Keeping In The Holiday Spirit: A Midwinter Fantasy

With blizzards hitting all over the country, it is nice to escape from the cold curled up with a good book. This season, we recommend the paranormal anthology A Midwinter Fantasy to transport yourself to wonderful faraway lands. RT's Web Editor Morgan Doremus shares an in-depth author interview with the anthology's authors, Leanna Renee Hieber, L.J. McDonald and Helen Scott Taylor about what you can expect inside their three new novellas!

Morgan Doremus: Can each of you describe the paranormal creatures/characters in each of your stories and make the argument for why your paranormal characters are superior? 

Leanna Renee Hieber: I've been loving and writing ghost stories since I was a child, and my love of history and the paranormal was always hand in hand. I'm not sure I ever envisioned the Victorian era without ghosts (thank you heartily, Mr. Dickens) so it was always a natural fit for me. I also throw in a healthy dose of Greek Mythology and my own version of the spirit world to give the Strangely Beautiful series a truly fantastical spin. What makes ghosts such wonderful paranormal characters is that they are the only paranormal 'creature' that is directly relative to us, they were once one of us. Its what makes them so relatable, and also so terrifying, as they have crossed that barrier none of us have yet crossed, and all of us to some degree either fear or approach with a mixture of faith, trepidation and wonder. They know things we won't know until we're like them. They are familiar and not. Even if the ghost of a loved one appears, they are not the same, and it’s a bittersweet, often frightening turn. That's a deeply personal angle no other paranormal creature can attain. And, in my belief and experience, they are absolutely, unquestioningly real.

L.J. McDonald: Okay, first it is important to explain exactly what my creatures - the sylphs - are. Sylphs are creatures made out of energy who are capable of changing their shape, using empathy, and doing all sorts of interesting things. There are essentially six main types of sylphs. The four elementals are fire, water, earth, and air, all of whom are capable to manipulating and controlling their respective element. They're all female and very benign creatures. Healers are also female and have the ability to heal. They're better at shape-shifting than the elementals. The last are the battlers, and they're the only type of sylph who is male. They're also the best of them all at shape-shifting and their powers are focused into destructive energies, the better to defend the hive. Battlers are warriors above all else.

Why are sylph’s superiour? If I have to answer, I'd say that Sylphs, and especially battlers are superior because they're immensely loyal. Sylphs all have masters in the human world and obey them without any hesitation. You would never have a companion as loyal as a sylph. They're also very powerful. A battle sylph would die in a second for the woman he loved.

Helen Scott Taylor: I love mythological creatures, and the immortal gods with their awesome powers have got to be my favorite. In “The Crystal Crib” in A Midwinter Fantasy, I have set the story partly in the realm of the Norse gods and partly in the human realm, but all the characters are descended from gods and have magical powers. The Norse gods seemed to be merciless in their dealings with each other, and I drew on the mythology surrounding Odin and Loki for my story. For anyone who has read the other two books in the Magic Knot series, you will learn a lot more about Troy in “The Crystal Crib.”

Morgan Doremus: Leanna, in "A Christmas Carroll" your characters are treated to glimpses of their pasts in order to see their lives more clearly. Is there a time in your life you wish you could go back to in order to gain insight into your own experiences? 

Leanna Renee Hieber: Hmm. I'm not sure if I'd want to go back and watch some of my teenage and early 20's train-wrecks but rather stop some of them for the sake of all involved. And yet I do believe in a life lived trial by fire, of life unfolding as it will, and for the beauty of the whole process, bumps and all. I think if nothing else, I'd like to see things I took for granted that now I realize were precious and special, and perhaps notice details I wasn't aware of or mature enough to relish.

Morgan Doremus: In your story, you write that "sometimes a good haunting is just what the soul needs." True or false?

Leanna Renee Hieber: TRUE. As long as the ghosts are the friendly kind. I believe my dear Mr. Dickens would agree with me.

Morgan Doremus: L.J., in "The Worth of a Sylph" your hero, Mace, has the power to release an aura of hateful feelings that overwhelm his enemies which is quite possibly the best power around, after all he doesn't even need to touch his enemies to stop them. If you were a battle sylph, what defensive power would you want to bring down your enemies?

L.J. McDonald: I'd probably do something along the lines of using the shape-shifting. If you can turn into just about anything, you can avoid a fight completely. Of course, that's generally not the battler way. They're much more into the "The best defense is a good offence" camp.

Morgan Doremus: In your story, battle sylph must choose a human master that they are bound to until that person dies. Just in case any of our readers find themselves in a predicament of being auditioned for a sylph master, do you have any advice for them?

L.J. McDonald: Just to remember that a battle sylph surrenders all their power to the woman who becomes their master. Sure, they can blow up stuff and change shape and they're immensely powerful, but their master is the one with the real power, because she has complete power over them. No battler would willingly choose to be with a woman who would abuse that trust.

Morgan Doremus: Helen, your previous novels have delved deeply into Welsh and Irish lore, but in "The Crystal Crib" you chose to follow Norse mythology. Why the change?

Helen Scott Taylor: I have focused on Celtic mythology in the first two Magic Knot books visiting Ireland, Wales, and England, but there is a little Norse blended in there. Unbeknown to the heroes of the first two books they have some Norse-god’s blood running through their veins. In “The Crystal Crib,” I venture into the Norse branch of the family tree.

Morgan Doremus: In your story, the characters are unhappily trapped in Iceland. Your hero, Vidar, comes to associate the cold with imprisonment and his hatred towards his father, the god Odin. Do you share Vidar's feelings and prefer warmer climes or are you a winter person?

Helen Scott Taylor: I am difficult to please. I don’t like it too hot or too cold. So it is a good thing I live in temperate England where we never experience extremes of temperature. The only problem is it rains a lot in England, especially where I live in the South West between Dartmoor and the coast.

Morgan Doremus: In Helen's story, the heroine sees the slogan "Live your dreams this Christmas" over and over again. Were each of you able to live your dreams this Christmas season? 

Helen Scott Taylor: My daughter recently moved into her first home and will be married in the spring. My dream was for her to have a lovely first Christmas with her fiancé in her new home. (And I am hoping for some grandchildren sometime soon. Although not too soon!)

Leanna Renee Hieber: Now that I've attained my greatest dream, that of publishing the “book of my heart”, my dream remains steady; to keep writing books, with my wonderful real-life hero, my family and friends at my side. The fact that The Strangely Beautiful Tale of Miss Percy Parker is being made into a musical, with a draft of the show already completed was another unexpected Christmas gift. The dream is for it to workshop in a regional theatre early this year and then... hopefully onto the great white way! My hero, Alexi, at one point hails Miss Percy; "Hello, my north star." She certainly has been exactly that for me.

L.J. McDonald: I spent time with my husband and had a peaceful Christmas. I wouldn't have turned down a winning lottery ticket though and I definitely wouldn't have turned down the opportunity to write full time.  :)  But to just get up each day and write without needing to worry about the bills getting paid is definitely be my Christmas dream.

Now that you've taken a peek behind the scenes of this magical anthology, you can download your own copy of A Midwinter Fantasy and we hope it helps you beat back the winter doldrums!