Books by Melissa Bowersock

Friday, October 25, 2013

Author Interview: Lynne Cantwell

So I’m sitting down having a chat with my Indies Unlimited buddy, Lynne Cantwell. I’ve just finished the first book in her Pipe Woman Chronicles series, Seized, which I enjoyed immensely. Lynne, can you give us a quick overview of the series?

Sure! The main character, Naomi, lives in Denver and works as a mediator for a good-sized regional law firm. As the series opens, she is doing extremely well in her career, and the guy she’s been dating off and on for the past ten years has just proposed. Then she finds out that her good fortune is the result of meddling by a Lakota Sioux goddess named White Buffalo Calf Pipe Woman. The goddess has enhanced her powers of persuasion so Naomi can mediate a power-sharing agreement between the Christian God and the pagan gods and goddesses whose worship God has supplanted.  She has also gifted Naomi with a team: Naomi’s best friend Shannon, who becomes her Counselor; a Ute shapeshifter named Joseph, who is appointed her Guardian; and an Investigator, Jack, who we don’t meet until the second book.  The series arc follows Naomi’s journey, from a prosaic lawyer who lives an unexamined life to someone who understands and acknowledges her own heritage and who can deal with deities on their level.

Where did the inspiration come from to write about magic in our rather unmagical, urban times?

I never outgrew my love of fantasy. My favorite series ever is still The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson (the tenth and final book just came out, whoo hoo!). The best fantasy writers investigate the psychological depths of their characters by putting them into untenable situations with magical complications, and watching how they react and grow. When I started reading urban fantasy, I realized I could do all that within a fantasy setting, but without having to invest in a whole lot of time in world-building. Seemed like a win-win.

Did you find that magic asserted itself during the writing of the books?

Wouldn’t that be awesome? Alas, no, not for me personally, unless you count the fact that people have read the series and said they liked it. That’s pretty magical.

Shucks, I was hoping you’d say that you set the book aside at night and when you fired up the computer again in the morning, you miraculously had 100 more pages! Where’s Rumplestiltskin when you need him?

Your main character comes from a mainstream Christian background but finds herself drawn into the living mythology of many ancient cultures. Can you tell us about your own spiritual journey? 

My father was a Catholic-turned-atheist and my mother didn’t grow up in any religious tradition. So I had barely darkened the door of a church by the time I got to college. At that point, I started shopping around. But I never really settled on a denomination and considered myself agnostic for many years. When I reached my 30s, my daughters and I were baptized in the Episcopal Church. Eventually, though, I began looking into Paganism, and I realized that it made the most sense to me. In my current practice, I follow several deities: Brighid and Lugh from the Celtic pantheon and Mokosh from the Slavic pantheon. Mokosh is Mother Earth, more or less; Brighid is, among other things, the goddess of bards; and Lugh’s just generally awesome.

We have a lot in common. I, too, have adopted a very eclectic view of spirituality, and have cobbled together many disparate teachers and masters that touch my soul. I have often said that there could be one church for every single person on the planet, just because no two people believe exactly the same way about everything.

Now back to writing. When you started writing Seized, did you know it was going to be a series? Did you have the series all plotted out, book by book? Or when you got close to the end of Seized, did you realize it was going to go further than you thought?

SEIZED was a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) project. And yes, I had it in mind to make it the first book in a series. I'd been reading a fair amount of urban fantasy and thought I'd sussed out the conventions of the genre, and wanted to try my hand at writing one. As for plotting out the whole series -- um, not totally. I knew I wanted to base the series structure on a Native American medicine wheel (I did a post on it on my own blog; here's the blog post link: That meant writing at least four books, one for each cardinal point on the wheel. But there's a fifth point at the heart of the medicine wheel, and I knew that would be a great metaphor for wrapping up the story. I just wasn't sure I would have enough plot, after book 3, to write two more. Once I got there, luckily, I found I had plenty of complications!

I love the fiery effect of the covers. Do you do your own covers or do you have someone else design them?

Thanks for the kind words on the covers. Actually, I did them myself. I think the naked abs on so many paranormal romance covers are getting to be a cliché, so I went looking at a royalty-free stock photo site for pictures of animals, to play up the shape-shifting aspects of the story. I found that I kept coming back to that fractal owl on the cover of SEIZED, and I thought, "If it keeps catching my eye, it ought to catch others' eyes as well." And that's pretty much how it's worked out. For FISSURED and GRAVID, I couldn't find fractalized pictures pre-made, but I discovered a GIMP plug-in that produced the effect. And I did get advice from a couple of friends who are graphic artists.

As for GIMP, you can download the current version of the program here:
The plugin is called G'MIC, which you can find here: Once it's installed, go to the Artistic tab and click on Rodilius. That's the process/utility/thingum I used to fractalize the photos for my book covers.

Helpful information, thanks. I have a feeling many other writers will be trying their hand at these wonderful effects.

And, by the way, your book is the first I've read in a long, long time that had absolutely no typographical errors; it's extremely clean in that regard. Congratulations on that; it's rare these days. 

What other books or blogs have you written?

I have two other novels published. SwanSong is a fantasy based on an Irish tragedy called “The Fate of the Children of Lír.” The Maidens’ War is also a fantasy, based sorta-kinda on the Czech legend of the same name. It’s set half in sixth century Eastern Europe and half in 1980s West Virginia. I also co-authored a nonfiction book called Living Simply in the City.

My blog is called hearth/myth; I post there every Sunday. On Thursdays, I post a book review at Rursday Reads. I’m at Indies Unlimited every Friday. And I used to write a monthly column for The Indie Exchange before the site went dark earlier this year.

What are you working on currently?

I’ve just wrapped up the first draft of Crosswind, the first novel in the “Land, Sea, Sky” trilogy. It’s set in Washington, DC, ten years after the Big Mediation in Annealed. The second “Land, Sea, Sky” book, Undertow, will be my NaNo novel this year (if all goes as planned!).

What is your writing process? Are you a planner or a pantser?

I’m a planner, but I don’t outline every jot and tittle. I write a synopsis paragraph for each chapter, but sometimes the paragraphs will contain more questions than statements! And sometimes, too, the characters have other ideas. In the outline for one of the Pipe Woman Chronicles books, I wanted Joseph to act like a complete jerk, and he just flat refused to do it. In retrospect, I think he was right.

I know the feeling. In one of my last books, my main character developed a very dark and moody side that I hadn't planned on. But like you, I went with the flow and the book was better for it.

Do you work on more than one manuscript at a time?

Not usually. Although this fall, I stepped away from Crosswind to write a short story for an anthology called 13 Bites. It’s a Pipe Woman Chronicles prequel with Joseph and his roommate George as the main characters. It was a lot of fun to hang out with those two guys again.

It’s like going back to visit old friends, isn’t it? And the great part is that you can visit them any time you want, just by re-reading the books.

Do you work with a writing/critique group?

No, I don’t. I’ve got an editor and a beta reader, and that’s it.

I don’t either. We always hear writers should get into a group, but it’s just never appealed to me. I’m glad I’m not the only one!

When you're not writing, what’s your favorite activity?

When I’m not sleeping, you mean? Knitting is my big hobby. I think I have more knitting projects queued up than writing projects….

I don’t knit, but I LOVE naps! Naps are the best.

What’s the best part about being an indie writer?

I love having control over my own destiny. I collected my share of rejection letters in the days before KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). It’s so great now to be able to publish my own stuff without trying to convince an acquisitions editor that my work would make money for a publisher.

I heartily agree. Having control over our efforts is the best. We are actually able to create the book we envision without having to fight someone else over the title, the cover, and the way it’s marketed.

Back to fantasy. If you could only bring three items with you to a deserted island (non-writing items or people) what would they be and why?

You mean I can’t bring my laptop with the solar-powered charger? Oh, fine, then. My Girl Scout wilderness survival kit would be the first thing. Number two would be my Kindle with a solar charger, so I could catch up on my TBR pile. And finally, I’d bring a satellite-capable cell phone, so I could call for rescue when I was ready to come home.

You’re able to invite three people (alive or dead) to dinner. Who do you invite, and how do you seat them?

I think I would invite my two daughters and my father. Dad died several years before my kids were born. I think they’d enjoy meeting one another, particularly now that my girls are in their twenties. I’d be across from Dad, and the kids would be between us on either side.

Sounds like that would be an awesome time for all.

What is the book that you wished you had written?

Any of the Harry Potter books, just to have J.K. Rowling’s royalties!

Agreed! Then we could quit our day jobs and just write!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Read – a lot. And pay attention when you read to how the author does what he or she does. Then sit your butt in the chair and write. Oh, and once your book has been professionally edited (and I can’t stress the “professional editing” part enough), don’t waste your time chasing a traditional contract – go indie!

Could not agree more. I think we need to make up sweatshirts that say that. Lynne, thanks so much for stopping by and putting up with all my questions.

Find out more about Lynne below.


Lynne Cantwell has been writing fiction since the second grade, when the kid who sat in front of her showed her a book he had written, and she thought, "I could do that." The result was "Susie and the Talking Doll," a picture book illustrated by the author about a girl who owned a doll that not only could talk, but could carry on conversations. The book had dialogue but no paragraph breaks. Today, after a twenty-year career in broadcast journalism and a master's degree in fiction writing from Johns Hopkins University (or perhaps despite the master's degree), Lynne is still writing fantasy.

Where can we connect with you?


  1. Thanks, Melissa! You're the hostest with the mostest. :)

  2. Thanks for putting up with all my questions; you're a trooper!

  3. Great interview. And i agree on the covers. They are really eye-catching and draw me in immediately. I have yet to read the books but they are on the list. :)

  4. I love the fractal effects. I'm going to play around with that sometime ... whenever I find time ... sometime. I hope.

  5. Great interview, ladies! Loved Seized, Lynne, and I love how you've taken bits of belief systems and made them your own. I think a lot of us do that--organized religion is much too restrictive, IMO. Good luck on the new series :-)

  6. Love the cover, the interview, the advice, and the women involved! Go indies! :)

  7. Thanks so much; glad you all enjoyed it.