As I promised, I’m following up last month’s review of Karina Fabian’s Magic, Mensa, and Mayhem with an author interview.
I first encountered Karina’s work online, whilst nosing around the Lost Genre Guild website about six months ago. I noticed her name on an anthology of speculative fiction stories by Catholic writers, Infinite Space, Infinite God, which had garnered some critical praise, and one of her stories featured an organization of spacefaring nuns called the Sisters of the Rescue.
Nuns in space? Okay, she had my attention.
Before long, I saw some ads for an upcoming novel from Ms. Fabian called Magic, Mensa, and Mayhem. Again, who could resist a story with a title like that? I volunteered to do a review in exchange for a copy of the book.
You can read the review here. I liked Magic, Mensa, and Mayhem. It was fresh, and funny, and had some surprisingly deep spiritual themes woven in among the prevailing silliness.
In her online bio, Karina describes her very busy life: “In addition to juggling the stories from at least three different universes, Karina is President of the Catholic Writers’ Guild, owner of Catholic Writers Online, and active in a half-dozen or more groups. She also teaches writing seminars on-line. With four kids, five pets and a very understanding husband who is an officer in the Air Force, she tends to sleep in her ‘spare time.'”
So, here’s a little dialogue with the person behind the book. Apologies in advance for my “Inside the Actor’s Studio” interview technique.
Karina, what inspired you to write this story?
The same thing that so often inspires me to write stories–someone asked. In this case, Shirley Starke, editor of the North Dakota Mensa newsletter, The Prairie Dawg, asked me if I could write a DragonEye, PI story for the newsletter. Together we came up with the idea of a mystery at a Mensa Convention. I wrote it as a lark, really, only intending it to be a serial story in the newsletter. Later at a convention, Dindy Robinson, the publisher at Swimming Kangaroo, asked if I had a novel to pitch to her. Since the mystery was already developed in my mind, I offered Magic, Mensa and Mayhem. I’m so glad I did! I loved working with Swimming Kangaroo and I adore the cover art by Roe Mesquita!
So Magic, Mensa, and Mayhem started out as a serial in your local Mensa chapter newsletter. How have the folks in Mensa responded to it?
It won the Mensa Owl for best fiction contribution in 2007, so I’d say they enjoy it. I’ve tried to put some Mensa in-jokes and other bits of fun, for which I have my fellow Mensans to thank. The Oregon Mensa group is auctioning off a copy to help their scholarship fund, and I’m donating a dollar for every book ordered at that convention. (Incidentally, I’m glad to do that for any scholarship or charity event. Contact me via my website.)
If you could be a creature from Faerie, which one would you choose, and why?
A brownie when the house needs cleaning; a High Elf when my best friend calls and wants to talk on and on; a dragon when I could use some wisdom (or the ability to breathe fire on my icy driveway); a pixie when I just want to get away from it all. (It’d be fun to spend an afternoon as a hummingbird or a bee.)
Have you ever felt discouraged in your writing–thought you should just pack it all in and take up carpentry or something? What keeps you motivated?
Many times I’ve felt like I was being too selfish by writing when I should be keeping an immaculate house, working a paying job, or signing the kids up for a variety of activities and homeschooling and teaching religious ed and doing all the SuperMom stuff. However, I also know that when I try to do those things at the expense of my writing, I’m miserable. I’m just not SuperMom material. Fortunately, the kids love me and love my writing, and they’re turning out to be pretty fantastic people, so I just remind myself of that. I also know that if I didn’t write the stories down, they’d still come to my head, and that would drive me nuts.
Your faith shines through in a lot of your stories. Has an element or theme from your spiritual heritage ever popped into one of your stories in a surprising way as you wrote?
Actually, I’m surprised at how many people found a spiritual element in Magic, Mensa and Mayhem. I honestly didn’t intend one–this was just a fun romp through chaos and headaches for the dragon. The religion is just a part of Vern’s world–he was coerced into service by St. George, after all. Yet some people are touched by what they see as a conversion story in Vern. Others have said I give a light touch to spirituality as a part of life. I actually didn’t plan any of that in this book, or in most of the DragonEye, PI stories. Guess there’s a higher source acting on those pages, which is humbling. I also know that readers bring their own experiences into the story, so I think it says something about my audience, too.
If you were stranded on an island and could only bring three books with you, which books would you choose?
A survival guide, the Bible, and a thorough text on something really challenging to learn. Of course, if I have time to plan what books to bring to the island, I think I would have planned how NOT to get stuck on the island in the first place.
Makes sense. (crosses question off list for future interviews) What do your readers tell you they like most about your stories?
The characters. Everyone loves Vern. Next, the silly situations, clichés, and one-liners. My eldest son is a big fan of one-liners and repeats them around the house, so I know when I wrote something good.
I have to admit, I love the one-liners Vern feeds me. This week, I wrote a story that actually used the line, “Paddy, whack the knick-knack” in a perfectly natural way. I live for those moments.
What is your favorite word, and why?
Shrubbery! It’s so fun to say, and it gets me in a Monty Python mood.
My favorite of the week is “bulimic gulon.” I wrote that up for an interview–a Faerie species Gater Louie is doing a show about. (Gater Louie is a faux-Southern naturalist on Mundane TV and a character in Magic, Mensa and Mayhem) Say “Bue-lee-mick Goo-Lon” with a heavy southern accent and you’ll see why I like it. A gulon is a mythical creature with a voracious appetite and a symbol for gluttony, so it has great irony, too.
There are a lot of puns in this story. Would I be correct to assume puns are an integral part of your family life?
Rob and I fell in love trading puns at a pizzeria that showed Looney Tunes cartoons. We used to award the kids points for clever puns; now, we don’t need to. Not all my fiction has puns, but I do like to sneak them in, and in DragonEye, PI, I really cut loose.
What’s next for Vern and company?
“Mishmash,” the story of how Vern and Grace meet and defeat a C’thulhu-like creature, comes out in Book of Tentacles from Samsdot this summer.
Live and Let Fly, super-spy spoofing at its best, comes out late 2009 from Swimming Kangaroo. A simple mugging leads to interdimensional intrigue. Vern and Grace join a secret multi-government organization to stop the evil Helen Li before she unleashes Armageddon on the unsuspecting Mundane world. Saving the universes? No problem. Becoming human to do it? There’s a challenge for Vern!
“The Faerie Truth Behind the Fairy Tales,” an informative article about all the scams done around common fairy tales, comes out in 2010 in Mother Goose is Dead, from DragonMoon Press.
If folks want to know more about Vern, Grace, the DragonEye world, or want to keep up on the stories and books, they can register at www.dragoneyepi.net. They get a free story and subscription to “A Dragon’s Eye View,” which has articles by me and Vern, plus some special offers.
Thanks for dropping by, Karina, and thanks also for your service to our country as a military spouse. You’ve got the toughest job in the Air Force, and like Vern, you don’t get paid nearly enough.
Congratulations on the success of Magic, Mensa, and Mayhem, and best wishes for your upcoming projects!