Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
Loren: I’m Loren Rhoads. I’ve been writing professionally for a long time.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Loren: I live in San Francisco, California.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
Loren: I grew up on a farm in Michigan, which inspired the connection with the natural world that Alondra feels in her stories. I’ve lived in San Francisco for the last 30 years.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
Loren: I’ve been publishing a series of story collections for the Kindle this year. They’ve been getting very nice blurbs. Nancy Kilpatrick, an editor whose work I’ve enjoyed for decades, wrote the nicest thing: “I’ve rarely encountered such beautiful writing. Loren’s newest book weaves mysterious and magical tales that captivate and seduce readers into exotic, lush worlds. Rhoads is a highly-skilled wordsmith and this dark fantasy collection is a must-read.”
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Loren: I started writing Alondra’s stories because I wanted to dive deeper into the places I travel. It was one thing to explore cemeteries and write travel essays about them, but that left me wanting to explore the depth and magic outside the cemetery gates. I wrote the first Alondra story after we went to Japan. I was inspired by the Shinto fox shrine near the Shibuya crossing in Tokyo.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Loren: When John Everson asked me to contribute to a four-woman anthology for his small press in 2006, I finally felt like a real writer. I was the unknown name in the book, which was called Sins of the Sirens. One of the Alondra stories was published in that book. The story was reprinted in the second chapbook, Alondra’s Experiments.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
Loren: The first collection of Alondra stories – Alondra’s Investigations – contains stories set in Golden Gate Park, Prague, and Oslo. The San Francisco story was inspired by walking around the Haight Ashbury district at night. On the edge of Golden Gate Park, I saw a long-stemmed red rosebud shattered on the sidewalk. “Catalyst” was inspired by the history of alchemy in Prague, as well as a bar called The Shot-Out Eye, where I drank absinthe. The third story was inspired by a friend’s trip to Norway. He brought me all sorts of tourist brochures from Oslo and I fell in love.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
Loren: I wanted the first three chapbooks to have similar titles. The first is called Alondra’s Experiments, because she keeps pushing herself to explore vampirism, alchemy, and violence in order to rescue her guardian. Alondra’s Investigations shows her working to save others by translating a book that claims to hold the spells that destroyed Atlantis, fighting the creatures that ghosts fear, and making the ultimate sacrifice in New Orleans. The third book, Alondra’s Adventures, sees her traveling to Japan and escaping a vendetta in Venice.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
Loren: My writing style changes from project to project.The Alondra stories are dense with description, full of colors and sensory details, because Alondra sees beyond the surface of our world to the magic underneath. Things are more vivid to her, which I try to echo in the prose.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
Loren: Other than “Valentine,” the story set in Oslo, all of the stories have grown out of my travels. When I travel, I look for things that might lend themselves to Alondra stories. I note details that she would catch. In “Valentine,” I did so much research to get the setting right that it was painful. It’s much less stressful to visit a setting for myself.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Loren: I designed Experiments and Investigations, while my husband Mason designed Adventures. The cover images all reflect the books’ contents, but I wanted each book to look different as an experiment, to see if one cover would be more successful at catching readers’ eyes.
Fiona: Is there a message in your stories that you want readers to grasp?
Loren:I’d be happy if people wondered if they just saw something magical out of the corner of their eyes.
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?
Loren: She’s not new, but I’m new to her work: I fell in love with Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series. It’s based around a school for kids who have come back from portal fantasy worlds. Down Among the Sticks and Bones is my favorite in the series so far.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
Loren: I’m part of a small writers group that callsifself the TBD Writers. The other members are horror writersand editors, so when they like something I’ve written, it’s especially meaningful to me. I was thrilled when they asked me to join them.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Loren: Yes. In addition to these Alondra collections, I’ve had 11 books published.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Loren:I wanted a photo of a handmade Japanese doll for the cover, but the dollmaker died and I don’t know how to reach her family to ask permission.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
Loren:My family life has been really complicated and challenging this year, so I haven’t been able to concentrate to write new stuff until recently. I’m working on the fifth chapbook now, a brand-new novella set on the islands off the San Francisco Coast on the edge of the continental shelf. When I finally I settled down to write, I was really surprised by how easily I sank back into telling the story. It’s like my body remembered how to write, even when I worried that I’d forgotten how.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
Loren: Saorise Ronan. I fell in love with her during Neil Jordan’s Byzantium (his other vampire movie).
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Loren: I met Ray Bradbury – one of my idols! – at a book signing in the Haight when I was living there. I was star-struck and tongue-tied, but I managed to tell him I was working on a novel. His response was, “Don’t think so much. Just write.” It’s still the best advice anyone has ever given me. Don’t plan. Don’t research. Just put the words down. You can always perfect them later.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Loren: Thank you! Your imagination brings my characters to life.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
Loren:The Devil’s Teeth by Susan Casey. It’s her memoir of researching sharks on the Farallon Islands. It’s research for the Alondra novella I’m working on now, which is called Isle of the Dead. It will be out by the end of the year.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
Loren: The first book that made a huge impression on me was Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I was 10.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Loren: I cry over everything: the fragility of beauty, the brevity of life, basic human kindness.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
Loren: I would love to meet Anne Rice and thank her for Interview with the Vampire.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Loren: Visiting cemeteries is more a calling that a hobby, I guess. I’m on a mission to see cemeteries all over the world. Once this novella is done, I’ll be finishing a guide to the pioneer cemeteries of the San Francisco Bay Area. I like browsing bookstores, too. I collect bookmarks as souvenirs.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Loren: I like The Magicians. I loved the books. The actors are perfectly cast. The show itself is uneven, but some of its episodes are brilliant. I love it because it doesn’t make any excuses for using magic in the real world.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
Loren: Lemongrass tofu is my favorite food. I love all shades of blue. I don’t have a favorite kind of music any more. I love Spotify because it allows me to discover something new every time I listen.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
Loren: I would love to be a children’s librarian, so I could turn new readers on to books.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
Loren: I would go wander Cypress Lawn and enjoy the sun on my face, the green grass under my bare feet, and the birdsong one last time. I would just revel in being alive for as long as possible.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Alondra’s Experiments: https://amzn.to/2M5yWv7
Alondra’s Investigations: https://amzn.to/2NVLmaK
Alondra’s Adventures: https://amzn.to/2NWILh3
Thank you so much for having me back, Fiona! It’s always such a pleasure.