Welcome to my weekly Author Spotlight. I’ve asked a bunch of my author friends to answer a set of interview questions, and to share their latest work.
Today: Edale Lane is an award-winning author (Rainbow Awards, Imaginarium Awards, Lesfic Bard Awards) who is realizing her dream of being a full-time writer. She is the alter-ego of author Melodie Romeo, (Tribute in Blood, Terror in Time, and others) who founded Past and Prologue Press. Both identities are qualified to write historical fiction by virtue of an MA in History and 24 years spent as a teacher, along with skill and dedication regarding research. A native of Vicksburg, MS, Edale (or Melodie) is also a musician who loves animals, gardening, and nature. After driving an 18-wheeler cross-country for eight years, she now lives with her partner in beautiful Chilliwack, B.C. Canada.
Thanks so much, Edale, for joining me!
J. Scott Coatsworth: How would you describe your writing style/genre?
Edale Lane: I like to think it is balanced between expository writing, dialogue, and action. I like to set a scene describing its setting and characters in it so the reader can picture what is happening like a movie in their mind. While I do hint at what characters are thinking, my focus is stronger on what they say and do. This may be because (please don’t hate me) I prefer movies to books if they are done well. I rely on action and dialogue to move the plot along as well as inform the reader about the characters more so than long passages which occur only in the individual’s head. I admit, Walks with Spirits is slower paced than my more action-oriented novels and includes more description, but as one reviewer pointed out, that is because the setting, the land itself, is a character in the story.
JSC: How long on average does it take you to write a book?
EL: As I moved from part time to full-time author, how long I take to write a book has evolved. Obviously, the length of the manuscript bears consideration. In 2022, I have averaged four to six weeks to write the first draft of a full-length book (75-100K words), and another month to complete the editing process. While I engage in word and line editing as I complete each chapter, along with my own proofreading, when finished I go back through the whole manuscript to eliminate overused words, check for discrepancies in the plotline, look for more mistakes, etc before passing it to beta readers who provide me with important comments. After addressing those, it usually goes to a paid proofreader (because Lord knows I don’t catch everything!), but I took an additional step with Walks with Spirits by sending it to an Indigenous Sensitivity Reader for suggestions and approval. After working with her, it went to the proof-reader and then to print. Because of the length and process, plus a few snags I ran into, this book took longer to write than any other work of 2021-2022. I paused writing it to whip out Daring Duplicity in the meantime.
JSC: Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured in your book? If so, discuss them.
EL: Yes! This historical fantasy has a cast composed entirely of Native American characters. A deep sense of spirituality lies at the core of the story, which is an aspect often avoided by authors for various reasons.
JSC: How do you deal with rejection letters?
EL: I don’t anymore! Hurray for independent authors!! In 2000, I completed the first full-length novel I believed worthy of publication, Viking Quest. While it differed in some ways from by 2021 published version, it was essentially the same story. I sent queries to dozens of publishers and even more agents; only a few bothered with rejection letters, while most simply never replied. So I wrote Vlad (now rebranded as Tribute in Blood) a historical thriller, but met the same fate. I didn’t have time for that, so I just quit writing—or at least quit attempting to get published—for almost 15 years. Then, with children grown and a new job allowing me more time to write, I gave it another shot, starting with submitting short stories to anthologies, gaining publications, and eventually started Past and Prologue Press as a label for my Indie business. Now the only rejection letters I get are from myself, and that’s a lot easier to deal with.
JSC: What inspired you to write this particular story? What were the challenges in bringing it to life?
EL: The idea of writing a pre-colonial Native American story has been circulating in my mind for several years. I didn’t want the typical “Indian-settler” dynamic, but imagined what life may have been like for indigenous people before being disrupted by foreigners. Late in 2020, my partner and I decided to move to her home of origin in British Columbia and the desire to write a novel in the gorgeous setting here grew. While the characters and storyline developed in my brain, we sold our house and moved. Once actually surrounded by the mountains and feeling the ancient energy of the place compelled me to make this novel my next priority, but producing it was not as easy as inspiration plus research equals book. There were too many political hoops to jump through, restrictions on what I could or could not include, and so forth because of the current debate over Indigenous land rights and the horrifying discovery of children’s bodies from decades ago on the grounds of old residential schools. I was advised the only way to avoid long delays and a painstaking process of gaining approvals was to shift from historical fiction to historical fantasy. Therefore, I changed all the place and people names to fictitious ones, rewrote treasured landscape stories to not resemble their actual counterparts, and included a forward with disclaimers. This seemed to satisfy all parties, and I could move forward.
JSC: What secondary character would you like to explore more? Tell me about them.
EL: Two Rivers Running is an important secondary character who could easily have her own story to tell. She is a woman born into a man’s body—a very tall, masculine-looking individual who feels female in every other way. I wish I could have written this story the way it would have been told hundreds of years ago by the people of the Pacific Northwest who had a third gender and a third gender pronoun in their language for which English has no equivalent terms. The translation most used today is “two-spirit,” which can apply to anyone who identifies as falling within the LGBTQ+ spectrum. Two Rivers and I decided to use she/her rather than they/them because her feminine side was dominant. Two Rivers is one of the MC’s closest friends, an excellent seamstress and basket weaver, and spends much of the book pining over the man she loves… until she finds one even better who loves her in return.
JSC: Tell me one thing hardly anyone knows about you.
EL: While most people know I was a straight-A student in high school and college, earning academic accolades and a master’s degree, most are not aware I struggled in early elementary school because of undiagnosed dyslexia. In a way that was good, because I never got labeled, but I was a slow reader, a terrible speller, and couldn’t keep a list of numbers straight. Also, being a creative thinker, I became bored easily and couldn’t sit still. But dyslexia is not a learning disability, nor is it a handicap; it is a different way of processing information than is used by 90% of people and schools are geared toward “average” students. By about grade five, I figured it all out (without help from professionals) and adapted to playing by the rules of regular school. I still get my left and right mixed up.
JSC: What qualities do you and your characters share? How much are you like them, or how different are they from you?
EL: The character Walks with Spirits is very in-tune with nature, the universe, and the spirit world, i.e., the non-physical energy surrounding us. She is curious, wishing to learn everything there is to know, and because of her faith, strikes out boldly without fear of consequences. While I can’t say I possessed such courage when I was her age, I have always wanted to know everything. So, here’s to lifelong learners who aren’t afraid to take a leap of faith!
JSC: If you could create a new holiday, what would it be?
EL: “Don’t Worry, Be Happy Day!” On this day, no bills could be paid or collected, and all workers would have the day off to do fun things they enjoy. The point of the day is to set cares aside, laugh, dance, sing, play, and enjoy now in your own skin, filling up your virtual cup with joy.
JSC: What are you working on now, and what’s coming out next? Tell us about it!
EL: Glad you asked! I’m currently working on Daunting Dilemmas, The Wellington Mysteries, Vol. 3: Adventures of a Lesbian Victorian Detective. I hope to have it out by Christmas, but we’ll see how it goes. Without being too heavy, this installment goes further in dissecting social problems of the times which remain with us today.
And now for one of Edale’s latest books: Walks With Spirits (also available in audiobook format):
Bound by love, separated by a tragic mistake; can two Indigenous women realize their happy ending?
Long ago, in an age of mysticism, Walks with Spirits, a two-spirit woman, perceives voices whispering on the wind and they empower her with the gift of calling animals. But who she truly wishes to call to her side is her childhood friend, Laughing Brook.
Daughter of a shaman and an herbalist-midwife, Laughing Brook holds a prominent place in her society and bears the responsibilities it entails. She is training to be a healer like her mother, but her most compelling desire is to spend her life with Walks with Spirits.
When a misunderstanding crushes their dreams of happiness, both women must learn to face the trials that await them in a land where danger lurks behind every tree and honor means more than life. Will the spirits intervene on their behalf, or are they fated never to manifest their visions of love?
Walks with Spirits is a historical fantasy set in an ancient time. Packed with Native American themes, heart-touching imagery, and an epic love story, Walks with Spirits will immerse you in an inspiring view of life.
From Chapter Two of Walks with Spirits
A movement at the front door drew Brook’s attention and in an instant her face lit up and her heart swelled. A tall woman wearing men’s clothing strode in, her head held high, and the energy in the chamber danced. Even Thunder Warrior did not seem so dull.
“That is Walks with Spirits,” he said with a gesture. “She is an odd woman of Nutaula who is coming on the hunt with us tomorrow. The Old Ones and shaman speak of her like she is special, but she can’t do anything that I can’t do. I feel uncomfortable around people of two spirits, don’t you?”
Brook’s smile had become a glow. “That is my Mepoose, my best friend. We grew up together in this house before she moved to your village.”
Thunder Warrior shifted positions and pushed back his free-flowing long hair. “I mean, she is well respected among our community. We are taught it is a blessing from the Creator to be born with two spirits,” he fidgeted. “It is merely something I don’t understand.”
Brook wrenched her gaze from Spirits long enough to study her male guest, a bemused expression on her face. When she said nothing, he continued to explain himself.
“I am a physical man,” he said with a tap to his muscled chest, “who lives in a physical world. I do not put my trust in spirits and legends. My spear, my bow, and the strength of my arm protect me from danger. Many men say one is well served to steer clear of spirits, lest you offend one. They say she talks to them every day.”
As Brook returned her oval eyes to follow Spirits across the room, her heartbeat raced and she sensed a tingle running through her being. “She does,” she affirmed.
She watched Spirits approach the hearth closest to the door where she stopped beside the spot where an old man with a cane sat on a cedar box up close to the fire, a beaver fur cape wrapped around his shoulders. He had deep lines in his leathery face, long gray hair bound by a plain leather band, and one leg stretched out awkwardly to catch the heat. Since Thunder Warrior had stopped talking, she could overhear their exchange.
“It is good to see you, Growling Bear,” Spirits greeted.
He spared her a glance and grunted. “Is it, now? If it were so, maybe you would come around more often.” He pulled his cape tighter and stared into the flames with a sour look on his etched face.
“You know I moved to be with my relatives in Nutaula,” she replied pleasantly. “But all morning I have been praying to the spirits that you will help me out.”
This time he raised suspicious eyes to her, hooded under scrunched brows. “Is that so?”
“It is. You see, I have been so blessed with good fortune that I have caught more game than I know what to do with. I am hoping you can take these two rabbits off my hands.” She extended the better pair toward him.
Growling Bear scowled and lowered his gaze to hands as gnarled as thick, aged vines. “What do I want with those scrawny, worthless rabbits?”
Spirits shrugged. “See, the thing is, I can only offer you the meat. I need the skins for a project I’m working on, so I’d have to skin them before I give them to you. I know they are rather puny, but they are fresh and there is only you to eat them.” She let out a disappointed sigh. “If you don’t take them, I’ll have to toss them to the village dogs, and they may fight over them. I hate it when the dogs fight over food, but… I simply have too much fresh game to keep them.”
Thunder Warrior spun to Brook in outrage. “What is he talking about? Those are fat, fine rabbits. Why is that grouchy old man so ungrateful? He does nothing but sit about and complain. When I am chief, I will not allow anyone like him to live in my longhouse. How can Black Bear tolerate him?”
Brook waited a moment to answer him as she listened to Growling Bear’s reply.
He shifted on his box and rubbed a hand across his knee. “I suppose I could take them if it is going to cause you distress for me to refuse. Maybe Falling Rain can throw them in a pot with some vegetables.”
Spirits smiled. “I will bring them back in a few minutes when I have skinned and cleaned them. Many thanks to you, Growling Bear. You have done me a great service.”
“I do not understand that woman!” Thunder Warrior declared. “He insults her and she thanks him.”
Brook turned to her guest while Spirits made her way slowly around the plank-house greeting everyone. “Do you not know who that old man is?”
“A leach who lives off the charity of others,” he stated in derision.
“No.” Brook explained in gentle and compassionate tones. “Growling Bear was once a great hunter. He feared neither man nor beast. He brought in scores of fish and killed five bears along with countless deer, elk, beaver, and other game. When he married, a reunion was held in his honor and he was Worthy and esteemed.”
“What happened to him then?” Thunder Warrior considered her words with reserved curiosity.
“One falling leaves time, long before I was born, he was on a hunting party in the mountains and they must have wandered too close to where the sasquatch lived. A sasquatch hurled a boulder that started a landslide on the mountain and Growling Bear was caught up in it. When the dust settled, the others found him near the bottom under a pile of rocks. They made a litter and rushed him back to Paupeck for the healer and shaman to help.” In an aside, Brook added, “This was before Black Bear and Rainbow held those titles, but who knows if they could have done better. The healer straightened and set his leg with splints, but it was broken in many places. He was very fortunate to have lived through the ordeal at all.”