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Archive for April, 2014

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Hi everyone, I have a real treat for you as I have managed to secure an interview with the latest literary phenomenon from across the pond – Laura K. Cowan. I also have the distinct pleasure of kicking off Laura’s Blog Tour which leads up to the launch of her latest novel Music of Sacred Lakes. Laura describes herself as a Dream novelist making connections between the natural and spiritual world.

I can relate to Laura as an author as we are both influenced by music and my own novel Mind Guerrilla, due for release later this year, includes the exploration of connecting and even controlling on levels not obvious to most of us.

To learn more about Laura and her intriguing work please read the exciting interview:

Hi Laura, you have a book coming out shortly. Could you tell us a little bit about Music of Sacred Lakes and how you came to choose the title?

Music of Sacred Lakes is about a young man in crisis who doesn’t want to be a sixth-generation farmer because he thinks his great great-grandfather unwittingly stole the land from its Odawa owners. He doesn’t feel he really belongs anywhere. Then, he accidentally kills a girl, but it is the spirit of the girl who comes back as a personification of the spirit of Lake Michigan to help him.

The title is inspired by the idea that there is music in all things, a voice running through the universe. I started this novel with a question: is there a relationship between music and the land it comes from? I began to research metaphysics, what wisdom traditions had to say about connectedness and the nature of the universe and matter, what physics had to say about the nature of reality and the relationship between sound and matter: superstring theory, M Field Theory, quantum entanglement. What I found was an overpoweringly beautiful pattern of connectedness, through all disciplines, through all cultures, through all matter. It’s so hard to explain in a blog post, but this pattern of connectedness informed the heart of this story: what it means for us to belong, and what is keeping so many of us in the modern western world feeling isolated and disconnected.

Is it fair to say that the genre you write in is a little unique, and could you tell us a bit more about the genre of magical realism or metaphysical fiction?

My books are all about dreams, connections between the natural and spiritual worlds, about bringing the magical and presumed-impossible into the world for the reader in a literal way. It’s imaginative fiction, at its heart. Pan’s Labyrinth is a good example of a movie in this genre. Many books in this genre involve mythic elements, fairytales, angels and demons, or completely invented magical characters and worlds. It’s fantasy, but often fantasy just out of the corner of your eye, Neil Gaiman or Borges style. Everything else in the story is contemporary, but then suddenly there are flying carpets, like in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude or Alice Hoffman’s The Red Garden, in which the blood of a bear a frontier woman once loved makes it so everything in her garden can only grow blood red for generations.

What inspired you to write Music of Sacred Lakes?

My family actually has a sixth-generation family farm in East Jordan, Michigan, just like Peter, but for me personally the heart of the story was not about specific people but exploring the relationship between this disconnect in our modern western culture between people and the world around them (the modernist idea that humans stand apart from nature and can be its objective observers) and the legacy of rejection my family has had especially on that side. Generation after generation there is at least one child who feels unwanted, embattled, rejected, and they make big messes and pass it on. I decided a long time ago that this chain would end with me, insofar as it was within my power to stop the legacy. And part of my journey to healing involved receiving this gift of the understanding of the connectedness of all things in the world, including people, from Eastern and Native American cultures. I wanted to write a story that explored these themes while honoring these cultures for bringing this crucial piece of wisdom and healing truth to me, because I grew up in a conservative religious culture that really didn’t know how to honor truth found in other cultures or religions—a symptom of this disconnected crisis.

Which character in the book did you have the most fun with?

Uncle Lou, the Odawa pipe carrier who first tells Peter he needs to live by the shores of Lake Michigan until it speaks to him. I was worried I would stumble across some offensive cultural faux pas writing him, because Uncle Lou kept wanting to be a guy with a mischievous sense of humor. I am grateful that some Odawa and Ojibwe linguists and tribe members helped me proof this book for cultural references and language, because I didn’t want Uncle Lou to end up some cultural stereotype mashup of blackface and Victorian Indian shows. Somehow he came through despite my anxiety, cracking cross-language jokes and (I hope) coming across as a wise and kind but very good-humored elder with a lot of joy in life despite his experience of being displaced from his own culture.

What was the most difficult aspect of writing your book?

Ah, that would be being called a heretic; even by some of the people closest to me (did I mention my upbringing?). Suffice it to say this book involved me growing a lot, and it was pretty hard to discover that I couldn’t explain my discoveries to anyone else. It made me wonder if the book was worth anything more than an exercise in moral courage for me. If people couldn’t understand it, was I doing anything meaningful? This was my wakeup call as an artist. I suddenly found this scripture, which says (I paraphrase, the Bible does go on for poetic emphasis, lol) “if I make you a watcher on the walls and you don’t warn the people that danger is coming, their blood will be on your head.” To me, that meant that it was crucially important that I put my own belief that I had discovered an important healing truth ahead of what other people thought of me. Otherwise I was worse than no good to anyone, regardless of whether I really understood what I thought I did. This book was me developing some courage to speak my truth, and I’m so glad someone out there seems to understand it. Rave reviews can be a seductive mistress, but it’s pretty amazing to see people picking up this book and seeing their eyes light up.

Is a book cover something that you consider important?

It’s very important, especially for magical realism, where the most sophisticated covers can often be found. I had this cover designed by someone who not only could design book covers but also understood the nuances of fonts and cover styles for conveying the exact style, time period, and content of this book. I love it.

For you personally what was the most spiritual experience that you have ever encountered?

When I was exploring the various traditions of vision quests and meditations for pursuing spiritual wisdom I was following a meditation by Lewis Mehl-Madrona on the spirit of healing, in which the listener walks up a mountain path looking for a healing lake. It was so simple, not coercive, so I kept going despite my anxiety (did I mention my religious upbringing? Gah! Fear-based thinking is the gift that just keeps on giving). I followed the path, and when he said that you had found the healing lake and what did it look like, suddenly I realized I was on an island in Lake Michigan, and the healing lake was actually all around me. The healing lake was everywhere! So accessible, so abundant. And my grandparents came to me, who have to me represented this legacy of rejection and neglect, and I asked my grandfather why we had all been through so much pain, why he had suffered and caused so much suffering. His face fell, and he said to me, “No one wanted me.” It broke my heart, this man who in my life had represented the monster of mental illness, telling me it was all because he was an orphan at heart. And aren’t we all, those of us who live believing that we are separated from the world and have no place? My grandmother told me that my grandfather was trying to put things right in our generational line because he was ashamed, of how much pain his suffering had caused, and that was when I knew I was writing a book about freedom from this orphan heart, for the sake of everyone and even the planet itself, which suffers because we suffer.

What are your thoughts on self-publishing?

For me, it’s the only way to get a book like this out to market and increasingly the best option for artists. Things are changing quickly, with traditional publishers most often offering very poor terms and services for authors and self-publishing increasingly offering more. I wanted someone to champion this book, but a dozen top agents in the magical realism space told me it was beautiful, amazing, wonderful, unique, and then that they couldn’t represent it because it didn’t match the longer style of most mainstream books. They did give me some really valuable advice that I took about how to improve the book, but I realized that since my style runs short and this book just isn’t like many other things out there, they really couldn’t help me sell the book without changing it into something I didn’t intend it to be. I’m grateful self-publishing is an increasingly amazing option, so this book doesn’t have to be molded into something it isn’t in order to succeed.

If your book was turned into a movie who could you see playing the lead role for the character or characters?

I want to say a young Johnny Depp because he’s so bizarre and talented, but he’s way too confident for this role, lol. He is a chameleon though. He could probably pull it off.

Who is your favourite author and why?

Italo Calvino. I read his Cosmicomics in college and it blew my mind that someone could succeed as a writer noodling around with fantasy based on the moon and the stars with plots that were coded with messages about the scientific elements that hinted at the nature of the universe. And people loved him! I always thought my tendency to obsess on these metaphysical topics would land me in the bargain bin, if I even got out of the slush pile. Wow!

Ok time to be a bit more random. It is no secret that I am a huge Beatles fan so for you is it Beatles or Stones?

Beatles. I know the Beatles were a UK phenomenon, but they remind me of the optimism and freedom of California, and I think I’m a Northern California girl at heart.

Do you have any other musical preferences?

I played classical and jazz piano pretty seriously through high school, so I have a soft spot for the German and Russian Romantics, but to give you a more up-to-date answer, I love cross-genre hip hop and Latin jazz, Tibetan throat-singing monks, and the music of water. Basically Dream Theater. Dream Theater would be the short answer to that question, lol. Give me something intense and authentic.

Are you a girl who likes football/soccer and if so who is your team?

I’m from Detroit, so my soccer team is the Redwings, I guess? Sorry to hit you up with a very American answer to that question. Hey hey Hockeytown.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about Laura K. Cowan?

Gosh, it sometimes feels like my strangeness doesn’t have a bottom, but I think we’ve covered it all. I suppose one thing to add would be that my books all center around these spiritual supernatural questions, but that doesn’t mean they’re all in the literary genre. I have books coming out this year that range from new fairytales and mythic fiction to a psychological thriller romance with nightmares that bleed into waking reality. It’s these topics that center my work, all other bets are off. I don’t live inside a genre box. No boring stories.

Where can we buy your book and when is its release date?

Music of Sacred Lakes will be available in paperback and Kindle e-book from Amazon on April 26, or you can order it at your local bookstore.

Do you have any means where we can contact you?

laurakcowan@gmail.com goes directly to me, or you can find me obsessing over many strange and possibly recursive thoughts with my friends on Facebook at fb.com/laurakcowannovelist.

Thanks Laura, I wish you every success for the future.

Thank you! Likewise. Thanks for having me.

BIOGRAPHY: Laura K. Cowan, The Dreaming Novelist, writes imaginative novels that explore the possibilities of the human condition through the connections between the spiritual and natural worlds. Her debut novel The Little Seer spent its launch week at #2 and #5 on the Kindle Bestseller List for free titles in Christian Suspense and Occult/Supernatural, and was hailed by reviewers and readers as “riveting,” “moving and lyrical.” Laura’s second novel, a redemptive ghost story titled Music of Sacred Lakes, and her first short story collection, The Thin Places: Supernatural Tales of the Unseen, will be available soon. Connect with Laura on her website LauraKCowan.com, on Twitter or on Facebook.

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