Originally published online via PaganPages. Click the following link to view the full article here: PaganPages.org
Saoirse – First, let me say, I was impressed with your book Monsters and Creatures. I never know what to expect from a reference book on creatures- and I was thrilled because I found your book very well researched.
You packed so very much good information into it. How long did it take you to gather all of that in formation, and what was the process for research you used? What background in research do you have, and what is your philosophy about educating your readers as an author?
Gabiann – Thank you. The research part was quite interesting. I have grown up with many of the creatures in the book in so far as I have loved and read mythology and fantasy and history since I was a small child. In fact the very first book I bought for myself (at the age of seven) was The natural history of the vampire by Anthony Masters and I still have that book. So I guess it took a lifetime to gather all the information.
The greater challenge was how to get all the information I wanted to talk about into such a small book. I didn’t want it to just be a dictionary of fantastic beasts. I’m a writer and the power of all these creatures are in their stories and I wanted to be able to share that… Give a context of these creatures in history and psychology and society.
I have been a professional writer for a long time as well as an academic, so I read widely and have a pretty varied interest and abundant curiosity in just about everything – so I find researching information pretty easy.
The process for this book was really to decide what monsters and creatures I wanted to include. The publisher was pretty adamant the popular ones were included… Which I agreed with… But I was also intent on introducing readers to more unusual and lesser known creatures and tell their stories too.
Saoirse – What made you decide to write about this topic, specifically? This appears more like a long-term interest in these beings turned into a good book to share what you have learned with others. Am I right?
Gabiann – Yes. I love animals and the natural world and am fascinated in how we, as humans, connect to and understand nature. I have always believed the stories of monsters and creatures are some of the most potent and informative ways that we express our love and fear of the world around us.
Saoirse – As I am Pagan, I know a lot of people who embrace belief in human connection with supernatural beings. One friend said these “creatures” may be nothing more than manifestation of spirit people perceive so well, they mistake them for flesh! While we know about logical explanations like- manatees can be mistaken for mermaids, etc- what is your take on the theory my friend presented?
Gabiann – I have a rather unique perspective on people’s belief systems and how they engage with the mystical, the natural and the supernatural… And that is that however someone perceives these creatures – as real or imagined, as pyschological manifestations or as historical creatures… They are probably right.
We manifest our understanding of the world and ourselves through the stories we tell and that shapes how we treat each other and the world around us. Spirit reaches us through story, symbol and myth.
If your friend perceives spirit as a unicorn or a dragon.. Then that is how spirit presents itself to her. She is using these stories exactly how they were meant to be used – for her to step beyond the human condition and understand the world beyond herself.
Saoirse – I want to know all about you! Tell me about your writing in general, and beyond that, YOU in general? What made you decide to write? What else are you good at? What projects are you working on, and what else is in the workings?
Gabiann – That’s a big topic… Where do I start?
I suppose I have always been a writer, I wrote my first short story at the age of eight and won my first literary prize when I was fourteen. I became a professional writer when I started University. I was originally going to be a vet but ended up at the last minute studying writing instead. My mum was surprisingly OK with this!
I started my professional writing life writing film and theatre reviews and then actual plays. I worked as a corporate copywriter for a few years but realised it was a bit soul destroying so shifted over and became a writer for charities and causes I believed in… Like Amnesty International, The Wilderness Society and Greenpeace.
I also wrote for Australian television for a few years but it was a hard road back then with very little Australian content being made. So in 2000 I began writing children’s books. In 2003 I wrote a book for young readers about a child in Australian Immigration detention called A True Person, which won a few international awards but most importantly was the first book in Australia to tackle that issue.
I still write social justice material in fiction form but moved into editing and writing non fiction after leaving an academic job in 2016.
Currently I am dividing my time between teaching writing and film at University, while editing and writing non-fiction, original and adapted film scripts and completing a fantasy fiction book about Medusa.
Saoirse – Tell me about your personal spiritual path, and if it influenced your work on this topic.
Gabiann – I am Wicca and have been since I was quite young, however I am more a pagan in the classic sense, in that I believe there is a natural force which guides the world and creates and determines life. I believe we need to understand and respect this force… Which currently as a global entity we are not doing.
All of my work has, in some way, reflected my belief that people are part of – not in conflict with – the natural world. And the natural world is actually supernatural, in that it contains spirit as well as material things. This is hardly controversial, as literally everyone in the known history of humankind has believed a version of this – yet for some reason mankind have been intent on focusing on the differences in this belief and killing each other over how we individually choose to understand and express that spiritual essence . To me spirit is nature herself… Everything in it is amazing. It contains things which we are only just beginning to understand.
I don’t follow any organized religion because I believe that most of them limit us into hatred and division with both ourselves and the other beings we share this planet with. But I have a huge respect for most religious people who are just trying to find ways to connect with the bigger sense of power around them. I believe that when we are in contact with the natural world… Go beyond the realms of mankind’s selfishness, greed and violence, we can connect to that spirit. But honestly I do not think we as humans are the most important things on this planet. Not the single or indeed the main focus of any spiritual force which may exist. The trees and the rocks and the mountains have watched us rise and they will watch us fall. Creatures we can barely imagine have roamed this earth thousands of years before we were even conceived of.. And other creatures will no doubt walk across our fossilized bones. And that is a good thing. Nature is immortal. So the smallness and pettiness of humanity and our need to find meaning and place has always underpinned my work. As well as a commitment to kindness, justice and understanding … Towards each other and all beings.
Saoirse – Have you had any personal encounters with creatures or spirits you would like to share?
Gabiann – I think there is magic in the world, and spirit… particularly animal spirits, can help you find your way to that magic.
When I was in my twenties I had a very hard time. As I believe most young women in their twenties do in a world that is constantly telling us that as females we are simply not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough. Then one night I had this amazing dream of two tigers who embraced me when I thought they were going to rip me apart.
I woke up realizing that I was worthy and strong and loved. I still believe today they were manifestations of spirit telling me to stop worrying about all the silliness around me and understand that my purpose… the purpose for all of us, was simply to be a good person. Once I realized that, life became much clearer for me and I was able to follow a path that wasn’t so concerned about whether I fitted in with the very narrow ideology of being a compliant, acceptable, quiet woman. Which I certainly am not! And rather tell stories and be part of the world in a way that expanded, not limited my and other creatures existence.
I am still very spiritual and have engaged with spirit in many ways since then. But I remember that dream so clearly even now. It’s why I became a pagan and a feminist.
Monsters and Creatures, as well as its companion book – Gods and Goddesses, was written as an introduction into the history of humankind’s need to use story and myth to understand the world. They are small books but I hope they pack a punch and give people a bit of an insight into what unites us – which is story… and what defines us – which is how we understand the world around us.
They are both written to be fun, informative and easy to read and I really hope people engage with them. Our continuing fascination with supernatural creatures is one of the many things that unite us as people. And sharing these stories is the best way to create connections between us across time and cultures.
I am happy to engage with readers but have a limited social media profile as I find the online world to be somewhat mean-spirited and focused on conflict. I have a facebook authors page and an Amazon Author’s page through which I am happy to engage with those wanting more information about me.
If you are interested in getting a copy of any of my books they are widely available through Amazon as well as most good book stores.
Saoirse – What is your FAVORITE Monster/Creature you included in your book, and why? Any encounters, dreams, or visions of/with it/them?
Gabiann – This is a bit like asking me to choose a favourite child!
All of them are my favourite in different ways. I love the more unusual ones like the Japanese Yokai because they are just so quirky and, although they can be a bit nasty, they are essentially just really cool, interesting little creatures who don’t bother anyone and just hang about doing their own thing.
Researching the book I found the bird-like creatures the most fascinating as they were probably the ones I knew the least about. Again they are usually positive, kind creatures who help rather than harm us.
But I guess if I had to pick a favourite it would have to be Medusa. She resonates about the power of women and her story is one of injustice. She was never a monster, just someone who was trying to live her life. She only harmed those who attacked her and she was a victim of one of the most heinous and cowardly acts in all of mythology. It is impossible, I think, to see the story of Medusa as anything but a parable about male violence against women and the hatred of the established patriarchy of strong independent females. For that reason she probably resonates the strongest.
I am actually writing a fiction book about her – its a crime caper comedy believe it or not!
For more information on Gabiann Marin Visit:
Rockpool Publishing Author Page
PaganPages.org – 20 March, 2019