Here are some other online places where Stephen can be found…
‘I have a love/hate… confusing relationship with social media.’
No doubt writing my second novel has shined a spotlight upon many of these thoughts… for they are thoughts which my main character, William, shares to an extreme and debilitating level… I guess you could say it’s ‘like son like father’.
But it always seemed to me that the world of books and literature should be a mile away from that of internet ‘trends’ and horrid ‘clickbait’ adverts, yet in this day and age it seems that we truly need social media in order to find out about things which are not social media! It’s just the way of the world now.
So, as an author who has written books he would actually like people to know about and to read, I have had to adapt my thinking and join in! I set up an online ‘presence’ – an online ‘life’ … and most of the time I have had a lot of fun taking part in it. Yet still… I keep questioning if I want to carry on.
If I did stop doing it, would that mean I was ending that life? I’m sure it would be seen as ‘professional’ suicide, especially with a new release on the way. But the thing is this though… despite the fact that my computer and social media are working for me, it sometimes feels as though I am a slave to it all… and I find myself reaching for the ‘escape’ key. I begin to long for the ‘good old days’ where a writer could just be a writer, rather than a technical ‘Jack of all trades’, and where there was not such instant access to information and stimulation at the touch of a button…
I am quite a loner at heart – so connecting with people online is one of the few ways that I obtain any human interaction. But I am a loner for a reason. Socialising doesn’t come easy to me and I often find it can become quite overwhelming.. everyone battling to have their opinions heard, people ‘liking’ them if they agree, or shouting them down with ‘cleverly’ chosen words if they don’t.
I am very sensitive. I do not read or watch the news because they dwell so much on everything bad that is happening – and never the good. On Facebook etc I see things people have shared which make me feel hope, and things which make me smile, yet I also see so much futility and many things which conflict with my intellectual or moral beliefs. I see things I do not choose to see… causing an imbalance within my delicate equilibrium… bombarding my brain with viewpoints and ideas…
Sometimes it feels no less than a violation…
(Now I really do sound like William.)
But yes, on one hand the internet affords me the opportunity to share my creativity- but on the other it still feels desperately shallow and false. Not that it’s in any way ‘wrong’ to use social media- and for some of you it may be exactly what you need, what you love, but for me I think it is more habit than enjoyment at the moment. I sit and toggle through it all and time passes and I’m not sure that I’ve achieved anything.
Marketing is part of being an author, but even seeking validation for what I do on these sites does not sit right in my mind… I probably shouldn’t beat myself up over it, I am only human, but I am striving for more peace within myself, rather than relying on looking into the mirror of a computer screen.
(Perhaps I just need to find more peace with these modern times?!)
Of course I want to keep writing – I want people to keep reading, and hopefully getting something positive from my work… and certainly I will continue to maintain my website with release info etc… but I also need time and space away to remember (or fathom out) what is still important to me these days.
I’m going to step back and see how things grow on their own… rather than worry about the constant watering. I’ve never quite grasped the nature of this thing, but I can keep a fatherly eye on it… make sure it’s ok out there in the big wide world, give it the odd gentle shove and ensure that it doesn’t all just dry out….
I’m one single tree, struggling for light within the great web of forest… And yet somehow you have found me…
So it may be because of social media… or it could be fate.
But isn’t fate more magical?
I didn’t even know that ‘eco-fiction’ was a ‘thing’ ! But yes… it is something which has been growing for years within the midst of other genres and there are now websites and many authors who identify as such… writing stories and novels with ecological themes either in the fore or background of the story… but which basically acknowledge the environment as well as, and perhaps equal to, the human characters.
Both of my novels were written without genre in mind… I simply wrote, and said what I wanted to say… but they do happen to fit in with this niche . And so I am happy to have ‘Forgotten Things’, at least, listed on the main eco-fiction website:
Arguably, my second novel, ‘Paradise shift’ fits even better into the eco-fiction bracket… with its whole idealistic viewpoint that with fewer people our Earth could heal itself from our polluting influence and fix its disrupted biodiversity… it is certainly (cynically) eco at heart.
But… I need more reviews for ‘Paradise Shift’ if it is to be considered… so if you have read that book and have something positive to say about it – please do take the time to rate it on Amazon and/or goodreads.
In ancient times, spiritual office involved initiation, and the most valuable healers were the shamans who were called to their profession through hardship, illness, or a near-death experience. In our modern times, many creative people hold shamanic office, though we tend to only think of them as artists—and they inspire us from their own dark wells of survival and gift us with extraordinary works.
It is in this tradition that I view British novelist Stephen Mullaney-Westwood—survivor, writer, percussionist, folklorist, photographer.
Mr. Westwood’s tales spring from the depths and bubble to the surface with the cohesive of human experience and the magic of worlds unseen. He speaks of shadows and shining mystical realms with equal ease, and unlike many writers who dip their pen into the dark depths, Stephen illuminates his pages with resilience and hope for all of us. He invites us to befriend our demons, dig our hands into the rich earth of ancient philosophies, and take the untrodden path, be it in the moss-covered woodland or the storm-ravaged hidden places within our spirits and psyches.
It is an honor to present this visionary writer here at Inspiration Speaks on the heels of his third release, Paradise Shift… Here he is, in his own words, followed by links to his website, publications, book trailers, and his wonderful videos spotlighting the world of Faerie and folklore. Enjoy! (Marlaina Druhan-Donato)
…Q: Your novels are haunted with other-worldly beings and human struggles, the two overlapping seamlessly. What first sparked the foundation of your subject matter and how has your own personal journey contributed to your themes?
A: Undoubtedly my life story has shaped the tales I now put out there for others to learn from. I have struggled mentally for most of my life, and have been to some very dark places, but I think I have finally found peace with it, and grown wiser in the process. The day needs the night so that it can rejuvenate for the next… and each time it comes, it passes. That understanding and acceptance of both the light and the dark is definitely something which helped me, and it is prevalent in the ‘old ways’ in paganism and in folklore… So to write about those aspects; those ambiguous ‘in betweens’; felt like a natural calling.
Q: Your respect for the Earth and deep personal values are evident. As a writer, how do your convictions and passions inspire your pen?
A: I can’t imagine myself writing a story without simultaneously conveying some kind of a message, even if it‘s hidden in allegory. It is a powerful tool to have someone’s attention for so long, reading your words, so I decided very early on that what I write has to be important and that what I give birth to and unleash into the world has to be there for a reason… not just for throw-away entertainment. Some people might see that as pretentious, and I’m certainly not saying that there is anything wrong with books and films and TV that are only there for escapism… but that’s just not what I feel comfortable doing. Other people do that sort of thing much better than I ever could… but I do this… this is my ‘voice’, and I only speak if I have something to say.
Q: Do you remember the first time words came to you and you felt compelled to write them down? How old were you and where were you?
A: I don’t have a very clear memory for my childhood, I only see it in scenes, and that one is lost somewhere on the cutting room floor. So I can’t say when or where, but I have kept hold of a few things I wrote back then. My father used to work for a company that produced exercise books which would be used in schools, and often came home with a pile of seconds for my sister and I to use as drawing paper or to write in. The staples might have been off centre, but each one seemed to offer me the possibility of creating my own ‘proper book’. I still have ‘The Adventures of Harry Hedgehog’ and then, later, a book of vampire tales, both of which I wrote and illustrated. In English lessons the opportunity to write a story was always met with relish and I never struggled to muster up the imagination. So I never doubted that writing was something I would always want to do.
Q: What are your favorite outdoor haunts—and how do you spend time there? Do you ever go out in the woods with pen and paper and just take “dictation”?
A: As a child the fields, ponds and woods were my playground… and as I grew up I lost sight of that, almost as if it were only ‘kids stuff’… but, ultimately, urban settings depress me greatly. My rekindled love for nature was my savior, and that theme is definitely expressed in my novels. Countryside walks are, for me, an opportunity to just ‘be’ and I will usually take them alone. It offers me the best chance to reach a state of mindfulness, I suppose. Sometimes I will take a camera with me, as everything I see appears so artistic in my eye; I enjoy trying to capture it. I do carry paper and pen wherever I go, and I end up with a lot of scribbled notes, but I don’t tend to write anything during those solitary walks… it all spills out on my return when that state of consciousness alters. Although I have lived in several places with some beautiful areas for ‘haunting’, I have yet to set my roots down, and where I live at the moment is particularly devoid of anywhere that I can go to be far from people and spend time with the trees. That is a strain for me, but it did help me get into the mind set I needed to write ‘Paradise Shift’.
Q: As a writer, are you also a mystic, parting the veil between worlds, in collaboration with realities between realities? Do you feel this connection consciously or does it require effort and intention? What is your process like?
A: I can’t really say that is something I have considered before, although I suppose you could say that I ‘conjure’ up these characters and their stories. What I will say is that once I am writing I become the character, as though channeling them; ceasing to be Stephen and having memories and thoughts which are not always my own. I have had a number of people express to me that my work seems autobiographical… and that authenticity is, no doubt, produced by this method.
Q: What is on your writing desk that makes you smile?
A: Along with my computer and my drums, the tools of my trade; my entire office is filled with memories of the woodland: pieces of fallen or cut wood, still covered in moss… feathers and stones, a vase of twigs from trees I have loved, pagan artifacts and figurines resembling ents and dryads. At the moment I have a mystic sitting upon my writing desk, a character from the Jim Henson movie ‘The Dark Crystal’. I grew up in the 80s and Jim was an inspiration, but those creatures in particular hold a special place in my heart. They are kind and gentle, and yet magically powerful.
Q: What personal experiences and emotions fuel your plots—without explaining any of it, what single word symbolizes your dark muse—your “duende” that ignites a bright light of inspiration?
A: Introspection, pessimism… the heart of the innocent, yet wild nature, and the hunt for there to be ‘more’… that seems to be the common thread. And, to answer the second part of the question… I think that without the influence of the trees my work would be completely different, or perhaps non-existent.
Q: If you were a force of nature, what would you be and why?
A: I’d be the wind. That is the most constant, yet changeable force of nature. It can be a subtle gentle breeze, or it can be devastating. That sounds closest to the human condition… closest to my fluctuating emotions, and much like my writing, too.
Q: What is the greatest lesson Nature has taught you?
A: I think the idea that death is only change… that everything is constant, though nothing is forever. If you pull up a plant, another will grow in its place. Leaves fall and become sustenance for the earth. A creature dies and becomes food for the flies. It is a process which offers hope. As a human, especially in this day and age, we fear death, because we are aware of what that might mean, while still not knowing anything about it. If only we could see it as part of the cycle, and dismiss the sadness of it, that understanding could make us feel both humble and invincible.
Q: You weave tales from rushing streams, ancient bark, and human scars… If they could all speak in words, what would they all tell of you, their translator?
A: I have translated their words into two novels and many short stories, yet they still tell me that is not enough. I expect I will continue to write, and spread those messages, but I am not the only one speaking for them, and I have to remember that. I can become deeply despondent about the state of this world, but, in many ways, it is better than it has ever been… the new generation is hearing those desperate words of nature and they are doing something about it. Ecology is no longer just another word for ‘hippie’… it matters to us all. As an old cynic, I sometimes feel that it is too late, but while we’re here, we should try to make a difference… it’ll make us happier than giving up and closing our hearts.
CRANHAM PARISH MAGAZINE
Do you believe in fairies?
Well, despite my avid interest in folklore I have always remained skeptical… but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe…
Whilst living here in Cranham I have been putting the finishing touches to my spiritual coming of age / faery lore novel ‘FORGOTTEN THINGS’; which has been many years in the making. Surrounded by these beautiful woodlands I have worked hard to edit and format the book to a high standard and have been lucky enough to secure an image by Cheltenham based artist Ed Org for the cover… who I happened to meet at a local carboot sale!
Now the book is finally released- available online in paperback and on Amazon Kindle.
The story is based in Cornwall… taking inspiration from the mystical atmosphere, legends and old tales from that land… but after seeing all of the wild nature which still remains around Cranham, it might not be stretching the imagination too far to believe that faeries dwell here too!
I almost became convinced at one point… but the little creatures I spotted in my garden, imitating Tinkerbell, actually turned out to be St Marks flies… their legs dangling strangely behind them as they flew… looking very odd indeed.
But maybe they are here… hidden… dwelling in our woods, living in the trees, leading ramblers astray… We are unlikely to ever know for sure. The faeries do not like to be seen, and if you did ever see them, you might wish that you hadn’t. Setting sights on these ancient beings could mean that you are lost in their world… and you may never escape. Years pass in this world which, in the land of fairie, are mere days.
Don’t upset them…
Put it this way… Tinkerbell, they are not.
Before Disney, and before the flower fairies and all the glorious Victorian art work, faeries were never spoken of without trepidation. They were sinister beings of which you could never quite trust… but as with most superstitions, it was really just a fear of the unusual and the unknown.
I feel perfectly happy to live with them side by side… I love to take a walk in their woods, remembering to tread with care and with awe. For it is a deep love of nature which really inspired my book.
The faeries and spirits of the woods have a message for the world which is important for us not to forget, and I have offered to be their voice.
Transcript of Stephen’s interview on ‘Pagan writer’s community‘
Hi Stephen, thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us.
Tell us a little about yourself, what are the main life experiences that have led to this book?
I’m a 40 year old tree hugger currently living in the Cotswolds, in the UK. I write slightly dark fiction philosophising on nature, and the nature of man. My forthcoming novel is about the true haunting faery lore of Cornwall.
I grew up in a village where there was quite a lot of countryside. Climbing trees and wellie-booting through ponds were my favourite past times. I guess that was when my excitement for nature was sparked, but I kind of lost my way as a teenager and became very depressed, and actually ended up quite mentally unwell for a good twenty years of my life.
My recovery began with writing. I had an autobiography published and did a lot of work spreading awareness of the mental disorder I suffered from. But true fulfilment came with love, with the understanding that I am a sensitive soul, and by spending time with the trees. A spiritual coming of age I suppose, which is how I describe my novel.
When did you realise that you were Pagan?
Well to tell the truth I shy away from labelling myself, I am just me, and I certainly don’t follow any doctrine, but the ideals of paganism definitely come the closest to how I feel about the world.
There have been so many hundreds of years of conditioning, warping and merging of every thought human beings have ever had, that I personally don’t think any religion can be truly believed or followed. But paganism, in its pure form of nature worship, can not really be argued… it is a beautiful, honest thing.
When and why did you begin writing?
I have always been creative and I have always written. I may not have published The Adventures of Harry the Hedgehog but I was very serious about writing it, drawing the illustrations and putting a fake publisher’s mark on the corner of the cover! I used to put on puppet shows for my family, programmed computer games in the 80s, made board games, have been in bands, written songs, play the drums… I just like to create. But it was clear to me that writing was where my passion really lies. Through the years I have amassed pages of completed novels and short stories but these were training… now it’s serious!
Tell us a little about the community you’re building through your blog and social media.
I find all this very difficult as I’m quite a loner. I do have the skills to chat to people and I am not completely devoid of technical know-how either, but there is so much competition and I am not really sure how to fight my corner. I have a website, aFacebook page and I do vlogs on Youtube. Please take a look at them because although I enjoy doing it, it will be much more fun if I have some followers.
Is this your first published piece or have you had work published before?
Unforgotten Tales is my first release under my name Stephen Mullaney-Westwood. It is an introduction to how I write and what I am about, released at a low price on Kindle and will soon be in paperback.
It’s a collection of thirteen short folktale-style stories, modern fables and fairy tales, written in a method now often forgotten. Intentionally allegorical, darkly twisting while yet enlightening and inspirational. Brought to Kindle as a prelude to my forthcoming novel Forgotten Things; the first chapter of which is included. Because some things are important to remember.
Are you published or self-published, and what has been your experience of this process?
My autobiography was published (under a different name), and I have recently self published a collection of short stories called Unforgotten Tales. Yet currently I am seeking a publisher for my full length novel Forgotten Things. Nowadays whether you are traditionally published or self published you will still have to take care of marketing it yourself, and it is time consuming work. I had a lot of positive response from my first book, but I think if it was self published that would have been the same. There were errors in the text I would have loved to have control of tiding up, and money wise, we are artists, so unless we are very lucky, we will always be poor!
My reasoning behind looking for a traditional publisher for the novel is that, with so many books out there, having some initial credence behind it might get it noticed more. To be honest though, it may be a little bit of vanity, and I think some good reviews on Amazon are probably equally beneficial.
How did the topic of your book come to you?
I like to write the things I would want to read. A lot of the books I do read were written many years ago, and I don’t think there are many who write that way in modern times.
As for faeries, I don’t really remember when I first discovered the truth about that folklore. I am very interested in how things we now see as fiction were long ago completely believed in. I used to be obsessed with vampires and I had a lot of books about them, some of which had sections on other mythical beasts, so perhaps it was from one of those books. It all clicked in to place with me, their darkness tinged with the mystical magic of the woods… I felt a strong draw to be their voice.
What do you enjoy reading?
I find it so hard to read because I can sometimes be only a few lines in when an idea comes to me for my own writing! I read a lot of non–fiction for research and enlightenment. I read about faeries and forest spirits… I actually love old fairy tales even if they are written for children. And I don’t associate myself with current writing or trends. The likes of Oscar Wilde and Edgar Allen Poe are where my aspirations lie.
Who encourages and inspires you?
Trees. Woodland. And music I suppose. I have always been very much ‘into’ music; it can change my mood or enhance it. I will latch on to a particular artist and listen to them constantly for a while before finding another. Tori Amos, Patrick Wolf, the Smiths and Morrissey… to name a few that have shaped a part of me.
How important are reviews of your work, do you read them?
It is hard to keep confidence in yourself as a writer, and while a good review might make you smile for a moment, it is the bad ones that stick in your head. Personally I am very good at picking out the negatives from a glowing review. But we have to remember that every view is subjective, not everyone is going to ‘get’ what we do. The people who go out of their way to write a review tend to do so because their reaction to something was strong, whether that be for good or bad. But I would rather be loved by a few than have many that think my work is ‘so, so’.
I would say read them, then forget them, unless there is something truly constructive that you can use. They are there to help others make an informed choice as to what to buy… and as consumers we all know how to read between the lines.
If anyone wants to read my book and review it for Amazon, I would actually be very grateful.
Tell us a bit about your story, key characters and plot.
Excuse me for simply pasting my ‘blurb’… I’d like to keep an air of mystery!
Forgotten Things is a coming of age tale set in the Cornish countryside during the mid 1980s. Delving deeply into Cornwall’s rich and dark faery lore; it is a novel of nature in contrast; sinister, beautiful, wise and innocent. With an otherworldly twist it explores the importance of influences; of growing up, whilst still looking backwards.The tale which unfolds is seen through the eyes of one man recounting the memories and adventures of his childhood. In a similar way to a classic ghost story the ‘horror’ is subtle and unnerving, with its antagonists being the little people in their true form; ancient beings which transpose boundaries- taken seriously and sitting in mysterious juxtaposition with the secular world.
Do you plan your stories before you begin?
Everyone has their own way of doing things, but I think you have to plan to some degree. If you are making it all up as you go along, I think it will show. I have a beginning middle and end, I have key scenes and lots and lots of paragraphs I have written that I want to slot in. But you can fix it all together as your mind flows, and sometimes the best ideas will be those that you had not planned until your character was there, in the situation at the end of your fingertips, waiting to see what is around the corner. That is where writing becomes exciting to the author, because typing out the parts you already knew were going to happen can be quite dull!
If you could pick one book you wish you’d written, what would it be?
The Picture Of Dorian Gray.
What are your future plans for writing?
My novel Forgotten Things will be released either by myself or by a publishing house. And I have made plans to begin a semi-sequel… there are pages and pages of notes to sift through already!
Thank you once again for taking the time to talk to us, Stephen. We wish you all the best in finding a publisher for your next novel.
A post from Stephen’s ‘Goodreads’ profile:
One of the influences for my writing has come from the otherworldly art work of Brian Froud. In the films ‘The Dark Crystal’ and ‘Labyrinth’ he created creatures and worlds that were already deeply within my soul- though never quite glimpsed.
I am proud to say that Brian now has a copy of my book… I do hope he reads it… it would be an honour.
But ‘Forgotten Things’ is a novel that may surprise people who do not know about this kind of earthy, spiritual creature… those who think of faeries only as Tinkerbell or a figment of children’s imagination…
I suppose I write this as a word of warning to those who read and are disappointed or confused … those unaware of the deep roots that surround the folklore of faerie.
For although, primarily, a coming of age tale; faeries do feature in my novel as a constant backdrop and allegory. An ancient force… something there, felt, rarely observed and never truly understood.
Adam’s twelve year old life was fairly normal until he was touched by these things so deeply profound… the beautiful and harsh presence of nature…. not fairy dust and wishes… but something far more enduring….
If you choose to read I ask that you do so with an open mind… that you feel able to give yourself to it and live the experience. And I hope the imagery and emotions will stay with you, even become part of you as Brian Froud’s art is now part of me.
I hope it is not forgotten.
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