In your novel, the topic of Secret Lives is a big novel about big issues—aging and death, the way our society treats its senior citizens, women’s friendships, the powers of love, the theory and practice of magic, the rebirth of the Goddess and Her ancient religion. It’s about the untidy mysteries of human life. How did you come up with the idea to write about these specific topics?
I have been writing about feminist spirituality and pagan issues for more than 20 years. I first wrote Secret Lives in 1990 on an IBM Selectric typewriter, then rewrote it (using WordPerfect 5.1) when I got my first computer, then wrote it again (Word XP) and did a lot of serious editing along the way. As I lived my pagan life, worshipping the Goddess, creating and leading rituals, teaching a class called Practicing the Presence of the Goddess, and writing six nonfiction books about feminist spirituality, I just kept adding what I was seeing in real life to the book.
If I remember correctly, I took a class at Long Beach WomanSpirit in the early ’90s on a new popular topic—the crone, who is the honored elder woman. There were women in their thirties in the class who insisted they were crones because “crone is a state of mind.” This is nonsense, so I started doing research on elderly women and how society treats them. This was about the time Jessica Tandy won her Oscar at age 89 and Golden Girls was popular on TV. Elderly women got little respect back in those days.
As I wrote, the characters in the book came to life in my imagination. I watched them and listened to them. For a few months in about 1990, I also had a part-time job as a companion to a woman sinking into Alzheimer’s. She was 82 and about 2 ½ mentally at the time. We made a good team—she was talking to invisible people, and I was watching invisible people.
But I was not just the secretary to the characters in the novel. I did a lot of library research on, for example, Ozark customs and dialect so I could write one character accurately. And as the author I am in charge of the craft of writing. I’m in charge of details like spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, verb tense, etc. I also wrote new chapters from time to time. For example, a few people told me one character was boring, so I gave her a mid-life crisis. Other readers told me the women were casting their magical circles wrong, so I wrote a chapter in which three Gardnerian college students come along to correct the women who were old enough to be their grandmothers. You don’t want to mess around with grandmothers who can do magic. I read and hear in the news about land developers forcing people to move out of their homes, so I wrote a chapter about a very old woman who is moved by her businessman son into the retirement residence I invented in Long Beach. She wants to die. The women in the circle befriend her. Later, the retirement residence is sold because it’s not profitable enough, so the elderly residents take action. In 1989, gerontology was just beginning to be important, so I wrote about a physician who has no appreciation for his elderly patients. Again, you don’t mess with old people who can do magic.
I also took many ideas and themes from history. One is shown in the prologue, set in what Professor Marija Gimbutas called Old Europe (near the Black Sea). Old Europe was an egalitarian, Goddess-worshipping society that was invaded by horsemen from the Caucasus Mountains (today’s Afghanistan and its neighbors) who brought their storm, thunder, sky, and solar gods with them. Another historical issue is the Inquisition and the 16th-century religious wars which focused on heretics and women. I brought a ghostly inquisitor to confront the women in the book. Another issue is aging and menopause. The women in the book confront these issues, and in one chapter there’s a sex scene between a man and a women in their eighties. Such a thing is still hardly thought of, much less discussed.
You can find more information in the FREE READER’S GUIDE on my website, http://www.barbaraardinger.com/ . The reader’s guide like the commentary track on a DVD. It gives a lot of historical information.
About the book:
Secret Lives is a big novel about big issues—aging and death, the way our society treats its senior citizens, women’s friendships, the powers of love, the theory and practice of magic, the rebirth of the Goddess and Her ancient religion. It’s about the untidy mysteries of human life. As the baby boom generation ages, the issues in Secret Lives become more significant to readers and also more recognizable. Issues that used to matter only to their parents are now starting to pop up in the boomers’ own lives. This novel will thus appeal not only to the large audience that reads pagan fiction, but also to mainstream readers who love a good, complicated story and may have heard about pagans and gods and goddesses. As they read, they will learn a great deal.
Each chapter is a standalone story, although there are two arcs that comprise two stories and three stories. The bulleted notes that follow the barebones outlines and show how the stories are braided together and explain many of the allusions. An event may be foreshadowed in early chapters, for example, be the major plot of another chapter, and be resolved or echoed in later chapters. Likewise, people who appear as minor characters in some chapters become major actors in other chapters.
You can read more about Secret Lives at http://www.barbaraardingercom/ .
About The Author:
If you are reading this on a blog or website other than Cindy’s Love Of Books or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.