River is one of the authors I’ve worked with on The Lost Colony of Roanoke and The Jersey Devil. She is a founding member of our writing collective, Writers Block and a fascinating person. Her contribution to Jersey Devil, “The Unspoiled Harmonious Wilderness” is a unique and beautiful take on the origins of our most local cryptid, and I wanted to get inside her magical brain.
When would you say that you became a writer?
What an interesting question. I could say I have always been a writer. Not because it was something I dreamed about daily, although it was on my mind, but because that is how my mind has always worked. I think in what if’s and long, spiraling sequences. I frequently have vivid, complicated dreams and also fall into daydreaming easily as a conversation can insert itself into my brain, and I must let it run its course.
But then I’d also have to say, probably when I began writing diligently, everyday. Or maybe when I published my first book. Certainly doing a collaborative project with talented writers, as I did with the “Collection of Utter Speculation series,” gave my writer persona a boost of confidence to define myself more definitively as a writer.
When did you start writing seriously?
When I was 28, after my second kid was born. I decided then that I needed to get the voices in my head under control by putting them on paper.
What sort of subjects interest you?
I’m a studying herbalist. Plants, their constituents, and their application for medicinal use are very exciting to me. I love to wild-craft plants and I grow and then “can” my own organic food. Coinciding with my love for plants and the natural world, I’m a follower of Norse/Celtic paganism, a nature spirituality.
I love vampires! I love the melancholic and depressing aspect of the vampire, and I love the dangerous and sexual side. I like the questions vampires pose; what would it be like to live forever? What would a person do with themselves over hundreds of years of living? Would you have mental breakdowns after so long? How would you justify the things you do to survive?
I also think a love of history goes hand in hand with the vampire folklore. I love research and find it exciting to learn about other cultures and languages.
Vampires are one of your favorite subjects to write about. Why do you think you have an affinity for them?
I’m not completely sure. They have always fascinated me. I was introduced to them through Hammer Films reruns at a very early age, around 4, so that probably has something to with it.
I find the entire folklore fascinating. Beings that can stay alive for a very long time if they keep replacing their blood. And it’s difficult to dispute that there might be some truth to the legends because the stories go back so far.
What was it like working on The Lost Colony of Roanoke, a collection of utter speculation?
The Lost Colony of Roanoke was the first anthology I’d ever worked on. The first collaborative writing project, and it taught me a lot about group dynamics and working within those parameters. I have learned similar things from being a part of different activist groups. But with this anthology our writing group was small, so we worked together closely. And that can be a challenge, to come to agreement, but I think when you set your mind to accomplishing something as a group, it can be done. As it was with Roanoke.
What does your writing process look like?
I try to write a few hours every single day. That routine can be thrown off track when a project is due, and when I’m in edit mode. But I try to write or read at least three hours each day. To keep writing, is the crux of it.
What are some things/authors/ect that influenced your writing?
A few authors that have influenced me as a writer, and in turn my writing, are Neil Gaiman, Laurell K. Hamilton, Piers Anthony and Anne Rice, of course. And I think everything I go through, and have gone through, in my life influences my writing. My highs and lows are all filtered into my writing, eventually.
What are some of your non-writing pursuits? Have they influenced your writing?
I think all outside influences affect a person’s writing. My climate and animal activism, veganism, and herbalism all help to broaden the scope of my thoughts which enables me to look further inward, helping to give clarity and thoughtfulness to not only my writing but my life.
What are some resources that have been valuable to you?
Honestly, Wikipedia is a handy resource. It’s about 80% accurate, not definitive by any means. But well sourced articles have citations you can follow, and a study in 2005 found Wikipedia about as accurate at the Encyclopedia Britannica. So, I find it a good starting tool for research.
I have many, trusted books on paganism, witchcraft and spellcraft, written by lifelong practitioners that have been invaluable to me.
You wrote a story for Jersey Devil: A collection of utter speculation. What is something that you took away from that project?
A number of things actually. I enjoyed the research, learning where and when the folk tale began, and how it persisted through the years.
And as with any collaboration I always marvel how people from different backgrounds can come together and work their way through a complicated process to come out the other side with a beautiful creation. But it happened again, and I’m really proud of this Speculation book and the writers I worked with.
Tell me about your publications.
I write an urban fantasy series called the Anastasia Evolution Seriesabout a half faery-half human living in a vampire world in the near future. Anastasia has a difficult life, but I think part of what you walk away from after reading is that so many times in life we are alone. We have to make decisions alone and execute those decisions alone. Especially when it’s for the greater good. But if you’re lucky, you have a few good people to stand by you. They can’t always walk into the fire with you, but they will be there when you walk out.
The story I wrote in the first Utter Speculation anthology, The Lost Colony of Roanoke, was called Nokomis. I really enjoyed the research, because it’s a true mystery. Something truly unexplained. And after learning what had happened I wondered what it was like for the Gods of each culture to interact and watch their people unravel.
Please share what you have learned by indie publishing over the years?
Wow, what have I learned from indie publishing? I’ve learned that publishing is a truly difficult, long and tedious process. And not for the faint hearted. I learned to find yourself an editor and/or publisher you click with. Someone who understands you and understands the vision you want to project. Those things are really important.
What are you working on now?
I’m always at least partially working on the Anastasia series. There is so much more about her and her family that I need to share.
I’ve also started a vampire coffee table book that I’m excited about.
Or go to her author page on Amazon for her entire published works