wraeththu mythos than the one I use for other stories and novels. I think other people are better placed to comment on such things than the author themselves. We’re too close to our own work. I don’t find my style a challenge – it’s just my voice that comes out as it wills. But others have found the themes of my work‘difficult’. As for the genre, I call the Wraeththu Mythos ‘science fantasy’, as it’s not strictly fantasy but neither is it pure science fiction – a little of both. In earlier decades, the subject matter drew criticism from people who were uncomfortable with the idea of the fluidity of gender. I suppose they found the concept challenging, because it defied their conceptions of gender, and many had a great fear of anything that leaked outside of the considered sexual ‘norm’. In having characters who were both male and female in one body, I was accused of ‘promoting homosexuality’and also of being anti-feminist. So, I was condemned by extremes on either side of the political see-saw. People simply didn’t get it. But nowadays attitudes and culture have changed – thankfully.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Like just about every author, I imagine, I put fragments of what I see and hear into my work. It’s very rare I’d base a character or an event entirely on ‘truth’, but I do incorporate bits and pieces. The story anthology published in 2016 by NewCon Press is called ‘Splinters of Truth’. For every story, I wrote a short introduction describing how and what pieces of reality exist in those tales.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
I don’t travel a great deal nowadays, as frankly I really hate it, (not the destination but the journey – if only we had teleportation), but as preparation for writing a story or novel I do a lot of travelling in my head. I watch movies and documentaries that are inspiring, read books, and talk to people who have information to share. I do visit historical sites of interest a lot, but that doesn’t require a great deal of travelling.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The original Wraeththu books had their covers designed by Rick Berry, which I really liked. In my experience, covers provided by big publishers tend to fall somewhat below the expectations of authors excited about their new book. Nowadays, having complete control over my work, I employ the best artists I know – mainly Ruby and Danielle Lainton for the fiction, and people like Peter Hollinghurst and Isis Sousa for the non-fiction we publish.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In my original novels, the message was – as a species we’re really screwing things up and we don’t deserve to live on this beautiful planet we call home. I don’t hold the human race in high regard, because of our wanton stupidity, greed and cruelty. But simultaneously humans are capable of wonderful things, of absolute compassion. We are a mess, and I really wish we could sort ourselves out!
I suppose the message I always attempt to convey is that we should never stop evolving, learning, questioning, experiencing. As individuals, we should be self-responsible and self-aware. We should be compassionate but not overly-sentimental. We should be wise enough not to be offended by the slightest bloody thing! These attributes seem to be become ever more drastically lacking in people as time goes on.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
I don’t come across many new authors I really like, probably because I don’t tend to pick up new works. Most of what I read is for research. There are submissions that have been sent to me I’ve loved and have published, such as ‘Thimblestar’ by Mike Westley and ‘The Lightbearer’ by Alan Richardson, although Alan is hardly a new author – that’s just one of his few novels. I’m inspired by writers such as Tanith Lee, Jack Vance, Margaret Atwood, Alice Hoffman, M. R. James and Clark Ashton Smith, to name only a few.
I suppose what hooks me about a writer’s work is their voice – the style they use, their dexterity with language. I can forgive a lot plot-wise if the language seduces me!
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
My family didn’t support me much at all, as it happened. The person who really supported me and spurred me on was the manager of the band I lived with. He was the one who got my work to publishers and who helped me establish a career. His name was Dave Weight.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, although it’s hardly an easy path to follow. If you want to be a professional writer, you have to resign yourself to income always being an issue and most likely you need to have a second job as backup so you can actually eat.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
The latest book was ‘A Raven Bound with Lilies’, which I worked on very hard to polish and perfect. It’s a collection of Wraeththu stories, and I crafted the ‘interior design’ of the book as much as the content to make it an artefact I could be proud of. There’s nothing about it I’d want to change, but my idea of perfection is not necessarily everybody else’s!
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
I always learn something from whatever I’m working on, because I research the details. In writing a story called ‘The Old Fierce Pull of Blood’ for the forthcoming collection ‘Songs to Earth and Sky’, for example, I learned a lot about the cultivation and folklore of roses, because the main character works with them. There’s always something new and fascinating to learn.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
I don’t have any preference. It’d be fun to be surprised by that.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
There are two very important things that I think any writer – especially new writers – should know.
First, master the tools of your trade, which is language. I see so many students of writing who can barely string a sentence together, and they don’t appear to understand that the rules of grammar, syntax and punctuation are there to help you craft your work so that readers will read it as you intended. The tools are like road signs that make readers speed up or slow down. They govern the pace of the story. They can place emphasis. All the other aspects of writing are equally important, such as narrative structure, plot, writing credible dialogue and so on, but I do think having a thorough grasp of language and its rules is the first priority. An editor once said to me, ‘don’t try to break the rules until you know them.’ This is good advice. Know your tools and when you elect to bend their rules you do so with artistic awareness. Do so in ignorance and it’s simply bad writing.
The other thing I always say to new writers is the first book you write should be the book you’ve always wanted to read but have never found. You should love it, and let that love shine through, because then others are more likely to love it too.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Thank you for your ongoing support and I hope you enjoy all the new titles I have lined up. ‘Songs to Earth and Sky’ and ‘Darkest Midnight in December’ are due for release through Immanion Press on 17th December.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
A book of Victorian ghost stories on my Kindle.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Sorry, no. The Jungle Books stick in my mind, because the original woodcut illustrations of the naked, long-haired Mowgli undoubtedly contributed to the creation of Wraeththu! But I know those weren’t the first books I read. Another huge favourite from my childhood was Orlando the Marmalade Cat, books that were written and illustrated by Kathleen Hale. Sadly, these are now out of print and cost an absolute fortune second-hand. I wish they’d be reissued. I’d buy them all again like a shot.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
My husband and I share a rather dark sense of humour. We can’t bear slapstick. I cry at movies quite a lot, but not sentimental movies. Poignancy and wonder make me cry.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
I honestly don’t think there is anyone, because if you do end up meeting someone you’ve long admired you tend to be disappointed. I’d rather keep my illusions intact!
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
I don’t have time for hobbies really, unless you count playing World of Warcraft, although I haven’t played it as much recently, as I’ve had such a busy year with Immanion Press. Next year, I won’t take on as much work so I can – hopefully – start on a new novel at my own pace, and find more time to dabble in fantasy virtual reality.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I love ghost stories and horror films that don’t rely on gore. I also love fantasy, science fiction, thought-provoking political and crime thrillers, and human dramas that are quirky and not mawkish. There’s so much good stuff (from different countries) pouring out of Amazon and Netflix nowadays, it’s hard to keep up, but that’s amazingly wonderful for me, because at one time I never watched TV because there was so little that interested me on it. I’m particularly looking forward to the new series of ‘Stranger Things’ which starts around Halloween.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
My favourite food has to be cheese. I like most colours that aren’t pastel or wishy washy. I like many different kinds of music, so can’t name a genre precisely in that respect.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
I wouldn’t want a future where I didn’t write.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
She walked into a different life.
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
I tend to post most updates on my Facebook page (although I’m not a hugely regular visitor to it – it’s just for work), but there is a web site I’ve still not fully completed at stormconstantine.co.uk The Immanion Press web site is www.immanion-press.com
Amazon author page : https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B000APFLRM