Music of Sacred Lakes, by Laura K. Cowan, is my type of book. I love books that rise above words on a page and become their own surreal, atmospheric, deep thinking entities. It’s why I love Neil Gaiman, Erin Healy, and Ted Dekker so much. I really wish there were more authors who would write stories that intertwine the essence of life with fantastic ideas and a connection to nature, our ancestors, and the spirit world. Maybe I just think deeper myself than an average person on such subjects, but I doubt it. I am sure there are plenty of us free spirit thinkers sitting on benches by rivers and lakes and thinking about how it all fits together.
In this novel, Laura deals with emotions and issues such as not feeling like you belong, feeling guilty for not meeting expectations, feeling that you can’t be who you are, and as well, emotions that come from accidentally doing something wrong and having it eat away at you. She does a wonderful job of bringing it full circle though and redeeming the protagonist as he does inner soul searching and embraces self-awareness and forgiveness.
This story is somewhat supernatural in regards to it deals with the character diving deep beyond the normal, natural world and seeks guidance from God, spirits, natures, and himself. He is heightened in regards to thinking beyond the average world and healing himself. The lake, and his quest he is sent on by a native american healer to hear the lake speak to him, brings a gothic, foggy feel to the novel.
I really enjoyed Laura’s use of the first people tribes, the Odawa and Ojibwe, which are native to the area of Canada and Michigan. Native American novels and the use of their spiritual history and connection with nature has always interested and appealed to me, so I was thrilled that her novel included this element. It gives us as Christians an understanding that their is more than the usual religion that most are used to, that long before the white men came here, native americans were in-tune to the natural world and as well their own emotions and spiritual plain. A deep understanding of nature can call to us, change us, and speak to us, or how spirits and ancestors can speak to us through it, is so eerie to read about and yet so interesting to think on.
I really loved the issues and emotions Laura put into her book, as well as her character development and her astounding magical and spiritual realism and symbolism. I can’t read to read more from Laura. If you liked Erin Healy’s Afloat or Neil Gaiman’s The House at the End of the Lane, then I think you’ll love Laura’s Music of the Sacred Lakes. 4.5 stars
Interview with Laura K. Cowan~
Hi Laura!! Happy to have you come by Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It’s always a pleasure to have you here. You are kicking off quite the year as not only are you publishing Music of Sacred Lakes, but you have many more books launching this year. How are you feeling about launching Music of Sacred Lakes to the world?
Laura: Thank you! It’s so nice to be back to talk to you again. How am I feeling? Giddiness followed by dread followed by joy. No biggie. But seriously, this book came out of a full year of intense research and involved a shift in my worldview to a new understanding of the connectedness of things, so it’s big for me even if I’m not inventing any new way of seeing things that didn’t already exist in the world. I am super excited to share it with everyone, but I’m also pretty nervous. How many more people have to call me a heretic before I earn my sew-on “This Artist Has Been Flogged and Proven Sincere” patch?
Erin: NO reason to be nervous….haha! It’s getting somewhat more like spring where we are in Michigan and Ohio, after all that massive snow we had, let’s don our sweatshirts and head out in the cool breeze for a walk around one of our neighboring lakes. Should we bring coffee or tea? I opt this time for a steaming cup of java myself. You?
Laura: I love coffee, but it turns me into a maniac! I seriously can’t drink more than a quarter-cup of coffee without attempting to write an entire book in one day or clean my whole house. That would be awesome if it didn’t involve a crash on the other end. So, tea, thanks.
Erin: I have some great questions I’ve been waiting to ask you so let’s get started.
Q: Tell us a little about Music of Sacred Lakes. What was your inspiration for the novel?
A: My family actually has a sixth-generation family homestead in Northern Michigan like Peter in Music of Sacred Lakes, and while I’m really proud of my pioneering ancestors and relatives who still maintain the farm, I was upset when I learned as a kid about the history of Native American tribes being forced to give their lands to the United States to open it to settlers in the 1800s. I thought all my life about how maybe I should give back land I had control over, or at least help these tribes. In the end I realized that this sort of thing has happened throughout history to many peoples and it’s not possible to untangle it so simply, but it got me thinking about ownership of land, a concept I’ve never really been comfortable with. I also was thinking about how different cultures give rise to unique musical styles that really seem to reflect the environment they come from, and I started to wonder if there was a relationship between music and land. What was people’s relationship to land? What kind of relationships do people have with nature? I was starting to realized that feeling unwanted and displaced in the world was a deeper issue than family relationships, a big theme running through the generations of my family. It had something to do with the way we view our place in the world as a whole as well, something that had more to do with our entire culture’s way of viewing their relationship with nature.
Q: Your stories generally have an air of spirituality and connection with the natural elements. How do you feel your ghost differs from the normal ghost stories we read mainstream today?
A: This ghost is so different that I didn’t decide it was a ghost until the story was finished! This ghost is more like the voice of the world or the creative force behind it, which comes to Peter in the book in the form of the girl he accidentally killed rising out of Lake Michigan as a part of the lake. That’s why I call it a redemptive ghost story. It’s certainly still fascinating in the way I think all ghost stories can be, but it’s not just scary or sad. There’s a real ambiguous quality to it. We travel through the experience of being pursued by this voice with Peter, unsure of what is going on.
Q: How do you as an author define your genre? Literary? Christian? Paranormal? And how do others define you? Even though we can say we don’t want to be defined, generally our novels fit in somewhere and this helps readers to know if it’s a read for them.
A: I guess the best fit for me is magical realism or imaginative fantasy, in which invisible or mythical truths are made literal and visible in the contemporary world. My writing hops across several genres: fantasy, literary fiction, spiritual/visionary/metaphysical/postmodern Christian, paranormal psychological thrillers, but everything is about dreams, the connections between the natural and spiritual worlds, and supernatural or magical elements.
Q: What makes your novel, The Music of Sacred Lakes, stand out on the shelves? What makes your story unique?
A: Both supernatural novels and literary novels sometimes have a kind of dark vision of the world these days, probably just a reflection of our times. But Music of Sacred Lakes dives into one of the hardest topics literature tackles–being unwanted, unloved, displaced in the world, seeing no hope or purpose in life: despair–and brings an ambitiously hopeful vision of how things might be all right after all. It might be that we just don’t see it.
Q: What do you hope readers “take away” after they read this novel? What types of emotions or thoughts do you hope to evoke from them?
A: Hope. A feeling of being surrounded by loving care and belonging just as they are.
Q: The Odawa tribe, which is featured in the book, were native to Canada and Michigan. Have you done much research about the tribes? How did you feature the tribe in the book?
A: The main character’s best friend Derek is from the Odawa tribe local to the area where Peter’s family has been living since 1865, and it’s his uncle he takes Peter to when he sees he is in trouble after accidentally killing a girl. It’s this Uncle Lou, a pipe carrier or spiritual leader for the tribe, who tells Peter he needs to live by the shores of Lake Michigan until it speaks to him. I read everything I could find about the history of the tribes and their culture and myths while researching this novel, but a lot of information is kept private within the tribe. I contacted the band of Odawa living in the area where Music of Sacred Lakes is set and someone very graciously answered some of my questions about the tribe’s culture and lifestyle. I was also lucky to find an Ojibwe linguist in my own town who would help me proof some details in my novel. (Ojibwe is a brother tribe to the Odawa and the languages and history are intertwined.) This gave me a bit more confidence that I wasn’t going to make any huge mistakes writing this novel, but the more I learned the more I realized how complex the culture and beliefs were.
Q: Is the lake in your novel Lake Michigan or Lake Huron? How many novels do you think could be penned just by looking out at a lake and clearing your mind? Lakes offer so much depth, pun intended. Do you find beauty, solace, and stories at the lake?
A: Lake Michigan. And oh my I could write forever looking out over Lake Michigan in particular. I think readers will see how much I love the lake by reading the novel. The lake itself is a character in this book, and I had no problem coming up with a new image to describe the lake every single moment Peter looks out over the water throughout the book or listens to the waves. The lake is like that, always changing, always bringing you some new insight or sense of freedom.
Q: Your life is busy, how have you found time to write novels such as these that seem to take a lot of internal reflection and deep thinking? I’d love to be able to write on this wavelength, but the voices of a million things to do with the kids and work and life seem to stifle my thoughts. How do you do it? Advice?
A: I honestly am always thinking on speculative, metaphysical and spiritual topics and have been told most of my life that it’s boring or that it’s arrogant to think that I’m capable of thinking deeply on these things. I finally had to decide that I believed I was capable of this, because I really can’t help myself. This is what I love about life. And when my brain or my heart get going on these topics, the stories just explode inside my head, or start to unfold slowly and then accelerate, and I have to write to keep up. It’s still accelerating now that I’m investing in my writing, and it’s a little startling sometimes to see all this stuff in my head rolling out onto paper. It’s only a fraction of what’s going through my mind, but it’s quickly turning into a whole library of work!
Q: You’ve described yourself as a literary imaginative novelist, or an American Fabulist. Can you talk about this a little and describe what that means for readers?
A: The main features of my work are that it is high-concept, meaning I’m exploring really deep topics of speculation about how the world works. And it’s imaginative, because if I write fantasy I’m often making up my own monsters or putting two concepts together into something new, not writing about existing fantasy creatures like elves or dragons. So I’ll take you down a lot of different paths with my stories, but it will hopefully always be something that is important to you and really resonates with you, and it will always be imaginative and new.
Q: What are your hopes for yourself as a novelist? We can be humble, but we all aspire. What are your aspirations, goals, dreams?
A: There are so many things I can’t control about my success, so I focus my goals on things I think I can accomplish. I would like to be the most prolific and imaginative American Fabulist in history. Of course my real dream is to connect with as many readers as possible and for my stories to mean something to someone who is hurting and needs some hope and love or a world to escape into where they can be happy. I had my first glimpse of this when I released my first novel, The Little Seer, last year. Two people wrote to me and told me the book changed their lives. Even if I didn’t already write for the love of it, that would have made five years of work worth it, for me.
Q: What authors do you like yourself? What authors have served as inspiration for you? What are some of your favorite books?
A: I love Italo Calvino, who wrote literary fantasy. Jorge Luis Borges, the king of magical realism. I love the new fairy tales coming out these days, written by Eowyn Ivey, Kate Bernheimer or Ekaterina Sedia, and anything speculative or imaginative and spiritual at the same time. I love Victorian or Puritan ghost stories about priests, for obvious reasons. Some of my favorite books include Charles de Lint’s Memory & Dream, in which art is sentient, Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood about a layered magical wood of mythic creatures, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods since it opened up this world of contemporary fantasy mixed with world myths to me. And Lewis Carroll. Alice in Wonderland is the most amazing story on so many levels.
Q: Are you making a conscious decision to self-publish your books? Can you talk about that and what your thoughts are on this?
A: Yes, it was a tough decision because publishing is in a huge transition right now, but ultimately I discovered that traditional publishing couldn’t offer me the things they used to, and that contract terms were so bad they could sometimes stop an author’s career in its tracks. Even though I met some amazing people in the process of making this decision, I had to go it alone in the end just so I could keep my career moving forward. As a self-published author I can publish six books a year, as quickly as I can write and edit them, I can control how quickly I get my covers designed, hire any help I need, and so on. I hope someday to find partners to help me get my work out and scale up my career even further, but for now the only way to write what I want and not get bogged down in bottlenecks is to do it all myself, and I actually enjoy that process so it’s very satisfying.
Q: Also are you crazy publishing such an unheard of amount of books in the next one to two years? How are you doing this? What is your plan? How many books do you actually having coming out and what are they about?
A: I have six books coming out this year starting with Music of Sacred Lakes, everything from new fairytales about portals between worlds to a young adult fantasy world in which dreams balloon into a new reality that threatens to roll up the world like a scroll, and a paranormal psychological thriller about an ex-ballerina running away from an abusive marriage while trying to figure out if she’s possessed. It all follows the same supernatural spiritual lines of the rest of my work but dips into many different genres.
I’m publishing this quickly because readers now consume books like they do movies, binge reading whole backlists, and because this really is how quickly I need to work to keep up with myself. I have three books I’m editing over the next few months in parallel, and I already have four more books I want to write noodling around in my head. My idea file must have close to 200 ideas in it, and growing. Yes, I’m probably crazy, but hopefully the interesting kind of crazy.
Q: Where can readers and authors connect with you? Where can they purchase your books?
A: All my work comes out first on Amazon and Kindle (you can find Music of Sacred Lakes here [ http://www.amazon.com/Music-Sacred-Lakes-Laura-Cowan/dp/1494711427/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1397568590&sr=8-2&keywords=laura+k.+cowan ] ), but I will be releasing many of my books to other e-book retailers soon, and you can always order my work in any bookstore or request it be ordered by your local library. I’m on Facebook [ http://www.facebook.com/laurakcowannovelist ] and Twitter (@laurakcowan) as well as Pinterest and Goodreads as Laura K. Cowan. And I blog at http://www.laurakcowan.com.
Erin: I’m always so happy to learn of your work and feature you on the blog, Laura, my friend. Best wishes to you with all your pursuits and we’ll be here to inform our readers about all your fabulous novels as they publish. I love watching all this blossom for you.
Laura: Thank you so much! I really appreciate all your support. Best of luck to you with everything as well!
Music of Sacred Lakes, Synopsis~
Peter Sanskevicz doesn’t belong anywhere. He doesn’t want the sixth-generation family farm his great great-grandfather unwittingly stole from its Odawa owners, and can’t continue his jobs serving “fudgies,” tourists in Northern Michigan who seem more at home than he is. He can’t seem to take charge of things or do anything but make a mess. Then, Peter accidentally kills a girl.
Seeing his life is at risk, his friend takes him to his uncle, a pipe carrier of the Odawa tribe, who tells him he must live by the shores of Lake Michigan until the lake speaks to him. Peter lives and loves and rages by the shores of the great lake, haunted by its rich beauty, by strange images and sounds that begin to pursue him through his waking and sleeping hours, and by the spirit of the dead girl, who seems to be trying to help him. One day, he finally finds an inner silence. And then, he hears what the lake has to say to him. A story about reconnecting with the source of your life and your joy, Music of Sacred Lakes gives voice to the spirit of the land and lakes that gave birth to us all.
With this second and astonishingly sophisticated novel, Dreaming Novelist Laura K. Cowan cements her reputation as one of the most imaginative new American Fabulists, a writer of spiritually-oriented magical realism, literary fantasy, and visionary fiction in the line of Alice Hoffman, Ursula K. Le Guin, or Paulo Coelho, but characterized by an electric mix of lyrical language, an evocative sense of place, and quick-moving narrative that harkens back to a time when literary fiction was served up raw and ghost stories weren’t told for their sad and scary parts.
Author Laura K. Cowan, Biography~
Laura K. Cowan writes imaginative stories that explore the connections between the spiritual and natural worlds. Her work has been compared to that of acclaimed fantasy and sci-fi authors Ursula K. Le Guin and Ray Bradbury, but her stark and lovely stories retain a distinctly spiritual flavor.
Laura’s debut novel The Little Seer was a top 5 Kindle Bestseller for free titles in Christian Suspense and Occult/Supernatural, and was hailed by reviewers and readers as “riveting,” “moving and lyrical.” Her second novel, a redemptive ghost story titled Music of Sacred Lakes, and her first short story collection, The Thin Places: Supernatural Tales of the Unseen, received rave reviews. Laura’s short stories also appear in a number of anthologies, including the charity anthology Shades of Fear, and the upcoming historical horror anthology Sins of the Past, the rather ridiculous soon-to-come PANTS! anthology, and the completely absurd upcoming Faery Tale Therapy.