Lorina Stephens – From Mountains of Ice

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

The genesis for From Mountains of Ice came about because I wanted to write a story about an unlikely hero, someone who wasn’t all beauty, youth and brawn. In fact, I wanted a middle-aged man who reluctantly takes up the mantle of responsibility. That, combined with a fascination for the myriad funeral and death rituals around the world, made for the foundation of the novel. In particular, I found the Romano-Celtic legend of the cucullati of interest, and that legend plays a fundamental role in the culture of the novel, and the development of the plot.

Sylvio diDanuto, the hero of the story, spends the past decade banished from Simare’s court, stripped of land, ancestral home and title – from Minister of National Security to back-country bowyer. He’s not any bowyer; Sylvio creates bows from laminations of wood and human bone, bows that are said to speak, bows known as the legendary arcossi.

And now, after a decade, he is called back to the capitol, summoned by the Prince he mentored, and whom he suspects is a patricide and insane. Sylvio’s very life is in danger and with it the country he has served through all his days.

From Mountains of Ice is a story of love, endurance and the meaning of honour.

Tell us something about yourself.

I’m a Canadian born and bred girl, specifically small-town Ontario. In 1980 I picked up the pen professionally and never looked back. I’ve worked as editor, freelance journalist for national and regional print media, authored six books both fiction and non-fiction, been a festival organizer, publicist, lectured on many topics from historical textiles and domestic technologies, to publishing and writing, taught, and continue to work as a writer, artist, and publisher.

I live with my husband of three plus decades, and two cats, in a historic stone house in Neustadt, Ontario. It’s picturesque, bucolic setting where I write in the loft on the third floor.

How did you choose the title?

The title came about because the mountains of Sylvio’s world act as a border not only between countries, but choices he must make, and transformations he undergoes.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I’ve been writing stories from the time I was a little girl, although I didn’t start by recording them. I spent a great deal of time alone, and as a result found ways to amuse myself and fill the isolation with worlds and situations. That story-telling ability stayed with me through my adult life.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Not particularly. I’m not one given to chasing the muse. I find writing to me more of an act of discipline than one of ritual. It’s a job, like any other, and very much a love/hate relationship. I find I bribe myself in order to crank out the stories. i.e. write this much and you can go out to the garden, or whatever.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

I spend a great deal of time researching the meaning of my characters’ names. It is a personal belief that names can carry power. There is an expectation placed upon a person when they are named. I suppose that’s a bit of an ancient culture belief, but one I think can have import. My name, for instance, was one my mother thought she made up as a way of appeasing my father who was disappointed I wasn’t male and therefore the recipient of his father’s name, Laurentino. Mother played with that name and came up with Lorina, little realizing it is in fact an ancient Roman name meaning ‘crowned with laurel’. I’m still waiting for the accolades, but find I keep striving toward excellence that might garner those accolades.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

If you’re any good at what you do, you learn something from every book you write, whether it’s through research, or the process, or any number of factors. While I can’t say I learned anything specific from writing this novel, my life’s research and journey led to writing the book. So this was a backward process, if you will.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

I read a wide range of books, non-fiction and fiction, crossing many genres and subjects. Discovery and knowledge are important to me, almost to my mental health, if you will. If I get bored world chaos is likely to occur, (just ask my kids) and so it’s important for me to keep the mental muscle fit and active. As to favourite authors, I’d have to say hands down Thomas Hardy, because of his timeless ability to marry character and environment. In a more modern sphere, I seek out Margaret Atwood. When I want complete entertainment I read Pauline Gedge. But there are scores of others I read on a regular basis, and more I’m discovering.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

I’m presently working on my next novel, called The Rose Guardian. It’s a story about a woman’s journey to find lost innocence. She’s dealing with the recent death of her mother, and in a way the novel explores her own quiet, complete breakdown. This is a challenging novel to write, because it’s three stories, that of the main character, Vi Robinson, that of her mother, Una Cotter, and that of a little girl who has no name. The voice of Vi is told in an immediate voice, and is the main story and nexus of the other two stories. Una’s story is told through her journals, part of Vi’s inheritance, and I’ve chosen to do this because this is the mother’s way of reaching out to her daughter from the grave, to explain much of what was missing in her relationship with her daughter. The little girl’s story is almost the subconscious mind speaking, that of innocence lost, and takes on a dark fairy tale tone.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Always be true to your inner voice, be disciplined and excellent, and never give up. Dreams do come true. They just take a lot of work.

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

The perfect reader for From Mountains of Ice would be anyone who enjoys reading cultural fantasy, or anything about archery, the Italian Renaissance, funeral rituals, or the culture of tattoos. While the story is dark and brooding, it isn’t macabre or gory. If you like stories that marry environment and character, that have an undertone, you’ll like From Mountains of Ice.

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

You can purchase From Mountains of Ice in print or digital format through online retailers globally, (Amazon, Chapters, Barnes and Noble, WH Smith, Kobo, Apple and others) as well as through select Chapters/Indigo locations, or directly from Five Rivers (http://www.5rivers.org). If you wish to catch up with me on Facebook you can do so at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lorina-Stephens/136091476870.