Erin: It’s the ancient Pagan holiday as it might be celebrated in modern times. The central family in the story, the Kitatani-Van Zandt clan, is a modern Pagan family. They have a big, semi-public party four times a year, at Lughnasadh, Samhain, Winter Solstice, and Beltane. They have a maypole, a feast with venison roasted on an open spit, and some other traditional May Day activities you’ll have to read the book to find out about.
PJS: Who are your main characters?
Erin: Allie and Zen, the Van Zandt twins, are good girls. Allie maybe tries a little harder than Zen to make the right choices, but in the end even Zen’s choices work out for the greater good.
Allie works for an environmentally-friendly architecture firm. As we meet her, she’s getting married to a young lawyer. Zen owns an occult shop and tells fortunes for a living.
PJS: What unexpected thing did you come across in the process of writing a novel based on history?
Erin: I’m still finding out more and more about how people celebrate Beltane now and have celebrated it in the past. Maybe the most surprising thing I’ve come across is that in some parts of Ireland, St. Patrick has been worshiped much like the Pagan horned god of Beltane, who is killed at harvest time and comes back from the dead every year. His Goddess is the Irish mother-goddess Brigid, Christianized as St. Bridget. St. Bridget’s Church in Kildare, Ireland, still has the medieval-era fire pit where Brigid’s priestesses used to worship.
PJS: How has writing about the past enriched how you live today?
Erin: It makes all of my holiday rituals more meaningful, since I understand how they really connect to the changing wheel of the year. The modern, commercialized versions of our holidays can sometimes be very shallow. Looking back at our ancestors’ tribal observances lends these holidays some depth and immediacy.
PJS: Do you have any writing rituals?
Erin: Before I can sit down to write for the morning, I have to get two specific chores (washing the dishes and balancing my checkbook for the day) done. I usually do my workout before I write, too. Then I sit down at the dining room table with my coffee and my laptop and get to work.
PJS: What else have you done in the “world of writing” outside of this novel?
Erin: I’ve written more than 50 published short stories and articles. I write for websites like Clean Sheets, The Erotic Woman, Oysters and Chocolate, and Lucrezia Magazine. I’m a regular contributor to the online journal SexIs.
I’ve been in a few print magazines, too, most notably Playgirl. In March I wrote an article called “The Forgotten Irish Saints” for Irish News & Entertainment…so it’s not all erotica all the time. I’m versatile. I write a column about writing for every issue of Poetic Monthly magazine. (June’s column will be about Selene Skye, whose Crow Woman and Mudgirl I reviewed on Gather. This article will be an expansion of that post.)
PJS: Why is Beltane, as a traditional holiday to celebrate, underrated in the modern world?
Erin: Probably because we’re so squeamish about our sexuality. We think it ought to be a hidden thing. Privacy has its place, to be certain, but there’s something life-affirming about the public celebration of the world’s fertility, the fertility of the crops, of the animals, and of us human animals too. As soon as we as a species urbanized and moved away from farming to sustain ourselves, we’ve sort of forgotten our place in the natural world. Beltane helps us get in touch with that lost side of ourselves.
Peter Joseph Swanson is the author of the Tinseltown Trilogy: Hollywood Sinners, The Joan Crawford Murders, and Bad Movies. His latest book is the Arthurian Merlin's Charge.
DON'T FORGET! Sandra Lopez will be here at Pagan Spirits on May 3rd; stop by and leave her a comment or ask her a question!
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