[This issue, we sit down for an interview with Nimue Brown. Here, she discusses her personal spiritual path; her work with Moon Books and on Hopeless, Maine; and her forthcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How do you define your personal spiritual practice? Does it have a name or is it more intuitive and eclectic?
Nimue Brown: I’m on the Druid path, and have been for many years. I also identify as a Pagan and an animist.
ev0ke: Which Deities, powers, or other beings are honored in your tradition?
NB: Many Druids honour deities associated with the Celts. We also honour the ancestors and may choose to honour deities we associate with our ancestors. We also honour the land and may choose to honour deities we associate with the land we live on. Not all Druids are theistic; it can be entirely agnostic, and there are atheist Druids, too. I wander about between these various positions. I honour the spirits of place most reliably; my beliefs otherwise tend to fluctuate, as I’m a bit of a maybeist.
ev0ke: Your collection How to Unpeel a Monster includes poems on transformation, love, the nature of the monstrous, princes, and fair maidens. Which poem was the most difficult — but ultimately most satisfying — to write? Why?
NB: Tricky! They’ve all been through multiple drafts, so poems can be challenging at different stages – often it is the redraft that is the hardest, trying to go from the raw emotions to something someone else might find resonant. The last one in there, about leaving no monsters behind, was probably the most intense and keenly felt. My little tribe of monsters are very important to me.
ev0ke: The poem “The New Clothes” draws on the classic fairy tale, but is also a commentary on socio-economic divisions, classism, and oppression. Do you find poetry to be an effective tool for exploring such topics? How and why? And do certain fairy tales lend themselves to the task more readily than others?
NB: This is one of the poems I wrote to read at local poetry events — which tend to be political. I think they mostly work for uplifting people who would have agreed anyway, I don’t know that they would persuade anyone! I find the writing and sharing cathartic, and borrowing archetypes from fairy stories helps me step back from specific frustrations and rage to consider a bigger picture. I tend to draw on fairy stories when they seem relevant rather than starting from a story and then wondering how to re-shape it. The whole unpeeling thing actually comes from a fairy story, too — half remembered from my childhood and almost certainly in an Andrew Lang fairy book.
ev0ke: You have written and edited a number of books for Moon Books. How did these projects come about? Did you approach Moon Books, or did they come to you?
NB: Most of my Moon Books titles happened because I wanted to write them. The exception is Pagan Planet — which was all Trevor Greenfield’s idea but he needed someone to pick it up and put it together, and asked me. It was a wonderful project to be part of, and I think it’s a really cheering book — it’s all about how people are living their Paganism, so it’s really positive.
ev0ke: Pagan Planet includes essays on everything from ancestor veneration to the wheel of the year to particular Pagan traditions. How did this anthology come about? Did you have a firm idea as to what it would look like when you started, or were you surprised by the end result?
NB: I had a lot of conversations with people as this book developed — some of the contributors had already been found by Trevor, some I approached myself because I knew they had interesting stories to tell. Some came in via friends of friends. A few had never really written before and needed a bit of support — it was lovely being able to do that. So, I did a lot of talking with people about ideas, which meant I had a sense of what might be coming. Even so, as the essays started arriving and the book took shape, it was a surprising process. There are some wonderful pieces in there that far exceeded what I’d dared to imagine people might be doing.
ev0ke: Your comic Hopeless, Maine is available through Sloth Comics. Described as a “gothic coming-of-age fable mystery,” this comic hits so many fun, cool boxes. What’s the creative process like for an issue? Do you plot it all out in advance, or just let the story carry you along?
NB: The original idea was Tom’s (my husband — we actually got together because of this project). I wrote an entire story arc, many years ago, which we’ve since broken down into book sized installments. I wrote responding to his art, characters, and some scenes he’d created — Tom’s great at set up, but can’t plot! The process is constantly evolving; when we started I had no idea how to get from script to page. I just wrote for voices. These days I help with page layouts, Tom does all the drawing, I colour the pages, he tidies it all up digitally, and Sloth sorts out the lettering.
ev0ke: In addition to writing, you also produce “Wherefore” on Youtube. How did “Wherefore” come about, and do you have any advice for others who are considering their own Youtube productions?
NB: I started “Wherefore” because lockdown was driving me a bit mad and I needed something to think about. I asked my friend Bob Fry (Professor Bob Fry in the series) if I could write for him, and he started sending me the most glorious prompts — were-aurochs, were-rhubarb, Ice Age creatures, imagined folklore … Other friends started responding so some of them have become characters, others send me suggestions. It’s been a wonderful, collaborative thing and I have no idea where it’s going or what I’m doing, but that’s part of the joy of it. I’m not sure I’d recommend this as an approach for anyone wanting to be a serious youtuber. But, I’m also not convinced there’s much point setting out to be a series anything these days — it’s hard to make money creatively and the world is volatile. Better to do things you love, because that’s much more sustaining.
ev0ke: Where can readers find and support your work?
NB: Poetry, a Druid title, and the text version of “Wherefore” series 1 are all on my ko-fi store and people can have those for free. I blog pretty much every day. Hopeless Maine things can be found here. If you poke around on Youtube there’s “Wherefore” series 1 and 2, and also more Hopeless, Maine stuff, some songs, and some druid content. If anyone is very keen, I also put things on Patreon.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
NB: I’ve got an assortment of Hopeless, Maine projects on the go — the next comic, and also a team working on a silent movie using a period camera! I know some truly amazing steampunks who have been willing to jump in and try to make this work. There’s always poetry on the go — slowly at the moment, because I don’t have the live events to write for, but I’m still coming up with them now and then. “Wherefore” series 2 potters along, and I’ve got a Druidry and the Darkness title in progress on Patreon.