Those who are not new to the Earth Spirals blog will know that I think stories are wildly important, for they have the power to shape and change our view of the world. So it’s great to see new Pagan authors out there. I was delighted to sit down for a virtual chat with M A Phillips about her debut novel, River Magic, as part of her book tour to celebrate its release.
The novel centres on a young woman just starting out on a Druidic path, and dealing with dreams, secrets, romance and a vengeful mermaid along the way…
As a Priestess of Brighid, I was happy to feel your love of the Goddess shine through the novel. Did you feel Her inspiration was with you while working on the book?
I’m so glad that came through! My spiritual practice includes a daily devotional, and I always make offerings to Brigid. Her connection to inspiration and crafts initially drew me to serve her, and I definitely felt her pushing me to work on this story. When I decided that Lacey should also have a special relationship with a deity, Brigid just made sense. I definitely view much of my writing as a devotional to her.
Would you describe River Magic as a coming of age story?
I would! We often think of that trope as strictly young adult, but there’s a lot of room for it in adult fiction, too. As a millenial, I know many people from my generation struggled (and still struggle) to find their niche after college.
Do you think it’s easier for young Pagans to explore their path than it used to be?
I can only really speak to my experience as a white cis Pagan in Upstate NY. I think it’s been relatively easy for me. There was some discomfort when I first shared this development with my family as a high schooler. After a few years, they realized this was definitely not a phase! The hardest part has been separating that side of me from work relationships. I still hear about people who lose jobs over this sort of thing. That’s always been a fear of mine, but less now that I’m established. I hope people will realize that I’m still the same dependable person upon learning about this side of me.
So in general, yes. Society is more visibly diverse, so a lot of us feel safer being ourselves, but it’s not the case for everyone in every population. We have work to do! I suppose that’s part of why I published this with my initials and surname instead of a pseudonym. Maybe I’ll help remove some of the stigma or inspire others struggling with their identity.
Your main character, Lacey, struggles with concerns she may not be taken seriously because of her Paganism, is this something you’ve experienced in your own life?
Oh yes. We grow up in a society that, for the most part, writes off a belief in ‘fairies’ as weird. In school, mythology is often discussed as pure fiction or as a ‘past tense’ belief of ancient cultures. I’ve been very careful not to bring up such things around strangers and acquaintances because I just don’t know how they’ll react. Christmas and Easter often come with awkward conversations exactly how Lacey experiences them. Being concerned for the environment, I allow my animist beliefs to show more in those conversations, and even then, I sometimes encounter confusion. It can be a bit exhausting!
What was your inspiration for the mermaid character?
The two biggest inspirations for the mermaid were general qualities of water spirits in folklore (such as shape shifting and being dangerous) and local river ecology. She’s based on lake sturgeons which populate the St. Lawrence River. They’re my favorite fish! I remember first seeing one in the wild while standing on a hotel balcony in Alexandria Bay. I looked down and thought I saw a shark! I’ve been a bit obsessed with them ever since.
I was interested in your tackling of the sometimes controversial topic of love spells, what are your thoughts on the use of these?
Oh, love spells… Currently, I’m of the mindset that such workings should be approached with great care. In general, I think it’s best to focus on inner needs such as healing a broken heart or growing in confidence. I also believe it’s appropriate to do a spell that attracts a partner of certain qualities rather than specific individuals. Lacey’s work with the oil reflects this belief.
I think many of us in the magical community have a dumb love spell story in our past, and I’m no exception! As with any spell, clear focus and thoughtful wording are very important, but I haven’t performed anything like that in years. If asked, I wouldn’t today (but that is just me)!
If I had to suggest a theme for the book, I think I would go with ‘secrets’ – was that an intentional thread given the often secretive history of Pagan paths?
What a fantastic question! It’s always so interesting to see how others interpret one’s writing! That was not a planned theme, but it definitely became a large part of the story, particularly the main conflicts. So no, the connection to the secretive history of Pagan paths was not planned, but I love how that aspect came out for you!
Do you have plans for more stories about these characters?
Yes! When querying River Magic, I said that it was a standalone with “series potential.” I always hoped to continue, and I’m excited to share that Shadow Spark Publishing contracted me for two more books in the Rituals of Rock Bay series!
Book 2, Hearth Magic, will release on Imbolc (February 2). This one will be a little different in that it focuses on Cian but also Anthony! I really wanted to explore how their relationship with Lacey and each other evolves after the incidents of River Magic. The sequel will pull back from the river a little and turn towards their homes, but Lacey and Cian can’t stay away from the St. Lawrence for long, and even Anthony needs to confront it.
Thanks so much for your thoughtful questions, and thank you for reading River Magic! I enjoyed chatting!
River Magic is available from Shadow Spark Publishing or Amazon