[This issue, we sit down with author M. A. Phillips. Here, she discusses her personal spiritual tradition; her books River Magic and Hearth Magic; and her forthcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How do you define your personal spiritual tradition? Does it have a name, or it is more intuitive and eclectic?
M. A. Phillips: I refer to myself as a Druid and Irish-informed polytheist. I am a member of Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), and facilitate a grove in Upstate New York. I’m dedicated to the goddess Brighid and strive to honor her through my writing and art.
ev0ke: To date, you have released two novels, River Magic and Hearth Magic. First, congratulations! Second, what sort of research went into these stories? Big stacks of books? Long trips to the library?
MAP: Thank you! The main characters become members of a Druid grove in Upstate, New York, so a lot of the research came from my own spiritual path and experiences with local wildlife. I’ve been a practicing Druid and polytheist for over a decade. Starting in college, I began consuming as many books about Irish mythology, tradition, and folklore as possible, so my own studies and experiences as a Druid informed a lot of my writing!
I did do additional research to better understand certain details before writing about them. For example, I read a lot about specific spirits the characters interact with, and I went all over the St. Lawrence River (where my books are set) to better familiarize myself with the features and ecology.
ev0ke: How much of your own spirituality is woven into these books?
MAP: Quite a bit! As I already said, I’m a New York State Druid writing about other New York State Druids. An old bit of writing advice is to “write what you know.” After years of trying to find a story that fit, I decided to do just that! It ended up being a story I needed to tell! While I don’t identify the Druids in my Rituals of Rock Bay books as belonging to ADF, what they do should be very familiar to people with experience in that tradition. Like me, the characters practice regular devotionals, celebrate the Irish holidays, and honor many deities and spirits. They also work with their ancestors, practice divination, and make offerings to maintain those holy bonds.
ev0ke: What advice can you offer other Pagan authors who are considering publishing their own work?
MAP: I would encourage it! There’s definitely an audience for it. It may be a bit niche, but we know Paganism grows and expands all the time. People are seeking authentic stories about the magical community, by the magical community. Hollywood magic is fun, but I think many of us are tired of seeing the same old stereotypes perpetuated.
With that in mind, I highly suggest finding your audience before you publish. Twitter and Instagram are great places to start making connections to other writers, and most important, potential readers! Also, don’t discount small presses! I was lucky to find Shadow Spark Publishing on Twitter. They’ve been amazing to work with, and the editors actually have experience in the Pagan community! They recognized and embraced my story, and they knew others would want it, too.
Do your research and know you have options!
ev0ke: Romance has an undeserved reputation as a “lesser” form of literature. Personally, I have always found it perfect for exploring important issues. What draws you to the genre? What issues do you like to address through the medium of the romance novel?
MAP: I adore a great romance story, especially when it’s woven into a bigger tale. Love and sex are facets of life, and I enjoy exploring characters through them. The highs and lows tug at our heartstrings; all the tension and fuzzy feelings!
In River Magic, I wanted to explore the idea of finding new love after heartbreak, and it turned into a friends-to-lovers storyline. As the series continues, I want to explore how a loving relationship matures. I’m one of those people who wants to see what happens after the characters hook up!
Within stories about Pagans, I also want to explore the dynamics of our spiritualities with romance. Part of the tension in River Magic comes from the different perspectives about religion — a real-life issue many people in our community can relate to. Hearth Magic explores that a little more, but also includes a handfasting.
ev0ke: What other Pagan-friendly romances would you recommend to readers?
MAP: I enjoyed the sweet romance in book one of T. Thorn Coyle’s Witches of Portland series. I’m looking forward to reading more and, while I know each book focuses on a new character from the coven, I’m hoping the lovebirds from By Earth reappear so I can see how they’re coming along.
I’ve gathered other books feature LGBTQ+ characters, which is both exciting and much needed. The Between the Worlds series by Morgan Daimler is also fun if you’re looking for something more in the fantasy realm. I haven’t progressed very far, but it’s a little steamier and also includes diverse relationships.
Each of these works include a well-developed storyline in addition to the romance.
ev0ke: Where can readers find your work?
MAP: My publisher has links to several places where readers can buy e-books or paperbacks. I also maintain a website with other writing and reflections. I’m especially active on Instagram, and make sure to post updates about my writing, reading, and Druidry.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
MAP: I’m currently revising and editing book three of my Rituals of Rock Bay series! Once more, it follows Lacey and Cian from River Magic and Hearth Magic as their relationship matures. They grow in confidence as partners and Druids. All of this is happening as others in their community prepare for a small Pagan festival while someone from within threatens their peace.
Thank you so much for the interview! I’m glad to join a community of Pagans who love to read and write Witch Lit!