Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Book Chat With Erin O'Riordan

What do you look for in reading? How do you choose what you read?

I enjoy reading both fiction and nonfiction. I enjoy fiction with fantasy themes. Sometimes, for fun, I read paranormal romances. What I read in nonfiction depends on what interests me at the time, or what I need to read for research. I like books on women's studies subjects, and books about books.

What are you currently reading for pleasure? Professional?

For pleasure: Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas by Maya Angelou, a book I picked up at a library book sale. I just finished re-reading Wuthering Heights. For research: travel books about India, books about Hanukkah.

Favorite books? Favorite authors?

One of my all-time favorites is Pretty Birds by Scott Simon. Simon is an NPR correspondent who covered the war in Bosnia in the 1990s. He turned that experience into the fictional story of 17-year-old Irena Zaric. She's a Muslim whose best friend, Amela, is Serbian. Readers who liked The Kite Runner will appreciate Pretty Birds. It's harrowing, but also wickedly funny at parts. Banana Yoshimoto is one of my favorite authors. I especially liked Kitchen and Asleep.

Most important, significant, or memorable book in your life?

A Woman's Journey to God: Finding the Feminine Path, by Joan Borysenko. When I read this book, I felt as if I must have dreamed it into existence. Borysenko has a different, unexpected way of looking at spirituality, and it was just what I needed to reconcile different aspects of my beliefs.

Were you read to as a child?

Both parents read to me, often, when I was a child.

When did you begin to read?

I began to read at age 4.

When you find a book you like do you try to read other books by the same author?

With the romance novels, I often get into reading a series or several books by the same author: J. R. Ward, Kate Douglas, Katie McAlister, Charlaine Harris.

Do you keep a list of books you want to read?

Yes. My to-read list includes Rhett Butler's People by Douglas McCaig, The Serpent's Tale by Ariana Franklin, and Novel Destinations by Joni Rendon and Shannon McKenna Schmidt.

Do you keep a record of what you have read?

Every new year, I make a list of the ten best books I've read the previous year. My diary provides the record of what I've read and my thoughts about the books. Last year I began posting my top ten lists on my preferred social networking site, gather.com.

Do you give books as gifts?

I love to give books as gifts! I gave The Lives of the Saints for Girls to my cousin's daughter for her baptism recently.

What books are on your bedside table?

Clotilda by Jack Kent. It's a picture book that I loved as a child; I was reading it to my nieces.

3 books you would take on vacation or to a desert island?

On a desert island: Songs on Bronze by Nigel Spivey (an excellent volume of Classical mythology), QPB Anthology of Women's Writing, and the Bible.

Did you have favorite books as a child?

The Cat in the Hat; Where the Wild Things Are; The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder, the Bunnicula series by Deborah and James Howe; the Rotten Ralph series by Jack Gantos; Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time. And I loved books about ancient Egypt, and books about monsters.

How have your reading tastes changed over the years?

I only started reading romance novels in the last three or four years. My tastes in nonfiction change constantly, and my taste in fiction has stayed pretty much the same for the past 15 years or so. I've always liked fiction with a fantasy theme.

What types of books would you recommend for young readers?

For older children and teens, I'd recommend The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu, and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events series. For younger children, I love Big Mama Makes the World by Phyllis Root and Helen Oxenbury, and The Book of Goddesses by Kris Waldherr.

(Questions by Ann Leonard)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

An Interview with the Author of BELTANE

Question: Beltane is a Celtic, Pagan holiday, an ancient name for May Day. Do you have personal experience with dancing around the maypole? Are you a Pagan, like Zen and Allie in the novel?
Erin: I actually had a very conventional upbringing. I was educated in Roman Catholic schools all the way through college. I’ve always been attracted to the feminine side of the religious experience, though. Goddess mythology is very much a part of my spirituality.

Q: Beltane is a very sensual, erotic novel. How did you get started in the erotic romance genre?
E: I wrote my first novel, Whip (unpublished) in 2006, and in Whip I was determined to show the characters as they really are, at their finest and worst moments. That included writing honestly about their sexuality. My first published short story was an excerpt from Whip, and it happened to be a scene of intimacy between Brigid and Leander. From there, I felt I had found my niche as a writer.

Q: In your acknowledgments, you dedicate Beltane "to my foremothers," and list a number of influential women writers: Emily Dickinson, Madeleine L’Engle, Barbara G. Walker, Joan Borysenko. Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?
E: I named women whose writing I just adore and return to again and again. I just finished re-reading Wuthering Heights, and now I wish I had included Emily Bronte in my acknowledgments. But actually the one woman who has influenced my writing the most is my mother, Andrea. (Thanks, Mom!)

Q: How did your mother influence your writing?
E: My romantic partner has always been my biggest supporter when it comes to writing, but my parents always encouraged me. They were the ones who read me stories as a child, and I’ve never outgrown that love of storytelling. It was my mother, specifically, who got me started on reading paranormal romances, though. She introduced me to Charlaine Harris and J.R. Ward, and reading them introduced me to Kate Douglas. It was a great honor for me when Kate Douglas wrote, about my review of one of her books,"I enjoyed your writing every bit as much as the subject matter, if that makes sense. It’s very well done."

Q: Beltane launches the "Pagan Spirits" series. What is your vision for the series?
E: "Pagan Spirits" will be a 12-part series, each with a different Pagan holiday theme. I’m finishing the first draft of the second book now, and its tentative title is Midsummer Night. It will continue to focus on the Van Zandt sisters, Zen and Allie. Starting with the third book, Zen and Allie will still be featured, but we’ll also see some unexpected facets of the supporting characters, like Zen’s assistant witch Gillian.