Today we have a special guest in the house! Freya Pickard is the writer behind the blogs Pure Haiku and Dragonscale Clippings, both of which I highly recommend. When Freya recently published a collection of short stories titled The Rusalka Ritual and Other Stories (Dragonscale Dimensions Book 1), I asked her here for an author interview and she graciously accepted the invitation. I admire Freya for many reasons, including her quirky yet lovable writing style and her determination to publish her newest book after facing chemotherapy. So, without further ado, let’s put on the coffee pot and catch up with Freya Pickard.
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Hi Freya and welcome to Poetic Parfait! I’m happy to interview you about your first short story collection. Congratulations! To start, could you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing books?
Greetings, Earthlings! I’m a novelist, poet and cancer survivor with one novel, and one short story collection published to date! I have always written, ever since my mother taught me to write before I started school. From an early age I produced poetry and stories but when I turned 17, I began writing novels seriously. They were all rubbish but in my mid-twenties I started producing tales that were non-generic and therefore difficult to place with a publisher. Since having gone through cancer, I have realised how little time we have here on this planet and am therefore publishing my work myself.
I love that you have chosen to pursue your publishing dreams, regardless of whether it meets a traditional publisher’s expectations or not. I’m curious, why did you choose the short story format for your latest book?
I chose to publish a short story collection because I have had a number of short stories published over the years, including some about Dracomagan. I found that convincing editors to publish my tales about a female dragon slayer very difficult; it seems that a lot of editors do not share my sense of humour, whereas readers loved the tales and “got” the humour. So, in order to show different aspects of Dracomagan’s character, I chose 5 tales from those that had previously been published for this collection.
I wanted to make people aware that she develops as a character. For instance, in my novel, Dragonscale Leggings, Dracomagan vows never to be interested in men again. But, in A Picnic At Knole, in the collection, she is married to a guy named Peagreen. She doesn’t stay as she is in Dragonscale Leggings, she grows up (a bit) and changes, just as we all do with time. I enjoy writing short stories because they allow me to give my readers insights into events that happen outside of the main novels.
Wow, such a unique way to tell your fanbase more about Dracomagan! Your creativity is shining through in each answer you’ve given me in this interview. So, tell me, Freya, who do you think would enjoy reading The Rusalka Ritual and Other Stories?
Ah! You’re asking me to put The Rusalka Ritual & Other Stories into a definite genre. I hate being categorized! I write from the heart, not for a specific market! However, this collection has been marketed under the YA Fantasy genre but to be honest, anyone who enjoys stories about strong female characters will enjoy the collection.
My readers are diverse, ranging from those in their 20s to those in their 80s. They are male and female and of all colours and cultures. If you like something quirky or just a bit different, you will love the collection.
Four of the tales are set in the Otherworld and one is set in this world. The two worlds merge and sometimes get mixed up; I believe this is called cross-over fiction? I prefer to call it speculative fiction and would really love to be known as a speculative writer!
I’m all for strong female leads in fiction (and in real life)! I have to say that I’m curious about the title of your book. Can you tell us a bit of the backstory about it?
I am very proud of the title! I love alliteration and think this works so well, not just for the individual story, but for the collection as well. A few years ago I had been reading fairy tales about water spirits and had lots of ideas surging around in my mind. I decided to enter the last Golden Visions short story competition and had to write a story around a picture of a vast sea with two moons above it and several islands. I was pleased to see the water because it enabled one of the ideas swimming round in my head to come to the fore.
I cannot remember exactly how the idea coalesced. (Sorry, I know people like to know how writers write, but I’ve found that if I think about it too much or analyse it, I lose my creative ability!) But somehow I found myself writing a story about some particularly evil water faeries. I chose the name Rusalka, because the obvious names such as selkie and undine were too well known. Rusalka is a Russian water demon who fitted the character I’d invented perfectly. The story didn’t win the competition (mine never do!) but it was published along with the winning entries because the judges found it so unusual!
By now I’m sure readers are wondering more about your writing life. What is your writing routine like, Freya? Have you varied it over the years?
Writing routine? What’s that?! It all depends on what day job I have at any time, what’s happening in my life and how healthy I am. Right now, I get one day of writing a week, 6 hours on a Monday. At the moment I’m mainly formatting manuscripts for publication and re-writing novels etc so they can be formatted.
The only new writing I do are short form poems as the trauma of having cancer and surgery and enduring 6 months of chemotherapy has taken its toll on my creativity. However, I have learnt to write anywhere at anytime in any circumstances and always, always carry a notebook and several pens with me wherever I go.
I do the same thing, carrying pen and paper with me; you never know when a new idea will strike. What are your future writing goals?
My future writing goals are to get everything published that I’ve already written (there’s a lot, it may take a few years) and also to complete and publish a 9-book fantasy series dealing with racial identity, racism and how the use of magic effects the user on both a spiritual and cellular level.
I almost spilled my coffee when you said “9-book fantasy series.” That’s a big goal, and I’m all for it! You know I’ll be wanting to read it too. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers of the short story format? If so, can you please share one or two?
My main advice for aspiring short story writers would be to write from the heart. Never allow anyone to tell you what or how you should be writing. If I had obeyed my creative writing teachers at college, I would be churning out the same boring thing over and over again. Be different. Be inventive. Don’t be afraid to take risks in your writing. And if editors don’t “get” your writing, don’t give up; publish it yourself!
Wonderful! I appreciate what you say about not stopping writing because editors don’t “get” you. I, for one, am glad you continue to write. Thank you for being with us today!
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Here is an opening paragraph from “Echo Peak,” the first story in the collection:
“The shadows were long and blue in the biscuit-coloured dust when we left. We didn’t wake Uncle. I knew he wouldn’t let me go on this particular journey. Dracomagan gave me the choice, but really, there was no choice; to meet the man who killed my parents, to look into his eyes and see, maybe remorse, or at least sorrow at leaving me an orphan…”
If you like dragons, fictional worlds that never cease to amaze you, and one-of-a-kind writing, then The Rusalka Ritual & Other Stories (Dragonscale Dimensions Book 1) is a book you will want to read.
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