Vila's Cottage Crafts
***This interview was geared towards a more mainstream audience, so I felt it important to break down some "Craft" definitions.
1) GL: Youíre truly an inspiration publishing your first book, Hidden Passages: Tales to Honor the Crones, at sixty years old. In much of mainstream society, aging females arenít venerated in the least. In fact, older women are oftentimes portrayed as unsavory characters in books, on television, in movies, etc. Is this one of the erroneous stereotypes you hope to help eradicate through your writing?
Vila: While I understand why old women are demonized at worst and made invisible at best, I cannot excuse that behavior. People fear old women. Weíre too free. We see beyond the sexist expectations of our culture, for the most part, and refuse to play the game anymore. And thatís the very attitude that I found so empowering as a young woman. While I fell into my share of the sexist pits as a young woman, I always had a bevy of older women who helped me find my way. I grew up with so many wonderful gray-haired women who taught me much, and I treasure my memories of them. And now that the baby boomers are approaching their senior years, I think people are going to have to rethink how they look at aging. I hope my book Hidden Passages: Tales to Honor the Crones nudges that transition along. If just one person looks at an old woman with kindness because of having read my book I shall consider the effort a success. Women in our Crone years have so very much to offer!
2) GL: Whatís the best advice youíve ever personally received from an influential Crone (defined as an old wise aspect of the Goddess for brevityís sake)?
Vila: I canít pin down one specific piece of advice I received from a crone in my life. There were so many intimate conversations on night-darkened porches during which women of age listened and responded generously and with love. But I think I learned more by watching how they lived. They were loving and open hearted and optimistic. Now that I look back on some of their lives their optimism astounds me. Yet they always gave me the feeling by their reactions to lifeís challenges that we can endure and learn from the troubles we encounter and grow from them. After all, we donít tend to learn from the good times. Itís the sorrows that tend to teach us. So Iíd say it was their example rather than their words that influenced me most.
3) GL: Is Vila SpiderHawk your Craft name (in Witchcraft a publicly used magickal name) as well as the name you write under? If so, would you mind sharing how you came up with it?
Vila: Yes Vila SpiderHawk is my magickal name. And I chose it carefully. Vila is a middle European goddess who lives in the woods. She protects the animals and plants that live there and dances hunters to death. She heals with herbs and treasures all her woodland friends. I learned about Vila several years ago. And the more I learned about her, the more I identified with her. And so I took her name.
Spider has always been a totem of mine. Spider is patient. She weaves her web and then patiently waits for food to come to her. She is solitary and contemplative. And that is one side of my personality.
But I am also one who has to ďdoĒ. I want to soar and to see and to swoop and to feel the wind. And hawk has always been the emblem of that kind of freedom for me. I feel joyful every time I hear a hawk, every time I see one. Hawk is another totem of mine. Itís the other half of my personality. And so the name. It fits me well. I am very comfortable with it.
4) GL; What are some of the things youíve written for "Sage Woman" magazine and "The Beltane Papers"? Did they help you prepare in any way for writing your latest release, Forest Song: Finding Home ?
Vila: I wrote a few articles for each magazine that you mention. But the truth is I donít believe doing those articles helped prepare me for creating Forest Song: Finding Home. Each piece is its own work, and each comes from its own inspiration. I believe writing of any kind, however, makes one a more technically competent. And so in that sense writing those articles allowed me to flex my literary muscles so that they stayed in shape.
Probably if I were going to give any advice to young writers, however, it would not be to write articles. It would be to become good poets. Poetry forces a person to write concisely and in imagery. And I believe that composing poetry for so many years was much better preparation for writing my books than my work on articles was.
5) GL; I find your writing in both Forest Song and Hidden Passages quite lyrical. Do you think your linguistic background (specifically of extensive French study since you even taught college-level French) aided you in this?
Vila: Oh thereís no getting around the fact that my study of French literature has influenced my writing style. I have learned from the masters. Nobody writes literature like the French! While many French writers are not particularly lyrical, their sentence structure, their use of language is nothing short of amazing. I read something by Flaubert,as an example, and I find myself reading a sentence over and over again admiring the sheer beauty of its design. Besides, itís impossible to write anything worth reading unless youíve read good literature. I have been blessed to have had access to some of the finest literature known to humanity and not just in French literature class.
6) GL: In your opinion, what sets your writing apart from other writersí works in your genre?
Vila: I donít do ďgoodĒ and ďevilĒ. No one is perfectly ďgoodĒ and no one is perfectly ďevilĒ. I am more interested in the struggles that happen within people who seem to be ďgoodĒ or ďevilĒ, since each of us has the capacity to be either one, alternatively, depending on circumstances.
I also donít do fantastic magic. My magic is much more practical than the magic I see in other books dealing with witchcraft.
But mostly I explore the inside. I want to find out what makes my characters tick. So, while my books are definitely magical, thatís not the most important part of the writing to me. I want to explore my charactersí psyches. I want to know why they do what they do. I want to see into their minds and their souls. And I want my readers to do that too. I think itís more interesting to understand how people work than to explore magical possibilities. At bottom, I believe that if we spent more time trying to understand each other and ourselves, we would have much less need of magic. Imagine all the protection spells we wouldnít have to perform if everyone were busy trying to understand instead of lashing out.
7) GL: What are the most important details for a successful (second) career in writing?
Vila: I donít actually know. That depends on the writer I think. All I know is what works for me personally. There are some basics, of course. One must carve out the time to write. I find that I must write every day to stay ďin shapeĒ, to keep my writing muscles strong.
I also read as much as I can, but I refuse to read sloppy writing. When I read sloppy writing my own work becomes sloppy and I have to spend too much time and energy to clean it up. Thatís very inefficient. And so I insist on reading quality work that has something to teach me.
And having read and written poetry, I think about each and every sentence. I ask myself with every sentence if there is a better, more visual, more concise way to express what Iím trying to say. I can spend a few hours struggling over a single sentence because I simply am not happy with the rhythm or the syntax or the sound of the words. Yes, I am a perfectionist. After all, my name goes on the finished product.
And I think itís important to be aware, to watch how people really behave, to hear how they actually talk. But more than that, itís important to truly see, as an artist sees, the world around me. After all, if I donít see it, feel it, taste it, hear it, I canít describe it. And if I donít describe it, the reader cannot see it, feel it, taste it, or hear it either. I see myself as a reporter. I am reporting to the reader the experience of the protagonist. My job is to put the reader into the protagonistís soul. I cannot do that unless I climb inside there too.
8) GL: Itís truly wonderful that youíre a gourmet vegan cook. Since youíre also an avid gardener, do you grow most of your own food?
Vila: I used to grow my own food, but it became too much when I began to write seriously. Putting up the harvest was a full time job. I could do little else but that. So Iíve cut way back on gardening for food. Oh I still grow tomatoes and a few other vegetables, and we grow blackberries and blueberries and strawberries. But thatís about it. Now as to the herb garden, well, I am way beyond control there! You name the herb and I grow it. I just love herbs! I love to cook with them. I love to do magic with them. I love to heal with them. I use them as ground covers. I have them in pots. Iím simply hopeless when it comes to herbs! Somebody really must stop me!
9) GL: How long have you been vegan? What made you decide to go vegan? Were you a vegetarian first?
Vila: I never really decided to be a vegetarian. As a kid I loved vegetables, and my mother used to have to nag me to eat meat. When I was a child, vegetarianism was looked at as an eating disorder. But as that attitude dissipated over the years, I felt freer to follow my natural preferences.
Then I did some investigation and discovered that eating a plant based diet is a much healthier way to live, both for people and for animals. And, since I know how animals are raised for food, I wanted nothing to do with the meat industry. Iím not going to go into the horror stories here. But itís pretty grim.
I find the meat industry particularly horrifying, but the dairy industry isnít much better, which is why I eventually cut out dairy too. I also have witnessed first hand how laying chickens are abused, and I wanted no part of that either. And so I cut out eggs. While I cannot singlehandedly change the practices of agribusiness, I can refuse to support them.
Yes I was a vegetarian before I was a vegan. I sort of oozed from vegetarianism to veganism. But all that happened decades ago. And the truth is I have never looked back. I just love being vegan. I understand that itís not for everyone, and thatís fine. But for me it works beautifully.
10) GL: Are you planning any book projects in the future? Or any other writing projects?
Vila: Oh yes, Iím currently writing the next volume of the Forest Song series. Forest Song: Finding Home ends when the protagonist becomes a woman. Forest Song: Little Mother picks up where that left off and the following book will pick up where Little Mother leaves off and so forth until I have told the story of Judyís life.
11) GL: Where are your books available online? Which brick
and mortar stores carry your books as well? Are they available overseas, too?
Vila: Both books are newly published and so are available only online at this time. Well, there are a few local bookstores that carry it right now, but in truth it will take 4-5 months for these books to appear in brick and mortar stores. It simply takes time to get books into stores.
As for international sales, the same issue of time gets in the way. My books are in the process of being translated into several other languages and will eventually be available in several other countries, but again it takes time.
For the moment people would be best off going to Amazon.com or coming to my website www.vilaspiderhawk.com. On my home page there are links to each of my books at the publisherís website. Thatís actually probably the easiest way to buy the books just now.
Want to buy Hidden Passages: Tales to Honor the Crones? Click here
Want to order Forest Song: Finding Home? Click here