Myths and beliefs that we would consider fiction or fantasy in modern literature once upon a time shaped history (think of all the hunts for unicorns & dragons). Do you see modern fantasy fiction affecting human cultures today and how?
Great question. I definitely think that fantasy affects human cultures today.
I’ve heard that Tolkien was upset to see modern society losing its connection with mythology. He saw that these myths gave people moral guidance and connected them to deep truths, so he wrote The Lord of the Rings partly to reconnect readers to their mythological heritage. His story is rooted in ancient myths.
I believe that we will always crave myths and legends. Impartial logic can never fully satisfy a human being, because we are so multifaceted. Reality is subtle, expansive and multi-layered, and stories reflect this wonderfully.
Joseph Campbell argued that myths have reality in the subconscious world, but that they shouldn’t be taken literally. While I agree with this, I also feel that there are plenty of mysteries beyond the scope of scholarship, anthropology and science. Unicorns may not exist, but other myths could be historical records which are so outside our current cultural context that we can only classify them as fictional. We might rule out as impossible whatever it can’t understand, but we cannot say for certain what is real and what is not. The old cultures certainly had knowledge that we do not.
My own stories are largely rooted in the ancient teachings of India. These teachings speak about levels of consciousness where different kinds of beings reside, and give methods on how to go to each one. There are gods and other celestial beings, and lower beings too. Many consider all this to be mythology, but as in all traditions, the perspective sees things in a deeper way than the observer. Call me pretentious, but like Tolkien, I hope that some deeper truths resonate my fiction. I’d like the reader to get both a good story, and something substantial to consider. That’s the kind of fiction I like.
Given the opportunity, what fantastical beast of fiction would you like to encounter in the wild? Which would you avoid at all costs? Would you take a selfie with the beastie?
I would like to encounter Airavata, the four-tusked elephant carrier of Lord Indra, the leader of the demigods in the Vedic pantheon. I would avoid Vrtrasura, a massively powerful demon who is an enemy of Indra.
Even though at heart he was a self-realized sage, Vrtrasura somehow found himself in the role of a great enemy of the gods. In their final showdown, Vrtrasura actually schooled Indra on the principles of being a ruler and a warrior.
If I had a camera and it didn’t break the mood, I might just take a selfie with Vrtrasura 🙂
Conventions, book signings, blogging, etc.: what are some of your favorite aspects of self-promotion and what are some of the least favorite parts of self-promotion?
You know, I’m very new to promotion. In fact, this is my first blog interview! Initially I did not want to do any promotion. I just wanted to live in my cave, writing away. But slowly I started a site and am now putting up a new scene each week. Readers can vote which scene they’d like to see made into a story. And I’m gradually figuring out what to do next.
I love to connect with people interested in the same kind of things that I am, and to hear how they feel about my work. I just wish I didn’t have to go through all the technical stuff to meet them!
What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing?
I pulled a rickshaw in the wee morning hours through the streets of Calgary, Canada. Mostly my customers had been drinking, and I would bring them to their home or their car. It was a weird job because I saw the seedy underbelly of the city – drugs and violence and sex. I got hit on many times a day by men and women, and sometimes offered money for… services. I didn’t take it! I lost some of my innocent outlook during that job, though it did get me to India for the first time.
Compared to writing, that job was hell. Writing is such a great creative outlet. I can make an entire movie in words, with no budget and no crew. But I do draw from the experiences I’ve had in my life, like the ones in that weird job, so I can’t say I regret it.
Do you have any superstitions?
Ha! I sometimes find myself avoiding walking under ladders and such, just in case.
I also have convictions which others might consider superstitions. I believe that plants and animals are conscious beings, not so different from us. I think there is consciousness behind the movements of the clouds and rivers and oceans, kind of like nature gods. I can’t believe that everything is just made up of inert chemicals, moving around by chance. I think there is consciousness behind everything. In this way I relate more with the old cultures of the world than the post-renaissance scientific worldview.
“Fire from the Overworld” is a terrific debut!” -David Farland, New York Times Bestseller.
Two students of natural magic study under their master, living in a desert village. One, a young woman, travels from her body to higher realms. She finds a battle raging there which threatens their world. The other, a young man, enters the minds of humans and animals. There he uncovers a spreading psychic disease.
To restore balance, she must leave everyone she holds dear. He must skirt into the realm of death.
Filled with extraordinary adventure and mysticism, Fire From the Overworld takes the reader on an inner and outer journey. This is Epic Fantasy rooted in ancient wisdom.
Places to Find B. T. Lowry