This past fall Chris Wozney interviewed several of the Labyrinth of Souls writers for Nameless Zine. Chris has graciously given me permission to post the interview here on ShadowsSpinners Press.
Group Interview with Matthew Lowes, Elizabeth Engstrom, Christina Lay, Eric Witchey, Lisa Alber, Mary Lowd, and Cynthia Ray: 7 of the writers of the Labyrinth of Souls series by Chris Wozney
ShadowSpinners Press has begun publishing The Labyrinth of Souls, a series of thematically related novels, each one written by a different author. As of September, 2017, three have been published: The End of All Things, by Matthew Lowes, who created Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls, the game that inspired the fiction project; Symphony of Ruin, by Christina Lay; and Benediction Denied, by Elizabeth Engstrom. Soon to follow will be contributions from Eric Witchey, Stephen Vessels, Lisa Alber, John Reed, Mary E. Lowd, Cheryl Owen-Wilson, Pam Herber and Cynthia Ray.
These stories are not like the linked stories that make up the shared universes of Wild Cards, Liavek, Merovingen Nights, Borderland or Sanctuary. Each novel is a stand alone, and the authors take very different approaches to the central theme of exploring an underworld that may or may not literally exist, aided — or opposed by — aspects of the Tarot deck. Here is mythopoeic literature to set you imagination afire. Whether or not you start looking for an entrance to the Labyrinth after reading these stories is entirely up to you. At the very least, please check out the authors’ web pages, where you will find more information and links to their various other books and projects.
CW: Will you give a bit of background how the game and the cards came to be?
Matthew Lowes: When I was around nine years old, I got into roleplaying games like Dungeons & Dragons, Gamma World, and Call of Cthulu. I stopped playing around middle school. A few years ago I got back into these types of games. I was also reading a lot of rulebooks for fun, and it wasn’t long before I started designing my own. Game design combined the imaginative aspects of fiction with the logic puzzle aspect of rule mechanics, which I’ve always loved.
I wanted to design a fast, solo dungeon-crawling game that I could play in my spare time, and I thought it would be cool if this dungeon game used a standard deck of playing cards. That’s how I got into creating Dungeon Solitaire. The original game was called Tomb of Four Kings. I wrote up the rules, drew a few illustrations, and released it on my website, where it is still available as a free PDF.
From the beginning I had the idea of eventually expanding the game to use a deck of tarot cards. So when artist Josephe Vandel contacted me about the possibility of collaborating on a project, the Labyrinth of Souls was born. I would write the rulebook, and he would design a custom deck of tarot cards to go with it. We ran a Kickstarter to fund the project. With a $3500 funding goal, we eventually finished with $32,000 and over 600 backers from all over the world. It was a huge success! Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls came out almost exactly a year after I had released the original game.
CW: How did you get involved in the project?
Matthew Lowes: My friend and writing mentor, Elizabeth Engstrom, offered to help me with editing the Labyrinth of Souls rulebook. She got interested in the narrative aspects of the game and was the first to suggest it could be the inspiration for a book or a series of books written by a group of authors. At first I thought nobody would be interested, but happily it turns out I was wrong. She really championed the idea, got writer/publisher Christina Lay interested in the project and a few other writers. Eventually we pitched the idea to group of some fifteen writers and the Labyrinth of Souls fiction project got started. Initially I wasn’t sure I was going to write one of the books, but as soon as I got the idea for The End of All Things in my head, I knew I had to write it.
Eric Witchey: I wrote a blog entry that touched on the fractal nature of story. I had been studying some books that had nearly gone unpublished but had subsequently become viral, international best sellers. One of those books was The Velveteen Rabbit. Others were The Old Man and the Sea, Johnathan Livingston Seagull, and The Alchemist. Harry Potter was on my list, since it had been rejected many timesand the publisher’s confidence in it only allowed a first print run of 500 copies. I agreed to teach a seminar on emotional themes and their relationship to viral results. The first seminar was called The Plaid Bunny Viral Story Workshop for WordCrafters in Eugene. The Plaid Bunny Workshop gave me the excuse I needed to codify my experience about how writers can take advantage of the way human beings internalize story text.
Sadly, and my apologies to the attendees of that first workshop, I grossly underestimated the amount of time it took to present the material in a way that allowed immediate use. However, I also realized that a concrete example was needed. While I had made use of the techniques I presented, I had never rigorously “designed” a story or novel by applying the techniques. Rather, and I think like most writers, I attacked the story and jumped back-and-forth between cognition and intuition, fiddling and poking and fixing until the stories were done. Certainly, each finished story demonstrated the patterns a reader uses to internalize story text. However, if the patterns I had codified were correct and useful in production, then I should be able to design and produce an emotionally functioning story by rigorous application. Doing so would demonstrate the relationships between the component elements in a way that would allow presentation.
This was my thinking when I was asked to come to a game night in Eugene with a few writer friends. There, Matt Lowes pitched the idea of producing short novels and novellas as tie-ins for his game, Dungeon Solitaire.
I have long wanted to write what I think of as an “Afterlife Fantasy.” The genre idea came from personal experience in contact with many different wonderful people who believed deeply in religions that were as diverse as the people themselves. I have talked with Hindu and Buddhist holy men. I went to Catholic school and was an altar boy. My first baptism was in an Episcopal Church on Church St. in Shelby, Ohio. For a time, I counted myself a Rosicrucian. I studied comparative religion. Once, I accidentally attended a Scientologist funeral service. Because I was touched by the ceremony, I later quite intentionally visited one of their schools. This list of experiences goes on and on, and it resulted in a deeply held belief that pretty much all spiritual paths are good right up until someone organizes them into a religion and starts buying property for buildings.
I figure that all the things we do and think are important probably look pretty silly from the point of view of the afterlife. Because of that, writing from the perspective of characters who inhabit the afterlife seemed to me to be a rich playground for social commentary and exploration of the human condition.
Lisa Alber: Most of us are pals through many a weekend writing retreat over the years. Writing is such a solitary endeavor, so to be part of a group writing project like this, where we can help each other brainstorm story ideas or provide feedback is special.
Mary Lowd: Last fall, I was working on a project where I’d draw three cards from three different decks — a fairy tale story-telling deck, a robot story-telling deck, and a deck of animal oracle cards — and then I’d try to write a complete piece of space opera flash fiction inspired by those cards by the end of the day. I was doing a lot of this writing at coffee shops, hanging out with other writers. This strategy of randomly generating a story prompt was working really well for me, and so I told the other writers one day that I wanted to figure out a way to extend it into a novel project for NaNoWriMo. (NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.) I wanted to use a Tarot deck to randomly generate a plot somehow. Well, Pam Herber was there that day, and she told me about the Labyrinth of Souls group — they were having a meeting that weekend to discuss the project, and she invited me along. It was an amazing coincidence. And when I tried out Matt’s game that weekend, the first hand I played went spectacularly well. In fact, the plot for my novel ended up being based on that very first game.
Elizabeth Engstrom: I found the whole concept of delving into a subterranean adventure irresistible. It immediately brought to mind so many unique possibilities for personality and conflict. Who, for example, would descend into a cave, tunnel, or hole on purpose, and why? What would they use for light? Food? This are also integral aspects of the solitaire game, played with the beautiful Tarot cards.
Once underground, who or what would our adventurer (or hapless protagonist) encounter? What meaning would those encounters have to him/her? How would the protagonist change as a result of these encounters?
What I need to write a book is: 1. An interesting character; 2. An interesting setting; 3. An interesting problem. The labyrinth presents two of those right off the bat.
I’ve always read/written/been interested in dark material. In my very first book, When Darkness Loves Us, a woman is trapped in a series of underground caves. So this project was a natural for me.
Christina Lay: The Dungeon Solitaire: Labyrinth of Souls game was created by Matt Lowes. The fiction series was the brainchild of Elizabeth Engstrom. They both happen to be good friends of mine and are also involved in the ShadowSpinners authors’ website. We’ve all been writing and working on various projects together for several years, and when Liz proposed writing novellas inspired by the cards, I said “Are you nuts?” But after the idea sifted down into my imagination for a while, I couldn’t help but get excited. I feel so blessed to be involved with a group of professional writers who are very supportive and who get along and play nice. There are no divas, no grumble bunnies. I wish all of life could be like this. In fact, that was a major reason for starting ShadowSpinners in the first place. Writing is lonely, and publishing is hard and lonely. Why not band together with writing pals and make it fun?
CW: Do you see the series as an open-ended project, to include fan fic, or is this a closed group project at this time?
Matthew Lowes: The books are all stand-alone novels, with different settings, time-periods, and characters, united by this idea of the Labyrinth of Souls. In this sense it’s a very open-ended project. We recently had another author sign on to do a book in the series. As far as fan-fic, I think that’s a great thing, and I wouldn’t discourage anyone from writing a story about whatever inspires them. We don’t have open submissions yet, but it is a possibility in the future.
Christina Lay: Currently, it’s limited to the authors already signed up. This is to give us time to see how things go, make adjustments if necessary, and decide if we’re having enough fun to keep going. So far, so good. If you feel inspired to write a Labyrinth of Souls novella, stay tuned.
CW: How do authors get matched with the tarot card that forms the theme of their story? Do authors request a card or go with the “luck of the draw”?
Matthew Lowes: So far, authors have requested cards from what’s available, based on an idea they have or something that strikes their fancy. With the depth and variety of symbolism in the cards, it’s not hard to find one that might suit a story you have in mind, and the images themselves are evocative enough to stoke the fires of the imagination.
Eric Witchey: Each author picks the card they want — provided it has not been chosen. There’s an online group for invited authors. The available cards are managed there. In my case, I chose the Ace of Cups because it represents overflowing abundance and that work of the divine in a life of abundance. Since I planned to work in the afterlife underworld, I wanted to make the actual story uplifting rather than depressing. Using the Ace of Cups as target and central symbol kept me mindful of my hopes for the story I designed.
Mary Lowd: My novel is furry fiction — this means that the characters are anthropomorphic animals. The main character is a squirrel. This significantly limited which cards would be appropriate as a cover for my novel, so I tried to work in the imagery from all the remaining cards — every card without a human on it — into my book. When I was given the chance to pick the card for my cover, I was delighted to find that my first choice — The Sun — was still available.
Christina Lay: Authors get to pick their own card. Once they commit, that card is listed as unavailable. That list is on the ShadowSpinners Press website under LoS submissions, if you’re interested.
CW: What attracted you to the card you chose as the inspiration for your Labyrinth of Souls novel?
Cynthia Ray: I chose the High Priestess. She looks very mysterious, and the saying associated with her is “In you is hidden the treasure of treasures”. I love that. It’s a very Gnostic concept and that drew me to the card as well.
Lisa Alber: I chose the Queen of Wands because she’s got this direct and penetrating, yet seductive, gaze that attracted me. And she’s kick-ass beautiful. I kept returning to the card, going, Huh, what’s your story, missy? In the tarot, her main aspect is benign, helpful, mom-like—but there’s always the reverse too, which is the way the LoS Queen of Wands feels to me. Her lions are in snarling predator mode, and her staff is not just a staff, but a sharpened weapon. Dangerous. In the LoS game, queens provide divine favors, but for storytelling purposes, this suggests the equal and opposite: the potential for divine disfavor. Nothing better than a little divine disfavor to kickstart a story!
C W: In the stories I’ve read so far, more than one Tarot card contributes to the story: some protagonists have a deck and reveal cards in turn; and other characters appear who are representative of specific cards. How do these supplementary cards become part of the story? (Did you have them in mind as you wrote, or did they suggest themselves?)
Matthew Lowes: There are three or four cards which appear in various ways in The End of All Things. They all suggested themselves in some way either before or during writing. I actually started with the Knight of Coins because I was going to write a post apocalyptic story and the illustration suggests that, but as the story took shape it became clear that the Holy Mountain card was really what the book was about. The appearance of the Death card in the story was a thematic no brainer, and the image of The World was something I had in mind from very early on in the writing process.
Eric Witchey: I think the project lends itself to this because the game includes sequential use of the cards and because the Tarot is intrinsically built to evoke responses to a system of symbolic interactions in heart and mind. Personally, I limited myself to the imagery of my specific underworld, the symbolism of the various religions I included, and the single card I chose, the Ace of Cups.
Lisa Alber: I’m writing my first draft, and, so far, I’m finding that as my story develops (I’m not working from an outline), ways to integrate other cards into the plot are suggesting themselves.
Mary Lowd: My book was inspired by Matt’s game at every level — the plot closely follows the first hand I played (which was so epic that other people came to watch over my shoulder and see if I’d get all the way back out of the dungeon alive). I turned to the imagery on the cards as inspiration for setting and character description constantly. I knew I wanted to write a furry novel, but beyond that, I was wide open to suggestion. See, I’d spent the previous few years working on the third book in a trilogy which meant a lot of the details were already nailed down by the previous two books. Since those books were already published, I didn’t have a lot of wiggle room. It’s a world I love… but I was feeling kind of trapped. Whereas, Matt’s game gave me an entirely new sandbox to play in, and converting his vision of the labyrinth into a furry world was a lot of fun.
For me, the card that stands out most is the one that grants a potion of strength — the picture for it is a lion body with a human torso and arms, topped by a lion’s head. I knew right away that was a character I wanted to incorporate. With the other cards, it was more like I’d turn to them — flipping through the pictures in the Dungeon Solitaire rule book for inspiration — any time I needed to write a description. I especially leaned on the imagery in The Sun, The Moon, and The Star.
CW: Do you find that the illustrations are evocative enough, or do you research the significance of the cards?
Matthew Lowes: Josephe’s illustration are certainly evocative enough to get the imagination going, and the symbolic richness of the tarot only adds to the mix. I had done a fair amount of research already into the significance of all the tarot cards, and I designed the meaning of the extra arcana cards myself, so the symbolism of the cards was definitely a part of my thinking.
Eric Witchey: I’ve spent years developing the skill of composing stories base on random topics. It’s part of my practice of craft. I also researched the card and its possible meanings. I then spent some time during final polish making sure that I subtly reinforced some of the symbolic imagery.
Lisa Alber: As part of my development process, I read Matthew’s rule book and also refreshed my memory of the tarot. The illustrations are a great jumping off point for my imagination, but to develop my story I’m interested in delving into symbolic significance a little more.
Christina Lay: Certainly the image of The Tower was evocative enough to get me started, but I love the Tarot and so I was naturally compelled to dig deeper into the possible meanings behind it. I own several decks and I pulled out each Tower card and kept them nearby as I wrote.
CW: Do the game and the new set of designs present new meanings for the cards?
Matthew Lowes: I was heavily influenced by Alejandro Jodorowsky’s book The Way of Tarot, and his method for interpreting cards. I looked at the game and the tarot as reflecting a physical adventure, but also a spiritual quest. When designing the extra arcana cards, which are unique to this deck of tarot, I tried to create a cycle of symbolic meanings that would both suit the game and reflect the symbolic cycles of the tarot itself.
CW: Just reading the 3 books I’ve read so far has transformed me. Is writing for the series a transformative experience?
Matthew Lowes: In many ways the tarot itself is about transformation, and I think that is reflected in the game and the books. As for myself, it so happened that I went through a sudden, profound, and lasting spiritual transformation during the time when I was writing the rulebook. While it was more a culmination of my whole life than a direct result of the writing, that transformation was and is, to some extent, reflected in the rulebook and in my Labyrinth of Souls novel, The End of All Things.
Eric Witchey: I’m always the last one to know when I have changed. I can say that I’m very happy with my experience in writing Littlest Death. Given that I imposed a strict set of rules on myself for producing the story, I had no idea whether the story would come off or not. In fact, I set out knowing that a failure would be useful to me for other pursuits. I was surprised and gratified by how well it came off.
Mary Lowd: This is the first time I’ve written a novel that wasn’t set in my Otters In Space universe; it’s also the first novel where my protagonist isn’t a cat. So, that’s been new for me. Members of the furry community tend to identify very strongly with a particular animal. In my case, it’s cats. So, when I chose to write about a squirrel, I was effectively choosing to write a protagonist who’s more different from myself than usual. And I’ve spent the last nine months living that character’s life — I don’t see how that could not be transformative.
Christina Lay: I personally find all long writing projects to be transformative. I learn so much with every novel and I feel like I grow and suffer along with my characters. In Symphony of Ruin, working so closely with the Tarot, I plumbed new shadowy depths I didn’t know I had. I didn’t think I’d like being stuck down in a dark, monster-infested maze for so many months, but guess what? I loved it down there. Inspiration just oozed out of the walls. I also learned that I love to write novellas. It’s an awesome length. Plenty of time to tell a story, but not so long you have to spend years of your life crying over the damn thing.
CW: So far, what I’ve seen of the deck is fairly dark. But some cards are traditionally, even literally “bright”. Are cards like The Sun going to be featured in the series, or are they too antithetical to the idea of Labyrinth?
Matthew Lowes: In fiction there must always be some darkness, at the very least in the form of an antagonist, and the labyrinth offers plenty of opportunities for that. However, brightness is not antithetical the idea of labyrinth. It is, in fact, integral to it, but one must pass through darkness to understand the light.
Eric Witchey: One of the reasons that I chose the Ace of Cups is that it represented light in the game. Pretty early on in the project, I was told that other writers were encountering some issues around how to provide light in the underworld. For my story, that wasn’t a problem because the underworld was filled with rivers made of glowing souls. I believe that the nature of contrast and pattern recognition requires the use of darkness in order to fully explore light. The underworld, at least for me personally, provided the perfect place to explore issues of light and darkness in the human soul.
Mary Lowd: Actually, I chose The Sun for my cover specifically because it’s the brightest card in the deck. I know that the Labyrinth of Souls project overall is very dark, but my novel is about a squirrel. An adventure story about a squirrel. There’s a limit to how dark that’s ever going to feel. I mean, if you look at Watership Down or Brian Jacques’ Redwall series, there’s a lot of darkness in there! Furry fiction as a genre has been proving that stories about talking animals don’t have to be only for kids, but honestly, my writing style tends toward brightness. I once brought a story to my critique group about a mad mouse scientist who swaps his consciousness with an owl. After the meeting, I was talking to Matt and mentioned that I’d been trying to write a horror story in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft — full of unknowable horror! He was genuinely surprised; it had never occurred to him that my story was meant to be horror. Hopefully, by picking the brightest card in the deck for my cover, I’ll adjust readers’ expectations enough that they won’t get blinded by the cute brightness of a plucky squirrel on a quest to collect Celestial Fragments.
Christina Lay: Actually, I believe the brighter cards offer an awesome opportunity for conflict, mystery and alternative interpretations of the nature of the labyrinth.
CW: What sort of reception are you getting from readers?
Matthew Lowes: I continue to get enthusiastic emails from players of the Labyrinth of Souls game, and I’ve gotten some positive feedback from excited readers of the books. It is always a wonderful experience to hear from people who have enjoyed something you created or helped create. Two years ago I just wanted to play and enjoy a certain kind of game that didn’t really exist. And now, to be able to share that and so much more with so many people, and to be a part of this wonderful collaborative fiction project, has been such a gift. I am incredibly grateful to all the supporters of the game, to all the amazing authors who believed in this project and got behind it, and to all the readers, reviewers, and fans who might find something inspiring in it.
Eric Witchey: I’m very gratified that people are both laughing and crying during the reading. What I really like is that they cried tears of joy.
Christina Lay: Everything I’ve heard back so far is very positive. People are intrigued and they love the artwork, which encourages them to read the books and really get on board with the whole idea. Of course, getting noticed in a time of great literary abundance is a real challenge, but we plan to keep getting the titles and the artwork out there for people to see as much as possible. You can’t fall in love with it if you don’t know it exists.
CW: How does the process of writing a story inspired by Labyrinth of Souls compare to writing other stories? What genre do you normally write in? Are you finding that you’re entering new writing territory to write your LoS novel?
Cynthia Ray: The Labyrinth is place of darkness, and the characters thrust into it not only have to confront the terrors of the nightmarish reality they find themselves in, but they encounter their own inner labyrinth and darkness — in fact, one compels the other. I enjoy working with the interplay of light and dark, good and evil, verging on the edge of sanity, and watching how my characters emerge from it as something other than when they went in.
I know that If I hadn’t spent time in my own murky inner chambers, facing the dark dweller on the threshold, I couldn’t write an LoS story. It’s funny, these places and characters are viscerally REAL to me. I started one version of my story, and I ended up hating the Labyrinth I had created–I just couldn’t stand spending any time there, so I had to create a different one that was still exciting, dark and dangerous, but one that I enjoyed writing about.
I usually write fantasy and short fiction. The LoS novella is the longest story that I have written, which offers unique challenges. However, I find the project and the stories so compelling, it keeps me going past the difficult plot points.
Lisa Alber: Definitely new territory for me! Normally, my initial inspiration arises out of something I’ve heard in the news, a random piece of information, and so on. I write crime fiction, so there’s always a murder at the center of it. I start with that—who died? how?—and develop outward from there. For LoS, I’ve entered a fantastical world that’s already partially created. At first, I worried this would constrain my creativity, but the opposite is true. The boundaries are liberating. Within the rules, there are no rules, so we’re free to interpret and play with the card symbolism. I have a feeling that certain aspects of mystery-writing, such as following clues, will also appear in my LoS novel.
CW: What have been some of the most surprising developments in the course developing this project?
Matthew Lowes: Wow, almost every development has been surprising, from just how enjoyable and addicting the original game was, to the collaboration with artist Josephe Vandel, to the hugely successful Kickstarter, to the interest in creating a series of novels inspired by the game. I was really excited that so many incredibly talented authors that I admire signed on to the project. That was a real surprise and a real joy. Now I get to look forward to reading each book when it’s done, and so far it’s been amazing! Each one is an adventure full of its own surprises.
Eric Witchey: The most wonderful surprise early on was the discovery that Kerberus, the three-headed hound of Hades, had a puppy. That was seriously fun, and using that puppy turned out to be a highlight of the whole project for me. The best surprise of all was that the process I imposed on my project worked like charm.
Cynthia Ray: As a LoS writer, I feel connected to all of the writers through these stories, and as each one is published, I am amazed by the outpouring of creative energy that continues to move through this project and each other. I feel honored to be a part of the line-up. I love all the different expressions of the Labyrinth that come through these talented people. Each story is unique, and compelling in its own way, and yet there is this unifying theme of another place — the Labyrinth, that must be experienced.
Christina Lay: I knew that all the visions of the labyrinth would be different, but it’s been amazing to see HOW different they are. People have taken this kernel of an idea and run wild with it, which is just amazing.
CW: As individual authors, what are your favorite books, authors, and shows? What other formative influences affect your writing?
Matthew Lowes: The aforementioned games that I played in my youth have been an influence on this project from the beginning. Dungeons & Dragons was one of the inspirations for the development of Dungeon Solitaire, and Gamma World was one of the inspirations for my novel The End of All Things. I was also influenced and inspired by the books and films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, as well as the lectures of Alan Watts, the Zen teachings of Wolfgang Kopp, and the writings of Joseph Campbell.
I keep a list of books that have blown me away or stuck with me over the years. It contains some classic science fiction like Dune, Gateway, and Solaris, as well as literary staples like Middlemarch, Moby Dick, and Hamlet. I like the novels of Knut Hamsun and the poetry of Basho. I like the weird tales of H.P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith, and Robert E. Howard. And I like epic adventures like The Aeneid, The Lord of the Rings, and Nausicaa of the Valley of Wind. A few of my favorite films are Bladerunner, The World of Apu, El Topo, and The Life Aquatic. That’s probably enough to give you an idea that my favorites are an eclectic mix.
Lisa Alber: If we go by the snippets from film that have been popping into my head, then some of my influences right now are the Indiana Jones movies, Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, those old stop-motion movies like Jason and the Argonauts and Sinbad, also Serenity and Firefly by Josh Whedon. For books, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and The Odyssey come to mind. Last but not least, Irish mythological tales.
Mary Lowd: My favorite books are Watership Down by Richard Adams, The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle, and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I also love everything by Douglas Adams. As I was growing up, my writing was heavily influenced by Brian Jacques’ Redwall series and C.J. Cherryh’s Chanur series. As I got older, my style was affected by reading Connie Willis — she wrote such clear, direct prose; it was a revelation. And my entire life philosophy has been profoundly molded by Star Trek. Joining the furry writing community was very freeing…. [Here was] a group that didn’t respond to the novels I was writing with, “But why are the characters otters?” Instead they respond with, “Could you write about ferrets, too?”
Christina Lay: This is one of those questions that could take pages to answer, so I’ll focus on the highlights. My first true love was John LeCarre. I was astounded by his ability to craft such elegant sentences while spinning those dark, twisted spy thrillers. I then fell in love with John Steinbeck, Ursula LeGuin and Dostoyevsky. All very different, all feeding into my inner sense of story. The problem with having these literary giants as heroes is that it can be very intimidating, like you feel in order to be an author you need to write the next great American novel. I was rescued from crippling self-doubt by Tom Robbins, who showed me that it was okay to write what I really wanted to write, which was weird, fantastical and silly but full of true emotional meaning. I owe Robbins a lot, even though I’ve never met him. And then Elizabeth Engstrom, who told me to “fix it in the rewrite” which helped me to get over that every-line-needs-to be-perfect hang-up that stops so many of us from getting anything done.
CW: Have you plans for upcoming events? Conventions? Readings? Will you continue to contribute to Labyrinth of Souls?
Matthew Lowes: I’ve been hard at work designing a third game that will be both a new stand-alone game and an expansion deck. Josephe Vandel will be illustrating again. The game will be called Dungeon Solitaire: Devil’s Playground, and will officially get off the ground with a Kickstarter campaign in the near future.
Eric Witchey: In early October, I’ll be teaching and signing at Write on The Sound in Edmonds, WA. At the end of October, I’ll be the writer-in-residence at WordCrafters in Eugene’s Ghost Story Weekend, which is always fun. A bunch of writers write scary stories in 24 hours then try to scare the beejeezus out of each other. Here’s the link to the WordCrafters events and the Write on the Sound event. These events tend to sell out quickly, but here they are just in case:
Elizabeth Engstrom: I am halfway through the first draft of my second LoS novel. I have high hopes for this fiction project, as it seems to have brought out the very weird in each writer.
Christina Lay: ShadowSpinners Press and some of the authors will be presenting the first five books in the Labyrinth of Souls series at World Fantasy in San Antonio this year. I also hope to schedule a few book signing/readings along the west coast.
www.christinalay.wordpress.com (personal blog)
CW: Thank you so much for your time, and for this innovative project! We look forward to reading and reviewing your books as they are published.