Monday, April 5, 2010

Why I Write Fantasy - Arlene Eisenbise

Amber: Welcome Arlene Eisenbise, tracker of crystal skulls. Tell us a little about yourself.

Arlene: I’m in my third year as Vice President (Programs) with the Professional Writers of Prescott. It is exciting to contact, meet, and introduce guest speakers to our PWP members.

When I was very young, we lived on a farm. I remember that a very thick dictionary rested on a pedestal in the basement. I poured over the pages believing that, if I knew every word, I would know everything. I do love the writing process—all those words. At age twenty-eight I took my first creative writing class at a vocational school in northern Wisconsin. I wanted a challenge but didn’t expect it would last a lifetime! In the days when they paid and published freelancers, I wrote articles for Wisconsin’s leading newspapers. My poetry was published in various periodicals, including the UW-Stevens Point publications. Love of dialogue came from writing plays. But fiction beckoned.

Amber: What type of fiction have you written?
Arlene: After moving to Arizona in 1997, I joined a Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators critique group. I wrote a series of chapter books about a mischievous red fox named Lolly. They were followed by a young adult novel set during World War II as seen through the eyes of a teen-aged girl. However a turning point in my writing direction had already entered my life.

Amber: Can you share with us what happened?
Arlene: Over the years I learned to use a quiet, contemplative time as a key to open a door to the creative flow. On a day in 1996, I tried a new spiritual exercise and was flooded with information about a trilogy of books. Over time I was given characters, places, and scenes. I made sketchy notes even though I questioned what any of it meant. Hundreds of years separated the Atlantean civilization, the Late-classic Maya and the Traditionalist Hopi that I was to write about.

After a three-year wait another turning point—the missing connection—manifested. As I listened to a late-night radio program, A couple vacationing in Belize, who made documentaries for BBC, learned about an ancient crystal skull which was discovered nearby in 1924. The skull had been unearthed from a fallen temple by Frederick Mitchell-Hedges, a British explorer with the reputation of being the model for Indiana Jones. The skull was later left to Mitchell-Hedges’ adopted daughter, Anna, who (according to the book written by the couple) lived in Canada. The about-to-retire director of the Canadian Royal Museum helped me track down a contact close to Anna, who had moved back to England. I got her address. I wrote. I waited. Months later Anna responded. She had returned to Canada. I felt destined to meet her and the world-famous crystal skull. I don’t write mysteries but by then I felt that I was living one.

Amber: Have you completed the crystal skull trilogy?
Arlene: Ridiculous as it sounds completion isn’t my biggest problem. With each of these books, getting started scared me senseless. “I don’t know anything about Atlantis,” I wailed to a friend before writing even one line of the first book. “Draw on your past lifetimes,” she advised.

I would contemplate and ask my “spirit muse” to take me to Atlantis. I’d feel myself descending, descending until a scene opened before me, sometimes an entire chapter waited for discovery. The writing process for each book is different, but somewhere along the way, the characters take charge and I become anxious to read where they’ll lead me next. The Atlantis and Mayan books are off to publishers and my Hopi characters are stirring up tension in Chaco Canyon.

Amber: Where can we read your stories?
Arlene: None of the books have been published, yet. But a short story titled “Mississippi Myth” was published in February in WritingRaw, an e-zine. I wrote it from a “merbaby’s” point of view even though it was based on a true experience. Publication really is thrilling.

Amber: Do you consider yourself a writer of myth?
Arlene: That depends. Many think of Atlantis as a mythical place. To me The Keepers of
Atlantis is historical fiction.

Amber: Do you also do research reading?
Arlene: I love research—both the inner and the outer sort. So I read a lot and search the Internet. This trilogy has required extensive research—the characters’ food, their clothing, their settings—for nearly every page. The books are about the empowerment of women, who struggle as the storytellers and keepers of the ancient crystal skulls.

Amber: When do you find time for pleasure reading?
Arlene: A writer has to make time to read which, I believe, is also writing. I steal time away from writing, marketing, and research to escape into a good book. Jewell Parker Rhodes recently gave an animated reading at Yavapai College. I had already booked her as guest speaker for our August PWP meeting. I know that once I open the first page of one of her books, I’ll be hooked until the last page. Years back I devoured Barbara Kingsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible. That book introduced me to multiple point-of-views. Recent reads were The Road, Where Rivers Change Direction, The Memory Keepers Daughter, and Stones From the River. My interests are broad. But when I peek at what young adults are reading today . . . all that blood!

Amber: Thanks so much for sharing your story with Wordshaping! I can't wait to read your trilogy.

Read Arlene's "Mississippi Myth" story about the merbaby in Writing Raw!


  1. Wonderful interview, Arlene - though I've known you for years, I keep discovering different dimensions in you, just like your trilogy.

    Great photo, too - you go, girl!

  2. Fascinating interview, Arlene! Love your photo, too!!

  3. What a great interview, Gram. You inspire us to go beyond what we see in everday life and imagine how it was or could be. Looking forward to copies of all your books, since The Momory Keepers Daughters kept me glued to the pages wanting to know more. You make me very proud to have ever known you. Keep up the great work.

  4. Arlene,that was a Beautiful interview,I would say it is as Beautiful as you are.

  5. WONDERFUL Interview, and fascinating subject! Ive always been interested in the story behind the Crystal Skulls.
    Good Luck with your pursuits --they sound as though it will never be boring!

    Kari Thomas, Paranormal Romance Author,

  6. Hi Arlene,
    Nice interview, A merbaby, that sounds fascinating. Being an historical author, I can appreciate your enjoyment of research. I love history nearly as much as I love writing. Good luck with all your projects.



  7. Great interview, Mom! Your words have always worked their magic on me, whether it is in the form of a poem, article, personalized letter or card, short story or novel. You are my most endeared teacher and author. I am blessed to have such a GREAT INFLUENCE in my life; and THAT, the world will share with me once your books are published and widely read.

  8. Arlene,

    I am looking forward to reading your books about those crystal skulls! And your life is so very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

    I have a lot to learn from the beautiful friend that you are. Keep sharing!


  9. Thanks to everyone who posted a comment--family, friends, and strangers. And thank you, Amber, for this opportunity.