An Interview with Molly Ringle Author of The Goblins of Bellwater

I am honoured to be a part of the Launch Events for The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle. Please see an interview with Molly about her enchanting book down below. This was one of my favourite reads so far this year and I cannot recommend it enough!

Q & A With Molly Ringle
The Goblins of Bellwater

How closely did you follow Christina Rossetti’s poem “Goblin Market” as a basis for the story?
I call this a book “inspired by” Rossetti’s poem rather than saying it’s “based upon” it, because I did veer from the poem a significant amount. I first read the poem a few years ago, and it intrigued me deeply. It’s evocative and strange, and, like a fairy tale, has many symbols and events that could be interpreted as having several different meanings. My assignment to myself was to use it as a jumping-off point for a modern paranormal novel, which would then go its own way as the plot required. What I kept from the
poem was the basic surface framework: we have a pair of sisters, grown but on the young side, one of whom becomes enchanted by eating goblin fruit in the forest and begins wasting away as a result, alarming the other sister into seeking a way to save her. Since Rossetti’s poem ends with a fast-forward to the women being “wives” and telling their children about their adventures, and since I wanted to write a paranormal romance anyway, I gave my modern sister characters a pair of men to get involved
with, in a double love story with eerie angles that I think match the eeriness of the original poem. Mind you, another interpretation of the poem is that the two women aren’t really sisters but lovers, which would be a different route to take and which I think would be lovely to see too!

For those of us who haven’t been there, what is Puget Sound like and why did you choose it as a setting for a retold fairy tale?
Puget Sound is a vast area of Pacific seawater, meandering into countless inlets and coves in skinny, deep fjords left behind by glaciers. Seattle and Tacoma and Olympia lie on its shores, on some of its largest bays, but it also has many wilder and more rural shores, especially on the western side where it backs up against a huge national forest on the Olympic Peninsula. That’s the region where my grandparents bought a vacation cabin decades ago, and where my family has been going for many vacations ever
since. I can safely say it’s one of my favorite places on Earth. In order to agree, you have to enjoy a cool, rainy climate and all the thick moss and ferns and mushrooms and huge evergreens such a climate produces, and I happen to love those things. Fairy tales, at least those from Northern Europe, almost all involve a deep dark forest. That’s where the faeries, witches, werewolves, vampires, elves, and all the other interesting beings live. Everyone knows that. I haven’t spent much time in the forests of Europe (alas! I will someday), but I reckoned our Pacific Northwest deep dark forests were more than adequate for housing supernatural creatures. My grandmother used to tell us that the mossy ruins of big tree trunks in the Puget Sound forests were the homes of Teeny-tinies, whom I always took to be faeries. So I set the story there, at the edge of the Sound, where saltwater meets woods and where the Teeny-tinies live.

What is the significance of the four elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) in this story?
The four elements are common fixtures in many ancient cultures, and have remained popular into the modern day. One of my favorite TV shows is Avatar: the Last Airbender, which uses the four-element framework brilliantly in its world-building. In reading up on faery lore for this book, I found that scholars often classify types of fae under the four elements, and since that appealed to me, I did the same. As one of the characters in The Goblins of Bellwater muses, there’s something human and emotionally real
about looking at nature that way, even if we technically know, thanks to science, that nature contains far more than four elements. And in my novel, the only way to break the goblin spells involves respecting and trusting each of the four elements, even when they’re at their most daunting.

Why do you think fairy tale and other myth and legend re-tellings are so popular right now?
I think they’ve always been popular! Maybe it’s a case of selection bias, because I personally have always been into ghost stories, fairy tales, and other supernatural lore, but it seems to me that human culture has never stopped telling such stories. As scholars of fairy tales will tell you, reading and writing about fantasy and the paranormal may look like escapism from reality, and sometimes I tell myself that’s what
I’m doing, but in truth these stories end up giving us all the useful lessons about real life that any good stories do: empathy, courage, love, respect for nature and community, and the importance of thinking fancifully and creatively.

What are the goblins like in this book?
In keeping with both the “Goblin Market” poem and the bulk of faery lore, they are mischievous and villainous. They laugh a lot, but they are decidedly laughing at you, not with you. They steal, and in particular they lust after gold. Like other fae, they enjoy making deals with humans, but humans would be wise not to enter into such deals, as the obligation tends to be heavier than it sounds at the outset. These goblins go further than merely them, too; they assault and sometimes steal away humans and turn
them into fellow goblins, and at other times enchant them into wandering unhappily in the woods until they waste away and die. Although the goblins are sometimes amusing in their level of witty rudeness, they are nearly all amoral and highly dangerous to get involved with. Only a scant few of them, who were once humans, manage to retain any human empathy. However, not all of the fae in my book are this cruel—the goblins are the worst of the lot! Others are willing to be quite helpful to humans as long
as they are respected in return.

What kind of magic system does this book involve?
In this book, my main characters are ordinary humans who can’t do any magic, but they become involved in the dealings of the fae realm, which is a bit like another dimension. It can be entered or glimpsed by summoning the fae (which includes goblins), who might or might not answer you. But you’re luckier on the whole if they don’t, because many of them are treacherous, and the realm itself is a wilderness containing many uncanny dangers. From the point of view of the human characters, the magical rules and the cultural norms of the fae are nonsensical, almost inexplicable, but since some of
these people have fallen under curses, they have to step in among those dangers and work with the rules as best as they can anyway.

What do you find most challenging in writing a novel?
At first, it’s usually getting to know the characters. I tend to start with a general idea of who they are, but then when I begin writing, I realize there’s too much I still don’t know about these people and therefore they aren’t coming across as real yet. It slows me down in the early stages while I take breaks to write notes in which I interview them and figure them out. I also have a perennial problem with writing antagonists. They have to do fairly awful things (being antagonists and all), but I still want them to feel like real people (or other beings), and therefore I have to get into their heads and figure out why they would feel justified in doing such a thing. It’s not a comfortable place for my mind to go. I suppose that’s why I gravitate more toward romance and lightheartedness: I much prefer spending time with those who love and laugh.

What are the easiest parts of writing a novel for you?
No part of the process is exactly easy. But sometimes lines will occur to me seemingly out of nowhere when I’m writing, and they’re perfect for the moment; or I’ll find my characters talking to each other in my head when I’m not writing. And I love those moments, because for them to have come to life in my imagination like that, it means I must have done sufficient groundwork in figuring out the world and the
characters. So although the groundwork is the hard part, it pays off and leads to easier parts later!

How did the writing of this novel, a fairly short stand-alone paranormal, compare to the writing of the Persephone trilogy?
It was far simpler! The Persephone’s Orchard trilogy had dual timelines, for one thing: the ancient world in Greece, and the reincarnations of those people in the modern day. For another thing, it had far more characters, both in original and reincarnated versions. And for any series, you need to have plot arcs that stretch over the whole series as well as smaller ones that get wrapped up within each volume; and you have to keep the whole thing internally consistent in terms of mood and themes and character personalities. It turned out exhausting enough that I didn’t want to write another series again anytime soon. So I picked The Goblins of Bellwater as my follow-up project: small cast, straightforward plot, and simple timeline. Most of the action takes place within about six weeks, in this small town, which is indeed a contrast to the millennia of world-spanning events covered in the trilogy!

Would you want to live in any of the fictional magical worlds you’ve created?
Strange though it might sound, I’d love to visit the Underworld as I wrote it in Persephone’s Orchard and its sequels. I made it much less scary, for the most part, than it is in traditional Greek mythology; and besides that, I love caves and glowing things, and definitely would be interested in a ride on a ghost horse as long as an immortal was keeping me safe during it. As for the fae realm we see in The Goblins of Bellwater, I’d like to catch glimpses of it, and of the fae themselves, but I wouldn’t want to actually enter
the realm. Too perilous!

What are you writing next?
One of the genres I love, and haven’t written enough of myself, is male/male love stories, so I’ve been working on a couple of those. One is contemporary, no magic or supernatural stuff, and it’s undergoing the feedback-and-revision stage right now. Another will involve a fae realm like that of The Goblins of Bellwater, only in a new location in the world, a fictional setting I’m creating. I stoll have to figure out how
this place works and what its magic system is like, in addition to getting to know the characters, but I’m excited about the idea and it has definitely taken root in my brain.

What are the most magical places you’ve been to in real life?
Puget Sound and its surrounding forests and mountains—which is why I chose the area for the enchanted lands in The Goblins of Bellwater. Also some of the forests and meadows in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, where I grew up. Oregon and Washington are both overflowing with natural beauty and I’m spoiled to have spent most of my life here. In addition, some places in Great Britain have felt quite magical to me, such as Tomnahurich (Hill of the Fairies) in Inverness, Scotland; or Old Town Edinburgh with its many close alleys and dark medieval buildings and brick-paved streets; or Westminster Abbey, not only because of its beauty and its many graves of astoundingly famous historical figures, but because when I first visited it as a 19-year-old, I’d never been in any building anywhere near that old before (having grown up in the Pacific Northwest), and it blew my mind.

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Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore- REVIEW

This quirky books tell the story of one soul- Milo and his nearly 10 000 incarnations. Each chapter tells the story of a different incarnation and the strange experiences and characters he encounters- everything from being eaten alive by a shark, to travelling the cosmos. Milo is in love with Death herself- Suzie, who he meets after he dies and the short stints he spends with her before moving on to his next life. He encounters her in each of his incarnations, although he does not remember her. They are madly in love with each other, but it is their complicated relationship of her being Death and him almost finishing his incarnational cycle that they devise a plan in order for them to be together. The plan is for Milo to achieve Perfection- meaning he can surpass becoming part of the Oneness of the universe and can therefore be with his true love. We accompany Milo during his different soul experiences, sometimes laughing, sometimes relishing in the simple beauty of life, and sometimes grieving alongside him. As someone who has always been fascinated with the concept of reincarnation, I thought this book while appearing to be yet another mystical fiction read, turned out to be a much deeper metaphysical exploration of the human experience. Appreciating the fragility of life while living up to your soul’s contract is a delicate balance we are all hoping to achieve.

It is easy when reading this book to jump to conclusions and cringe when we see Milo making a mistake and smiling when he’s done good……if only life were that easy. In the beginning of the book Milo does not want to stop reincarnating as he tells Death and some other elusive cosmic characters that “who doesn’t want to live?” What becomes apparent, is that Milo truly wasn’t living, he didn’t treasure every single moment of his lives because somewhere deep down inside he knew he would be back for another turn again. I believe the whole concept of reincarnation comes with a massive responsibility- we all like the idea of being recycled when we die, but somehow, that can become a cop out and excuse for not living a full life. Perfection- the state Milo is so desperately trying to achieve is not something we strive for, it’s something we must become.

The Stargazer’s Embassy by Eleanor Lerman- REVIEW ***A Must Read!!

I received an Advanced Reader Copy of The Stargazer’s Embassy by Eleanor Lerman from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Stargazer’s Embassy is unlike any alien novel written before. Thought provoking and addictive, this is a must read and should be on everyone’s e-reader and book shelf. Judging by the title, what appears to be a quirky cosmic sci-fi novel is actually a rich metaphysical novel that ponders some important existential questions. What really happens after death? What are aliens’ intentions? Can we ever truly escape our past?

The story follows a woman named Julia who finds herself part of an alien conspiracy and wants no part of it. She’s a house-cleaner who is trying to move on from her new-agey childhood and mommy issues. All she has is a tattoo, and a place called The Stargazer’s Embassy, where people come and go, like life itself. We find her at various points in her life struggling with this issue, and trying to make a life for herself. Along the way we are introduced to some interesting characters who find themselves implicated in the very same alien problems she’s trying to escape from.

Julia’s defiance of involving herself in this haunting issue is what makes this a stand out novel. We don’t see Julia enthusiastically throwing herself into the unknown. We see a truly scared, annoyed, and assertive character who becomes the anti-hero. There is a will she or won’t she anticipation that hooks the reader and offers a certain emotional and psychological realism. There are plenty of alien encounters in the novel to satisfy traditional science fiction lovers, but it takes it a step further by offering a multitude of spiritual questions. It is because of this, that The Stargazer’s Embassy becomes an exploration of the meaning of life.

Suffering from emotional abandonment issues, the aliens become a metaphor for Julia’s strange childhood. In essence, she herself is an alien- trying to create a life for herself that she’s never known. Losing her mother with many unanswered questions, Julia hopes her encounters with the aliens, or “things” as she likes to call them, will provide her with the answers she needs. The aliens themselves are not exactly sure what they’re looking for and this in turn becomes a mirror for Julia and other “experiencers” encounters. If we all had the chance to travel throughout the cosmos like the aliens- would any of our questions be answered, or would we be even more confused? Julia spends most of her life searching for answers, but it is the very place she is running away from that provides her with the comfort she seeks- The Stargazer’s Embassy. The aliens have just as many questions as Julia and her friends do, but appreciating life for the journey it is, is all that counts in the end. Everything has a beginning and an end, so rather than spend lifetimes dissecting what it all means, it is important to treasure every waking moment, because it is those moments that stitch the fabric of our lives. There are two things we must do in our lifetime, be born and die. Everything in between is alien compared to the certainty of those two things.

I appreciated the humour associated with the aliens and their un-friendly demeanors. Once again they did not come across as stereotypical menacing superior beings, but relatable drifters who seemed genuinely lost. The story was perfectly paced and the first person narrative was a great way to keep the reader invested in Julia’s journey.

In essence, each of us have our own Stargazer’s Embassy- a place, either imagined or real where we are able to go to find comfort and peace- knowing that the answers we seek, are in fact seeking us. The Stargazer’s Embassy is a place where people- human and inhuman come and go, like life itself.

*A big thank you to Sarah Miniaci at Smith Publicity Inc. for being kind enough to send me a paperback copy to review. You’re friendly correspondence and enthusiasm for this book has me looking forward to reviewing other Smith Publicity Inc. books!

Crazy Little Spring Called Love- REVIEW

This anthology contained eight short stories centered around spring time love. Each story was whimsical, quirky, and romantic. Some stories were weaker than others, and some were highly developed enough to become their own stand alone books. Spring time is always a time of magic as flora bloom and fauna procreate. This served as the backdrop for all of the short stories. Whether it was a pagan love story, or a mermaid tale, or Greek gods falling in love- spring romance was definitely in the air. I appreciate Seton Hill University for helping to put this anthology together which featured some great writers and helped to showcase their emerging talents. As a lover of fantasy fiction, this book was a light and easy read that satisfied my mystical book thirst. This is the perfect book to enjoy on a lovely Spring day in the garden amongst the flowers and bees. There was just enough romance to satisfy romantic novel lovers and plenty of magic for fantasy connoisseurs. The stories were not too long and not too short and had many cliffhangers which I hope means a second volume is in the works! The season of Spring always serves as a reminder that anything is possible…….especially when love and magic are involved!

The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle- REVIEW

The Goblins of Bellwater was one of the most unique stories I have ever read. I applaud the author for choosing to write a book about a supernatural creature that does not get featured in literature very much. The storyline was captivating and kept me hooked from the beginning until the end. Its dark magic crept into each of the characters lives, making this an eerie tale of forest fae, temptations, and sacrifice. There was a certain realism to the story and characters that makes me wonder if there aren’t goblins hiding in every forest around the world? I loved how the it took place in Washington state which is a lovely break from the traditional supernatural locations of London and New York. There was enough romance to satisfy supernatural romance lovers and enough of a background story of who the goblins were that mythology readers would appreciate. Incorporating other mystical creatures aside from the Goblins was a lovely added touch- along with the nod to environmental protectionism. There are times when the story becomes a little vulgar which is needed in order to demonstrate the effects of the Goblin magic, but it seemed a little predictable and I would have liked to have seen a darker effect on the humans as opposed to eroticism. Overall this book was original, uncomfortable, and addictive. I know that fans of the supernatural and fantasy genres will adore it and it will perhaps start a goblin trend in other books to come. I do hope there is a sequel and for some reason I can’t help but think that Bellwater is not quite done with the Goblins.

All Signs Point to Murder by Connie di Marco- REVIEW

This book captured me from the very first sentence. As an Astrologer myself, I applaud Ms. di Marco for coming up with the ingenious idea of an astrologer who uses the stars as clues for solving mysteries. The story was fast paced and kept me guessing who the murderer was throughout the book and left enough red herrings to make me invested in solving the crime. I would have loved this book even more, if more Astrology was incorporated into the story, because as at times it felt as if the stars and planets were an afterthought because there was not enough focus on the main character being an Astrologer. The murder plot was predictable and I just wish there was a bad planetary alignment or challenging natal chart that was to blame instead. Due to the rapidity of the storyline and all the twists and turns, I am excited to read more books in this series, and I hope Connie di Marco infuses her storylines with even more Astrology as I felt she was holding back in incorporating more cosmic clues.