I’m excited to host an interview with author Loren Rhoads here today.
Most writers I know were starry-eyed readers as children. What do you recall about the first stories that captivated your heart?
My mom used to read books to my brother and me at bedtime. The first one I remember falling in love with was Peter Pan.
I’m not sure what about the story intrigued me initially, but when I was four, my family moved to a brand-new house built in the middle of one of my grandmother’s fields. There wasn’t any yard, then, just piles of dirt dug out for the basment. All around the house rose these little hillocks, covered in willows and weeds and wildflowers.
Everything seemed feral, like something out of Neverland. My brother and I acted out our own Neverland adventures. We were so disappointed when the steamroller finally came and smoothed everything out for a yard.
When did you start writing your own stories?
I’m not sure when I first started writing things down, but I remember when I started to tell myself stories.
My mom was a firm believer in naps. She was in her 20s, working full-time as an English teacher, with two kids under 5. She may have needed a nap more than we did.
In order to get us to settle down, my mom made my brother and me get in her big bed with her. I had to hold still so they could sleep. I passed the time making up stories. They were about mermaids, like the puppet Marina in the Stingray show on TV.
What made you keep going?
When I was in junior high, I met some girls who actually wrote their stories down so they could pass them around. We didn’t think of ourselves as writers, really. We just wanted to share the stories we had in our heads. Sharing stories was a revelation for me.
I loved that I could create pictures that would live inside someone else’s imagination. I took my first creative writing class in high school. After that, I took every writing class I could find.
What was the path to publication like for you?
It’s been a long road. I published my first stories in the 1980s, after I went to the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Workshop.
Soon after that, I had a teacher who discouraged me from writing science fiction, so I turned to horror. The horror community was so much more welcoming.
Since then, my short stories have ranged from erotic horror to science fiction to urban fantasy, while my novels have been space opera and a succubus/angel love story. I’ve written a couple of nonfiction books about cemeteries, too.
What was the best writing / publishing advice you ever received?
Years ago, I met Ray Bradbury, my writing idol, at a book signing in San Francisco. I told him I was struggling with my first novel because I felt like I had to know everything before I could write a word. I felt like I needed to be an expert.
He told me not to think about it so much. “Just write,” he said. “You’ll find out what you need to know as you’re writing. Don’t think so much.” He was so very right. I’ve been a pantser ever since.
Was there any unhelpful or bad advice you can steer hopeful writers away from?
I hate “Write what you know.” What you know can be boring. Write to find out what you think. Write to discover things you want to know more about. Write what you’re interested in.
What would you like readers to know about your work?
My latest project has been a series of short stories about a witch who travels the world to find monsters. Her stories combine my love of travel with the old “psychic detective” stories. I’ve released three short collections on Amazon and plan an omnibus paperback edition of them for the fall.
What question do you wish I would have asked that I didn’t?
What am I working on now? I’m glad you asked!
I’m editing a charity anthology for my local Horror Writers Association group. The book is called Tales for the Camp Fire. We’ll be selling them to raise money for survivors of last year’s devastating wildfire, the most devastating natural disaster in modern California history. The book should be out in May. I am really excited about the caliber of the work in it.
I am fortunate and grateful to share with my readers this exquisite essay by writer Sally McGee that speaks to all of us #metoo survivors with such grace and courage.
Sally McGee is a writer, community organizer, and nature conservancy advocate living on the Oregon coast. In the 1970s in New York, she worked tirelessly until rape survivors were treated by legal authorities with the dignity and respect they deserved as victims of a serious crime, instead of the blaming-the-woman mentality that prevailed for decades.
MELTDOWN by Sally McGee
The phone rings.
A neighbor was calling looking for a reference.
Some people I know want to rent his house.
Unable to get a letter of recommendation and having heard some unsavory things, he was looking for information.
Could I tell him anything?
I begin to shake and find it hard to get words out.
The man is big and menacing.
Often unemployed, he has drinking and anger management problems.
The police have been called.
What can I say?
I find it hard to talk and begin to stutter.
I am surprised at how shaken I am.
Things get worse as the week progresses.
The night descends and I crawl into bed.
The nightmares begin.
Growing up female in an out of control family, I was often afraid.
I wake feeling disjointed.
Something is trying to rise from my unconsciousness.
What my body knows, my brain has not yet figured out.
I am confused.
Monday I think is Friday. Wednesday is Monday.
Get it together! You are scaring people around you.
It is the trauma that is being brought forth from early childhood.
The trauma triggered by 11 white Republican men wanting to grill a sexual assault victim while her attacker looks on.
A woman who thought she was going to be murdered, the weight of a male body pinning her down.
His hand on her mouth stifling her screams while his friend looks on.
Some on the committee have already pronounced her guilty.
Senator Orin Hatch, well established member of the Republican power structure, next in line after the Speaker if something untoward happens to the President and the V.P., has pronounced her, “Confused”.
Virtually the same thing he said 20 plus years ago during the testimony of Anita Hill before the Judiciary Committee during the Clarence Thomas hearings and we know what the men did then.
If they win this one, it will be a Pyrrhic victory.
Too many women are watching and feeling the attack on Professor Ford to be an attack on them.
Old traumas are being re-lived.
Traumas that will spell the death of the Patriarchy.
And I say, “Thank God”.
Some years ago I spent 8 days in the Trinity National Forest in Northern California backpacking; 3 women, 3 dogs.
Leaving, the hardest part was saying good by to the trees.
There was no wrapping my arms around the trunk because of their mammoth size.
But I leaned into them and quietly spoke of my love.
The surprising thing was the response.
Clearly they said, “We love you.”
This forest burned in the fires of 2018 but destroying the Redwoods is next to impossible.
They were here in the beginning.
One of the oldest life forms.
Their presence is a gift that uplifts me and sustains my life.
And for them I am grateful.
With trauma in the news every day, I vow I will not be defeated.
All is not lost.
Life goes on.
I live in a community that was logged 100 years ago.
The trees were cut down and removed but their life not destroyed.
Many came back and today I walk among them some 60, 70 feet tall.
They are unusual looking because the cut made 100 years ago was 10 or more feet above the ground so the tree I see today has very large roots high above the ground.
I make my escape running to Sanctuary, the family home in Portland where my daughter and her B.F. live.
The house was built in 1915 and is in one of the older, close-in neighborhoods.
Craftsman houses and Bungalows surrounded by very large trees that were somehow spared 100 years ago.
Sanctuary and I am safe.
Surrounded by family and loving neighbors.
Children’s voices ring out.
It is music to my ears.
I rest and sleep.
Thank you, Sally McGee for your lovely words.
For a survivor like me in this treacherous time in our nation, your words are my balm and sanctuary.