Today’s post is a transcript from a recent conversation with author Miss Ginger Mann, which occurred during her visit to my little corner of the etherverse. Mann is an up and coming novelist and acquaintance of mine through Xchyler Publishing.
Aurel: Hello Ms Mann, It was so good of you to accept my invitation for an interview.
Mann: Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to talk to you today.
Aurel: As I understand it, you have a new work of fiction just released. What can you tell us about it?
Mann: Yes, I have had a new work released. It’s a story called “Jilted River.” Here’s a look at it:
A river siren lives in an Appalachian forest. She lurks at the bottom of a sinkhole, where a mountain collapsed more than a hundred years ago. Her magical voice haunts the underground river there, where she sings through the waters. She sits like a spider, luring and trapping unlucky wanderers forever. She is beautiful, she is magical, and she is deadly.
Or, at least, that’s what the locals say.
Near Berkley Springs, West Virginia, the old women on the mountain pass the tale all around, “Don’t go into the Hollows, especially not after dark.” The story of the Jilted River siren is locally famous, and people come from all over the eastern United States just to see the haunted forest in the Jilted River Hollows. It is one of the crowning features of the local state park. The bald mountain face above it is thick with birdsong, and the view of the waterfall is breathtaking. However, the dense trees and steep rocks have prompted park officials to close the woods to hikers. Out of curiosity, though, hikers still sneak around the authorities, and wander into the forest. Rangers here are used to helping people out of the Hollows, and they have always come out alive. But now, calls for help are on the rise, and some missing people have been missing for days.
A teenage girl, Trystan, arrives at the Hollows with her widowed forest ranger father, and her twin brother. Two hikers are lost, and the family is there to help. She remembers the Jilted River siren, but she tells herself that it’s just a story. Then, the rescue mission ends badly: one hiker disappears, and two men, including Trystan’s father, vanish on the search. Terrified, Trystan must solve a dark mystery and bring everyone home, before it is too late.
Aurel: Very intriguing! Tell me, how is it that you found yourself working with our common partner Xchyler Publishing?
Mann: Well, for me it started way before Xchyler ever became a publishing house. You know how writers can run into each other? Years ago, I ran into Scott Tarbet, who is now a prolific Xchyler author. He posted to the same listserv as I did, and when we met, we got along immediately. We started helping each other out on little professional projects, partnering on a few of them, even. His ideas were and are always good ones, and he would always involve me when he could. Well, in 2013, he told me about some projects he was working on with Xchyler Publishing, and before I knew it, I finished and submitted my first story to “The X”. I was pleasantly shocked when they chose to publish “China Doll” in their Paranormal Anthology, Shades and Shadows last year. That’s where you and I met, J.
Aurel: How could I forget, it was an honor to be in the same anthology. Tell me Ms Mann, do you have any other published works?
Mann: Continuing on from the previous answer, I published my first short story, “China Doll,” in the Xchyler anthology, Shades and Shadows back in 2013. It was officially released on Halloween Day. Before that, though, I have written both creative and academic pieces. In the tech sector, I write procedures and blogs on the topics of internet security. Outside of tech writing, I have written and published songs and poems for years.
A fun fact: One of my most recently published works is the school song for Cedar Ridge High School in Round Rock, Texas. I’ve got several poems in anthologies by the National Library of Poetry, as well as a few in publications by the Southeast Texas Writers’ League. I even open another wonderful fantasy work published by Xchyler: A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk, by my friend and fellow author, Scott E. Tarbet, starts with my poem, “The Chase”.
Aurel: What moved you to become an author?
Mann: Written words have always come easily to me. I am comfortable expressing myself this way; even more so than with spoken language. I am driven to express ideas, opinions, and even dreams in written form. It clarifies my thoughts better than anything else I do.
The motivation is external, as well: my family continues to ask, and even to push, for me to write stories and articles for them to read. It delights me to make them happy, so I am inspired to work harder on my craft for them. My oldest son is even trying to follow in my footsteps, and write his own short story now.
I put a lot of stock in the opinions of my family and friends, and in the ways that they choose to value me. I am learning that when someone asks for me to do something again, it probably means I have a talent worth sharing. I think it’s important to develop talents like that, and for me, writing is one of them.
Aurel: It sounds like you are very well supported by your family. So, can you tell us about some of your most favorite authors?
Mann: In science fiction and fantasy, no one has ever replaced Orson Scott Card or Dan Simmons in my mind. They lay the groundwork for almost every innovative idea I have, and challenge me in the creation of new worlds and “otherness.” Orson Scott Card teaches me about humanity while he is simultaneously describing a thing that pushes my understanding of astrophysics. Above all, I love the tenderness with which he handles his characters, and the dimension of each person in his stories. Dan Simmons, on the other hand, teaches me how to take all of those characters, created with tenderness and compassion, and then ruthlessly cut them into ribbons. Then, he demonstrates how to disappear the whole story into the next temporal dimension. These two men are opposite ends of imaginative genius, and I wouldn’t have one in my library without the other.
In humor and satire, I still love the late authors, Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams. A lot of my turns of phrase, and my sense of irony, come directly from them, when I am trying the same kind of craft. I do not read much history, that’s a shortfall of mine, but I do read philosophy and theology. In theology, I am constantly re-reading the works of C. S. Lewis. I enjoy his simple, human treatment of God, and his clear logical arguments. But extending forward from there, my favorite new author of non-fiction has only written one book to date. He is a monk, known as Brother Emmanuel of Taizé. His book, Love, Imperfectly Known, transformed my view of love forever, and it is certainly influencing the stories that I tell right now.
Aurel: What is it that inspires your writing
Mann: Depends on the type of writing. For me, songs and poems usually come when I’ve been provoked. I will become overwhelmed by something good, bad, ugly, or beautiful that leaves me flat on my face. There is no way for me to get past it without writing it on a page somewhere. More than half the time, there’s no way to get past it without singing it. That’s how my verse happens, or at least it’s the first step.
Stories, though, are a little gentler with me. I find that an initial story idea can come up from almost anywhere. After that, it becomes kind of a parlor game for me to try to take the concept to conclusion. That game can involve just as many people as I want, too. For example, the idea for Jilted River came from my husband, Sean. He said, “Ginger, what if Hansel and Gretel were the ones left behind, and a witch really wanted to kidnap their father?” Six months later, Jilted River is in a fantasy anthology. It’s been a crazy, fun ride.
Aurel: Do you have any words of wisdom for the burgeoning authors reading this interview?
Mann: First, look for things that interest you and start reading them. Read as much as you can on as many topics as you can, and do not stop.
Then, whatever your ideas are, start writing them. They don’t have to be good, and they certainly don’t have to be worthy of publication. Keep a journal, keep a blog, review books, talk about your shopping trip or maybe your car. It doesn’t matter. Work on writing made-up scenes in different “voices”, or whatever suits you. Just start writing today, and never stop.
If you start getting comfortable with your writing, then it’s time to find someone who will read your work. Put something out there, and ask for reviews. Listen to what people have to say, even and especially if it makes you want to strangle them. Take a walk, let off steam, and then take and use the criticism you get back. A rule of thumb here: If one person has a problem with your story or your post, then it might be their own personal hang-up. If multiple people offer you the same criticism, it’s a valid point you should take with you.
But the most important thing you can ever do is write. Write, keep writing, and don’t ever stop.
Aurel: Splendid advice. Now, what is next for you?
Mann: Well, since I am a child of multiple artistic worlds, right now I have some songwriting and arranging to do. I have recently authored one song about Divine-Human love that will premiere in February in a small church in Georgetown. I am sincerely looking forward to that. But afterward, I am looking forward to the next Xchyler anthology submission. I have some great ideas in my head for future paranormal and fantasy stories.
Aurel: Naturally, naturally. Last question: if you had the choice between a Dalek demolition derby, Thanator racing, or a one-on-one Quidditch match, which would you choose?
Seriously? All right, I do love the Dr. Who worlds. You almost got me there. But for me, it’s still hard to beat joy riding on a giant eagle, who grabs me while I’m waiting to die at the mouth of a fiery volcano.
Or, if I can’t get that, then a good Bluegrass jam session.
There, that’s my answer and I’m sticking to it.
Ginger Mann can be found at the following locations:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/gingersnotes @gingersnotes
Her new short story “Jilted River” can be found in The Toll of Another Bell, available in Kindle and softcover from these fine vendors: