It's Friday, time for a new Apocalypse Weird author interview! Today my guest is Kim Wells, author of Mrs. Johnson's Blues and Mariposa, a love story inspired by true ghost stories of San Antonio. Kim has a PhD in Literature, with specialties in American Lit, Women Writers, Feminism, Sci-Fi/Fantasy and Film Studies, and teaches academic writing and how to read literature at a university in her hometown. Kim is here today to tell us about her story set in the Apocalypse Weird world, a one of a kind project started by a guild of independent authors who got together and decided to make their own brand world (more info on AW at the end of the post).
Welcome to CHIMERAS, Kim!
EEG: How did you get involved in the AW project?
KW: I was invited back in October, and at first, I wasn't sure what it was, exactly. When I finally was able to look at the documents I thought "Oh Yeah, I'm so IN! Apocalypse? Sign me up! Apocalypse stories are really how I first got interested in the indie publishing community. I read some, and thought "hey, these folks seem to know what they're doing."
But I'm also secretly like that guy in the old Twilight Zone show: I wish everyone would be quiet so I could just read, but then something would happen and I'd miss people. Trapped in the introvert's dilemma.
EEG: Tell us a little bit about your AW story and its premise.
KW: My AW world is Louisiana, specifically New Orleans and Shreveport. Since I live in Shreveport, I thought I needed to include it, and I do... I include a bit of fascinating local color. The idea behind my story is Hoodoo, which is a really Southern version of black magic. It combines folk/root work with the religious aspects of Voudou in a way I've been fascinated with for ages. I wrote my PhD dissertation on witches, and magic, and an entire chapter is on some interesting Voudou fiction, so I've always wanted to write a story that respectfully introduces the religion. In it, I have a version of the black magic of one of the most important, most famous Voodoo loa, who is a dark magic version himself, like the "evil twin." A lot of people don't know that Voodoo is a real religion, and I wanted to look at New Orleans, the "party" culture there, plus the deep magical roots and just-- play.
EEG: What was the inspiration behind Mariposa?
KW: Mariposa came to me with the first line of the story. After that, I couldn't get Meg (the main protagonist) to leave me alone. I started writing it when I lived in San Antonio, which is what I consider my spiritual home town, but then once I moved away, it became almost a love letter to a city I missed intensely. I learned so much about it that I didn't know when I lived there. So once I found the protagonist's story line, the story literally haunted me. I would dream about it and couldn't let it go until I finished writing it. It took a long time because I kept stopping, not trusting myself. But I got it done and I'm so happy with it. I think it's fun, yet also poetic enough to be beautiful.
EEG: I love the title: Mariposa is one of my favorite Spanish words. Can you tell us a bit about it?
KW: Mariposa is a name for butterfly, and there are a couple of threads within the story that relate to that. Part of it is the Hispanic culture which is integral to San Antonio's flavor-- it's a very dual culture, with the English speaking Texan plus the Spanish speaking Mexico. And my character Meg is also a Mariposa spirit-- one who walks the borderlines, the places "en otro llado"-- or "on the other side" of life. There's this cool butterfly symbolism that weaves throughout the novel, with both main characters and also a less central character (who gets his own story, by the way, in the sequel).
By the way, Meg is sort of named for a sister of mine who died before I was born. I never knew her, but her name was Margaret, and I always felt, in a weird way, that she was my guardian angel in life. Like she caught me when I fell, or kept me from getting into that car with the drunk boyfriend. So when I wrote the story, I imagined what she might have looked like as a grown up. Her voice is very much the voice of that sister who I would have liked to have known. And an homage, maybe? But she's also really sassy, and does everything "wrong." Which I LOVE about her. One of the things people who have read it have said they like the most is Meg's voice, and I agree. She is the girl you want to go out for drinks with. Because she's going to be hilarious, and she's going to know what's going on.
EEG: Are the ghosts in the story real?
KW: All of the ghosts in the story except Meg & Martha are actually true ghost stories of San Antonio. Martha's story really happened but as far as I know, her spirit is actually at rest. But for the others, some of them are interesting, some of them are absolutely terrifying true events. When I realized I could play with anyone in history who might have died in the area, I knew I had a great place for the imagination to go wild. There will be more of those in the follow up book, as well, because I couldn't resist visiting them again.
EEG: What projects are you currently working on besides AW?
KW: I have a short story coming up in an anthology about Dragons, which includes this cool story I've been thinking about since I was 20 years old... and it's an origin myth, and very neat. The short story acts as an intro to a hopefully longer novel. I have about five novels in my head right now, and since I recently decided to quit my day job as a college professor type (grading other people's writing doesn't always help ME write) I know I can get the other stories out. I also have a story about a witch in a post-apocalyptic Alaska that I want to write, as well as the historical version of a famous Biblical woman who gets a bad reputation in history. Kind of feminist history of one of history's baddest bad girls. With a pagan, female centered twist.
EEG: How well do you know New Orleans? I've never been there, but I imagine the city being so vibrant with music and arts. Does this inspire your writing?
KW: I have been to New Orleans so many times. Hundreds. It's home for me, in many ways.
When I was a kid, my mom & family used to go there for a night out-- we lived in Mississippi, which was not far. And I remember it in the early 70s. There is this one bar that has these woman's legs on a swing that fly through the open doorway. I think sometimes it's a real person, other times it's a mannequin. It haunts my dreams, sometimes, because you can see these high heeled feet swinging into the doorway and out again...
Other trips throughout the years just confirm that party vibe. We were there on the big 1999-2000 apocalypse deadline, and it was amazing. It's a gorgeous city-- more European than most cities in the U.S. You walk down these cobbled streets and figure you could meet someone from 200 years ago and neither of you would know the difference. There is a lot of music, and the arts are so alive (one of my main characters is an artist in Jackson Square, who sells her paintings to tourists kind of "on the fly.") My husband and I like to joke: if we ever disappeared from our lives, he would be there selling Lucky Dogs (these amazing NOLA hot dogs, sold at a portable vending cart) and I would be doing Tarot readings in Jackson Square. Since I'm really good at Tarot, and hubby is great at small business, it's totally a good fallback plan. And yet, in my current work in progress, I'm going to burn it at least halfway down. Then drown it. Then maybe a few other things. I'm soooo mean.
EEG: Hahaha, writers and their mean plans. ;-) Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Kim!
Find more about Kim on her website, on Facebook, Twitter, and on Pinterest.
Intrigued by Apocalypse Weird? Then read the first book, The Red King, by Nick Cole, which is completely free and sets the world of Apocalypse Weird. You can also sign up for our mailing list to make sure you don't miss the big launch on february 23rd. And you can join us on Facebook, too.
Michael Bunker also has a great post about Apocalypse Weird on his blog.
Author Hank Garner is also doing a series of podcasts on Apocalypse Weird: last week he interviewed Nick Cole, and this week Hank just posted a new podcast in which Michael Bunker talks about his AW book, Digger, the first in his Texocalypse world.
And if you are a writer and you would like to take part in the Apocalypse Weird project, Nick has a wonderful post where he explains how to apply.
Apocalypse Weird Authors:
Ellen Campbell (editor)