I’ve known Joanna for a few years now … firstly in the guise as Winter Jasmine offering alternative therapies and when she turned her creativity to writing with writing partner Ron Dickerson, I became a fan of their writing.
I read the first book in The Cordello Quest in 2011:
The Cordello Quest is a beautifully written magical journey and I enjoyed the way that although this is about Keira’s quest, the story also flashes back to Jason. This really felt like it tied up the story and made it whole.
Mosaic of Light follows the journey and was published last year. They also write short stories (The House of the Stormwind, Crystal, Fire and Water which is currently free and I recently reviewed Dark Perfume as my Samhain read).
I’m delighted to be interviewing them both today. I think their writing relationship is clear to see 🙂
Hi Jo and Ron. Good to have you with me today.
Thanks so much for having us on your blog Shaz. We brought cakes with us (all calorie- and allergen-free, of course) so do help yourselves! Hope you like chocolate!
Ok, first question, I’m curious to know, which authors have influenced your writing?
Joanna: JRR Tolkien and Philip Pullman both helped me realise that it was “acceptable” to write pure, imagination-driven fantasy, which is where my storytelling usually leads me (because writing about magic, parallel worlds, and lovelight is so much FUN!)
The healer and ‘awakening’ part of me has been influenced by James Redfield (The Celestine Prophecy). Ron and I learned a lot from that, and Redfield’s books formed a springboard for The Cordello Quest and its themes.
Mary Stewart and Daphne du Maurier have also influenced my writing in other ways.
Ron: Now that is a real problem for me. I read a book, absorb the style and concepts but usually totally forget the author. My memory is not what it was. Saying that, names have always escaped me. As Jo has mentioned Redfield, I will look deeper.
After a visit to my ‘library’ and Kindle (other digital book readers are available!) I can say that I have all Trudi Canavan’s books, she really shows how to allow your ideas to flow to create a real place in another’s mind. I also love the style of James Herbert, drawing you deep into the unexpected. However, I get lots of ideas from other one-off books, or lyrics.
If you could choose to be one of your characters in your books which would you be?
Joanna: I’m torn between Lord Charls and Lady Aida, of The Cordello Quest and its sequels. Lord Charls, because he gets to live in the magical, peaceful otherworld of Cordello – and he has that wonderful, cosy library with the secret bookcase door!
But Lady Aida has experienced and learned so much in Reika, and helped so many in her role as a spiritual guide. And she can fly, so ….!?!
Ron: This is what happens when I am busy and Jo gets to answer questions first. She only goes and picks the characters!
But don’t you feel sorry for the ‘dark energy’? No one asks what it wants, it just gets all this ‘goodness’ thrust upon it. I blame its parents, poor upbringing, never had a chance. It didn’t turn out all bad; well not really.
Joanna: Guess which one of us takes things more seriously … and which one lightens things up. #thankyouRon #teamwork 😉
How does it work for you two … panster or a plotter?
Joanna: I’m definitely a panster. I’ve tried planning, but for me it takes away the joy of discovery, the insights and ‘magic’ I find when I explore freely from my subconscious mind and/or my soul. In discovery-writing, I am experiencing the story as I write – every event and conversation is brand new and surprising, and that keeps me fully engaged in it and passionate about what I’m doing. Hopefully that translates into a fabulous story for our readers.
Of course, the writing still needs a bloomin’ good edit! For the novels, I also write chapter summaries ‘after the fact’ to make sure everything ties up. That’s probably my least favourite part of my writing process, but it’s an important one!
Ron, however, takes a rather different approach …
Ron: Well that is true. I rarely sit in front of a keyboard until I have some idea of where I am going. Even if it is micro fiction I have a general idea before I start. Two books are outlined in very (very very) brief form. One, I even know the ending! However, it still surprises me when fingers hit the keys what actually comes out to fill the gaps. Digits hit the squares and no end of poor English, bad spelling and cliches pour forth. Thank heavens for spell/grammar checker and my new bit of editor software! Oh and of course Jo’s polish 🙂
Have you joined any writing groups?
Joanna: I’ve joined one real-life writing group (Paignton Writers’ Circle) which meets 20 times a year, and encourages us to write a 1000-word story or 40-line poem for each meeting. Many of the stories I’ve written for that have now been published (perhaps after being expanded) in our short story collections. The friendly support, understanding, and feedback of the members have been invaluable – and I’ve become comfortable reading my work aloud! (*shock!*)
I also belong to a Writers’ Group on Facebook which has been useful and supportive in different ways.
Ron: Really my introduction to writing was through Paignton Writers Circle where I went to support Jo. I had not considered myself a writer at all, just a lunatic with mad ideas. I had produced some poetry after reading some that my Nan and her sister had written, but it was very ‘old style’. I blame the PWC and Jo for everything that hopefully follows!
Do any of your books tackle a social barrier?
Joanna: As a Reiki healer (and ex-practitioner) who often incorporates themes of spirituality, intuition, healing, and crystals directly into her writing, I do feel that I’m putting my most vulnerable self out there, in a personal sense as well as a creative one.
‘Healers’ are still often regarded by many as being ‘weird’ or ‘misguided’ – or worse. It can be an uncomfortable aspect of self to ‘own’. Sensitivity to subtle energies and deeper knowing is still on the leading edge – way past it for some people!
Although it can be difficult when the occasional reader doesn’t ‘get’ our books, the ‘awakening’ part of me still feels rewarded when readers do resonate with them, and get excited about them! Of course, our novels are fantasy, a dreamflight of imagination – however there are real energy-working ‘tools’ and insights knitted into the fabric of the stories, ones that everyone can explore if they are drawn.
Ron: I can really do no more than confirm Jo’s words. I have also spent some time meeting with many disadvantaged, marginalised and ‘differently abled’ people to get a glimpse of various ‘social barriers’. I still do not understand how some people can overcome them and some cannot. I am not sure I really want to be normal.
What do you think a short story gives to the reader that a full-length novel doesn’t?
Have the changes in the publishing world affected the short story market?
Do you think e-readers have made a difference?
Ron: Well I am a bit lazy and so like the idea of short stories, but am often left with the feeling of having some of my questions unanswered. I accept this as I go into a short story, understanding it cannot give the depth of a longer piece but can give an opening, middle, and some form of conclusion, in a short space.
I have always been a bit of a tech-head, so when I started reading a few years ago took up the electronic form. However, I do have more printed books. I can see the physical advantages of both. But the e-book gives so many more writers an opportunity.
Joanna: I immensely enjoy reading and writing both formats, so I’m pleased that the growth of the e-reading market (and accessibility of independent publishing) mean that both forms are readily available. Sometimes only a short story will do – for reading, or writing!
While there is something hugely satisfying about “living” in one book for several hours, I do feel a short story can be just as rewarding. There can be as much emotional depth as in a novel, but perhaps the short story focuses on just one pivotal moment in time – one which affects a character’s choices, perspective, or wellbeing. It’s all about how the writer conveys conflict, emotion, and insight, no matter how many words are used.
Finally, what are you currently working on?
Ron: I mentioned in another answer I have plans for two books outside the series. Both seem to be based around ‘angels’ living among us for some reason. One very worldly, based on an old house I visited and its occupants; the other may get me into some trouble with religions …. if they ever get finished! I really must make more time for the writing away from our Writers Circle.
Joanna: I’m not actively working on novel #3 just yet, although I have made a possible start. There’s a lot I need to get my head around before I start typing again! I’m also still ‘recovering’ after getting Dark Perfume: Tales of Light and Shadow ready for publication and launch!
Our fortnightly Writers’ Circle meetings mean that I often have a mini WIP, though, as there’s usually a short story to be written for future meetings or competitions. I have other unfinished short stories in play, as well, and several thousand words of a possible novella or novel waiting for review. Energy-permitting, I’m never idle!
Thank you for sharing with us.
Wishing you success with all your writing projects.
Thanks again for the chance to take part in this Q&A, Shaz! It’s been fun!
Joanna Gawn and Ron Dickerson write together as The Lazuli Portals. They share a longstanding interest in spirituality, synchronicity, and the metaphysical (The Celestine Prophecy has been a key influence!)
Joanna has a maths and science background (she has a thing for spreadsheets) but discovered Reiki and ‘subtle energies’ when she developed a challenging health condition. That changed her life, and indirectly led to her starting to write again. She is also partial to cake, chocolate, and Breton cidre. She has a TBR list that will probably outlive her.
Ron Dickerson is proudly Cornish, with a background in rugby, business, and Round Table/Rotary. Writing enables him to explore the less ‘logical’ aspects of his personality. Ron is also an intuitive healer, which has made for some deeply interesting discussions and experiences!
Connect with Joanna and Ron
Crystal, Fire and Water: a free ebook (short stories & micro-fiction) http://www.lazuli-portals.com/crystal-fire-and-water.html