From time to time we try to check in with our favorite authors, and see what they’ve been up to lately. This time out we’ve had the pleasure of chatting with fantasy author Jolene Dawe is a prolific short story author, published in a few short story anthologies and zine, with two collections to her name–Treasures from the Deep and her latest effort, The Fairy Queen of Spencer’s Butte. Fairy Queen is a book I’ve long been in love with I make no secret of that. She lives in Eugene with her partner and several pets and enjoys, among other things, knitting, writing and reading. A lot. :) She’s been busy ever since but took time to speak with us again. We hope you enjoy this latest little conversation.
Thanks for being with us, Jolene. Can you tell my readers what was the inspiration for The Fairy Queen of Spencer’s Butte?
Jolene Dawe: The beauty of the landscape around me, primarily. Annoying, words cannot do it justice. I grew up in Massachusetts, and I lived for five years in Philadelphia. Even though Philly is further south, it has much in common with Massachusetts: bitter cold winters and sweltering, humid, awful summers. While I do miss true winters – something we don’t really see inside the Willamette Valley – I do not miss the muggy, sweltering summers. The running joke is that here in Eugene it rains once a year: from August to July. That’s a tad of an exaggeration, but we do get a lot of rain for a place that isn’t quite a rain forest. I’ve read that we get something like 60 sunny days a year, on average, and that’s including partly cloudy days. So, it’s wet. And what happens when it’s that wet, almost all the time?
Beautiful things happen. Flowers that start blooming in January and don’t quite until December. Ferns and ropes of moss hanging from tree limbs that break out in violent green in the middle of February. Mushrooms of so many different types that explode in colors of reds and greys and shocking whites. Here in Eugene proper most buildings aren’t more than five stories high – there are exceptions, but the result is that most of the trees, spurred on by a long, mild growing season, are taller that the buildings, and it helps make the city feel more like a large college town instead of a city. We are not exactly urban in the way that places like even Portland OR, or Philadelphia, are. The Willamette River runs through our city, often swollen with rain run-off, and we have a few other water ways. And, dominating the landscape is, of course, Spencer’s Butte, which is the tallest point within the valley.
But it’s not simply the beauty of the place, either – it’s the spirit of the place. I haven’t explored a whole lot outside my city and the immediate valley, and I’m sure that I’m romanticizing the settlement of the area, but there is a noticeable difference between the prevalent attitude of people here versus the mindset of people back east. I liken it to a homesteading, hippy-ish, can-do attitude, a calling to explore live and to live it to its fullest, to explore what it means to be who you are, where you are, and it’s something that I liken back to a pioneering attitude. People moved west for a variety of reasons – persecution, chafing at what made up civilization at the time, wanderlust, dreaming big, wanting more. And though the initial push west happened generations ago, this is something that I feel a kinship with, and I can feel it in the area around me, in the people I meet, in the places I’ve gone, in the stories I’ve heard. That, along with the sheer breathtaking beauty of this place, inspired so much of the stories found within my collection.
What kind of research did you have to do, in order to write the book?
Jolene: Not a whole lot, in the end. I read a bit on the history of the settling of the area, both specifically the Willamette Valley, and the American Pacific Northwest in general. I read about the various native tribes that were decimated, the ones that still exist, the horrid relationships between the European Americans and the people already occupying the areas. It was eye-opening in a way, because, coming from the east coast, there’s this sense of the wars and battles between the invading Europeans and native populations happening so long ago. It’s ancient history, right? Many of the confrontations take place before the founding of our country, and though I knew that the wars that took place in the west happened later, happened more recently, that wasn’t driven home for me until I moved out here and was studying the dates. Some of these things happened in my grandparents lifetimes, and certainly in my great-grandparents’ lifetimes – and I knew my great-grandparents. In their parents’ generation many horrible things were done to many people, and that goes a great way into making it real, making it be about real people, than thinking about years and dates. I knew people who knew people who could have been peers to the immediate victims to some of these events. That was staggering.
Who’s your favorite character in this particular book?
Jolene: Keti certainly takes one of the top spots, but I also really adore Thistlethorn Meadowlark. My cadejo Chico, who was inspired in part by my writing partner Master Corbie J. Corbington, is much beloved.
What’s next for you, now that The Fairy Queen of Spencer’s Butte is out?
Jolene: I’m working, I’m working! Brittney and Thistle are getting their own full-length novel, though the writing on that is insisting on a pretty slow pace, alas. I’m halfway through the initial draft, but I’ll be surprised if it’s out before 2015. Heck, I’ll be surprised if it’s out during 2015. After much struggling with the novel length works, I’m turning my attention to shorter works again, as I seem to find my stride in them a lot more easily, and a lot more happily. I’m working on a modern day tale about the Holly King and the Oak King, as well as the beginning of a new story inspired by a trip out to Crater Lake, OR, earlier in August. What happens when you have to choose your son’s life over yours? What happens when, in a split second, you make a bargain that changes everything? What happens when you are drawn away from everything you know and brought to a city that is both like and unlike the city you thought it was? I am doing horrible, awful things to this new character, and so far, she’s holding up pretty well. Woman’s got mettle.
What’s a good writing day like for you?
Jolene: A good writing day? The house to myself for six hours, and many thousands of words. I have one day like that during the week, and when I’m at my stride, I can get 3-5k words done. And I live for those days. I try to get more during the week proper, but I work outside of the home full time, so anything between 300-900 words during a workday is good. The bulk of the word count gets done on my days off, alas.
As I said you read a lot, but what type of books do you like to read, for your own enjoyment?
Jolene: The ones with words!
Oh I see I forgot to mention Jo’s a smart alack too. But we love her. You were saying, dear?
Jolene: I am ridiculously easy when it comes to subject matter. I love stories. Horror was my first love, and fantasy soon came after, but really, I love stories. Things happening to people. Things having happened to people, and how they move forward, how they react, how it shapes them. Be they real or fictional, I really just like to see how people are, you know?
If you had to deal with a Keti, how would you handle him?
Jolene: Hopefully patiently, and with many scritches. I have a soft spot for felines of any shape and size, and I doubt it would take long before I was wrapped around his paws.
Undoubtedly. Where can my readers find out more about you and your books?
Jolene: My website is The Saturated Page, where I blog about my writing, reading, and life in general. The Fairy Queen of Spencer’s Butte and Other Tales is available for Kindle at Amazon and in print at Lulu.com. My story, “Lament of the Last Goddess” can be found in The Shining Cities: an Anthology of Pagan Science Fiction, available in print and for Kindle. (Proceeds for which go to various charities). You can get a feel for my writing through three online publications: Artemis Iokheira; Seeking; The Bone Boy, all to be found in the fabulous pagan literary magazine Eternal Haunted Summer. You can also find two stories on my website (not very easily, I’ll grant you; that site is due for an overhaul) Promised and When The Hills Come Courting. This last one is from The Fairy Queen of Spencer’s Butte and Other Tales, by the by.
All are great stories so I recommend lovers of urban fantasy, check them out. And, finally, Jolene, what can your fans expect from you, in the future?
Jolene: More writing! My story A Windswept Tree will be published in Beyond The Pillars: an Anthology of Pagan Fantasy (publication date still to be announced); my story Sanctuary Farm will be published in the September 2013 issue of Eternal Haunted Summer. I’m working hard on two novels and a number of short stories presently. We will see a return to the environs of the Willamette Valley, and short story format; we will see the continuation of Britney’s and Thistle’s adventures together – and Keti’s meddling. Please check back at my blog to see updates as these plans unfold!
We will be keeping an eye for those. Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be with us today, Jolene and best of luck with all your current and forthcoming works. Folks, if you’d like to learn more about Jolene and her fine works, visit her website at: http://thesaturatedpage.wordpress.com/