A Conversation with Elen Sentier
Today, I am very pleased to talk with Elen Sentier, an author and wilderness woman! I am in the middle of reading her latest book which is titled Shaman Pathways – Trees of the Goddess: a new way of working with the Ogham and can be purchased here. Hopefully my view of that book will be up shortly. Meanwhile, please enjoy an interesting interview with an interesting lady....
About Elen Sentier – behind every gifted woman there is usually a rather talented cat.
I write mystery/magic/romance novels and books on British native shamanism. And I'm a wilderness woman; I love to be out in wild places in the woods, by the rivers, on the tops and by the sea. I'm also an awenydd, it means spirit keeper in the British native shaman tradition, and come from a family on both sides with a long lineage in that tradition.
I live, with my husband, cats and a host of wildlife, in an old farmhouse in the back-of-beyond in the Wye Valley, in the Welsh Marches on the edge of the Black Mountains. It's a magical twilight place where I write. And when I'm not writing I paint, spin, knit & weave, cook, make alcoholic potions with wild fruit from my garden and the hedges, play and work with my cats, watch films, listen to and make music, and read, read, read … a lot, a lot, a lot !!!
SBR: What motivates or drives you to write books?
ES: It’s like an addiction, I cannot not write. I get real cold-turkey if I don’t write either fiction or non-fiction every day, literal skin and muscle itches and aches. And then there’s all the ideas that come from otherworld and refuse to be ignored … I think it’s them that set off the cold-turkey!
SBR: Where do you get your ideas for a book?
ES: Nature and how the natural world works; relationships, particle physics, astronomy, biology, myths and stories from our past, ideas about the future, art, pictures, poetry … all of life.
For instance, the way cats’ eyes work and their flehmen response where they draw air into their mouths and learn so much from that sense has set me off to write Land Singer, it combines with ley lines and power-politics versus living with the land. Imagine a people, humanoids, who see as cats and owls do, have that flehmen response for scent and can see ley lines and use them as roads to power flying sleds. The book’s only in note form as yet as I’m concentrating on Echo of Hearts, but that gives an idea of the way my mind pulls things together. OK! OK! I’ll write it soon, next year …
SBR: How did you get started writing books and when did you realize you were hooked?
ES: Hooked is it! I’ve always written stories from as soon as I could write, at school under cover of an exercise book then I used to doodle them in my lunch break when I was at work. In the early 1980s my husband took me to Corfu which he already knew; it was a wonderful time, walking miles along deserted beaches and up into the forests with wild boar and trees full of goats! It set my story-juices off with a vengeance and I began my first novel, which I’ve still not yet finished (but I will!). It’s a sci-fi/fantasy adventure called “15 Days on Yardoz”. I carried on ordinary boring old work as computer boffin until the rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis knocked me for six and retired me … then the writing bug took a real hold. That was in the early 1990s and here I am now, ever more addicted day by day!
SBR: How important is a good book cover?
ES: To me it’s vital but then I’m also a visual artist and I grew up in the times of beautiful book and record covers that are now considered mega-art. I want to be taken out of myself by the cover, transported, and this rarely happens nowadays with books I see in bookshops, too often flat and dull. I’m lucky in that a wonderful artist-friend has done the covers for my next two books – Following the Deer Trods and Moon Song – and her pictures are perfect and fabulous.
SBR: Who do you admire most as a writer of your genre and why?
ES: As I’m not altogether sure what my genre is that’s hard but I think it has to be Terri Windling for her “The Wood Wife”; that book comes closest to what I write. Another is Mary Stewart’s romances and her Merlin trilogy (I don’t like the fourth one!). Then there’s Alan Garner and Susan Cooper. I write magic that is real in the everyday world, all around us if only we will look.
SBR: What books have you just read and why did you choose them?
ES: How long have you got? LOL … I’m currently reading the latest Kay Scarpetta story, Flesh and Blood, by Patricia Cornwell and enjoying it. Alongside this I’m re-reading Madame Will You Talk? by Mary Stewart. I’m fairly eclectic in my reading tastes and read quite fast, personal reading is mostly fiction. Stories have to have very real and believable 3D characters, I don’t like wimps, I want difficult relationships and characters that grow through the story, I need a good plot, I love adventure, mystery, scary (as long as it’s subtle), spy stories, thrillers. You’ll find Ursula leGuin and Tom Clancy, TS Eliot, John Grisham, Graham Greene, Roger Zelazny, Ted Hughes, John le Carre, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, Elis Peters, John Wyndham, Frank Herbert, Georgette Heyer and all sorts on my shelves and I re-read all of them.
SBR: What is your background in the Occult/Metaphysics/Magic non-fiction or fiction genre?
ES: I’m a shaman from the British native tradition as passed down to me through my family and the elders of the villages we lived in when I was a child. My non-fiction books are about offering this old way to people who may not realize it exists. And so are my fiction books but much more subtly, through romance, mystery and adventure.
SBR: What do you think is the biggest threat to magic and why?
ES: Fear of being thought abnormal by your contemporaries. People are far worse than cats about stepping outside the box! Many supposedly civilized western folk pull the lid of that normality-box down real tight and refuse to even peek out, consequently they miss out on at least 90% of Life, the Universe and Everything. They’re much encouraged in this because civilised western societies and governments find it much easier to control populations that do not question but keep neatly inside “the normality curve”. This kills life and creates zombies. There does now seem to be quite a growing movement of folk who aren’t having any of that though … and all power to such people’s elbows. We all, everyone whether they’re artists or not, need them.
SBR: How do you create your reality?
ES: I don’t, I go live in it where it is LOL. OK, let’s quote a bit of Shakespeare here … There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Hamlet Act 1, scene 5. This is so true! I’m married to a boffin scientist who used to work at the Rutherford-Appleton labs. In one of the experiments he was involved with, long ago, the post-doc in charge said of the outcome, “The only way I can explain that is a particle going backwards in time”. OK again, when you live with folk like that you get quite leery of the idea of creating realities! Probably anything my mind might think up already exists out there somewhere, indeed I’ve found they do from practical experience.
SBR: What’s next in terms of books for you?
ES: More novels! There’s at least three more sat on the back of the stove with their notes brewing quietly and being added to on and off, sometimes they rattle their pot-lids to hurry me up to get on with them. And there’s more non-fiction brewing and growing too. I’ve begun another alongside the novel I’m currently writing. This isn’t perhaps the best way to go about things but the writing-puppeteers who pull my strings insist I write a bit of both each day … sigh!
You can find Elen at the following locations on the net:-
Her web/blog: http://elensentier.wordpress.com/
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/elensentier.writer.page