Talking With Critically-acclaimed Author W.L. Hawkin

My Interview with W.L. HAWKIN!


Each of us has a story to tell.  As a reader, I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book.  As a writer, I burst with excitement to fill the pages with the next tale.  One thing I love is to share conversations with others who are just as passionate to exchange all the experiences that have made us who and what we are.  You, Wendy, are such a diverse and educated person.  I am thrilled to be talking to you today to learn more about you and to share your story with my audience – welcome!

  • The way a person describes themselves is very telling.  In my research, it intrigued me to find your quote, “I am a seeker and a mystic at heart.”  Now, I always start my interviews with the same question, but I’m extra excited to hear your response.  So, without further ado, please tell us how you’d describe yourself?

As an INFP (Introverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving) being. I’ve always looked deeply within and asked the questions, “who am I, and why am I here?” I still don’t have an answer, but I keep asking.

I revel in a complex inner life that involves my muses. I believe all Nature is imbued with spirit and must be treated respectfully, even reverently. I’m musical and poetic. I can soar with the hawks, for whom I’m named, but I’m also down-to-earth and grounded in Nature. I listen to my heart/gut and make decisions based on how I feel rather than what I think.

  • I am so excited about this interview – where to begin?  Um… Your education, writing, and publishing journey.  We cannot go wrong there, yeah? 😊
    • You didn’t complete high school until you were 33 years old?  That is a story in and of itself.  Care to share it?
      • I’m excited too. As for your question, that’s a complex story and possibly something for a memoir;) Some of these stories I can’t tell quite yet. Let’s just say, I was a seventies wild child, a misfit in my rural Ontario town, and an explorer who took risks. I suffered through low self-esteem as a young teenager and put myself in dangerous situations as I looked for love and approval. I’d just turned seventeen when I moved to downtown Toronto and started working as a secretary in an insurance company. I’ve always been attracted to characters; unfortunately, most turned out to be antagonists. I married a traveling musician (another story), managed his business, and had kids. But, when I hit thirty, I realized something was missing. I needed to stretch my wings and grow.
      • You went on to receive multiple degrees and diplomas, including a Teaching Certification.  How do you go from nearly no formal education to being so accomplished?
        • Well, that’s a long story. It took me around ten years to finish five high school courses and a three-year B.A. I started with correspondence courses, one at a time. One of the first was Native Ancestry 11.
        • One night, I was sitting at the kitchen table reading the chapter on “animism”— that’s the idea that all Nature is sentient and alive with spirit, including rocks, trees, water, plants … everything. I know this. This is me, I thought. That intrinsic knowing was something I’d been searching for my whole life and that epiphany propelled me out of a marriage and into Indigenous Studies at university. My ex-husband didn’t support my desire for education, so I left to pursue my degree and went to university as a single mother. It wasn’t easy, but I was learning from traditional Indigenous teachers and Elders in a caring community.
        • I started a path to healing at Trent that I still walk.  Everything I did then revolved around Indigenous studies because I felt so connected and at home there. I’d found a place I belonged.
      • Had you been driven to be self-educated prior to this?  Did you have a passion for reading or writing?  If so, did that play into your decision to return to school in any way?
        • I’ve always been a voracious reader (mostly of animal stories, myth, and faerie), and as a teenager, I really got into writing poetry. I failed math and science in grade nine (definitely not feeler subjects;) but put together a whole display called “Poetry and Emotion” for my English teacher.
        • I didn’t know anything beyond the explorers I remembered from grade three. So, when I went back to high school as a mature student and started reading the history of the world, I was amazed. I discovered the keys to learning were reading, writing, experiencing, and reflecting. And I held them tight because learning is freedom.
    • How did this thirst for knowledge, and the freedom it gave you, translate into becoming a published author?
      • When I read and research, ideas, characters, and conflicts emerge from the ethers. I think that’s how it is with many authors. To reverse that, while I’m writing, I’m constantly researching and learning about the missing pieces. So, it’s circular, flowing, and freeing.
    •  Were all your pieces academic, even the Creative Writing?  How did your poetry tie into it all?
      • No, my Native rights articles were persuasive arguments, and some included original poetry. I remember being thrilled that one of my poems was published in a centre fold beside Elijah Harper when he derailed the Meech Lake Accord in 1990.
    • How’d blogging emerge as medium for you?  I’m still blown away that you tended a lighthouse! (You can read all about her adventures here)
      • Thank you. I’m actually just completing a paranormal mystery set at Nootka—one of the lighthouses where I worked. As I lived there, researched, and blogged about the history, I fell in love with that sacred land. Yuquot is the first site on the Canadian Pacific Coast where explorers traded with the Nuu-chah-nulth people for sea otter pelts; something that sparked European rivalries. It’s beautiful there. My bungalow was perched on a rock overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Nootka Trail ran up the length of the island.
      • Blogging or journaling is really a means for me to track what I’m learning using words and images. I do it more for me than anyone else. But I’m glad you found my lighthouse blog.
    • How did you emerge from academic articles and literary magazines into novels?
      • I actually wrote my first novel just as I was starting my BA, thirty years ago. I discovered it recently, sealed in brown paper (that’s how we used to copywrite our work), and I read it. It was a romance, set on a Chippewa reservation, and I liked it so much, I rewrote it over the last two years. I’m launching it in February as the first in a series of Lure River Romances—”romantic suspense with small town heart.” Of course, it’s changed considerably but those original bones are still there.
      • After I finished my BA, I worked as a sexual assault counselor and then as a support worker for abused women and children. I wrote and published the newsletter at a transition house. Later, I wrote a fantasy novella, called “Journey in Tarotia,” where an at-risk girl falls into a beaver pond and ends up in the land of the tarot cards. During her adventures she meets Tarot characters who teach her about life. I dedicated it to the sexual assault survivors who’d shared their stories with me. I had several copies printed and bound as gifts. I suppose that was my first real published novel.
      • The stress of teaching high school (an introvert in a school with twelve hundred energetic bodies) sent me farther into my fantasy world as a means of escape. And that’s how my Hollystone Mysteries series evolved.
        • I know you have a background with Creative Writing, both writing for journals and in your formal education, but how did that influence you to become a novelist?  After all, they are different disciplines in many ways.
          • I can write in many modes, and I’ve always been able to write academic papers and fiction/poetry simultaneously. I sometimes would do research for university and then respond to the situation with a poem. I did that with “The Barren Waste Lands,” which was a poem about the effect of the James Bay Hydro-Quebec Project on the Cree Nation and surrounding environment. I’d published an article on the same topic, called “Killing Crees for Corporate Trees.” I also responded to the Oka Crisis with a poem, called “Warriors for Peace.” I suppose poetry is one of the ways I respond to injustice.
          • Some of what I learned and experienced during my university years has probably influenced my fiction. But, I think, stories are all around us. I just came to a point where I opened up my inner ears and started listening. Once I started, I couldn’t stop.
    • What route did you take to become published?  Have you always been traditionally published via an agent or publishing house?  Why, or why not?
      • After I wrote To Charm a Killer, I talked to a few agents, but I was very inexperienced and naïve. I had a few rejections, and a couple of bites but nothing formal was offered. I just wanted to get it published so I went ahead and did it myself with Lulu. After that, I wrote a second book and a third.
      • I’d pitch at conferences and the agents/editors would advise me to finish this series and then pitch again with a brand-new series. Publishing houses don’t want to take on self-published authors unless they’re making considerable money. I spent years learning to Indie publish, and I’m still learning.
      • With my new Lure River Romances, I also made the decision to self-publish. I have a community now and a publicist. I know my business much better, and like having control over my work. That’s not to say I won’t turn away a contract from the right traditional publisher.
    • What, if any, differences did you encounter with submitting a piece for a magazine or journal opposed to a manuscript for a novel?
      • In my experience, it was much easier to publish short pieces and poetry in magazines. Fiction is the hardest thing to sell.
    • In your opinion, how has the industry changed over the years?
      • The writing industry is huge now. Platforms are available like Kindle and Draft2Digital so anyone can publish with little to no investment. I recently heard there were seven thousand books published per month, and I think that was just in Canada. That’s a whole lot of competition, but also inspiration to get your words down on paper.
      • Authors know they have to market their books, however they’re published, and that’s the hardest part. However, marketing opportunities abound and there are new trendy venues like TikTok #booktok, which is apparently making some Indies famous.
    • What did you think of the advent of self-publishing?
      • I got into it back in 2010 with Lulu. It was what I needed at the time. I didn’t know much about it, just used the tools, and paid the money.
    • Where do you see the future of publishing going?
      • It’s just exploding, not just with story, but with formats—eBooks, audiobooks, boxed sets, and paperbacks, which are becoming more loved again. Entire marketing vehicles have emerged for authors, and I think that will just keep getting bigger, better, and more diverse. The hashtag world of social media drives much of it—#metoo #ownvoice.
  • Let’s get into your stories.  They are always so personal, aren’t they?  The Hollystone Mysteries take us to Iron Age Ireland.  Like me, you have a love for prehistory, archaeology, and mythology… What makes this period so important to you, personally?  Was it just the best fit for the storyline?
    • Because To Kill a King is based on an artifact—a ritually murdered bog body discovered in 2003 in the Irish Midlands, my research informed that decision. The archaeologists who studied Old Croghan Man were able to place his death between 200-300BCE in Iron Age Ireland. 
  • Now, you are a pagan, and this series is about a coven of witches who solve cases using ritual magic (obviously, that’s a simplification). Again, there are so many great questions to ask… You say pagan and not wiccan.  How do they differ, and what, if any, impact does it have on the way your coven is portrayed?
    • Great question. Pagan is an overarching term that refers to someone who doesn’t believe in the God of Christianity or Judaism. So, people who are pagan could identify in several ways, including Wiccan, Druid, or those following other Earth-based religions. Some traditional Indigenous folks called themselves “reborn pagans.” Most acknowledge an ancient seasonal Nature-based cycle of festivals, follow the moons, use meditation and often prayer.
    • My coven is engaged in an eco-myth: they want to save the planet. Their rituals are designed to celebrate nature and the seasons.
      • Am I correct in assuming the ritual magic described in the books is religious practice or did you create them for the sake of the stories?
        • I read some books on Wicca when I started writing To Charm a Killer, and I’ve cast my share of spells as a solitary, but the rituals are original. I create them from a meditative state using visualization. Then I write.
        • For example, when the coven is really in trouble in To Charm a Killer, they engage in a complex ritual that involves bathing naked in a stream on Samhain and adding a drop each of their blood to a chalice of honey—a blood sacrifice for the goddess. Sensara invokes Hecate, and the goddess speaks a terrifying prophecy through the high priestess.
      • What research did you do for The Hollystone Mysteries?
        • That’s a difficult question to answer because each book is different and set in a different country. I traveled to all the settings so I could soak up the landscape and learn intimate details. For To Charm a Killer, I researched Irish myths and explored sacred sites like Newgrange and the hill of Tara. For To Sleep with Stones, I researched Egyptians in Scotland and illegal drug smuggling from Spain into the UK. For To Render a Raven, I researched how to pilot a yacht up the Pacific Coast of Canada. I’d been a lighthouse keeper there so much of that research was experiential. And, of course, To Kill a King is set in Iron Age Ireland so I had to research everything! I spent a week at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin sitting with the bog body and going over research materials at a downtown library. I also went to sacred sites in Ireland and climbed to the top of Croghan Hill where the king was inaugurated and ritually murdered.
      • What surprised you most to learn?
        • One big surprise for me was the effect of climate change on Ireland during prehistory—that’s something I explain in the book. Sorcha is a scientist so she’s aware of this.
        • Some of the pieces the Romans wrote about the ancient Celts are intriguing, but maybe not surprising. Diodorus of Sicility (400BCE) wrote that Celtic warriors were more attracted to each other than to their women. I also read that Celtic kings expected sexual favours from their male bards—that’s a piece I used in To Kill a King. I’m not surprised by this as I know LGBTQ folks have been around forever. It was just interesting to read and incorporate into my stories as they all have LGBTQ characters.
      • Were the murders based on real-life cases?
        • No, they’re all fictional murders except for the two-thousand-year-old bog body.
    • You’ve said you write the story as you see it in your head – like a movie.  Did you find it challenging to describe magic the way you envisioned it?  Why, or why not?
      • Well, there are two kinds of magic in these books. Estrada is a stage magician so he’s self-trained in tricks and sleights, escape techniques, and fire magic using flash powder. That type of magic I had to research, and I didn’t explain it because I can’t reveal his tricks. He’d kill me. J
      • The ritual magic is more theatrical drama, and I can envision that. Because Estrada is an entertainer and performer, he really shines as the high priest when he gets up to his antics. Check out his performance at the beginning of To Sleep with Stones! The novels progress as a serial as they follow Estrada’s adventures, and over time, his power increases. He also gets an injection of faerie blood along the way that spikes his abilities.
    • Does this mean that you are a ‘Pantser’ when it comes to your writing style?
      • I suppose, although I dislike that term. The connotation is that a pantser flies by the seat of their pants and has no control or direction. Whereas, I feel fully in control when I’m writing because I trust my muses. I prefer to call myself an “Intuitive” writer as I’m using my intuitive senses when I’m in creative mode. My muses send me visual images, but it’s my job to choose the right words, phrasing, and descriptions, and then, get it all down on the page. It’s like watching a movie, and then, writing a word-for-word novel based on it. It’s hard work.
  • I’d love to talk about To Kill A King.  I cannot wait to read this book – the whole series, really!
    • First, I want to congratulate you; To Kill A King won the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award – Best Book in Science Fantasy.  Am I correct in understanding this book contains a ritual murder?
      • Thank you. I’d love to get your feedback after you read the books. I always hope people enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.
      • Yes, To Kill a King won for Science Fantasy, which is an interesting category but one that works. The story involves time travel but also fantastical characters like the Ancient Horned God, Cernunnos, who enables their passage through time. So, it really is science fantasy;)
      • And yes, there is a ritual murder. The bog man discovered in 2003 was thought to be a deposed king who was ritually murdered, quartered, and tied down in the pond at the base of Croghan Hill where he was inaugurated. I wanted to give his life and death meaning, so we do experience his ritual murder in this book and see the effect of it on those who love him. It’s tragic and emotional.
    • Being a history geek as I am, I’m aware of many cultures who participated in such rituals, but I’d never heard of it related to witches.  I cannot wait to read To Kill A King to discover if the murder is a case or somehow related to the coven…  At any rate, is this story set in modern times or do we travel back in time?  Where is the tale set?
      • To Kill a King is more about Celtic Druids than witches and the ritual murder is one of power. I think you’ll love it. The story begins in contemporary California, where we find Estrada hiding after the tragic events of book three. Then, he and his friend, Dylan, discover that Cernunnos has left their friend Sorcha alone in Iron Age Ireland. They’re horrified and demand he take them there so they can rescue her. So, we move very quickly into 200BCE. There is a dual storyline, so we follow Sorcha’s romantic affair with the bog man along with our heroes trying to find and rescue her until they come together.
    • How’d you make this concept relatable to modern audiences?
      • People are people no matter how far back in time we go. Human emotions, behaviors, motives, and foibles never change. For example, Conall Ceol is a sensitive gay Druid bard who loves his best friend, Ruairí mac Nia, the king destined to be ritually murdered. The gay man who loves his straight best friend is fully relatable today.
    • To Kill A King has a vampire in the story… Is this a traditional bloodsucker (Dracula & Interview With A Vampire), a sparkling hottie (Twilight Saga), or have you reinvented it entirely?
      • Actually, To Render a Raven (book 3) is the vampire story I begin in To Sleep with Stones (book 2), but I mention Don Diego at the beginning of To Kill a King (book 4) as a recap. Does that make sense?
      • I tried to turn around the trope by making Don Diego a grieving father who’d lost his son to the sea and began siring vampires to replace him. I include three diverse vampire characters and tell enough of their backstory to humanize them despite their actions. They are each solid, intriguing characters in their own right. I include a “Vampire Primer” that explains Vampire scientifically as a virus (this was pre-pandemic😉). The virus uses sex as a replicating means, so the sexual trope is still there.
      • The vampires are misogynist; only use women for fodder and are attracted to men. They have some special adaptations. Don Diego can transform into a pterosaur and his minions turn into ravens; hence the title To Render a Raven. It’s set on the Northwest Coast where Raven is a mythological trickster character, so it fits. It also makes it very easy for the ravens to slip through the trees unnoticed to do their nasty business.
    • I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on how vampires are depicted since Twilight came out.  Did you have any reservations about writing a creature of the night?  Why, or why not?
      • No, not at all. It’s really nothing like Twilight. There’s no paranormal romance; in fact, I demystify the idea of vampire as a romantic notion. The vampires are vicious antagonists who need to get their comeuppance (except for maybe one of them who’s been victimized😉).
    • Traditional depictions…  What about your coven of witches – what sort of witches are yours?  There are so many versions there, too, right?  (Salem, Sabrina… the real kind LOL)
      • There sure are. I grew up with Samantha on Bewitched and loved Charmed. I think of my witches as “normal” people who celebrate the seasons through ritual. They use psychic tools like pendulums, essential oils, and meditation. They’re healers and caretakers of the Earth. But Wicca means to “bend and shape energy” and they do that too. They dance and raise power, call on the gods, and put out intentions. That’s how the magic happens, and things sometimes go awry.
    • There’s a lot to consider when writing elements that have so many faces to them, such as vampires and witches.  You must navigate the waters of myth, lore, realism, literary, and Hollywood…  How did you manage to do that, or wasn’t that a concern – did you just take artistic liberties?
      • Hah. Exactly. I just write what I see. I love mythology, taught English literature for many years, and adore adventure movies, so it’s all one big soup to me. I’ve been digesting this lore my whole life.
  • What can we expect to see from you over the coming year?
    • What is your current WIP?
      • Ghostlight is my next fictional book. I’ve almost finished the first draft. That’s the paranormal mystery set at Yuquot on Nootka Island by the lighthouse.

Thank you so much for spending this time with me and my readers.  I look forward to discovering more about you and your amazing books.  Be safe and healthy – much success always!

Thank you so much. It was a pleasure to go so far inside my life and work to answer your complex questions. Blessings. Wendy

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