[This issue, we sit down with author Sheena Cundy. Here, she discusses her Celtic/Druidic practices; her Witch Lit romance series; and her upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How do you define your personal spiritual tradition? Does it have a name, or is it more intuitive and eclectic?
Sheena Cundy: Celtic/Druidic with strong shamanic roots fused with the mystical … and I add and create as I go along.
ev0ke: Which Deities, powers, or other spirits are honored in your tradition?
SC: The Ancestors across the globe and mostly the Celtic pantheon. The Morrigan is my favourite goddess … and the inspiration for my songwriting (my band, Morrigans Path), and my life in general. But I do love working with Angels and Ascended Masters, as well as the spirits of nature and power animals and guides.
ev0ke: In 2013, you and your sister Tania released The Magic of Nature Oracle. How long did it take you to create the oracle? And how did you decide which animal or season should represent which qualities?
SC: From seed to fruition, it took three years. Some of the symbolism was traditional (ie. Hare — Creativity, Autumn — Release), but always combined with our own inspirations from spirit which happened and evolved quite naturally. From the initial meet-ups in coffee shops and pondering over lists to the many hours of walking and being out in nature, every card was journeyed with on a physical and magical level. It was always a joy and a complete labour of love. I still use my cards in my own practice, as well as in readings and workshops for others. The magic of nature continues to inspire me in all ways.
ev0ke: You have a story in the anthology Witch Lit: Words From the Cauldron. How did this anthology come about? And how did you decide what sort of story to write for it?
SC: When Moon Books published my first book in 2015, I started a facebook group to promote Witch Lit. The group has grown over the years and embraces all kinds of writers and readers of magical writing. With fellow admins and authors Laura Perry, Wendy Steele, and Ruth Aitken, we decided to put together an antholgy of original stories/poems/essays written by members to spread the magical word. It took a while to create, about a year I think; another labour of love! But we were pleased with the result, and all proceeds go to the charity Books For Africa. As well as contributing with our own stories, Laura edited all the contributions, Ruth created the cover, Wendy wrote the introduction, and I published the book on Amazon.
Deciding what story to write was easy for me, because at the time I was writing the second in my Madness and Magic series (Bonkers and Broomsticks) which included new characters. I wrote The Naked Magician to introduce Gerald, a naturist gardener and witch who poses as a life art model at a garden party at Beltane. He has since become a favourite of mine who I’ve had a lot of fun with!
ev0ke: A “magical romantic comedy,” your Madness and Magic series focuses on middle-aged witch Minerva and her daughter Rhiannon. First, why did you decide to write about “a witch of a certain age”? And how much of Minerva’s spirituality and magical practices are based on your own?
SC: Firstly, as a last minute NaNoWriMo entry which I’d had no preparation for — writing what I knew seemed like the easiest option. Plucking from the ether a crazy menopausal witch going through many of the same hormonal horrors as I was at the time was the best remedy for a mid-life crisis.
Minerva and I share similar passions. She loves her tarot cards as I do, and book one, especially, was driven by genuine cards I picked and used to create the story. It felt like a magical way to do it and I think it worked well enough. Minerva does have some crazy ideas and while I don’t go as far as she does with her ridiculous spell casting, we do share a lot of the same spiritual philosophy, and a fetish for guitarists. My husband is the guitarist in Morrigans Path!
ev0ke: Romance has an undeserved reputation as a “lower” form of literature. What draws you to that genre? How do you play around with the tropes of romance and make them your own?
SC: Good question. I never (consciously) set out to write romance, but it just naturally became part of the story. I have never thought about ‘tropes’, I didn’t even know what the word meant until recently! Relationships are such a rich and colourful part of life, and are responsible for much of how our own stories play out … giving characters their own special ones is a great way to discover where a story needs to go.
When I attended an indie author writer’s retreat in Edinburgh in 2019, I found myself in the ‘romance room,’ much to my dismay. I didn’t write romance did I? But it was such an eye-opener … those authors were writing between three and eight thousand words a day. Their fingers were on fire!
I still haven’t seriously marketed in that genre, but with my Witch Lit box set out now, I am going to try and target more consciously for the right audience. Romance is a huge umbrella with so many sub categories, and learning how to use the magic keywords is crucial to getting visibility. It’s something I intend to learn how to do well.
ev0ke: Magical fiction — especially urban fantasy and paranormal romance — is very popular. What developments would you like to see in this genre? Greater diversity in characters? Different base mythologies? Better research on the part of the authors?
SC: I’d like to see more proper Witch Lit. Stories about real life magic by witches who write, or at least authors who have done their homework. Less of the sensationalism and supernatural, and more of the natural and authentic.
Less corny and formulaic writing and more inspirational stories with some real depth to them. I don’t read much urban fantasy or paranormal romance because every time I try to, I get bored within the first paragraph. I’m sure there must be some good ones out there somewhere!
ev0ke: What advice can you offer other witches and Pagans who are hoping to publish their own work? Mistakes to avoid? Steps they absolutely must take?
SC: Read as much fiction and non-fiction as you can in the field. Find like-minded writers. Come and join our Witch Lit Facebook group! Think about whether you want to be traditionally published or whether you’d like to learn how to self-publish. If you’re with good people who are already doing that, you can find out what you need to learn from them. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you need to learn everything all at once. You don’t. As in the craft of magic where practice is crucial … so it is with the craft of writing. Combine both and work your magic into your writing. If you’re a witch who writes, you’re probably already creating your own magic with your writing. Spells, chants, poetry, and songs will all help to craft magical stories when you come to write them. Learn how to work with rhyme as it helps to bring a sense of balance and rhythm to your prose … again, that’s easy to do if you’re creating spells!
Steps you must take? One at a time. Do everything you can to continually improve while understanding the creative process works in cycles and you need to honour that, and yourself. If you walk a magical path you will already know that the power of nature grounds, balances and recharges. Embrace it and work with it, remembering that nothing in nature blooms all year round. Take time out to rest and play. Your writing will benefit in more ways than you think.
ev0ke: Where can readers find your work?
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
SC: I’m currently writing non-fiction: The Witch Wavelength – Tuning in to Your Magical Nature is planned for release at Beltane, with other books in the series to follow. An Arthurian-based fantasy novel which I plan to publish this year …. And I’m tempted to make a start on book four in the Witch Lit series, but I’ll wait and see how the box set goes before I decide …!