For a change, today I am interviewing an author friend. I’ve known Ailsa Abraham for some years via social media and she’s someone I’d love to sit down with in real life and enjoy a few mugs of tea with and put the world to rights.
Viv: I know from reading your blog you have done a good number of unusual jobs. Can I be nosey and ask you to list the ones you liked most and the ones you liked least?
Ailsa: Strangely, selling ice creams was one of my favourites, along with vet nurse and my least favourite the year I worked in a zoo. I was trying to work on “change from the inside” and failed dismally.
Viv:I have read both your novels, Alchemy and Shaman’s Drum and I enjoyed them both. That said, I liked Alchemy more. I’d bought Shaman’s Drum ages back and started reading it but had stopped because the scenario it depicts, that of all major world religions being outlawed and banned, worried me. I’d seen this sort of idea from many atheist organisations and it makes me uncomfortable. It wasn’t until Alchemy came out and I could read the background to this state of affairs, that I felt I wanted to finish reading Shaman’s Drum. My question is this: do you think that the subject matter encompassing quite such a radical premise as a backdrop for the story is something that might put people off reading the book?
Ailsa: Possibly, which is why I don’t splurge that fact across my publicity. What I do suggest is that people read Alchemy first so they get the scene in context. Also, the banning of religion, as a solution, doesn’t work, as people will know if they read the books. Viv: So make sure to read them in the right order and it all falls into place? Understood!
Viv: As a writer, I know better than to ask whether the characters in your books are based on people you’ve known in real life. That said, both Riga and Iamo are both such distinctive people and are so vivid, I can’t help but wonder if they may be based on someone you’ve known. Are they solely the product of your imagination or have they roots in real life?
Ailsa: Yes. Riga is me when I was younger, military and more feisty! Iamo is a combination of many pagan men I have known and probably my “prototype nearly ideal”.
Viv: How much does your own eclectic spiritual path inform your writing? Both Alchemy and Shaman’s Drum include magic, shamanism and also a variety of other alternative practices (and a rather fabulous nun, too). Are these things from the realms of your imagination or are they things you have explored yourself?
Ailsa: All the things I mention are paths I have explored myself. I have studied many religions and known practitioners. Obviously my own experiences colour my writing.
Viv: Most writers veer between too many ideas and not enough. Which stage are you at right now?
Ailsa: Too many and an inability to get them down.
Viv: When I am working on some writing, I usually start by lighting a candle, burning some sweet-grass or some incense and taking a moment to centre myself. Do you have any rituals that help with your writing?
Ailsa: No. I just get my backside in the chair and start. This is because when I get the urge, I have to go with it. Even stopping to light a candle would put me off.
Viv: Many writers talk about The Muse. I’ve never managed to personify a muse for myself, and I’m not sure how helpful it would be to me. Do you have an entity that you look to as inspiration that you might term a Muse.
Ailsa: No, just my own imagination coupled with some time. Everything I see and hear is fodder for that.
Viv: You had a very serious accident recently that came close to killing you. I would imagine this has put a serious crimp on your writing. It’s becoming well accepted that writing helps heal psychological hurts, but do you think it might also help the brain heal itself after trauma? In other words, have you begun writing Book Three and if so, how is it going?
Ailsa: Book Three is on its way but yes, brain trauma has slowed me down. I am back to writing but not as often and much more slowly than before.
Viv: Thank you very much indeed. All the very best to you and your writing!
BIO – Ailsa Abraham retired early from a string of jobs, ending up with teaching English to adults. She has lived in France for over twenty years and is married with no children but six grandchildren. Her passion is motorbikes which have taken the place of horses in her life now that ill-health prevents her riding. She copes with Bipolar Condition, a twisted spine and increasing deafness with her usual wry humour – “well if I didn’t have all those, I’d have to work for a living, instead of writing, which is much more fun.”. Her ambition in life is to keep breathing and maybe move back to the UK. She has no intention of stopping writing.
As Ailsa Abraham :
Alchemy and Shaman’s Drum published by Crooked Cat
(Shaman’s Drum was nominated for the People’s Choice Book Award)
Four Go Mad in Catalonia – self-published, available from Smashwords
Twitter – @ailsaabraham
Facebook – Ailsa Abraham
As Cameron Lawton