Saturday, March 1, 2014

Meet The Fabulous Author Ariel Swan!

Today I am talking to Ariel Swan, a unique writer blending magical realism, real life issues, and gothic elements (makes you want to settle down with a cup of tea to read one her books!). She’s represented by Victoria Lea from Aponte Literary. 
Ariel Swan

Welcome to my blog, and oh, do I have questions for you, so let me get started---

What genre to you write? What drew you to it?
AS: I write women’s fiction with supernatural and mystery elements. It is not quite paranormal and it is definitely not romance, but both elements occur. My favorite supernatural elements are ghosts and psychic ability. I also dabble in a little “real” witchcraft, spells made of herbs, symbolic objects and colors, and incantations. My protagonists are women in their 20s or 30s facing life issues like identity, love, pregnancy, marriage, divorce, and of course, mother issues. I have been a writer and a reader my whole life, but it was my love of Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic that drew me to begin my first novel DISTILLATION. I loved the light ghost story and the witchy sisters, as well as the maiden aunts. I have also always been a lover of place; old houses and enchanted landscapes. These all find their way into my fiction.
: This sounds delightfully gothic; and eloquent.

Do you write more than one genre, why?
AS: I do not, at the moment, write more than one genre, but I would consider myself a cross-over genre. I have a slight literary bent in my style, I like to think so at least, but my subjects cross into the realm of various genres.
: This I can relate to! I like that you know yourself very well.

Tell me about your current work (Blurb/book cover here if appropriate) or just give a blurb on a story you are wrestling with.
AS: My completed novel, currently out on submission, is DISTILLATION. It is the story of Alice Towne, who has been trying to get pregnant and to be a good wife, but the smell of the dead is getting in the way. She smells their memories, sweet and sour, essences of life hanging on with the soul. When her husband can’t accept her for who she is and his disdain borders on abuse, Alice finds the strength to leave. With few options, she agrees to do a favor for her mother, caretaking a house in the hills of western, Massachusetts, where she hopes to exorcise her demons and come to terms with her curse in solitude.
MVF: This sounds like a book I’d read on a day I want to savor a story…don’t you do that sometimes? Savor the words as you read and write them. That’s what I am getting from what you are saying.

AS: In COLD SPRING FIRE, my WIP, a photograph binds two women to a murder they accidentally committed as teenagers, using magic to free a friend from heartache. When the body of the boy surfaces fifteen years later, Andrea and Lailie return to Cold Spring and try to reverse the spell and face the consequences of their actions. Burdened with a history they cannot escape, the women will have to battle the devils they love in order to free their souls from the darkness of what they’ve done and to find light in their lives once again.
MVF: This shows something else- you also write a good vs. evil in a sense. Taking responsibility for actions; this intrigues me.

What inspired you to write (the above) story?
DISTILLATION was inspired by the town I used to live in, Ashfield, Massachusetts. It is an enchanted landscape to be sure and filled with unique characters. The novel actually takes place in the town itself, though I took a lot of liberties with the characters. 
MVF: Which is why I like fiction—take the reality and do with it what you will!
 AS: COLD SPRING FIRE is inspired by my own teenage years. It is a little darker than DISTILLATION in some ways, as it deals with “the devil we love,” this being each person’s dark temptations stemming from their upbringing, elements of life we know we should avoid, and perhaps try to, but yet still seem to find us. The story takes place both in the present and in 1994. The events of the two protagonists’ teenage years lead them to where they are in the present. It is really a story about coming to terms with the past and the choices we make. I write to entertain, but also to exorcise my own demons. The setting is the town I grew up in, under a fictional name. The center of the town was a lake that shaped much of my youth. There is also a National Wildlife Preserve wetland there. This too is central to the plot of the story. I write what I know, like most authors.
MVF: I find this is very intriguing—how you are working through things in a fictional setting.  I agree, many of us do this.  How do you feel after you finish the stories? Lighter, more at peace?
AS: I do, I suppose, but more I feel like I have put something to rest and can move on to discover new landscapes and dreams.
MVF: And that is important, we don’t want our post to cloud our future. Besides—there is always an adventure waiting…

How do you write?
AS: I am a plotter, but I also let the story unfold as it will. I start with a concept like the bones of an infant discovered beneath a colonial era hearthstone, or a photograph within a photograph that is a binding spell, and I work backward, asking myself what happened, to whom, and why? Often I write an opening scene and then I begin the lists. The lists of characters, the lists of descriptions for the setting, the list of events I think I want to include. I write plot outlines by chapter, usually very brief to start, and I have learned not to number them, as they get switched around. I keep the outline open as I write and I consult it and change it as needed. When I am done writing for the day, I will type, right in my overall document, the events that are coming next. I am a high school English teacher, so I write like mad on vacations. I spend the entire summer writing as a full time job. Once a novel gets going though, or is in the final stages, I find myself writing whenever I can, sometimes at four in the morning. I have found, so far, with two novels, that I first write, what I call, “100 pages of crap.” Then I walk away for a while, like a few months. When I come back, I read what I have and I go over the lists and the outlines and I see what I like and what doesn’t feel right. I go from there. In terms of my space and inspiration, I do not listen to any music. I have an office that has pictures and objects of inspiration in it. I will sometimes make a cd of songs that inspire me, but I listen to them when I am not writing. It keeps me in the story. This is how I write.  
MVF: This also is fascinating to me about the lists and I find writers all have a different way of doing things, and even though we all are different there are similarities in small things.

Name 3 books/authors you’ve read which have had an impact on your writing?
AS: I already mentioned Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic. One of my all-time favorite books and authors, whom I would love to emulate in some way someday, is Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. I love her sense of place, her real characters, and the way she incorporates world themes. As a child, the first book I remember loving was a ghost story called Wait Till Helen Comes. I have to give that credit for my love of ghost stories. I also love poetic prose like in Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient.
MVF: I enjoyed so much Practical Magic—I thought her writing wonderful.  You do have a very literary bent—and I have The Posionwood Bible on my TBR shelf.
AS: Well I hope you get to read it. I consider it a master piece, quite literally.

I’m a Sci-Fi/Fantasy buff, I love movies/shows in this genre,  was or is there a T.V. Show or movie which has inspired you (doesn’t have to be Sci-fi /Fantasy).  Name one or at least three.
AS:I like ghost stories, as I’ve said. I was a somewhat fan of Ghost Whisperer. More importantly, though, the artist whose work was featured in the opening, Maggie Taylor, served as inspiration for my writing. She kindly allowed me to use one of her images on my blog: “The Patient Gardner.” Check it out under the DISTILLATION tab. I was also a big X-Files fan. More recently, American Horror. The first season was just fabulous. I love a good haunted house story. I like the current season as well: Coven. Ghosts and witches are my thing after all. A few films that have inspired me, also ghost stories, are The Others, with Nicole Kidman, which was very clever, and What Lies Beneath, which was a Harrison Ford film in which the ghost of his murdered mistress comes back to haunt his wife. A lot of the “haunting” in that film influenced scenes in DISTILLATION.
MVF: I am glad I asked this question—because now I can see how you have infused your writing with the influences you are drawn too. This makes me interested in what you write.

What fictional character (Book, show, movie) would you most love to meet?
AS: I have to go literary here, and pull on my teacher costume. I would like to meet: Hester Prynne (The Scarlet Letter), Anna Karenina (Anna Karenina – of course), Katherine Clifton (The English Patient), and Daisy Buchanan (The Great Gatsby) and have a conversation about women, adultery, patriarchal double standards, and the human condition. I would also like to meet Bella Swan, tell her to give me my last name back and slap her for choosing Edward over Jacob.  
MVF: Ah, Now I find your choices equally unique. I can only imagine the discussions you would have—wouldn’t that be fabulous?!

Tea or Coffee? (Water is a given). 
 AS: Both… and wine.
 MVF: Good choice!

AS: Thanks for having me Mary! It’s been fun.

It was fabulous to have you here on my blog—and I truly hope you consider coming back again!

Author Bio:
Ariel Swan grew up first among ghosts in an old Victorian and then came of age on the shores of a New England lake where she continued to hear voices in the wind and trees. These gifts stayed with her as she worked through two degrees at the University of Massachusetts, dabbling in literature, sociology, creative writing, and as many playfully wicked adventures as she could conjure. Eventually she settled on a career as a high school English teacher with the clich├ęd dream of writing over summer vacations. When she moved to a hill town, where the earth itself seemed tinted with enchantment, the seeds of her first novel, DISTILLATION, took root. Ariel loves small town lore, old houses, and rural New England settings. Her writing crosses genres, mixing the mystical with the literary, centered on women’s themes, strong atmosphere and vivid characters. Currently, she teaches English and creative writing in western Massachusetts where she lives with her husband, three cats, and a small flock of happy chickens. 

Where to find Ariel:     Website      Twitter


  1. Great interview! I'm excited to find a fellow X-files fan (still mourning the loss of that show). It was a treat to learn more about your work, Ariel, and I look forward to reading it :)

    1. Hi Dana, glad you stopped by! I must've been living under a rock, because I totally missed that show. Drat.

  2. Great Interview!! I too would like to slap Bella Swan but for entirely different reasons.

    1. Tanisha, you just made me snort water...thank you for making me laugh! Glad you stopped by!

  3. I know that New England charm and it's affect on the imagination. I lived in New Canaan, Connecticut, on a rural back road during middle grade & high school. We A small 1700's graveyard is just up the road, and vintage homes of brick and stone along wooded roads that never went in a straight line. Easy to get lost when driving at night. Love your story ideas, Ariel.

    1. Hi D.T. glad you stopped by--and I always wanted to live in New England area... alas... :) But the graveyard sounds very cool...

  4. Great interview. Thanks for introducing me to an interesting new author.

    1. Hi Diane--thank you so much for stopping by--and Ariel is awesome!

  5. Loved the interview and looking forward to reading botth of your books!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Deb! I am interested as well!

  6. Another great job! I used to live in a town called Cold Spring...and now I'm afraid, very, very afraid. Or should I just be glad I got out alive?? Love reading about influences. We share Alice Hoffman as a favorite author...loved her work since Turtle Moon! I got to review her latest: Museum of Extraordinary Things...wonderful love song to oddballs, New York City and early 20th century.. highly recommended!

    1. Thank you Eileen! and oh, that latest book by Alice Hoffman sounds wonderful. I will have to pick it up.