1. You’ve been very fruitful lately, with Advanced Witchcraft, If You Want to Be a Witch , and Past-Life & Karmic Tarot all released within five months of each other. How did you manage to write that many books so close together?
All three books were thought out well before I began writing them, and all went through Llewellyn’s Acquisitions Committee, so I had feedback that showed how both they and I shared the same vision of how the titles should unfold. Also, I left my previous career to take a chance on writing full-time. The three books you mentioned just exploded from me once I had the freedom to nurture the creative impulses I previously had to shove aside. There was some pressure. I knew I had to work hard to survive as a writer because I had only two years before my broker’s and my advisor’s licenses became invalid.
2. As such a prolific writer, do you have any advice for other aspiring writers?
If you want writing to provide you with a full-time income, then you have to treat it as a full-time job. Set your hours and stick with them. Make it clear that you’re not available for errands, babysitting, long lunches, or chatting during your work hours. Unplug the phone if you have to. People who work at home are perceived by others as not really working.
Someone who is not writing for a living has no idea how many publications you’re working for, how many articles you have in process for various magazines, or how many book projects you may be simultaneously tearing apart and restructuring.
The only aspect I would encourage an aspiring writer to examine in detail is the prospect of being alone for long periods of time. It’s easy to lose track of dates, appointments, and even people if you allow yourself too much time alone. I always felt that I needed more time alone than the average person, and thought that it was just part of being a creative personality. But there have been days and evenings when the solitude feels less like freedom and more of a burden.
3. You were a self-initiated Witch , and then were formally initiated two years later. What led you to be formally initiated? How do you feel it changed your life?
At the time I connected with a coven I was still insecure about being identified as a Witch. Practices, traditions, and concepts were just starting to be made public, and solitaries often had no choice but to find their own way. I think the coven would have accepted my self-initiation as valid. It wasn’t as if they were part of any specific tradition that required initiation for me to be accepted. I wanted the formal initiation for myself. That night I felt magickal energy all around me and within me. I felt like a “real” Witch and thought this would mark a major change in my life. Looking back, I can’t say that I felt much different the next day, but if I had it to do over again I wouldn’t make any changes.
4. Who were the greatest influences in your religious life?
My father. He was a minister in a left wing, mainstream sect—one that encourages its members to think for themselves. In that denomination, no one tells you what to believe. You have to figure that out for yourself. To assist you in that goal are well-educated, open-minded clergy who will provide a variety of study materials and will help you think things out; ultimately, the choices are yours.
My father forced you to think for yourself. He had an incredible knack for quietly letting people talk themselves into a corner. Then he would ask one simple question that splattered away all your preconceived ideas with the force of a cannonball. The only way out was to use your powers of reason.
I was sixteen when he and I were looking through a used bookstore on the Saturday afternoon I came across The Grimoire of Lady Sheba. I sat on the dirty floor engrossed in that book, amazed to find that Witchcraft was a “real” religion and that there were people out there who’d been practicing ancient traditions for decades. I asked Dad to buy me the book. He did, and that began my search for my own path to the creator. It was five years before I made a serious commitment to a year and a day of study, but the foundation I had to build upon was put in place long before.
Other influences included friends, teachers, and authors, but I don’t feel I could have been as receptive to them, or to metaphysical concepts in general, if I hadn’t been raised to trust in my powers of reason and to think for myself.
5. Some of your books are aimed at beginners in the Craft; others are clearly for a more experienced Witch. What books helped you, when you began to walk this spiritual path?
I mentioned The Grimoire of Lady Sheba. I also found Sybil Leek’s The Complete Art of Witchcraft. I found both of those as a teenager. In 1980, when I was ready to make a serious commitment to a year and a day of study, I discovered books by Dion Fortune and Gerald Gardner. But they weren’t enough. I knew I would have to pull together my own course of study. I read various mythologies, Carl Jung’s works on archetypes, and Masonic books on symbolism and ritual.
The most fun I had was when the late Scott Cunningham began writing his books on herbalism . I used his books and his bibliographies to immerse myself in herbal lore, herbal pharmacology, and herbal magick. I’m not a gardener, and digging in the dirt has never appealed to me. Yet there’s something about cultivating your own herbs with a specific purpose in mind that connects the Witch with the powers of the herb and of the Earth. It doesn’t feel like work, but it is. Magick is work, so the simple act of setting your mind toward your goal is when all magick begins.
6. What literary influences came into play for you, as you became more experienced?
If you mean literature as in fiction, I can’t say there were any titles that shaped my thoughts about the Craft. Many books, both fiction and nonfiction, shaped my other views of the world. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, for example, opened my eyes to the issues of social justice. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair changed the way I chose to eat.
I bought every nonfiction Craft book I could find in the early 1980s. Raymond Buckland was and is one of my favorite authors and personal heroes. My father taught me to handle social situations with grace and dignity, and I was proud that I could. Meeting Raymond Buckland for the first time had me tongue-tied and babbling like someone in a predictable sitcom. He was so gracious, and he put me at ease immediately with his open arms and open heart. He’s a very special person in all respects.
7. You worked as a stockbroker for some time before you began to write. How did that experience affect your writing?
During the bull market of the 1990s there wasn’t any job connected with Wall Street that wasn’t busy and stressful. Even the branch receptionists were overloaded. I was never a “business and numbers” person, and this made the job harder for me. Plus, I was spending my days—and many nights—making the rich richer, the complete antithesis of my personal values.
After working ten hours a day, and many weekends, the only way to write was to just come home and do it for the amount of time I’d set aside. Shifting from left brain to right brain activity wasn’t difficult. I began thinking about whatever I was writing by the time I got to my car.
It was the long-term price I would pay that affected, and still affects, me the most. The only way to put more hours in the day was to rob them from somewhere else. The effect of doing two demanding jobs, taking classes, and doing all the other little have-to-do’s that life requires meant I wasn’t sleeping, was eating poorly, and was constantly on the run. I was determined to do it all, and I hadn’t learned to say no. During this time I was also President and Media Chair of Central Indiana Professional Writers, which came with its own obligations and deadlines. I kept lengthy “to-do” lists that never saw completion, and even my leisure activities passed in a blur, riding by on adrenaline.
I figured I was able to do all that when I was in college, so why couldn’t I do it again? Well, I was twelve years older for one thing. Other stresses on me were my father’s terminal illness, my marriage falling apart, and my seeking advancement in the world of finance out of ego rather than because I liked it.
Five years ago, my body and mind just broke down under the strain and I ended up in the hospital. I’m grateful to Goddess that the lasting impact of that time didn’t leave me worse off than it did. I’ve known other career-driven people who come out of their workaholic spells with horrible illnesses like Lupus and heart disease. I’ve also learned how to say no, and I say it frequently now.
8. Your writing must take up a lot of your time—but what do you do when you’re not writing?
Writing also comes with lots of administrative tasks, including paying estimated taxes, keeping separate bank accounts, keeping a log of magazine articles in various stages and answering mail from readers. I try to answer everyone, but sometimes my queue of unanswered correspondence trails back so many months that it’s embarrassing. E-mail is the quickest to handle, so those get answered first.
I’m a volunteer with Indiana Sheltie Rescue, and I have my own Sheltie, a sassy six-year old named Corky, to care for. I’m not training him for AKC Obedience Trials like I did my other dogs, and not traveling for dog shows anymore. I’m also into ballroom dancing, and I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve put that on the back burner this last year. I love to read and to spend time with friends, but I also have all the mundane tasks that everyone else does. Someone has to pay bills, go to the grocery store and look in on family. I probably spend more time than most people in doctors’ offices still paying the price for my workaholism.
9. Where do you think Witchcraft will be in ten years?
I think it’s going to continue to grow in numbers, and with numbers will be new Witches coming into the Craft with more knowledge and experience than my generation. The young adults who are interested in Earth religions today stun me. They write to ask questions I’m sure I couldn’t have thought up at their age. It’s a challenge to answer them, and sometimes the only answer I can give is that I just don’t know. They are independent thinkers actively seeking the spiritual path they want in this lifetime, and it’s a given that this will be the foundation for new traditions of modern Witchcraft.
10. What are you working on now?
Last year I took some time out to complete a novel I wasn’t able to complete when I was a stockbroker. I’m now working on a detailed manuscript on crafting and using Words of Power that actually generate power without dictating to the universe how best to manifest the spell. In examining the details of spells for others who think they’ve failed, I find 80% or more of them received exactly what they asked for. It’s a fine line between incanting words and giving orders but, once again, no one promised magick would be easy. Words support visualization. They create pictures in your head that comprise the symbolic language of magick. Without Words of Power in your magickal thought processes, you can confuse, weaken or even lose sight of a spell’s final outcome.