A steadfast and proud sci-fi and fantasy geek, A. F. Stewart was born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada and still calls it home. The youngest in a family of seven children, she always had an overly creative mind and an active imagination. She favors the dark and deadly when writing—her genres of choice being fantasy and horror—but she has been known to venture into the light on occasion. As an indie author, she’s published novels, novellas, and story collections, with a few side trips into poetry.
Anita, thank you for agreeing to this interview. You have been writing horror and fantasy fiction for several years with multiple publications. What were some of your influences in literature that inspired you to write in these genres?
Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury and Guy Gavriel Kay influenced my writing considerably, as did Agatha Christie and Morgan Llywelyn. These writers all convey emotional impact in different ways and that made an impression on me in connection with my own voice. Comics formed part of my writing approach as well, showing me a stylistic, visual method of writing, through people such as Frank Miller, Chris Claremont, John Byrne and more. Comics were also my first introduction to Neil Gaiman with his Sandman series and the Black Orchid graphic novels.
Your latest release, Souls of the Dark Sea, is the second book in your Saga of the Outer Islands. Please tell us a bit about the storyline in the new book and the main character, Captain Rafe Morrow.
The series origin came from Greek mythology and tales of ghost ships, and the second book drew a bit of inspiration from Cthulhu and Ray Harryhausen with a slumbering demi-god that awakens to command an army of walking corpses.
Souls of the Dark Sea takes place a few months after the first book, Ghosts of the Sea Moon, when the series antagonist, Nightmare Crow, returns with more of his sinister schemes. The hero, Rafe Morrow, and the crew of the Celestial Jewel go on a quest to stop a world-destroying beast from rising from the sea. Along the way, he discovers family secrets which complicate matters because… Rafe Morrow’s family are gods. Yes, my main character is a deity, the God of Souls. He is several centuries old and his whole family dynamic is highly dysfunctional, with them occasionally trying to kill each other.
This novel is a continuation of Ghosts of the Sea Moon, where you introduce your gods and monsters. Being an avid reader of mythology and history, were there real-world myths and legends you drew from to enhance the realism of your tale? What did you keep and what did you change?
I based most of my gods on the Greek mythological pantheon.
Rafe is my God of Souls, modeled after Charon and Hades, Reis is the Sovereign of the Gods, and drawn from Zeus, while my Goddess of the Moon, Manume, is a mix of two lunar deities Selene and Hecate. Lynna is the Sea Goddess, a female version of Poseidon, and Bevire, Goddess of Night and Shadows, came from the witchcraft aspects of Hecate, but with a touch of Erebus, god of darkness, thrown in.
For two other characters, I used Norse and Celtic mythology as inspiration. I modeled the Nightmare Crow on trickster gods such as Loki and raven imagery from the Norse and Celtic myths. Death is influenced by Hel, the Norse Goddess of Death and the Celtic war goddess, The Morrigan. They are both creatures of Chaos.
I changed up the powers of the gods somewhat, while keeping elemental or spiritual aspects of their influences. Rafe has dominion over the dead, Lynna controls the sea, Manume is associated with a full moon, etc., but all my gods have the same energy/magic based powers (think electricity on steroids with the ability to cast spells). They can also interact with the mortal world directly, and often do, with consequences both bad and good.
Should we expect another adventure in this series or, at least, one crawling with pirates and ghosts?
Book three, Renegades of the Lost Sea, will be out soon and does indeed have pirates. Mean, nasty ones who used to be dead. This will be the final book in this trilogy, but I have another series planned that will continue on with new adventures of the Celestial Jewel. Plus a secondary series is in the works that will explore the other half of my world, the Seven Kingdoms, and a few prequel novellas.
You have been writing horror haiku and other poetry. Do you have a favorite poem from your collection that you would be willing to share?
Here are two of my favorite haiku from the collection:
Black, are the still depths
of stars, the fathomless sea
In R’lyeh he waits
I can’t see well. Pain.
My wife is holding something.
My eyeball. I scream.
I was hoping you might also share a bit about Chronicles of the Undead, published in May 2018. The blurb indicates that the book is penned with the personal journals of the Harrington family, which is intriguing to say the least. How did the concept to pen a novel through the guise of journal writing come to you? Did you find this to be more difficult than writing a “typical” story?
I republished the ebook in 2018, giving it a new cover and a few minor tweaks from its original release in 2009. The initial idea came from stray thoughts: what if you found out your neighbors were vampires? How would you react? I mulled the ideas over and decided it would make a great historical fantasy/horror book. I also decided to model it after the original Dracula, which is how it became a series of fictional diary entries.
While the epistolary format makes for an intimate story, it poses challenges in writing. First, there is no dialogue in the book, so sustaining the pace and flow is tricky, and you have to be careful about repetition and adding too many “boring” bits. No reader wants to know what a character had for breakfast every single day. I also shook things up a bit by using three different character views and three different generations of the same family. I kept the entries mostly short, to avoid killing the rhythm which also presented an issue in choosing what information to add where.
The biggest problem was fact-checking the dates, but luckily I found an online calendar for the 18th and 19th centuries which made it easier to make sure I didn’t have someone going to work on a Sunday or some other inconsistency.
What can we expect from you in 2019? Will you be publishing any more stories?
As mentioned, Renegades of the Lost Sea will be released this year, probably by spring, and you can find one of my short stories in the Hell’s Empire anthology, which should be out in February. That book is a themed collection of horror stories about the Infernal Forces of Hell invading Victorian Britain. I’m also working on a new poetry book which may be out later this year.
It has been a pleasure, Anita! Please tell us where fans can find you online or in the upcoming year at events.