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A Wiccan Trailblazer


This post is such a big deal that I'm cross-posting it to all three of my Blogs. Maggie's Coffee House Blog at MaggieShayne.com/blog The Bliss Blog at BlissBlog.org/blog and Maggie Shayne's Plant-Based Coffee House at MaggieShayne.substack.com.


I am so excited to talk with Christine Ashworth about her brand new upcoming book:

Scott Cunningham: The Path Taken

It’s a biography of her late brother, beloved author Scott Cunningham.


Scott’s work has been beyond important to me. His words are embedded in my heart and soul. Many of his poems have become parts of my own practice. His book, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner was the first book on the Craft of the Wise that I (and countless others) ever read. I've bought dozens of copies of it and its companion, Living Wicca: A Further Guide because I wear them out and give them away.


Christine and I met as fellow romance writers at some convention or other many years ago and have stayed in touch ever since. She's an accomplished novelist in her own right, but more about that below. I am so happy she agreed to do this interview.


 

MAGGIE: Thank you so much for doing this, Christine. I know my readers are going to enjoy both aspects of your scribbling, this a biography, and your novels as well.


So first question: for those who don’t know, who is Scott Cunningham? Tell us about your brother.


CHRISTINE: Scott is well known for his writing for the metaphysical world. His first book, Magical Herbalism, was published by Llewellyn in 1982. The last book of his that was new, and not a revised edition, was published in 2009 and was titled Cunningham’s Book of Shadows. Overall, there are 21 books (new and revised editions) by Scott that are out in the world. Scott died of AIDS in 1993, at the age of 36.


MAGGIE: A tragic loss that happened before I ever had the change to meet him, and had only just discovered his work. But I love to think he's still inspiring writers from the other side.


Tell us a little bit more about yourself and your own work.


CHRISTINE: I started writing in 2001 and joined Romance Writers of America in January of 2002, and I’m still a member. I’ve had to write between hours at the Day Job, so it’s never been a full-time gig for me. I was first published in novel form in 2011; I have two series out and a number of short stories and novellas that were first published in anthologies.


The series are StarTide Agency, about a talent agency in Hollywood and the enigmatic man who runs it, and The Caine Brothers, a paranormal series about tribreds (demon, human, and Fae) who protect Los Angeles from the beasties that come out in the night. The brothers each have to learn to accept and work with all of the good and the bad that comes from their demon, human, and Fae bloodlines in order to beat the bad guy and get their happy ever after.


MAGGIE: Writing runs in your family, doesn’t it?


CHRISTINE: It does. My father, Chet Cunningham, had published over 350 novels during his lifetime, and over 60 non-fiction books. My mom was a storyteller. My brother Greg publishes under a pseudonym. And Scott.


MAGGIE: 350 novels! That’s astounding! And what did the family think about this project? Were they involved?


CHRISTINE: My parents are no longer living. Mom passed away in 2007; Dad in 2017. But Greg thought it was a great idea from the very beginning and was an early critique partner on the book. I value his contributions immensely.


MAGGIE: What made you want to take on this project?


CHRISTINE: The Universe pushed me into it. It all happened in 2018. First, I went to the Northwest Tarot Symposium in March of that year, which was like jumper cables to my near-dormant metaphysical journey/practice, jolting me back to life. Then I was asked to write a regular column at The Cartomancer Magazine. Because of talking about Tarot and that conference online, I was then invited to speak at Phoenix Phyre, a pagan gathering in Florida, over Halloween that same year, where I gave a talk about Scott. Afterward, I had people coming up to me, thanking me for talking about the person behind the books, and every single person asked me when my book about him was coming out. That was my big push to write this book, which I hadn’t ever thought to do before. I began it in November 2018, at the end of a very long, very difficult romance writing year that turned out to be an excellent metaphysical year.


MAGGIE: I am burning with curiosity about all the ways it felt different, writing a biography vs. writing fiction. How did you clarify foggy memories? So just wax on a bit, if you would, about the experience.


CHRISTINE: I have been writing about my life for years with every blog post, every Facebook post that I’ve ever posted. So, in that way, writing about what I know and who I know (me, my family, our shared past) was quite easy.


Ah, memories. Some of them are crystal clear, aren’t they? Others, we have to dig for. I did not write in any chronological order. Rather, I wrote about whatever came to mind that day. I would sit, title the page with what I wanted to focus on or what burned to be let out, and then I would let my fingers fly.


Greg and I had many conversations during the writing of the book (which took me four years), talking about the Epic Vacation, or about Grandma Lola, just digging for those nuggets lost in the mists of time. He shared with me something that I had not ever been aware of, which I then had to put into the book.


I also went through boxes of photographs, which stirred even more memories and with them would come sense memories of salty ocean air, or the heat of the day, or the taste of fresh snow. Sunburns, s’mores, sandy bathing suits…at times it was like flicking a switch and the sense memories would just flow.


Also, I cried way more while writing this book than I ever have while writing fiction.


MAGGIE:I expect to cry in all the same places when I read it, and so will many others.


When I write, it is a lot like channeling. So it makes me think that when you wrote this, you might’ve had a little help from your brother, especially since he’s a writer too. Did you feel him with you while you were working on this?


CHRISTINE: Oh yes. Absolutely. Whenever I hesitated about whether I should add something, I could hear him huff in my ear, ‘get on with it.’ So I did. He was there mostly for the painful parts. A warm presence that I could lean on as I wrote. When I first began, I hadn’t heard him speak to me ever. Since this project, we now talk all the time. Though I will say arguing with Spirit is…interesting!


MAGGIE While we all look forward to THE PATH TAKEN on September 4th, you have a fantastic anthology that went on sale just a few weeks ago. Tell us about Soul Retrieval.



CHRISTINE: Andrea Miles Rhoads puts together anthologies through her AMR Publishing platform. After a severe burnout on writing romance in 2019 because of 2018, I then kind of slid into depression lifted only by working on the Scott book. I did have a couple fiction works come out in 2020, but then I just sort of stopped writing. At the beginning of this year, I asked around and Andrea had an anthology open which was up my alley – paranormal, and not necessarily romance.


She gave me a project and a deadline and for the first time in three years, I wrote fiction. My story is a “reclaiming of self” story, pitting a witch against a narcissist who steals other people’s powers; it’s titled The Witch’s Revenge. It was difficult to write, but in the end quite cathartic.


SOUL RETRIEVAL has ten terrific stories (I haven’t yet read them all!), and I am so grateful to Andrea for including my story in this anthology.


MAGGIE: What do you have coming up next?


CHRSITINE: Next? I’m going to gather all the work that I’ve had rights returned, and I’m going to re-edit and re-cover and put them back out in the world. Then I have a unicorn-dragon story to write, which I’m giddy just thinking about.


MAGGIE: Having just tackled a mountain of my own backlist in exactly that way, I’ll be with you in spirit.


I am so glad you stopped by, Christine, and I wish you great success with THE PATH TAKEN, which I have just pre-ordered myself. May your novels soar, as well. And I hope all my paranormal romance readers will give your SOUL RETRIEVAL a try!


CHRISTINE: Thank you, Maggie! I had a blast.


MAGGIE: Scott Cunningham, The Path Taken drops on September 4th, folks, but you can pre-order it right now. Links below.


 

Pre-order now - On sale September 4th




















 

On sale now!





















 


Christine Cunningham Ashworth's websites





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