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[GUEST POST] Storm Constantine Offers a Glimpse into The Working Life of a Writer

Storm Constantine‘s first novel, The Enchantments of Flesh and Spirit, was published in 1987 and is the opening book in her internationally best-selling Wraeththu trilogy. It was followed by The Bewitchments of Love and Hate and The Fulfilments of Fate and Desire. Storm’s work has always crossed boundaries, broken taboos and ventured into territory not normally encountered in the fantasy and science fiction genres. Her androgynous Wraeththu, with their hermaphroditic sexual magic, were certainly a shock to the genre. She has since written twenty three novels in genres ranging from fantasy, dark fantasy and horror to science fiction and slipstream. Immanion Press is bringing all of Storm’s back catalogue back into print. Storm’s new novel is The Moonshawl, a new Wraeththu story.

The Working Life of a Writer

by Storm Constantine

One of the things I get asked about a lot is what comprises my ‘working day’. For people with 9 to 5 jobs this is easy to answer. Get up, dressed, go to work, slave, come home, relax. If you work for yourself at home, imposing that kind of discipline is difficult.

I know it would be good to have a firm and unwavering routine, but no matter how much I try that never happens. There’s something formal about the start of a week or a month or a year. I tell myself I’ll start my new regime next Monday, or on the 1st of next month, or the start of next year. These resolutions might even hold for a short time, but soon disintegrate into the general clutter of life.

The main bane of my existence, as well as being one of the most useful things, is connection to the internet. It’s fatal even to glance at my email before sitting down to work for the day. Inevitably, there are queries to respond to, business matters to deal with, chatty mails to answer, and so on. That can take at least two hours on a busy day. By the time I’m done with that, my muse has gone off by herself down to the nearest coffee shop to read a book, feeling somewhat disgruntled. I look at my latest story/novel and feel…nothing. The mood has passed, no matter how dreamily I floated to the computer brimming with ideas two hours before. My muse detests mundane activities. She’s allergic to them and flees at the merest glimpse of them. If I want to write, I can’t risk looking at mail, or glancing at some news, or even ordering something online I meant to order the day before. It’s a case of open up Word, get to it, or nothing.

Many authors have talked about how writing is the activity they love most, it’s their life blood, and yet their brains will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid doing it. Sitting at your desk, suddenly marks on the window annoy you so much you just have to start cleaning them off – every window in the house. Bits on the carpet herald a pressing need to vacuum the entire building. Drawing the virgin text from the strange, unknowable area within can be a painful process indeed. I love writing, yet sometimes I hate it. I’ve come to the conclusion this is down to fear of what I write not being as good as what I’ve written before, or just a terror that the words will refuse to come out at all. But somehow, step by agonising step, a story or a novel takes shape: that gasping, flopping, bleeding first draft. The next stage, for me, is heaven in comparison.

If we keep the analogy of a gasping, landed fish, then the rewriting stage is the gutting and cleaning, the preliminaries to turning the fish into an exquisite meal. I enjoy the polishing stages immensely. The words are out and there to be shaped. Sentences wait obediently to be cleaned up. I no longer have a fear I won’t be able to finish the story. While the inner critics can of course give writers a very hard time during this phase, their voices aren’t as fearsome as the silent void of *not* writing.

The Moonshawl took a long time to get going. It’s a standalone tale, set in the Wraeththu mythos, but is in essence the ghost story I’ve always wanted to write. My last novel came out in 2011, and although I’ve written quite a few short stories in between I didn’t begin work on the new book until the end of 2013. Then, the words came out steadily, with only the odd patch of fog on the path when I couldn’t go forward. Luckily, I have friends around me who are also writers and who are there to workshop with me, listen to my readings, and give feedback. I do the same for them. Writing can be a solitary experience, but I prefer to have like-minded people around to help me over the humps. I’m pleased with my new novel and am ignoring any gibberings from the inner critic, who I know will *never* be satisfied. The work is done. Time to move to the next piece of work. And then it’s back to noticing the bits on the carpet, the marks on the window and the pains of the first draft, which will slowly take form. Excuses not to work are simply to avoid the discomforts of it. Yet strangely, I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

About The Moonshawl:

Ysbryd drwg…the bad ghost

Ysobi har Jesith embarks upon a job far from home, where his history isn’t known – a welcome freedom. Hired by Wyva, the phylarch of the Wyvachi tribe, Ysobi goes to Gwyllion to create a spiritual system based upon local folklore, but he soon discovers some of that folklore is out of bounds, taboo…

Secrets lurk in the soil of Gwyllion, and the old house Meadow Mynd, home of the Wyvachi leaders. The house and the land are haunted. The fields are soaked in blood and echo with the cries of those who were slaughtered there, almost a century ago. In Gwyllion, the past doesn’t go away, and the hara who live there cling to it, remembering still their human ancestors. Tribal families maintain ancient enmities, inspired by a horrific murder in the past.

Old hatreds and a thirst for vengeance have been awoken by the approaching feybraiha – coming of age – of Wvya’s son, Myvyen. If the harling is to survive, Ysobi must help him confront the past, lay the ghosts to rest and scour the tainted soil of malice. But the ysbryd drwg is strong, built of a century of resentment and evil thoughts. Is it too powerful, even for a scholarly hienama with Ysobi’s experience and skill?

The Moonshawl, an artefact of protection, was once fashioned to keep Wyvachi heirs from harm, but the threads are old and worn, the magic fading, and its sacred sites – which might empower it once more – are prohibited. Only by understanding what the shawl symbolises and how it once controlled the ysbryd drwg can Ysobi even attempt to prevent the tragedy that looms to engulf the Wyvachi tribe.

The Moonshawl is a standalone story, set in the world of Storm Constantine’s ground-breaking, science fantasy Wraeththu mythos.

Book Info:

  • The Moonshawl: a Wraeththu Mythos novel
  • Storm Constantine
  • 8th Dec 2014
  • 452 pages
  • Price: £11.99; $20.99; €15.00
  • ISBN: 978-1-907737-62-6
  • Catalogue Number: IP0041
  • Cover by Ruby
  • Simultaneous Kindle release with special promotional offer
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