Interview with Marie Loughin, Author of Valknut the Binding

This week, I’m excited to bring you an interview with Marie Loughin, author of Rose in Winter, which I review last week, and Valknut the Binding, due out in early December. I’m personally very excited for Valknut – seriously, go check out that synopsis. That’s the kind of thing I love to write. Anyway, on with the interview…

1. What provided the spark of inspiration for Rose in Winter? Any long-term influences that you’d like to cite?

This is going to sound cliché, but it’s true: I got the idea for Rose in Winter from a dream. Specifically, the dream became the bones of the first scene. Usually the only dreams I remember involve spiders, so this one seemed significant enough to turn into a story. If we want to get all psychoanalytical, it was probably rooted in the conflict between my fear of not fitting in (Rosabel) and my maverick tendencies (Spindleshanks).

I wanted to evoke a certain atmosphere for Rose. I won’t tell you exactly what atmosphere I was aiming for because I don’t want e-mails telling me that I completely missed the mark. But I will say that my stylistic influences included Guy Gavriel Kay and Patricia McKillip.

As for influences on my fiction in general, that list is long. And I’m probably not always aware when I’ve been influenced. Front-running possibilities include Stephen King, Charles de Lint, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Neil Gaiman Himself. I’d like to say I’m influenced by Terry Pratchett, but am not funny enough to even try for that. (Some day I’ll write a science fiction novel, and then I’ll give you a different list of influencers.)

2. How long have you wanted to be a writer, and what is your earliest writing memory?

I first played at being a writer in late elementary school. I sat cross-legged on my bed and typed on this old typewriter with wonky keys and a well-used ribbon. A real posture-builder. I still have a partially completed novel from that period. I think it was inspired by the original “Escape to Witch Mountain” movie. Except it was set on a cruise ship. Which crashed and the characters ended up on a deserted island. Yeah.

I tried again in University, where I was a math major with wild urges to exercise the other half of my brain. I worked on a deeply personal short story, which fell out of my backpack and blew away. Embarrassed at the thought that someone might have found and read it, I took the loss as a sign and didn’t try writing again until eight years later.

3. What was the last book you read, and is this part of your chosen writing genre or a departure?

Do audible books count? Let’s pretend they do, because I have more time to listen during commutes than I have to sit and read. The last book I listened to was The Bricklayer (ed. note: they should!), by Noah Boyd. This was a mystery-thriller, which is not my writing genre, though my upcoming novel does have elements of mystery and (hopefully) some thrills.

 4. What is one of the most interesting stories that you heard during your research into the hobo subculture for Valknut: The Binding?

Most of the stories I heard involved people trying to board trains and ending up under the wheels, or riding trains and falling off. The ends of these stories are not happy. However, I vaguely remember a story about a couple of teenaged boys who discovered an open boxcar loaded with cases of beer. Afraid of getting caught, they shut the side door. They didn’t realize boxcar doors couldn’t be opened from the inside. They were found alive a week later. Other difficulties aside, just imagine the smell. (Disclaimer: I would dearly love to tell you where I got that story, but cannot remember.)

I had a brief correspondence with a railroad detective named Chip. He told me another story about a drunk who got run over by a locomotive and 6 cars. The drunk wound up in a hospital with only a broken ankle. When Chip asked him how he broke his leg, the guy replied, “I must have fell off my stool.”

5. Have you had a lifelong passion for Norse mythology, or did you learn more specifically for The Binding?

I loved to read fairy tales and mythology when I was in elementary school. I read Grimm’s, Anderson’s, and every color of fairy book I could get my hands on. I also read Greek, Roman, Norse, Aztec, Native American, and some Asian mythologies. But I didn’t specifically study Norse mythology until I planned to write Valknut: The Binding.

6. What might your readers be surprised to learn about you?

I did a triathlon once—a mile swim, 27-mile bike ride, and 10K run. Now I curl. That’s where you push a rock down some ice and sweep ahead of it with a broom to make it go farther. Some days, I feel like I could use a sweeper.

7. What’s on the horizon for you?

I have a short story coming out this February in an anthology called The Anthology from Hell: Humorous Tales from WAY Down Under, edited by Julia Mandala. My story is called Hell Hole. It’s a golf story.

As for my next project, I hope to write another story in the Valknut series, set thousands of years before The Binding takes place. I tell people this will be a novella, but I write long. Still, there’s a slight possibility that it will come in under 100,000 words. After that, I have an urban fantasy trilogy planned, drawing from Roma and Korean mythologies. But first I need to finish editing and formatting Valknut: The Binding, which should be out late in November. Early December at the latest. Definitely before Christmas. I’ll let you know.

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  1. Thanks for the interview, Jonathan. It was fun! But now I feel urges to download and watch the original Escape to Witch Mountain. Someone, please, save me from myself!

  2. Wow… have to read an interview to learn more about Marie whom I’ve known for over 10 years, and in writing group to boot! Great interview! And, as one who has had the pleasure of critiquing Valknut: The Binding, I can say that you are in for a wild ride!

  3. Great Interview. Really looking forward to reading Valknut. 🙂

  4. Great interview!

    Marie, your story of, well, your story blowing out of your backpack has me cringing for you. It’s hard enough to put your work out there when you think it’s done.

    I’m fascinated by hobo culture, and the addition of mythology sounds fascinating. Looking forward to the book!

    • Yeah that backpack story was flat-out terrifying. You never know when something like that could come back to haunt you.

    • As a math major, I felt rather insecure in my desires to be a writer. Perhaps the fear of having some unknown person (probably a grounds keeper) finding my stuff (and likely throwing it away, unread) was a sign that I wasn’t ready for the beating that writers can take 🙂

      • I think we all take some times (and scars) to get used to it. I mean, sure, some writers are probably born with the right mentality, but most folks that I’ve talked to, myself included, have been building up a tolerance like a callus over many years. I’m still not fully there, and I’m confident in my work.

  5. The *real* test will be the first negative professional review. But then you can always console yourself that at least you rate a professional review 🙂

  6. “Other difficulties aside, just imagine the smell.”- Or how stinkin’ drunk they were.

    Great interview. Glad I finally made it over to read it. Just met Marie around… somewhere (the Coffin Hop?)… and pleased to get to know her better here. I, too, was a big fan of “Escape to Witch Mountain.”

    Dammit, now I may have to try and watch it, too.

    Paul D. Dail A horror writer’s not necessarily horrific blog.

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