With To Dance With Destiny (paperback, Kindle), writer W.L. Hawkin is presenting the fifth book of her urban fantasy thriller series, the Hollystone Mysteries. In the following email interview, Hawkin talks about what inspired and influenced this latest installment, as well as how it connects to the previous four.
For people who haven’t read any of the Hollystone Mysteries Series, what is it about, and when and in what kind of world do these stories take place?
For the most part, the stories are set in Greater Vancouver during this contemporary time. The series started with To Charm A Killer. When a serial killer begins targeting witches during Sabbats, a coven called Hollystone spins a charm to catch the killer. But spells have repercussions, so chaos ensues. Plus, the killer is in love with high priest, Estrada. In fact, he begins abducting Estrada’s friends because he knows the handsome gothic magician will come to rescue them. The coven become embroiled, use ritual magic, and call on the gods for assistance in order to stop this man before anyone else gets hurt. There’s a distinct psychological component to it. It ends at Winter Solstice in Newgrange Ireland, and things flow for the next six months.
Then Dylan, another one of the Hollystone witches is sleeping with the standing stones in Scotland on Summer Solstice when a journalist is murdered in the next field. After being charged with his murder, Dylan calls on Estrada to free him by finding the true killer. Both To Charm A Killer and To Sleep With Stones are murder mysteries. While Estrada is in Scotland, his lover, Michael Stryker gets into trouble with a vengeful vampire and that propels us into the third book, To Render A Raven. The vampire abducts Estrada’s baby on the eve of her first birthday, on Lughnasadh, knowing he’ll come after her. Diego wants to turn Estrada into a vampire to avenge the death of a young man who died while on his yacht with Michael. By the way, the ravens are vampires who need rendering. Raven ends tragically, and I left Estrada in a bad place for a long time. Then one day, I called out to him while I was writing another book entirely. I was really missing him and wondered what he was up to. The next morning, I awoke knowing where he was and how he was feeling. And I realized I was writing the wrong book.
That brings us to To Kill A King. It begins on Autumn Equinox. Sorcha, the archaeologist from the Scottish dig, had time-traveled to Iron Age Ireland with the Celtic horned god, Cernunnos, five months earlier. There she met a man she knew was destined to be ritually murdered and cast in a bog for two thousand years. Of course, she falls in love with him and tries to change his fate. This theme of changing fate or history continues in To Dance With Destiny. When Estrada discovers that Sorcha has been in 200 BCE Ireland with Celtic warriors for five months, he demands that Cernunnos take him and Dylan back in time to rescue her. To Kill A King is essentially a romantic, prehistoric thriller with a time-travel twist. It sounds crazy but it makes perfect sense when you read it. The cliffhanger at the end propels us into To Dance With Destiny.
And then what happens in To Dance With Destiny?
Destiny follows right on the heels of King. Estrada, Sorcha, and Conall have just ridden through a wormhole into modern Ireland with a warrior posse in pursuit. They arrive on horseback with no ID, cash, or cards. But, because Cernunnos is impressed by Estrada, he brings them back three months earlier than when they left. This means that the events of To Render A Raven have yet to happen, so armed with both knowledge and time, Estrada determines to change the future. Or perhaps it’s the past. Time travel boggles my mind as much as it does his. At any rate, as Robbie Burns said, “the best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry,” and everything goes wrong because Destiny is one wicked dancer.
When in relation to writing To Kill A King and the other books did you come up with the idea for To Dance With Destiny, and what inspired this new book’s plot?
Estrada and Sorcha inspired the plot. I really just called on them and follow their lead. I don’t outline. I just go into a meditative zone and ask, “what happens next?” They (whoever they are) show me scenes and tell me what happens. It’s my job to write it as I see it or hear it…dreams, visions, conversations. I actually just released Writing With Your Muse: A Guide To Creative Inspiration, a nonfiction book about my writing process that explains why and how it works, spiritually and scientifically, offers strategies, techniques, and tips, as well as examples from my writing and quotes from other writers who use this method effectively. I’m hoping to offer FB Live sessions where we work with visualization and write.
The previous books in the Hollystone Mysteries Series were urban fantasy mystery / thriller stories. Is it safe to assume To Dance With Destiny is as well?
It’s definitely an urban fantasy thriller. But a funny thing happened. As I mentioned, Conall, who is an Iron Age Druid Bard, rode through the wormhole into modern Ireland with them at the last moment. Conall is one of my favorite characters — his voice is inspired by Peter Gabriel — and the story reveals his experience as he navigates the modern world. He and Estrada fall in love so there is a strong romantic surge to this story. Sorcha reunites with Franya, her ex-lover from university so there are two gay romances at play — both unexpected for them and for me — but both needing to be explored and written.
So, are there any writers who had a big influence on To Dance With Destiny but not on any of the previous the Hollystone Mysteries novels?
Yes, Pablo Neruda. This came about when Estrada started showing Conall around his Commercial Drive flat. He brought out Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems And A Song Of Despair. Naturally, I had to read it, and when I did, I was so impressed with Neruda’s passionate language, I used phrases for chapter titles. It was a beautiful meditation for me to pull all the phrases I loved and match them with scenes. Pablo Neruda was an impoverished twenty-year-old when he wrote these gorgeous love poems.
How about non-literary influences; was To Dance With Destiny influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
How about music? Turns out, Estrada has a vinyl record collection and loves old Blues, so I got to listen to some lovely old tunes while I was writing: Otis Redding, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Howlin’ Wolf. Check out my Spotify playlist “Estrada’s Flat On The Drive” if you’d like to hear it too. I also have a playlist for some old Goth called Club Pegasus. I’m a musician myself, so love that Conall’s into music. “You’re gonna be a rock star,” Estrada tells him and when he sings at Club Pegasus and he blows everyone away.
And what about Skaha, your cookie loving dog? What influence did she have on To Dance With Destiny?
Skaha is a huge part of my writing as she’s my sidekick. As a released therapy dog — released due to her uncontrollable love of food — she’s become my therapy dog. When I’m sitting at the computer too long, she uses her nose to lift my wrists right off the keyboard. She can be very insistent. We go walking along the beach and in the woods where I connect with my muses and she keeps me company. She also introduces me to many people I normally wouldn’t meet as I’m not terribly social. Most of my friends are fictional characters. There’s always a dog in my books. In To Dance With Destiny it’s Remington Steel. He’s a wiggly black lab who lives with the Hollystone witches in the House on Hawk’s Claw Lane. Remy was a catalyst in the very first book and he’s stayed for the duration.
As we’ve been discussing, To Dance With Destiny is the fifth book in the Hollystone Mysteries Series. But is it the fifth in an ongoing series, is it the last installment of a five book series, or the fifth in a six or seven book series…what?
As I mentioned, I’m not in charge here. If there’s another book — and I truly hope there is because I miss these characters already — it will be inspired by either Estrada or one of the other characters. Since Hollystone is a coven, there’s an ensemble cast. Something could happen to any of them at any time. There’s nothing like possibility to keep a series simmering until it comes back to a boil.
Earlier I asked if To Dance With Destiny had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to flip things around, do you think Destiny – and, of course, the rest of Hollystone Mysteries Series — could work as a series of movies, a TV show, or a game?
Yes, please. I would love this series to become a TV or film series. It’s highly cinematic, LGBTQ+, urban fantasy, action-adventure, with International settings. It would be a hit. If I knew the best way to pitch it, I would. Perhaps, I’m pitching it right now. I love this quote from Anthony Avina, “Like an HBO show waiting to be developed.”
And if HBO decided to develop that show, who would you want them to cast as Estrada, Michael, Sorcha, and the other main characters?
Oh gosh. You’re making me think now. They’re all around 28-30 years of age, except Dylan who is only 19 when Killer begins. And I’m not familiar enough with younger actors to make that call. However, I’ve created slightly cheesy book trailers for all of them so if you look there, you might be able to help me with the answer to that question. Estrada is Mayan / Mestizo but raised in L.A. and Vancouver, so doesn’t really know his culture. Sorcha O’Hallorhan is a red-haired Irish lass. Dylan has Scottish heritage and was raised in Nova Scotia and the Scottish Hebrides. I’ve always seen Michael as a young Rupert Friend [Homeland]. Sensara, who is the high priestess and Estrada’s baby mama, is half-Japanese.
Another thing I plan to do at some point is create a set of Oracle Cards. This idea actually came through my psychic adviser, and I love it. Can you imagine? “When you choose the card, Cernunnos, the gods are with you. Prepare yourself for an adventure. You are going somewhere you’ve never ventured before, be it in this world or the next, in this physical reality or in dream.”
So, is there anything else you think people need to know about To Dance With Destiny or the Hollystone Mysteries Series?
The audience is teen+. In my latest review, the Wishing Shelf reader called Destiny, “mildly erotic.” Estrada is a bisexual polyamorous free-spirit, and it seems so is Sorcha. Julio Carlos from Scribble’s Worth said, “Great erotic scenes of intimacy, many of which aren’t even ‘sexual’ per se.” I love that! So, be prepared if you dare To Dance With Destiny or any of the other Hollystone Mysteries.
Finally, if someone enjoys To Dance With Destiny, and they’ve already read the rest of the Hollystone Mysteries Series, they might want something short and sweet. So, what urban fantasy novella of someone else’s would you suggest they check out?
Wolf At The Door is a fantastically creepy and well-written urban fantasy novella by B.C. writer Joel McKay. I reviewed it just last year. It’s a quick read that will keep you up late into the night, possibly with the light on. Read my review here.