Read J.W. Donley’s Interview With Gwendolyn N. Nix!
Gwendolyn N. Nix lives in Missoula, MT. She saw her first beached humpback on a windy day in New York, met a ghost angel in Paris train station, and had Odin answer prayers on a mountain in Scotland. Her experience includes being the entertainment editor for Aconyte books, the senior editor for Outland Entertainment, being a casting producer, and social media manager. She has studied sharks in Belize and induced evolutionary pressure on green algae.
Her works include shorts in the, Pileaus Symphony No. 1, Where the Veil is Thin, Apex: World of Dinosaurs, and The Sisterhood of the Blade anthologies. She has four novels including Sharks of the Wasteland, The Falling Dawn and Seams of Shadow from her Celestial Scripts series, and the upcoming I Have Asked to be Where No Storms Come. You can find a review of the new novel here at HorrorTree.com.
This is a transcription of our original video interview of Gwendolyn N. Nix that you can find here.
I Have Asked to be Where No Storms Come expands beyond the standard horror genres. It includes: Dark Fantasy, Alternative History ,Weird West, and Cli-Fi.
In the afterward you mention that Joe Myndhart of Crystal Lake Press said:
“[this] isn’t something we usually don’t publish… but we absolutely love it.”
I think this is why I Have Asked to be Where No Storms Come appeals to me. It strikes the same notes as Clive Barker’s Imajica or Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I’m drawn to stories that give me the feeling of a world much larger than what is presented on the page.
Did you go into this story knowing you were playing in these other genres?
Gwen: Well, I went into the novel knowing it was going to be a dark fantasy, just because that’s my bread and butter. I love writing dark fantasy stories. The Falling Dawn and Seams of Shadow from the Celestial Scripts were the first dark fantasy I’d ever written. It’s just my genre. It’s very interesting that the deeper I got into the story, how much it became a horror story about these two brothers, what length their going to go for each other, the type of magic they wield in their blood. There were just a lot of scenes in there that ended up kind of pushing the boundaries. And I was like “Okay, I’m going to go there. Let’s do this.” So, as you can attest, there are some pretty awful scenes in there that align with the horror genre, but it just felt like that was the story that needed to be told. And I do let the story kind of guide me in certain ways. If I feel like I can push harder, if I’m feeling inspired I’m like “Yes! Let’s just keep going and see where this takes me.” The ecological part of it, or the climate fiction, came out of nowhere, honestly. I did explore a lot of that in my Sharks of the Wasteland book. It’s a post-apocalyptic book where the Yellowstone volcano in Montana has exploded, the east coast has been completely decimated or changed by this volcano. And so, I kind of like climate fiction. I’ve always kind of explored it, but I didn’t think that was going to emerge until, in this book, this new release, until I was about like halfway through, and the antagonist was starting to evolve and learning about what their motivations were. I was like “Oh my God! This is about the earth and about a lot of the climate problems that we’re going through.” And that theme just kept popping up. I kind of go on this tangent about the muses, and about how they aren’t done with you. This is something that a conductor when I was in band had said. He was talking about his music and how some certain themes weren’t done with him and he kept writing different variations until he felt he had completed that theme. I think climate fiction is one of those things for me that I never expected. Climate fiction just isn’t done with me yet.
JW: And, what are some of your favorite genre defining works that inspire you?
Gwen: I tend to read broadly and widely, and since I tend to read for my work a lot, the ability to read for pleasure on my own is a little bit limited. So I had to go back through my coffers and go, “What kind of books have I read before?” And so definitely The Dark Tower. I absolutely love The Dark Tower trilogy. I read it maybe five plus years ago. I was absolutely astounded with it. I’m that you had made that reference. I think that was kind of in the back of my head a little bit when I was writing. I also wanted to recommend Annihilation by Jeff Vandemeer. I think he brings in a lot of that ecological horror, that unsettling, uncanniness of nature about where you are, your transformation that you are as a human. There’s also a love book called Bunny by Mona Awad, and it’s like Frankenstein crossed with The Craft crossed with The Heathers. And it might be as gender-bending, but it’s labeled as fiction, and that thing is completely horror in my book. So it’s kind of a good book. And then I really like Charles de Lint, a lot of his books like Widdershins, The Onion Girl, Someplace to be Flying. I think he really brings in some of that different types of lore, different types of characters. And he spans from science fiction to urban fantasy to high fantasy. Those would be my recommendations from some of the books I’ve read and really enjoyed in the past.
JW: In the acknowledgements you write:
“This became a story of living on a land where its stories don’t belong to you but where they still surround you and influence you…”
This is a huge topic at the moment. Lately, writers have been called out for co-opting elements of other living cultures for their art without fully understanding the context of that culture. Recent conversations around the use of Native American cultural elements such as the Wendigo come to mind.
In I Have Asked to be Where No Storms Come, you give us a nuanced approach. You both acknowledge that the stories are not those of the main characters, but that they are still there and something to marvel at and fear.
Can you speak to how this dynamic is developed in your work and how it affects the character development of both Domino and Wicasah?
Gwen: So this was kind of a personal journey for me. I grew up in Montana we were very close to the Black Feet reservation and I live on the traditional Salish and Kootenai lands in Missoula. And so Native American lore has just been part of my living, even though it might’ve gone unacknowledged. I’ve gone to powwows and I stomped around east Glacier and Glacier National Park which is part of the Black Feet reservation. So, a lot of these stories were always in the back of my mind. And I’m kind of like a magpie creator. I’ll go along and I’ll get inspiration from song lyrics and stories and conversations that I randomly overhear and I take those shinies and keep them in the back of my mind and then twenty years later I’ll pull them out and then I’m like “Well, I’m going to write a story about this.” When you do that, and some of your inspiration comes from a different type of culture, you have to ask yourself “Am I allowed to use these little snipits?” And how do I even go about tracing them back to where I found them originally. It’s so daunting. I came to this story with a lot of excitement. When I first imagined it, I was like “This is going to be my Montana story, or my American West story. I’m going to really dig into the magic of the West.” Because I’ve always been jealous of European cultures that have citadels and castles and actual physical places. When I came back home I was like “You know what? Mountains are my citadels. The plains are your castles.” I was finding the magic in my hometown again and uncovering it. And then it was like my magpie brain was like, “Remember when you did this when you were a kid? Remember this cool lore that this place had? I was so excited to write all of this.” Then I ran into this thing. Are these my stories to tell? Is this even the place that I can tell them? Are my experiences, is my whole life cultural appropriation in a way? Not to be dramatic about it. It really scared me. I had to put the book away for awhile, because I felt like I didn’t have the skillset to write it. I didn’t feel like I had the skill, the background to be able to navigate it, or the help that I should reach out to. I didn’t know where to start and go. So, I finally just put it away. And, as every writer knows that once a story gets its teeth in you, it will not let you go. So, I was like, “I’m going to face this uncomfortable fear and figure out why is this so hard for me, and why I feel like I’m frustrated and mad and feeling like ‘Oh man! Why can’t I use these stories? I’ve lived here my whole life. Aren’t I part of it?’” Well, not exactly. Like you said, it’s far more nuanced than that. So, I ended up listening a lot, and going to a lot of lectures and educating myself. And finally, I was still coming against that wall. “Why do I have to use these stories? Why is this so important to me?” Well, what’s important is this journey that I’ve been on. I know these stories are in the background in my life, why can’t they be in the background of my character’s life? Why can’t they be there as part of the setting, a strong part of the setting that influences and shapes the whole setting as it is, while they themselves go on this same journey that I’ve gone through, not knowing where they come from, feeling a little bit frustrated that they can’t claim land or claim a place as their own because of the history that’s happened. And I’ve heard a really good quote from a woman named Rihanna Helm, the author of Tarnished, which is a werewolf novel. She had said that cultural appropriation is “you need to look at the power and the history.” And I thought that just summed everything up so well. If you can understand the dynamics of power and how it’s influenced the history, and then it gives you a guiding point of where you can go and where you should go. So I really kind of took that when I was writing this, and I really put the journey I personally I had into it, and I was still was able to write about my homeland along with all of the wonderful lores and myths that go along with them in a way that I felt honored the place and the people that I was very comfortable with. Kind of a long answer.
JW: In your research, what is your favorite bit of folklore that you’ve come across?
Gwen: My favorite bit, and I don’t even know where it came from, it was something that I’d originally tried to put in the book in early drafts when everything is in sketch phase. But there was this snippet I had about these white buffalo witch women. I think it came from a Canadian tribe. But it was like they ruled these ancient hot springs, and they would emerge from them. And that’s the only thing I could remember. I found one snippet in The Fossil Legends of the First Americans by Adrienne Mayor. I don’t think this even applies to where my story is going. But it’s this cool piece of lore. A cool story snippet I wanted to know more, but it ended up getting cut in that draft because it didn’t really apply to the story.
JW: I absolutely love visiting National Parks. There is nothing like the feeling of awe one gets when seeing the grandiose artistry that is nature in person. You mention that, as a child growing up in MT, that your parents took you to science museums and museums of natural history as well as to Glacier National Park and Badlands National Park.
How has this influenced your writing?
Gwen: Immensely. I think those magpie snippets I was talking about. Like in Glacier I heard that the way that the ridge of the mountains at Glacier National Park fall is the spine of a huge beast. How could that stuff not inspire you? It just creates this whole imagery. Of course, I stashed that back in my little magpie brain to come out like twenty years later. I went up to Glacier National Park a ton of times growing up. My Dad lived in Cut Bank Montana and so we’d hop over there to hike or just explore or ski. I think it was a huge inspiration. Makoshika National Park is in Montana near Glendive which is along the border of Montana and North Dakota. It was actually an inspiration for my Falling Dawn book. I was very young and we got stuck in this huge thunderstorm. Lightning was going crazy, and it made the raindrops look like falling angels. And I was like, “Oh my God. This an image I’m going to write a book about.” And I ended up kind of doing that. I’d say that it’s immensely inspirational for all of my writing.
JW: What is your favorite childhood memory of a national park?
Gwen: I think that was probably it. It was so awe inspiring. The other one that comes to mind is, we would go up in the off season when there were no tourists, and it was a little cold and rainy, and we were up on the St. Mary side of Glacier. It was so misty it looked like an ocean of mist, and the peaks were poking out of the top of it. There was this one part called the weeping wall. Snow melt comes down and goes across the rocks and goes all over the road. And it was just so cool looking. This water gushing down; you were on an island of mist.
JW: What one national park would tell writers to visit for inspiration and/or to recharge their creative battery?
Gwen: This was a good question. I talk so much about Glacier, how could I not recommend it. But another one I’d recommend is Zion National Park. It’s got that beautiful orange desert yet forest feel. The colors are fantastic. You can go to Arches National Park to. It kind of gets you out of your comfort zone, in a way. It’s a different type of national park than you’d imagine. The one that I think hasn’t been talked about much that I really want to go to, that I have not been, is called Effigy Mounds in Iowa. Apparently they have, like in England they have the White Horse of Gloucester-a chalk horse drawn into the mountainside-they have one of those in Iowa. It’s like a big bear and an eagle. I had no idea. I really want to go. I won’t be able to see it, because you can only see it from the sky. But it would be cool to walk the path of it and know that you’re on it.
JW: Who are some up-and-coming writers you would recommend?
Gwen: Two that are maybe up and coming. One is a book of poetry. The author’s name is Taylor Leir, indy published. It is called Ghost Stories. I stumbled upon this from a Tumblr recommendation years ago. I’m not a big poetry person, I have a hard time getting my head wrapped around it, but for some reason this one just grabbed me. And I think that is the only book they have out at the moment. I would support them. I’d really love to see more work from them. And a shout-out to a young woman Sonny Moraine. She worked with me in editorial on The Falling Dawn a long time ago, and her short story collection Singing with all my Skin and Bone is fantastic. If you haven’t had a chance to read that one, it’s full of horror stories, dark fantasy, some macabre stuff. It’s just full of everything you could want. I really enjoyed her work. And she’s a great author.
JW: Do you have any other upcoming projects?
Gwen: I’m currently working on my third and final in the Celestial Scripts trilogy. That should be coming out I hope in 2023 or 2024. I’m still cinching up the draft. It hasn’t gone through editorial at all. I’m also working on a very strange book. I was trying to write something fun and silly while I was on maternity leave with my son. Instead I’ve created this monster of a novel that has these ancient gods, ruins, their bones have created the structure of a city. And there’s magic and witches and familiars running around in it. Now it’s like a huge novel. With a far more sinister plot than I originally intended.
JW: Where is the best place for readers to connect?
Gwen: I’m active on my website at GwendolynNix.com where I try to post reviews and talk about my author journey and just inventing as an author and have some open space. I’m also on twitter @ GwendolynNix and Instagram @ Gwendoly.nix. I’m a little bit more active on Instagram than I am on Twitter. That’s where you can find me.
JW: Thank you Gwen for stopping by. It has been a pleasure talking to you.
I Have Asked to be Where No Storms Come comes out on July 29th 2022 from Crystal Lake Publishing. Be sure to order your copy today.
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Joe lives with his wife and son in the Pacific Northwest where the Cascade Mountains meet the Salish Sea. He enjoys writing in the weird, horror, and fantasy genres.
Growing up he enjoyed R. L. Stine’s Goosebumps books as well as classics like Dune, and Lord of the Rings. In college he discovered Stephen King, and later Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves and authors like Clive Barker and Laird Barron.
Joe’s short story, ‘Gustav Floats’, was published in Dim Shores Presents Volume 2. In the spring of 2021 his story, ‘The Pigeon Lied’ comes out in Howls From Hell.
You can follow Joe on the following social media sites:
Twitter, Good Reads, Facebook, and Instagram!