Open Book Society recently did a book review on M.R. Sellars book ‘Harm None’ and now we bring you an exclusive interview with the paranormal horror/dark fantasy author as he tells us about his interesting religious background and details about his book.
Some background on M. R. Sellars…
M. R. Sellars is an active member of the HWA (Horror Writers Association) and author of the best selling paranormal thrillers subtitled The Rowan Gant Investigations. The series currently stands at 1 novelette and 9 novels, with the 10th to be released July 2010. He can be found at www.mrsellars.com as well as popular social networking venues on the world wide web.
What made you decide on using Wicca for this series? What attracted you to Wicca, enough to use it as part of Rowan’s character?
I think it was really a matter of being in the right place at the right time, or maybe vice-versa. While I self-identify as a Secular Humanist, I have strong Pagan roots. As a matter-of-fact, I have not only studied various Pagan paths and Witchcraft since I was around 13 years old, I spent many years in a Wiccan coven. And, I am actually an Elder of the Grove of the Old Ways, and an Honorary Elder of Mystic Moon, two covens located in the KC area.
Given my background in earth-centric religions, it just seemed like a perfect fit for the character. That, plus at the time there was very little fiction on the market that portrayed Paganism and Wicca in an accurate and positive light. While the RGI books do have a slight “over the top” element where magic is concerned, there is a solid foundation of reality and actual Pagan/Wiccan dynamics upon which it is built.
Other than being a practicing witch, what makes Rowan stand out as a character among other books of this genre?
Other than practicing an alternative religion, Rowan is just your average guy. Nothing special. He’s not an ex-special ops spook, he never worked for MI6, he doesn’t have “mad ninja skillz,” nor does he have a sacred amulet/dagger/sword/piece of chewing gum that grants him any special powers or knowledge. He doesn’t pack around Uzi’s, Ingram MAC-10’s, grenades, or even a slingshot. To borrow a phrase from Joe Walsh, he’s “just an ordinary, average guy.”
The only “mad skillz” possessed by Rowan are his curiosity/determination – which leads him to research the hell out of things and remember what he’s learned; the fact that because of his involvement in Witchcraft the spirits of murder victims have for some reason tapped him as their conduit to the world of the living – something he is not overly excited about, mind you; and, that he is head over heels in love with his wife and will do anything for her.
Other than that, he’s just a guy who steps up to the plate, whether he really wants to or not. Sort of on the order of what John McClane said in Die Hard 4 – “That’s what makes him ‘that guy.'”
Rowan and Felicity are a very normal couple in this book; going forward what can we expect for them in their relationship? Will Felicity continue to play a big part in his investigations?
Rowan and Felicity go through hell and back then take another trip or two through it just to take some more pictures. But seriously, their relationship sees its moments – good and bad. They learn things about one another, and their interpersonal connection grows even stronger. Felicity ALWAYS plays a role in the investigations, as she is not only Rowan’s confidant, love, and friend, she is his anchor in this world. And, without giving too much away, I will say that our fiery little Irish-American photographer ends up playing a central role in some of the investigations herself.
Ben has, in Harm None, been shown so much more about Rowan and Felicity than he knew when he began – how does that change him and his relationship with Rowan?
Ben Storm, Rowan’s best friend who is a homicide detective, continues to learn more about Rowan and Felicity just as they learn more about one another. And, the converse is true. Our intrepid couple finds out things about Ben that they never knew or even suspected. The dynamic is ever changing, but what remains constant is the loyalty and bond between true friends.
What has the reaction been from people who practice Wicca? The good, bad and surprising?
The good, probably that there are many Wiccan practitioners out there who thoroughly enjoy my books and keep buying them, which in turn means I get to write more adventures.
As to the “bad” I would have to say that it’s the fact that there is a segment of the Wiccan/Pagan community that doesn’t grasp th concept of the word FICTION. I have had people take me to task because something I have done in one of the books is not “exactly like XYZ Pagan tradition would do it,” or the fact that magic works easily. The amusing thing is, I’ve literally received this sort of dressing down from a Pagan who was wearing a Harry Potter T-shirt. Sort of makes you wonder if you know what I mean.
The reality is this – Pagans/Wiccans are just people. If I wrote about the everyday life of a Pagan the readers – Pagan or not – would be bored out of their skulls. And, like I said, these are works of Fiction.
On the note of surprising – probably the poor, lost soul who met me at a Pagan Festival, then read one of my books, and then posted a review on Amazon that went on and on about what a great and interesting guy I am but that she couldn’t reccomend my books because they “aren’t what Wicca is all about.” It’s a tossup between that one, and the woman who was using my books (Fiction mind you) as instructional textbooks for her coven.
What are your literary influences?
Hmm… That’s hard to say. If we are talking about other authors, probably Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, H. G. Wells, and Edgar Allen Poe.
Do you plan to write more focusing on a different religion?
Well, in the RGI books Rowan ends up investigating Vodoun and Hoodoo, as well as dealing with a Christian fanatic (not that I believe all Christians are fanatics, believe me. There are fanatics in ALL religions, and that goes for Wicca too.) However, I doubt that I would ever write another entire series that is focused solely on a particular path or religion.
What is the most important lesson that your studies in religious diversity have taught you? Will Rowan, by any chance, be dealing with something like this in this series?
First, that there are fanatics and crazies everywhere you look. Second, and most important, that we are all heading toward the same place, just getting there by different roads. There are common threads through ALL religions, and if folks had a more well-rounded education in that respect, I have a feeling there would be much less fighting in the name of any particular religious path. And, I think I might have pre-answered you on the latter with #7… Rowan definitely learns these things as the character develops. In fact, he even has a crises of faith or two…
Being a self-admitted homebody, how do you interact with your fans? Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc..?
Being a homebody and being allowed to be a homebody are actually two different things. In reality, I tour quite a bit – or, did up until the economy put the hurt on travel. However, even though my touring has scaled back, I still hit the road and do book signings, festivals, conventions, and seminars. I used to spend upwards of 6 months on the road – not all at once, of course, although there were a few 21 day stints. These days, with the depressed economy and cost of travel, it is more like 2 months, or maybe a little more.
To make up for that I definitely do the “virtual appearance” thing. I not only blog twice each week, but also guest blog on other sites, toss things out on Twitter, and have a very active Facebook Profile AND Fan Page. I’m also on Myspace and a few other social networks.
I also have a “street team” called the RGI Ghoul Squad. These are some of my really dedicated fans who go around to bookstores, conventions, etc, handing out posters, bookmarks, chapter sampler booklets, and the like. There’s even a website for them at www.rowangant.com
If you could tell potential readers one thing about your series, what would it be?
Leave your lights on.
But seriously, I’d probably say, “Rowan Gant is a guy with a curse – the spirits of the dead want his help and they just won’t leave him alone.”
I hope that qualifies as “one thing.”
If your book was made into a film, which actors would you want to play the main characters?
Hmm… That changes from day to day, honestly. There are actors whom I would have loved to have play the characters back when I first started writing the series, but now they would be too old, unless they started with the later books. In reality, I think it would be great if such were to happen and they went with a cast of extremely talented unknowns. That way they could mold the characters and not have any expectations placed upon them from previous roles.
If you could spend time with any author (alive or dead) who would it be and why? What would you expect to gain from that experience?
Do I really have to pick only one? In all honesty, I spend time with other authors quite a bit, and we all learn from one another – or just commiserate. That’s necessary sometimes too. LOL.
But, if I had to pick just one I’d probably say Molly Ivins. I’m not sure exactly what I’d learn, but I can guarantee I’d spend a lot of time laughing with her, and that’s worth quite a bit in my book.
We thank M. R. Sellars for a great interview!