Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’ve never met Kim Antieau in person. I even asked her once, via email, and we came to the conclusion that nope, we never have. It seems so strange, since Kim feels like a true soul sister to me. We go back a long way, to the early 90’s when she published the magazine Daughters of Nyx: A Magazine of Goddess Stories, Mythmaking, and Fairy Tales, and featured some of my pen-and-ink illustrations in it. I rediscovered Kim’s work some years later on her blog, Furious Spinner, and fell madly in love with her book Church Of The Old Mermaids. We bonded (re-bonded) over our mutual love for the wise old Mermaids.
Kim is a prolific writer, and one of her newest books is Her Frozen Wild. Tattooed priestesses, shamanism, time-travel, and an intriguing mystery — what’s not to like?
I interviewed Kim about this book, her writing practice, her experiences with both traditional and indie publishing, and about her connection to Place and to the tarot.
What is Her Frozen Wild about?
Archaeologist Ursula Smith travels to Siberia to discover why a 2,500 year old recently discovered mummy has her DNA. The unraveling of that mystery is the core of the story, but really, it’s about a woman discovering who she really is and learning to become full of her true wild self.
What sparked the idea for the story?
I read a 1994 article in National Geographic about the “ice maiden,” a mummy discovered in Siberia. Because she was buried with horses and other valuables, archaeologists believed she was a priestess or a shaman.
Why is this particular story important to you? What do you like most about it?
I liked Ursula because she had so many fears and anxieties, but she was able to overcome them. Destiny kicked her butt into gear, in a way, but she still engaged in life. Plus I just loved all the places and times in this story. My work never fits into one genre, and this book is a perfect example of that. It can’t be pigeonholed. I love that. I love the passion, intensity, and mystic qualities of the novel. I love the adventure of it all. I love Opyea and the other Scythian (Amazons, really). I love how powerful and capable they are.
What do you think the Old Mermaids would think of Ursula’s story? 😉
The Old Mermaids would love the adventure! Ursula’s story is wild and loud and intense whereas the Old Mermaids live a much quieter life in the desert. But they love a good story! Plus they wouldn’t have any trouble understanding that people and bears are related. The Old Mermaids are definitely full of their wild selves so they would understand Ursula’s journey.
What kind of a writing practice do you have? What does a typical writing day look like for you?
I don’t have a particular writing practice or a typical writing day! When I’m in Arizona at the Old Mermaids Sanctuary, I do my meditation and other ablutions in the morning while my husband, Mario Milosevic, is in the Quail House writing. He finishes mid-morning, and I make us breakfast. After breakfast, we’ll walk in the desert if it’s going to be warm later. After, I’ll go write. If it’s not warm, I’ll go straight to the Quail House and write. Mario will make us lunch. Afterward, we’ll usually walk, and then I’ll return to the Quail House and write until dinner. When I’m in Washington, no day is the same as the one before. I don’t write every day. I don’t even write every week. If I’m writing a novel, I usually work every day until it’s finished. During the times I’m not writing, I’m always editing and getting work ready for publication. Before I start my work each day, whether it’s writing or editing, I honor the directions and elements. I call on the Invisibles to co-create the day and my work with me. That is a very grounding practice for me.
Your work has been published by a number of mainstream “big name” publishers. Recently you embraced self-publishing and have released most of your new work yourself. Can you tell us a little bit about why you made the switch?
We call it independent publishing―or indie publishing―and it’s a relatively new movement that writers are embracing so we can have more autonomy and get more of our stories out into the world. (In many ways, it’s patterned after the indie music movement.) Church of the Old Mermaids was on the cusp of this movement, by the way. We published Church of the Old Mermaids when people thought it was career suicide to “self-publish.” Just in the last couple of years, that has all changed. The publishing world is changing by the week, so who knows what it’ll be like next week?
It’s not an either or situation, either. I’m not against traditional publishing, and I still send some of my novels out to editors. Most traditional publishers will only publish one book per author a year, if that. That kind of schedule doesn’t help writers or readers much. That schedule means most writers can’t make a living at their writing! Most readers would love to read more than one book a year by their favorite writers.
Also, traditional publishers often require books be a certain length. That’s not the way the creative process works! The story and the characters should dictate the length, not the publisher. Some traditional publishers are getting rather draconian in their demands regarding e-book rights, and that was another reason we went indie. And most traditional publishers demand, contractually, that writers they sign not publish any other titles on their own. That’s just not right, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s not forward thinking.
I feel so much freer and happier now that I am an indie writer. I love our book covers now. When a writer is published by a traditional publisher, she has no say in the cover. (Or very little. I make sure my contracts give me a cover consult, which is better than nothing, but it still doesn’t give me any real say in the cover.) I love that I can write any length and not have to worry about whether it gets published or not. I think indie publishing is great for writers and for readers.
What advice would you give someone wanting to be published today?
Write first. Figure out the publishing part when you’re finished. There are so many options today.
What new creative projects are in the works for you, books or otherwise?
We’re going all out at Green Snake Publishing, which is our publishing company. This year we’re trying to publish at least two books a month. Crazy but fun! I’ve got so many novels I’m working on. Butch: A Bent Western, Desert Siren (peripherally an Old Mermaids novel), Jewelweed Station, and Whackadoodle Times are all almost ready for prime time!
Is there a tarot connection to the book?
Yes, it does have a peripheral connection to the tarot. I was attending a workshop with Vicki Noble and Demetra George at Breitenbush in Oregon when I first got the idea for Her Frozen Wild. As you know, Vicki is the co-creator of the Motherpeace Tarot, and we used the tarot deck during that workshop. (I think it was the Oracular Goddesses workshop.) For a few years, Vicki and Demetra came to Breitenbush once a year. These workshops were always profound. At this particular workshop, I read the National Geographic article about the ice maiden while trying to get warm one night. I can’t remember if I brought the magazine with me or if I found it there. In any case, I do remember getting chills as I read the article. I knew immediately I had to write her story. In that little cabin in the woods at Breitenbush, I felt like my whole life had just changed.
There is an evocative sense of place in this novel. How did you manage to evoke Siberia so well, when you’ve never been there (I assume)?
You’re right: I haven’t been to Siberia. First I did a lot of research on Siberia and Russia. Fortunately I had a couple friends who had lived in Russia, so I was able to interrogate them! But mostly I did research. I always try to find a few things that will put the reader in the particular place. I want the readers to feel as though they’re really there, and a writer can do that with a few well-placed (and brief) descriptions. I remember after The Gaia Websters was published, reviewers often talked about my descriptions of the desert; they could tell I loved and understood the desert. At the time, I hated the desert. But obviously I had done my homework! (I don’t hate it any more. I don’t hate any geographic place any more!) So I researched. I discovered what an amazing place Siberia is! I had always thought of it as this cold icy place where Stalin sent dissidents. What I discovered through my research was a place full of mystery, with amazingly diverse ecosystems. I hope I was able to convey some of that to the readers of Her Frozen Wild.
Tell us a little bit about your own experiences with nature and shamanism, and how you wove those strands into the book.
When I was a child, I was definitely a nature girl. I ran around outside in the woods, barefoot, climbing trees and having conversations with my “imaginary” friends. I lost some of that connection when I became a teen and then when I was in college. Mario and I moved to the West coast in 1982, and I renewed my love and connection with nature. Then I got sick. In an effort to get well, I read just about everything under the sun. Someone recommended Drawing Down the Moon to me. That book rocked my world! I hadn’t realized that other people in the world felt the same way I did about nature―it was how I connected with the divine. From there, the floodgate opened, and I again read lots of books. I learned a lot about paganism and Wicca. I went to a few pagan gatherings, but I never connected with any particular group. I began going to more shamanic workshops. I ended up training with Vicki Noble, Demetra George, Sandra Ingerman, and Tom Cowan. I also took workshops taught by Judith Duerck, Elena Avila, Starhawk, and Susun Weed, among others.
At the time I wrote Her Frozen Wild, I was only a few years into my shamanic and folk-healing education. From my own experiences as a child living in an imaginary world alongside my own ordinary reality world and as a writer, I already understood how to commune with the invisibles. I had carried on conversations with trees, animals, clouds, and flowers most of my life. I think the extraordinary, the mystical, and the magical are right here in our world. We are all connected in such a deep and profound way, but it seems so many of us have forgotten this connection. In Her Frozen Wild, Ursula has to confront her fears about being connected: If we’re connected to everything, that means we’re connected to that which is wild, too. She has to embrace her true nature―her animal nature. You could say she is able to do this through shamanic means. She opens herself to love. She learns to shapeshift. She learns to trust that which she cannot always prove.
In our modern world, we tend to only trust the objective. It is in the subjective that we find connection, I believe. It is in the subjective where we find healing. Ursula had to believe. That didn’t mean she rejected science. She didn’t reject this world. What she did was embrace a more complex and exciting world where science, mysticism, love, nature and the wild not only co-existed but also co-mingled, a world where they were all one. I think this is a journey many of us are taking, and it was so much fun to be along with Ursula and the others while she was taking her journey in Her Frozen Wild.