[Today, we sit down for an interview with author R.M. Callahan. Here, she discusses Lovecraft; the literary and mythological works which have influenced her Pumpkin Spice series; and her favorite urban fantasy/mystery authors.]
ev0ke: What roles do spirituality, mythology, and folklore play in your stories? Do you find yourself drawn to one particular corpus of beliefs, or do you draw on whatever fits the story?
R.M. Callahan: I like to say I’ve put a little bit of everything in Pumpkin Spice: Buddhist cosmology, occult philosophy, animism, the kitchen sink .… To be honest, that’s my approach to life as well as writing: I’ll plug in anything I find useful and interesting.
I have incorporated real spiritual experiences and revelations into the works, but they also contain a hefty dose of wishful thinking — I have yet to meet real ghouls, let alone ghouls as grotesquely charming as Cyrus. Probably for the best.
ev0ke: In contrast to so many other feline paranormal stories, the Pumpkin Spice series includes deft touches of Lovecraftian horror. What appeals to you about that strange and terrible mythology?
RMC: Lovecraft has always been a ‘comfort read’ for me — I’m not sure why I react to cosmic horror that way, but I do. Maybe it’s because the reassurance of other entities and dimensions is comforting compared to the paradigm of a purely mechanistic universe in which humans are all alone.
There’s a fair bit of controversy surrounding Lovecraft: he was undoubtedly racist, and I don’t respect fellow fans who try to deny that. He was also one of the most creative authors I’ve ever read. In particular, I can’t read “The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath” without being blown away by the raw power of his imagination.
I feel writing Lovecraft-inspired fiction allows me to pass on aspects of that unbridled imagination to new generations, in narratives that I feel much happier about sharing with my friends of color. Everyone deserves a chance to play in the Mythos without being smacked in the face by Lovecraft’s xenophobia.
ev0ke: To date, three books have been released in the Pumpkin Spice series. Are more planned?
RMC: Two more books have been outlined. There’s been a bit of a delay as my writing agency suddenly took off — I’ve been distracted from novel writing by all the game writing I’ve been hired to do! But things have slowed down a bit and I’m ready to get back on track.
ev0ke: How much research went into the Pumpkin Spice stories? Big stacks of books? Lots of trips to the library or hours online?
RMC: Do hours spent watching my cats count? To be honest, all the knowledge in Pumpkin Spice was already at my fingertips. When I started Pumpkin Spice, I’d already read nearly all of Lovecraft’s corpus and done research on the occult. I’d also owned cats for eight years; I didn’t grow up with cats at all, so I was utterly fascinated by my first cat, Quinn (and still am). In any case, I find it fairly easy to “think cat” when I’m writing in Spice’s voice.
ev0ke: Your husband also writes Tales of New Kingsport as M.R. Callahan. And will there be more stories featuring Mercy Rye?
RMC: We hope so! My husband also has a series of books planned featuring Titus, the mastiff who appears in the Pumpkin Spice books. Mercy will play a role in that series as well.
ev0ke: Your short story, “The Feather and the Hawthorne” appears in the anthology, Pestilence and Plague. How did you come to be a part of that anthology? And how did you come up with the idea for your story?
RMC: E.G. Stone had positively reviewed my books before, so when she sent out the call for authors, I felt reasonably certain she’d be willing to bring me on board. I saw it as an opportunity to dip my toes back into story writing after so many months of working on games.
As for where I got the idea for the story, all I can say is…be careful what bargains you make with the Fair Folk.
ev0ke: Where can curious readers find your books?
RMC: Originally I was publishing on Barnes and Noble and Kobo as well as Amazon, but the truth is that Amazon vastly outstrips the other platforms in terms of sales, so I stopped adding books to the other sites. (It hurts, because I don’t really like Amazon, but it’s hard to argue with the stats). I do plan to add the series to iBooks and Google Play soon.
ev0ke: For readers who love your work, which other authors would you recommend?
RMC: Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy books were a big inspiration behind the Pumpkin Spice series. I’ve been enjoying the Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapperseries by J.L. Bryan; it’s great for those who enjoy a more paranormal approach to urban fantasy. (Not paranormal romance!) Ghosts of Gotham by Craig Schaefer is another quite sophisticated urban fantasy book that incorporates some of my favorite mythologies. And though they aren’t much like the Pumpkin Spice books, I have to give a shout-out to the Frost Arcana series by Clara Coulson for being really gripping post-apocalyptic fantasy, with an appropriately terrifying depiction of the Fair Folk.
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
RMC: I run a writing agency, Callahan Creatives, with my husband, and am a full-time narrative designer and scriptwriter. I work primarily for games — one new release I wrote dialogue for is “Game of Khans” (coming soon to iOS!).
We’ve also wrote a funny, alt-history, sci-fi podcast series, The Planetary Broadcast Network. This started as a tie-in for Lost Island Entertainment’s game, Wavy Navy, but rapidly became an amazing project in its own right. The second season has been written and was due to start recording right before the pandemic; hopefully it will be ready soon.
[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. A complete list of her published works can be found there.]