[This month, we sit down with polytheist author, Suzanne Thackston. Here, she discusses her personal spirit practices; her new collection of short stories; and her upcoming projects.]

ev0ke: How do you define your personal spiritual practice? Does it have a name? And which Deities or spirits do you honor?

Suzanne Thackston: I don’t name my personal practice beyond ‘devotional polytheism’, although I don’t fuss in the greater world about other titles such as Hellenic reconstructionist. My primary Deities of service are Demeter, Persephone, and Hermes but I have an active cultus with many others in the Hellenic pantheon, as well as a motley assortment of Deities from other pantheons, tutelary spirits, local nature spirits, ancestors and a few heroes (both mythic and personal.) It can get busy and overwhelming! But many of my associations are short term or project specific, so I don’t have a permanent cultus to all of these beings. Whew!

ev0ke: You recently released A Pile of Stones: Tales From a Devotional Polytheist. First, congratulations! Second, what is the meaning behind the title? Why a “pile of stones” and why a “devotional polytheist”?

ST: Oh, thank you! I dithered over the name for ever so long, until one day I was standing at the herm at the end of my driveway, praying to Hermes to help me out with the title. And, boom. I looked down at the jumble of stones, a place that has become so numinous over the years, and it hit me that the way I built each story, then the body of stories, was the way the herm is growing. I build the herms with rocks and crystals I find in the world and bring to Him, and He gives me stories in pebbles or or boulders or dust, leaving me to piece them together. It’s organic, but very messy.

I like the term ‘devotional polytheist’ because it sums up succinctly how my practice has evolved, from Wiccan to Hellenic Wiccan to Hellenic Reconstructionist to what it is today. I’m much more focused on the Gods and spirits than magic, and I’m no longer strictly Hellenic. So it works. 

ev0ke: A Pile of Stones contains stories in honor of a variety of Deities. How did you decide which stories to include? Did you go into this with a plan or was building the collection more intuitive?

ST: No, no plan. I’ve written short stories, or essays, or creative non-fiction, or rewritten myths, for decades. I wrote many for the wonderful Bibliotheca Alexandrina anthologies, or the Luna Station Quarterly ezine for whom I wrote the column Waifs, Wolves and Warriors, or just for my own blog. I have several projects mired in deep, dank mud, and needed something new to focus on. I tossed a grab bag of my disconnected tales at my laughing warrior, Beth, who kindly agreed to beta read them and then edit the collection. With the help of a few more stoic beta readers, I shook them down to twenty or so. It got harder to cut at that point, but eventually I killed many of my darlings.

ev0ke: Which story was the most difficult, but ultimately most satisfying, to write?

ST: “Deep in the Dark,” hands down. I’m still reeling from that experience.

ev0ke: You self-published A Pile of Stones. What advice can you offer to others who are considering the self-publishing route? Things they must do? Mistakes to avoid?

ST: Ooof. I did not query A Pile of Stones at all. No deep reasoning, just a gut feeling that it wasn’t right for this book. I did query my first book, Dark Horses, but after a set number of queries I self-published. Under most circumstances, I think it’s worth it to query vigorously, if for no other reason than to thicken one’s skin for the brutal world of trying-to-get-published.

Being conversant in technology would be a useful skill. I’m hampered by my utter ineptitude, and so very lucky to be able to work with patient professionals like Beth at Walnut Door Wordsmiths and Kate Winter of From Manuscript to Book, both of whom did all the work of tidying and prettying and smoothing the book, and all the mystifying Amazon stuff. I uploaded a copy to the Library of Congress that contained editor’s notes. I’m hopeless. So either be good at that stuff, or find really good professionals to do it. Don’t skimp.

As for mistakes to avoid, I’d only suggest avoiding the “publishers” who require thousands in upfront payments in order to publish your guaranteed best seller. I’ve seen too many good people taken in. 

ev0ke: Where can readers find A Pile of Stones, right now and in the foreseeable future?

ST: It’s on Amazon! When the paperbacks arrive, they’ll be on sale at Turn The Page bookstore in Boonsboro. 

ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?

ST: A novel, of course, like most of us. High fantasy. And a collection of children’s stories. My husband has been on me to write a children’s book. I may do it!

Thank you for asking to interview me. I’m so honored to be in your ezine.

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