Dubbed by Publishers Weekly as “a witch to watch,” Dorothy Morrison is the award-winning author of numerous books on the Ancient Arts and their application to modern life. She’s won several awards for her writing, and has become a favourite of readers and critics. Some say it’s because of the easy conversational tone she applies to her work. Others say it’s her down-to-earth style and humorous approach. Whether in her writing or her interaction with the public, it’s Morrison’s personal style that makes her memorable. Her Southern charm and grace have some folks calling her the Julia Sugarbaker of Paganism.
Morrison’s latest effort is a work of fiction called Lucinda’s Web. We sat down at our computers recently to talk about it.
You are a Witch, writer, archer, handicrafter, animal rights activist. What attracts you to a life of creation?
I think it’s the magic of the creation process itself. I love taking something – even if it’s something intangible like an idea – and giving it an entirely different shape, form, and direction. A shape, form, and direction that only I can give it, and makes it uniquely mine. But that’s only the beginning. The real magic is in the sharing of that creation, the joy it brings to others, and the impact – even if it’s very small – that it has on their lives. And being able to give that part of myself to others is very satisfying to me.
You are a prolific writer. Out of all your writing activities and creative ideas, how do you decide which ones to pursue or develop?
I have a ten page rule. I write ten pages and read them. And if I’m not still so excited about the topic that I’d want to read more, I have to assume that my readers wouldn’t either. So, I usually ditch the project and go on to something else. But the one thing I’ve learned over the years is never to throw anything away. There have been several occasions when something I thought unworthy of development made a great addition to a project I did pursue.
Case in point: A part of something I’d scrapped ten years prior became a good portion of the basis for Dancing the Goddess Incarnate – a book I co-wrote with Kristin Madden. And if I hadn’t hung onto it, I’d have had to start all over from scratch. 😉
You’ve written a number of magical and spiritual books. What prompted you to write fiction?
I’ve always liked a good story and over the years, I’ve become a fairly decent story-teller. So, it just seemed natural to put one down on paper.
The foray into fiction, however, wasn’t an easy decision to make. For one thing, I’ve seen other authors – best-selling, award-winning authors – fall flat on their faces and damned near ruin their careers when making the jump from non-fiction. It wasn’t a mistake I wanted to make, and the very thought of it scared me to death. So, I flirted with the idea for years, occasionally looking at the two chapters I’d written so long ago, and putting them back in the file for safe-keeping.
Then one night – nearly ten years after I’d written those chapters – I woke with a start and a fabulous beginning for a new chapter. I scribbled it down in the dark and went back to sleep. I figured that if I could read it the next day, it was a good idea. And if I couldn’t, I’d just forget about it and go on with my other projects. Needless to say, my notes were legible, and I immediately set about work on the novel again.
Of course, I was still extremely worried about switching genres – even temporarily – and the impact it might have on my career. So, I sent a few chapters to folks – among them, my dear friend and suspense novelist extraordinaire, M.R. Sellars – who I trusted to give me an honest opinion. And when they gave me a thumbs up, I knew it was time to make the jump.
How was the process different? Did you face any new challenges writing fiction?
The non-fiction books I wrote were all fairly instructional. And while I definitely concerned myself with the “rhythm” of the words in each sentence, facts and directions were the key ingredient. My only job was to put that information in easy-to-understand terms, and present it to my readers in an entertaining conversational tone.
Writing fiction, though, was an entirely different animal. Not only did I have to concern myself with pacing and timing and believable dialogue, I had to breathe life into the story’s characters. And that’s where things got tricky. Because the characters lived in my head, I’d decided who they were, how they went about their daily lives, the things that composed their individual moral codes, and which boundaries they would and would not cross. I knew what roles they’d play in the story, and how their strengths and weaknesses would bring about the ending I’d envisioned. What I didn’t know, though, was that from the very second I’d birthed these characters, I’d given up complete control of the whole story. I had no idea that these characters – the very ones I’d created – would take on lives of their own and simply refuse to behave in the manner I’d intended.
Can you imagine, for example, my surprise when one of my really nice characters committed a murder? Or when a character to whom I’d never even given birth popped right up in the middle of the storyline and refused to go away?
It was a real eye-opener. And the challenge – at least, for me – was to give up the control I’m so used to having, realize that I was only the instrument by which the words hit the paper, and let the story tell itself, regardless of how it ended.
Tell me about your new book, Lucinda’s Web.
It’s based on two love tricks cast in the 1800’s by the enslaved that follow a group of unsuspecting people into the present day, turn their lives upside down, and toss them into a hellish web of danger they never dreamed possible. The only way to get their lives back is to break the tricks. But before they can do that, they must locate the trick parcels – trick parcels that are over a hundred years old.
Readers will find Lucinda’s Web laced with mystery, intrigue and suspense, magic and reincarnation, Civil War history, and of course, a healthy dose of erotica. [Well…this novel is based on love tricks. And you can’t have romance without sex, can you?! LOL!]
Your protagonist Tess is a feisty, cigarette-smoking, coffee-loving Witch. How autobiographical is this novel?
There really is a lot of me in Tess. I’ve always written about things I know, things that have happened to me, and things I’ve witnessed. So, it was only natural to draw upon all those things when developing her character.
But is this novel autobiographical? Yes and no. About sixty percent of what readers will find in Lucinda’s Web really did happen just the way it’s written, while the remainder is pure, unadulterated fiction. But which portion is which? If I told, I’d be giving away the story. So I’ll just have to leave that up to the reader to decide. 😉
In other interviews, you’ve mentioned Scott Cunningham as one of your favourite and most influential Pagan writers. Who are you favourite fiction authors?
There are so many, I’ll have to do this according to genres. For suspense thrillers, I read M.R. Sellars, James Patterson, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Linda Fairstein, and Tess Gerritsen. For historical fiction, it’s Philippa Gregory and Barbara Hambly, and for fantasy, J.K. Rowling and Terry Goodkind. And when I’m look for something worthwhile in the paranormal realm, I read Maggie Shayne, Kelley Armstrong, Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Morven Westfield.
What I love most about the work of these authors is that most of them don’t write “formula books,” and those who do are so skilled at their craft the equation beneath the story is completely undetectable.
We’re seeing more and more Pagan fiction. What are your impressions? Are there any authors that stand out?
Well, to be perfectly honest, I think some of it’s really bad. Some of the story-lines are so far-fetched that no one – not even folks with only two brain cells to rub together – would ever believe them. The other problem I’ve found is with timing and pacing. When I find myself turning pages without reading them just to get to the point, it’s a sure sign that a novel is not only poorly written, but that the editor didn’t do the job intended. 😉
The one author that truly stands out for me in the realm of Pagan fiction is M.R. Sellars. I’m not just saying that because we’re friends. I loved his work long before we ever formed a friendship! Not only is he an extremely talented writer, but everything he puts to paper is so believable that it tends to become a haunting reality in the mind’s eye. He also has a way of scaring the bejesus out of everyone who picks up his books. And when I pick up a suspense thriller, I want to be scared!
What are your plans for the future? What are you currently working on?
Right now, I’m actually tossing ideas around in my head for the next project. But I haven’t decided yet whether it will be fiction or not. It seems that a lot of my readers would like to see sequels to Utterly Wicked and Magical Needlework, so both are possibilities – and I have started on the second book in the Lucinda’s Web trilogy.
What the future holds is anybody’s guess. It all depends upon what winds up tripping my Muse’s trigger – and at this point, that could be anything! 😉
Thank you, Dorothy.
A practising Witch since the early seventies, Morrison is an elder of the Georgian Tradition of Wicca, an initiate of the RavenMyst Circle Tradition, and a member of the Coven of the Raven in Flint, Michigan. She currently lives in Virginia with her husband, Mark, and their black lab, Sadie Mae. She handles a busy tour schedule and travels the country giving lectures and teaching classes related to the Craft. Be sure to visit Dorothy’s website for more information.