Tuesday, June 1, 2021

W.L. Hawkin Interview - To Kill a King

Photo Content from W. L. Hawkin

W. L. Hawkin writes “edgy urban fantasy with a twist of murder” from her loft near Vancouver, B.C. Her novels—To Charm a Killer, To Sleep with Stones, To Render a Raven, and To Kill a King each stand alone but form the Hollystone Mysteries series. This coven of West Coast witches, and their eccentric friends, solve murders using ritual magic and a little help from the gods. Although she’s an introvert, in each book her characters go on a journey where Hawkin’s travelled herself. She researches all her locales (Ireland, Scotland, the B.C. Coast) to soak up the sensory landscape. In 2017, she climbed Croghan Hill in Ireland to survey the land her king would rule in To Kill a King, a romantic time-travel thriller set in Iron Age Ireland. A seeker and mystic, fascinated by language, archaeology, and mythology, Hawkin graduated from Trent University, Ontario, and has post-bac diplomas from SFU in B.C. Her background in Indigenous Studies and Humanities informs her work. She found her voice publishing poetry and Native Rights articles in Canadian news magazines and is now an Indie author/publisher at Blue Haven Press.


Greatest thing you learned at school?
Education is both empowering and endless. English came naturally to me and I had two fantastic English teachers who encouraged my writing, but I was something of a wild child. I quit school just after I turned seventeen and didn’t graduate high school until I was in my mid-thirties. When I did, I found a passion subject at university — Indigenous Studies. I did a lot of healing during that time and eventually became a high school teacher so was able to support kids like myself.

Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Story is as old as humanity. It connects us through archetypes, the collective unconscious, shared emotions and intrinsic experiences. We share the same terrors and desires. We share the same stories.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
It has to be the first time someone told me they loved my book and couldn’t put it down. Connecting with someone like that gives me goosebumps.

Tell us your latest news.
I’m very excited to have just signed with Mickey Mikkelson at Creative Edge. Publicity was my missing piece and Creative Edge is a huge supportive family. Truck drivers will tell you to keep your eyes on the place you want to steer. If you get distracted and look to the side, you’re going to drive off the road. I feel like my eyes are focused in the right direction now and I’m thrilled.

Can you tell us when you started, TO KILL A KING, how that came about?
I’d love to. One night, I saw the mummified fist and torso of Old Croghan Man in a National Geographic and was immediately struck by it. I wanted to know what happened to this murdered man who’d been thrown in a bog in Ireland over two thousand years ago. I knew I had to give his life and death meaning. I started researching the archaeology and discovered Dr. Eamonn Kelly’s theories on Kingship & Sacrifice. He believes that Old Croghan Man was a deposed king who was ritually sacrificed to the goddess in around 300-200BCE.

Meanwhile in the epilogue of Book 2, To Sleep with Stones, Sorcha, my Irish archaeologist, is offered a gift by the ancient horned god, Cernunnos. He’ll take her anywhere in the world to any culture she desires. I wish a god would offer me a gift like that! Well, I suppose he did, in a way.

As a teenager, Sorcha visited the National Museum in Dublin where Old Croghan Man’s remains were analyzed. Sorcha has the gift of psychometry so when she touched the metal on his leather armband, she envisioned his face. In that moment, she decided to become an archaeologist. So, Cernunnos takes her back to Iron Age Ireland to meet Old Croghan Man in the flesh. Of course, I got to come along and both of us fell in love with the bog man.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
Ah, I hope they’re not thinking. I hope they’re so absorbed by the story; they get caught up in every scene, feel what the characters are feeling, sink into the landscape and root for the characters to find their way home.

What part of Sorcha and Estrada did you enjoy writing the most?
Estrada is a twenty-nine-year-old, free-spirited, bisexual magician who’s been with me for years. As High Priest of Hollystone Coven he performs elaborate ceremonies with High Priestess, Sensara, and the other members of the Wicca coven. Everyone falls in love with Estrada, including me. I love writing his actions and reactions as I never know what he’s going to do next. I enjoy writing him as he performs his rituals and his supernatural abilities amplify, but I also enjoy writing his love scenes and chronicling his emotional journey.

Sorcha is fast and fiery. She has what they call gumption! She tells it as she sees it, asks for what she wants, and wears her heart on her sleeve. With her feisty Irish edge, I never know what’s going to come out of her mouth. She’s a delightful surprise. I enjoyed writing her romance with Ruairí in To Kill a King because I’d never seen her fall in love before.

Which of your characters do you feel has grown the most since book one and in what way have they changed?
Estrada, hands down. I didn’t realize when I started writing To Charm a Killer that it would evolve into four books. One just naturally led into the next and when I reached the end of the third book I saw how we’d been following his character arc. In the beginning, Estrada is quite the player and readers have commented that they don’t always like his choices. He’s flawed and he’s growing and makes some big mistakes. His relationship with Michael Stryker is very intense and free, but he also has a relationship with Sensara, the high priestess of the coven and finds many lovers along the way. In To Sleep with Stones, Estrada contemplates settling down with a family. It’s something he lost early in life and part of him wants it. But another part craves freedom and he’s naturally polyamorous. He falls in love hard and fast. This creates a continual struggle and causes tension between the characters. When he does become a father in To Render a Raven, he’s amazing with his daughter. Then she’s stolen by a vampire and he’s ready to die for her. By the end of book three, he’s asking, “what’s more important: freedom or family?” And he’s proclaimed his love for someone. I won’t say who. Or if it will stick!

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Earning income from other sources so I can fund my Indie author business.

What do you feel is the most significant change since book one?
The powers of those characters belonging to Hollystone Coven have increased and developed. In each book, Estrada discovers new ways to use his skills. For example, in book 2 he uses his skills as a hypnotist to mesmerize someone who catches him somewhere he shouldn’t be. In book 4, he's able to create a glamour using those skills, so when the druid guards look at him they see someone else completely.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
It has to be the first time I went to Ireland in 2005. My daughter and I were driving through Sligo, turned to each other and said, “This feels like home.” I think it’s a past life thing. We spent a month cruising around the island and the night before we were going to fly home she said, “I think I’m going to stay a while.” The next day, she took a train back to Galway, as I boarded the plane for home, and worked in a café on Shop Street for over a year. I missed her immensely, but it gave me the opportunity to return the following summer! I’d move to Ireland in a second if I could. You’ll find several scenes from those trips in To Charm a Killer.

Best date you've ever had?
I don’t remember going on very many “dates” but I do remember one special moment. On my eighteenth birthday, we were in a tatami room at Tanaka of Tokyo in Toronto and when they brought in the ice cream and sparklers, Elton John sang “Happy Birthday” to me from the next tatami room. He was in Toronto recording. I met him and got his autograph. That was very cool.

Choose a unique item from your wallet and explain why you carry it around.
A decaffeinated black tea bag. I love having tea parties, but people don’t always carry my brand.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
A built-in kid’s play loft with a rock-climbing wall, ladder, swings, and a climbing rope. Lucky kids! Not so lucky me. It was in the master bedroom of a house I bought.

What was a time in your life when you were really scared?
Giant fang marks on my leg. Lurking black hairy thing under the slats of my futon. Jumping. Screaming. Shoes flying. Wolf Spider!

Where did you go on your first airplane ride?
Somewhere in the USA, no doubt. My ex was in a travelling band and I flew with them frequently in my late teens and early twenties.

First Heartbreak?
Unrequited love. You know that moment when you realize that no matter what you do or say, this romance isn’t going to fly. Linda Ronstadt said it best in her hit song “Long Long Time.” I still love that man even though I just discovered he passed on. Love and heartbreak are eternal.

Which incident in your life totally changed the way you think today?
When I was ten years old a minister said to me, “You know Wendy, heaven’s not a real place filled with angels playing harps. That’s just a metaphor.” My father was an Anglican lay minister and I’d grown up watching him preach sermons in his clerical robes. But a pagan was born that day. I felt I’d been lied to my whole life. There were serious repercussions but I’m grateful for that moment because it’s made me the person I am today.

  • 1. Estrada flexed his bicep and stared at his latest tattoo. Corvus Corax. The raven’s back broke into a flurry of feathers and deranged birds to remind him how he’d split the terror asunder with the force of his right arm. He could still feel the damp steel, the hot blood, the hollow pit of his pulsing gut as he struck.
  • 2. Because, like Yeats, these days Estrada found peace came dropping too f* slow.
  • 3. A dozen weeks of grief and guilt hammered through Estrada’s soul into that fist and right through Fairchild’s jaw. Guy hit the barn door with a thwack that rattled the cutlery.
  • 4. Grasping the braided leather reins, she pulled back to no avail. Once at the trough, the horse dipped his long neck and began to slurp. Unbalanced and top-heavy, Sorcha slid forward headfirst into the water. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph!” She was half-in, head submerged, arse dangling over the side, when a pair of strong hands grasped her by the hips and hauled her out.
  • 5. “Come to me tonight,” Ana said, drawing Ruairí back. “I will wash this bad king from my bed with your sweat.”
  • 6. She even wore the mark of the sidhe on the back of her neck—a dazzling fey butterfly that exuded freedom and power. He’d seen it beneath her fiery red hair; its wing tips hiding beneath her gown and teasing him. He wanted to see more. He wanted to touch it.
  • 7. “Come in,” she yelled. “It’s brilliant!” And then something long, chill, and slick slid past her leg. She blinked, then held her breath and dove. Better to know than imagine a scene from Jaws.
  • 8. Leaping down into a crouch, Estrada tapped the torch to the frizzled bottom of that heavy red beard. It took a few seconds for the big man to register that his beard was burning, and then the jumping and screaming began. The girls were laughing. Dylan stood mortified. Estrada’s shoulder ached and he knew if he did this next maneuver he could pop it again, but the performance bug had bit.
  • 9. One August, Estrada had come upon a six-hundred-year-old yellow cedar tree that had been split by lightning only minutes before. Its flesh was shredded in long furls and its raw smoky perfume caught in his throat and brought tears to his eyes. Electricity shook the leaves like a shaman’s rattle. Somewhere between smoke and brandied sap, its sticky blood drizzled down the rasps. He folded forward into its golden smoke. He thought of it now as he listened to Conall’s voice. It caught his gut like an iron fist and drew him in. Leaning over, he closed his eyes. He wanted more. He wanted to curl into Conall’s yellow cedar soul and steam.
  • 10. “I don’t understand future. There is only the birth and death and rebirth of each season, of each being. Our spirits slip through veils, traveling within, between, beyond. Here,” he said, placing his palm on her forehead so that his fingers curled over the top of her head. “Here, we are always.”
Writing Behind the Scenes
Just before the pandemic, I started workshopping my creative writing process for a new book called From Spirit to Page: Writing with your Muse. I put the project on hold because working with energy online and in person is very different. The idea for the book actually came through a mediumship session. I was studying mediumship for another book I was writing about a girl who could see ghosts.

One afternoon, during the session, I clearly saw a woman’s hand come up out of the water holding a tree branch. She offered it to me and beckoned me to come with her. I took the branch, but her arm was long and slender, flowing deep into the water like a tentacle, and I was afraid to go under with her. My teacher suggested this woman might be my muse. I agreed, but felt she was also me.

The image reminded me of the scene at the end of King Arthur where the Lady of the Lake catches the sword, Excalibur. Such an archetype rang true for me and I came home and journaled about creating a book called Writing with your Muse. I saw the cover with the image of the woman’s arm rising from the water; only instead of a branch or sword, her hand was holding a feather quill. I felt recharged and inspired. Something was afoot.

At another session a few weeks later, a friend brought in the spirit of my grade eight English teacher. Mr. Sellers was the first person to inspire my writing. He believed in me. He opened my rural Ontario soul to poetry, new art and music, and strange tastes like fried grasshoppers dipped in chocolate. He took us country kids to the big city.

Five years later, he came to visit me on my eighteenth birthday. I’d quit school and was living in a scuzzy basement apartment on Balliol Street in Toronto with a guy who was doing a jail stint. I remember Mr. Sellers arriving in a full length fur coat. He brought me a book that I still have called I’m a Sensation. It’s full of sketches and photographs, rebel poetry and angst. He told me, his purpose was to touch the lives of those people he could reach, as he didn’t have much time left. I thought perhaps he was ill. But six months later, he was killed by a drunk driver on his way home from school.

When he appeared in our session, the medium said, “I have a man here. He has dark hair and I feel he’s . . . your teacher.” Chills riveted through my body because I’d felt him too, and knew she spoke the truth. Mr. Sellers stepped forward as she said, “He wants to talk to you.”

I’d been hiding in my cave in one of my introverted spells and drafted almost ninety thousand words of To Kill a King in six months. But within days, I felt energized and ready to come out. One Sunday, I opened a blank document on my laptop, sat it on the counter, and started pacing. I kept walking up and typing something else. Within an hour or two, I’d written the outline for four two-hour workshops. I knew Mr. Sellers was there cheering me on and whispering in my ear.

I offer this story because it illustrates my creative process. It’s facilitated by meditation and opening to the spirit of my muses. I don’t plan. I listen and trust what comes to me either through conversations or visual scenes or dreams. I write the whole book without any plot points. To Render a Raven and To Kill a King both arrived like that. As I was going to bed, I’d ask, “what happens next?” and wake up knowing or seeing the scene. I have several muses including spirit guides, Estrada, and some living people like Peter Gabriel who inspired the voice of the Druid bard in my latest book (see quote #9).

Developing an awareness of how I work has helped me hone my writing process. Naturally, I still choose how words go on the page and that’s where my unique style comes in. I still do loads of research. With To Kill a King, I’d gone to Ireland in 2017, to soak up the landscape where the book is set, spent many hours in the National Museum of Ireland with the mummified body of Old Croghan Man, researched at a downtown library, and read many articles on Iron Age Ireland. I left all of that to stew for almost two years and when I sat down to draft, the whole story was waiting for me. I just had to ask, “what happens next?” and write it down.

Of course the draft goes through many, many revisions. I work with a developmental editor and beta readers and use a different brain state for that. But if you want to get in touch with your creative brain, you need to leave behind your busy beta and alpha brain states and dip down into theta and delta waves. Meditation will help you get there.

"Sorcha's fingers flew to the fey butterfly tattooed on the back of her neck. Sometimes the butterfly brought her joy; other times, inspiration, but always a sense of hope. And she needed all three in this moment for her heart was breaking to see her man so broken."

Sorcha just wanted to warn Ruairí of his fate until she saw him and fell in love. How could she leave him to be ritually murdered and cast in a bog to cure for two thousand years? 

Though he's lost and grieving the loss of his lover, when Estrada realizes his friend, Sorcha, is trapped in Iron Age Ireland, he demands that Cernunnos take him and Dylan back through time to rescue her. The Horned God states the rules: you cannot change history or develop bonds with anyone. How can Sorcha, the spirited archaeologist, survive this prehistoric warrior culture? Assuming she's fey, Ruairí's unscrupulous rival wants her power; but worse still, Ruairí's lover, the wicked Crow Queen, wants her dead. 

Can Estrada use his Wiccan powers and skills to defeat Iron Age Druids and bring his friends home?

A spin-off of To Sleep with Stones, book four tells the story of archaeologist Sorcha O'Hallorhan's deepest desire. Buy this romantic, time-traveling, prehistoric thriller today and find out what it takes To Kill a King.

You can purchase To Kill a King at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you CREATIVE EDGE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a $10 Amazon Gift Card.