BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

A lively discussion of ancient and modern Pagan literature -- including children's books, graphic novels, science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries -- along with interviews, author highlights, and profiles of Pagan publishers.

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Interview: Saga Press



[Today, we sit down for an interview with the creative minds and spirits behind Saga Press: Larisa Hunter, Sheal Berube, and Sarah Strickland. Here, they discuss how Saga Press began; their new children’s imprint, Little Bird Books; and their current and upcoming projects.]


BookMusings: How would you describe your personal spiritual path? Do you belong to a particular tradition, or are you more eclectic?


Larisa Hunter: My path has been one that took many forks before it landed on one thing. I was raised in the cult of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and when I was excommunicated, I found myself questioning pretty much everything. I found myself a roommate who was a member of the Wiccan Church of Canada, I attended a few events with her, and even took several classes and workshops in various pantheons. I landed on Norse quite accidentally. Finding myself drawn to learn more, I attended a few Pagan Pride Days in Canada, where I met some Asatru practitioners. I was immediately interested in exploring this path, as it spoke very true to me. It took many more wanderings before I landed on calling myself Asatru, which I have been for  sixteen-plus years. 


Recently, I have dropped the name Asatru and taken up Heathen as I have added additional practices to my path. I am strictly practicing with the Norse Gods and I do not delve or practice eclectically. I just felt that calling myself Heathen would allow me to explore my faith freely without the political and sometimes oppressive groups that call themselves Asatru.


Sheal Berube: I grew up in the Catholic faith, going to Catholic schools. When I hit college was when I first discovered Buddhism in the college library. I went on to discover Wiccan beliefs and then my ancestral roots in Druid and Celtic Shamanism. I am, today, an eclectic practicing Druidic Shaman. I follow in the path of my Irish Celtic ancestral history and lineage.


Sarah Strickland: I was raised a fairly devout Christian. My mother taught Sunday School and her faith was very important to her.  I left the church in my early teens to explore other faiths and during that time, I discovered Wicca. After many years of being involved with Wicca, I came across Asatru and felt that it reflected my beliefs better than Wicca.  I've been a Heathen now for about teen years.


BookMusings: How did Saga Press come about? What was the impetus behind creating it?


LH: I wrote my first book over ten years ago, and did the traditional publishing route, even landing a literary agent. The publisher I was with didn’t really understand my path and so the relationship eventually forced us to part ways. After that, I decided to go it alone. With two books under my belt and a fairly high level of success, a few people I knew asked for my help in publishing. That is when Saga Press was formed. The concept was simple: produce books that matter, with services that support both author and publisher. 


It has been a long road, but from those small beginnings we grew. From two authors to now eight we are small, but mighty. I added a team to help me and then we began the hard work of becoming an actual company. Since then it has been beyond amazing to see the growth and commitment of the people who have joined our little house.


SB: I remember the day I met Larisa. It was a call for a book cover on a Facebook group for authors and cover designers. I'd never answered a call for a cover beforehand on the group and had (and, quite possibly, I am still part of that group if I remember correctly) been part of the group for quite some time. I remember reading her post and “feeling," so to speak, the person behind the post. Something said this person would be someone that would become more than just a friend; she would end up being family. Since then, we've come a very long way from "I need a book cover" to "here we are, full on business partners and blood sisters, family.”


SS: I originally started out at Saga Press as a freelance editor.  I had worked with Larisa in a few organizations by this time and we worked really well together. When she asked me to be part of Saga Press, it just felt like a natural thing to do. My role has changed a few times since then, but it really does feel like working with family.


BookMusings:Saga Press recently released The Teutonic Way, which combines several of Kveldulf Gundarsson’s out-of-print works. How did that come about, and will you be releasing more out-of-print work in the future?


LH: It was somewhat by accident. A friend on Facebook, Michael Ransom Wilson, was working to persuade Kveldulf to reprint, but after a lot of trial and error he realized he needed some help to do that. He knew I had some books under my belt, and so I entered into talks with Kveldulf. After a few long months, we worked out a deal, and I have been very busy securing all of his past titles, winning back all of his rights. 


His wife Melodi is also an author, and joined us last year, adding to our expanding list of titles. We will be releasing all his previous and some of his never published works. 


We are so excited that they have joined us and looking at what they have in store. We think that readers will be thrilled to hear about the books that they are working on.


SB: Working for and with the Grundy's has been a trip! I've learned so much from working with them. Not just about Heathenry, but about copyrights, publishing rights, and so on. I thought I knew more than what I did, but I have to admit it's been a lesson in patience, temperance, and perseverance getting Mr. Grundy's rights back, to say the least.


BookMusings: What is the submissions process for Saga Press? Are you looking for full-length manuscripts, shorter works, or both?


LH: We really are open to looking at just about anything. We now have a full cue of over fifty-seven titles, so submissions are being constantly considered for 2020-2021. We want everyone to consider submitting here, even if you have never published before, or are new to writing. We don’t want to make anyone feel they can’t be published. We work with people from every level of writing including some kids that are paving their way into publishing. The only real limit is that the manuscript must be more than twenty-one pages, and it cannot contain any content that espouses hate, violence against children, or anti-lgtbq+. The submission itself can be simply pitching an idea, showing us a few pages, submitting a short sample or sending us a full manuscript.


Stage 1 — The submission is collected from one of our websites, via a submission form. Both Saga Press and Little Bird Books have a submission button that people can use.

Stage 2 — The first review is completed by our Executive Co-Ordinator Sheal. She is looking for: readability, viability (profit), what the manuscript might need (full editing? partial editing? art?). If the manuscript is accepted, she then determines what line the manuscript will suit.

Stage 3 — If it's a children's book, it gets one additional review from Sarah who determines what age group the book will be suited for and what type of illustrations might be needed. She also determines who should be on the project, providing the author with the best project team. If it's for the regular line, Sheal will assign an editor, and cover artist, and assign the project for contract collection.

Stage 4 — I process the contract and letter, and once complete I set them up in our management system. We then go about managing the project taking on the role of manager, layout artist or other, depending on who is available to do what, when.


SB: We are willing to give a chance to just about any idea for a book, both fiction and non-fiction, that someone may pitch. Barring, of course as Larisa has said, gratuitous violence or hate towards any group. 


Larisa describes the process brilliantly. I take the first submission and assess it, then let the other two know the viability of the project. Then we vote on it and I either send an official acceptance letter or rejection letter. If I am unsure about which Saga Press line it belongs in, I'll ask for the first six chapters, then assess the viability while letting my partners know about my chapter request from a new submission. If it's for Little Bird, a secondary assessment happens from Sarah, the director for Little Bird.


BookMusings:Saga Press recently launched its Little Bird Books imprint. What is the focus of Little Bird Books, and what titles do you plan/hope to release?


LH: The focus is purely on children’s literature, ranging from early readers to more advanced. We plan on having a fairly mainstream focus on that line, encouraging a new collection of books for younger audiences. The impetus for the line was my daughter asking for different kids’ books than what was available. She finds most stories too predictable and so it’s been a challenge for me to write in a way that would surprise her. 


Outside of Morufell, Sarah knows the full line of new releases that are coming out for kids and kids at heart.


SS: We've known for many years that we wanted to incorporate a children's line at Saga.  Originally, for me, it was out of a desire to see more Heathen-centered literature for children, but since then, we have kind of stepped away from that focus and decided to make it more secular so that we could engage a larger audience.  


We have so many fun books coming up and I'm looking forward to them all. We have Morufell, which is a pretty epic fantasy adventure. Booger the Troll is another fun one that I think kids will love.  We also have Life's Fortune, which is a young adult historical fiction novel, and Wheel of the Year, which is designed to teach kids about seasonal celebrations and activities.


BookMusings: How is the artwork for Little Bird Book titles — such as “Pint-Sized Tales” — created?


SB: We have a few illustrators and the process is fairly similar to a graphics designers process. For example: I get the synopsis of the book, then do a mock up for the author and partners to see and ask for changes. A final is done and added to the project files on our management system. The author and I have a chat about the illustrations that they are looking for in general before this process so that we can get the illustrations as close to what the author may see in their mind.


LH: We have artists that send in hand drawings and others that work in digital forms. Some get the title ahead to feel out, while others prefer to just see a snap shot of it before beginning. It really depends on the type of story and what each illustrator wants to do. Generally we have a lot of meetings to determine what style we think will be best and take into consideration the author’s preferences before commissioning art.


BookMusings: Who came up with the idea for the Special Series? And will there be more collaborative works like “The Bone Jar” in the future?


SB: “The Bone Jar” was the brain child of both Larisa and I. It came about as an idea for a Halloween special. We are now working on expanding “The Bone Jar” into two full novels in both main character's points of views. One written by Larisa (Ivy) and one written by myself (Troy). We are looking to do many more shorts and Special Series content.


LH: This series made me write in a genre I have never attempted to write in before. As Sheal stated, it really was just a concept for a Halloween special. There was something I think almost cathartic in the concept that she would get to murder me hahaha, how often does one get to kill their best friend and get away with it. The same is true for Morufell, although this time I don’t have to end up killed to get the story where it needs to be. The collaboration between us all is something I deeply treasure and I know we all plan to do more of it!


SS: For Little Bird, I'm most excited about Morufell.  It has been an amazing process writing this one with Larisa, and I can't wait to see what everyone else thinks of it.  For Saga, I'm excited for the continuation of “The Bone Jar.”


BookMusings: Where can curious readers find titles by Saga Press?


LH: Our websites are the best place to get the most accurate links, so check Saga Press and Little Bird Books. Our titles are on Amazon, Google Books, and coming soon to iBooks. We also have a partnership at Internet Archive, where readers can check out our titles for fourteen days. 


(Internet Archive is a digital online lending library that's connected to all libraries across the globe. They allow encrypted lending for those that want to borrow before they buy. We also use Internet Archive to give free content occasionally.)


BookMusings: Which upcoming projects from Saga Press are you most excited about?


LH: I am super excited about Morufell on Little Bird Books as I have so enjoyed writing a children’s adventure book with Sarah. It has amazing potential, is funny, adventurous and frankly one of the best collaborative projects I have done. The story is about two kids, Dagny and Torbin, who fall into this other world. Once they arrive, they meet and interact with both gods and creatures. It weaves in some familiar Heathen concepts, but is totally not a Heathen-only book. It can be read by any child who loves the classic adventure-type book. I would say it's very close to books like The Time Warp Trio, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, the Percy Jackson series, and the books that mix mythology and real life in one seamless adventure novel.


For Saga Press, I am excited about The Happy Barn Cat. I have absolutely loved working on this book. It’s jam-packed full of information, and is one of the first full color non-fiction books we have produced. 


These two titles are very exciting for me personally, but to be fair, I get excited about every release that comes out, because it means another book has made it off my desk and it displays the sweat, love and care our team gave to this project. Each time I see a release, my belief in our success grows. It has been a long dream of mine to have a job that I was truly passionate about, and this is that job. I get to watch stories unfold into the world, and see the intimate soul of writers dripped across the page. I also get a huge amount of time to create new things, and push myself to write in various genres, inspired by the artists around me. I find myself falling more and more in love with art, writing, and the nature of creating a thing that shows the world your inner self.


SB: I'm originally a horror\thriller genre writer myself, so I am looking forward to the co-authoring of “The Bone Jar” novels. It's the type of genre that I am used to writing and absolutely love writing. I grew up with the likes of Stephen King and Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe. I enjoyed co-writing with Larisa greatly. I can't wait to write with her again.


For Little Bird Books, it's Morufell. I can't wait to see how young folks react to Morufell. It's grown from an idea to a whole life of it's own. It has become a living being in a way and it's been amazing to watch Sarah and Larisa build that world as an onlooker. It's amazing watching these two "read each others minds" and working out how to piece their two styles together so seamlessly.




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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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