Thank you, Serene, for your time and for sharing a bit about yourself & your writing journey.
Dark Chocolate or Milk Chocolate? Dark chocolate.
Coffee or Tea?Tea for sure. There’s nothing better than books and tea 🙂
Dog-ear or whatever else as bookmark?
Anything for a bookmark. No dog ears! I have heaps of lovely bookmarks, but I often end up using envelopes, scraps of paper, a shopping list or whatever’s at hand – I just found a book I’d been searching for, and it had one of those moisturiser samples from a magazine marking my place…
Plot or Character? They’re so intertwined, but if I had to choose I guess I’d say character.
HEA or unexpected twist? Unexpected twist…
Q: Could you please share with us a little bit about yourself and how you became a writer? Was there a particular book you loved as a child or how did your love of words translate to writing?
A: I’m shy, so writing has always been the way I communicate, and the way I make sense of the world. Mum still has a little story I made into a book when I was a kid, about saving the seals 🙂 I wanted to help people, so I was planning to be a social worker, but Dad convinced me I could help more people through words. And that’s what still motivates me to write – when I was a journalist I got letters from teenagers who told me my articles helped them deal with a traumatic event or decide not to commit suicide, and as an author I’ve had a lot of readers contact me to let me know how much one of my books has helped them heal too.
In high school I wrote for a national surfing magazine, at uni (I studied politics and journalism) I was the first student editor of their newspaper, and spent way more time writing articles than going to class, and after that I was a journalist for years – writing about everything from health and social issues to entertainment and spiritualty. A publisher I worked with when I was in magazines offered me a book contract when I left one of my jobs, and that’s how I became an author.
Some of my favourite childhood books were Mandy by Julie Edwards, about a girl in an orphanage who found a little cottage in the woods she escaped to, Searching For Shona by Margaret J Anderson, about two girls who switch places during the war, and one who refuses to give the identity back at the end, and A Time To Love, A Time to Mourn by Paige Dixon, about a teenager with a rare and fatal disease… Which I realise as I write that, all have a sense of tragedy, yet also hope, which is true of my books too. (Hence the unexpected twist not the HEA – I like a book that makes me cry, but also uplifts me…)
Q: Could you share a little of what this trilogy is about and what inspired you in in writing it? Was there a purpose or a target audience you are seeking to reach?
A: I’d written five non-fiction books before I decided to see if I could write a novel, and Into the Mists was woven out of the research I did for Seven Sacred Sites, Faery Magic and Witchy Magic. It’s about death and loss, but also about healing, the bonds of family, the power of friendship and the magic of the natural world, and how that can heal and inspire us. I thought it would just be one small novel, but it turned into a trilogy, and then people asked about some of the other characters, and that spawned another trilogy.
In the beginning the audience was people who loved my non-fiction, but now it’s everyone from young girls at Supanova to men and women of all ages from around the world. With all my books, I want to acknowledge that there is sadness in life, but also hope. It’s always important to me that strong friendships are portrayed, that forgiveness and redemption is possible, and that love can heal. It was also interesting timing that the second trilogy, Into the Storm, launched in the time of #metoo and #timesup, as there is a strong thread of that through these books, and the feedback on that in terms of helping people who have experienced assault and harassment has been really touching.
Q: As I have mentioned to you previously, I found it truly difficult in the first half of the book due to all the grief and anger Carlie was going through. Have you experience such grief yourself and/or how did you research into this?
A: I’m so sorry you found it hard! Fortunately I haven’t lost anyone like Carlie has, but I have been overwhelmed by the response of readers to it. Several people have come up to me at events to hug me, and thank me, and burst into tears as they tell me how much it helped them deal with their own grief, which I wasn’t expecting at all. A husband told me how grateful he was, because when his wife lost her mum she was inconsolable, and he didn’t know how to help her, but apparently the Mists books did. So whenever I’m feeling discouraged, or the writing is hard, I remember those things, because to me it is worth it if it helps even one person… There are others who thank me because the books reminded them of who they are, and got them to re-engage with nature or magic or ritual, and then there are the people who just love the story and the mystery of it and that’s great too 🙂
With the research, I did a bereavement counselling course, and read a fair bit, and I’ve done energy healing courses and workshops, and rituals with shamans and druids and pagan priestesses, and that all contributed too…
Q: In Into the Mists, I could read your sincerity in all things pagan and the note at the end of the book also acknowledged that you are a pagan. Could you please share your experience on how you came to your belief?
A: Paganism is an earth-honouring spiritual path of personal growth and self-discovery, a connection to nature, to the rhythms of the earth and the cycles of the sun, moon and seasons, and a belief in the interconnectedness of people, animals and the land. I was born in Sydney, but when I was six my family moved to a tiny little town on the other side of the country, because they didn’t want to raise my sister and I in the city. So I grew up on a bush property on the river, near the beach, revelling in nature, campaigning with Dad to protect it, and doing healing work with Mum. (My parents were hippies, which I’m sure contributed to my pagan outlook!) A pagan is simply someone who walks lightly on the earth and strives to be kind and compassionate. Who takes responsibility for their own life and their own actions. Who is aware of the impact of word, thought and deed. Someone who understands that there is magic in every moment, if we stop to look, to breathe it in, and to unlock all the potential and promise we hold within. It’s about the magic of the earth, the magic of science and nature. Many pagans are environmentalists, working to protect the earth and its creatures, or they are healers or psychics – or all three – for it’s a path of learning, a search for wisdom and inner knowledge, and a quest to uncover personal truths and meaning. Pagans honour the phases of the moon and the changing of the seasons as metaphors for their own life, and perform rituals as a shaping of intention, and a way to express gratitude for their life, their loved ones and all they have achieved.
Q: What are your top reads for 2019 to date? And which book are you desperately waiting for publication?
A: I’m aiming for a book a week this year (so far so good!), and I’ve already read some wonderful stories. Paula Brackston’s Lamp Black, Wolf Grey, Anne Rice’s Blood Communion, Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches (thanks to Read3rz Revu for the reminder that I had it!), Jodi McIsaac’s Bury the Living, and DL Richardson’s One Little Spell, amongst others.
Juliet Marillier is my favourite author, and she has TWO new books out this year, which I’m desperately waiting for! I can’t wait for The Harp of Kings, the first in her new Warrior Bards series, which is out in September, and she also wrote a new novel, Beautiful, that is coming out as an audiobook exclusive at the end of May. Squeee!
Q: What are your top reads for 2019 to date? And which book are you desperately waiting for publication?
A: So far this year I’ve really enjoyed The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton, which is an intriguing time-slip mystery about a man reliving a day again and again in different bodies, and Educated by Tara Westover, an extraordinary memoir about learning and change. I’m really looking forward to The Parade, by Dave Eggers, as his books are always both meticulously crafted and full of interesting ideas about the way we live now.
Q: What are you working on now? Or what can we look for from you next?
A: At the moment I’m finishing Into the Air, which is book three of the Into the Storm Trilogy. It will be sad in a way, to say farewell to these characters I’ve lived with for six years (the Into the Mists Trilogy is set in the same world), but I’m really excited about a couple of new projects I’m about to begin – an Australian faerytale of sorts, and a fantasy series with two friends. We’re off on a writing retreat next week to get started!
Q: “Well, cooking is definitely a witchy skill,” ~ said Rose (Carlie’s grandmother)
Lastly, and just for fun, could you please share a favourite recipe for the upcoming festival which I believe is Ostara?
A: Of course. Mabon was March 21, and I put some recipes for Mabon (the autumn equinox), which is Ostara (the spring equinox), in the northern hemisphere, on my website for you – then I missed getting this to you in time, sorry! They’re here if you want to include any, www.blessedbeebooks.com/mabon-recipes and www.blessedbeebooks.com/ostara-recipes…
The next seasonal celebration for Australians is Samhain, the beginning of winter, in the first week of May (and the first week of November in the northern hemisphere, which is where most of the Halloween traditions come from), so I’ve included a bunch for you in a separate document, if you want to include any… In the northern hemisphere the next seasonal celebration is Beltane, which has some cute recipes, so I’ll send you some of those too…
And the Mabon ones below are also perfect for Samhain…
About the author
Serene Conneeley is an Australian writer with a fascination for history, travel, ritual and the myth and magic of ancient places and cultures. She’s written for magazines about news, travel, health, spirituality, entertainment and social and environmental issues, is editor of several preschool magazines, and has contributed to international books on history, witchcraft, psychic development and personal transformation.
She is the author of the non-fiction books Seven Sacred Sites, A Magical Journey, The Book of Faery Magic, Mermaid Magic, Witchy Magic and Into the Mists: A Journal, and creator of the meditation CD Sacred Journey. The Into the Mists Trilogy was her first adventure into fiction, and she is currently finishing three Into the Mists Chronicles.
Serene is a reconnective healing practitioner, and has studied medicinal and magical herbalism, bereavement counselling, reiki and many other healing modalities, plus politics and journalism. She loves reading, rainbows, drinking tea with her friends, and celebrating the energy of the moon and the magic of the earth. Her pagan heart blossomed as she climbed mountains, danced in stone circles, trekked along pilgrimage paths, wandered through ancient cathedrals and stood in the shadow of the pyramids on her travels, and she’s also learned the magic of finding true happiness and peace at home.