When I told my kids that one of the heroes in Stumptown Spirits was a folklorist, one of them (I think it was DS B) said, “Your characters have the weirdest occupations.”
Really? Folklorist is weird? The thing is, at one time, folklore and mythology were among my passions, something I can track back to my early grade school years. While other girls my age were reading books about dogs and horses, I wanted to read books about dragons and centaurs. Then in high school—when all good obsessions are born—I watched a special on TV that cemented that passion firmly in place.
At that time (the early seventies), Paul Sills’ Story Theater, a “play with music” based on Grimm’s Fairy Tales, played on Broadway for less than a year before it closed, yet it was nominated for three Tonys and won two. A TV adaptation of it aired when I was a freshman in high school and bingo.
The ensemble cast played multiple parts across the various tales. The set, as I recall, was essentially a black box (so my imagination could fill in all the details). In one tale, Paul Sand played the Robber Bridegroom, also cementing my crush on Paul Sand. (Weirdly enough, I got to meet Mr. Sand seven years later because he was dating my best friend. Now that was surreal—sitting on a sofa in his Malibu home, while he talked about hitting the beach with another of the actors from Story Theater: Melinda Dillon. She may be most iconic now as Ralphie’s mother from A Christmas Story, but at the time, she was special for me because she’d been part of that wonderful show.)
A few years after I’d seen Story Theater (which only aired once, damn it), I was browsing in a Denver record store (we still had record stores then), when I heard Steeleye Span for the first time. Their album, Below the Salt, was playing on the store’s sound system—I believe the song was “King Henry”—and I was immediately captivated.
That day, I bought the first of my many Steeleye Span albums. I was fascinated by their rock arrangements of traditional ballads, with occasional modern bits thrown in—such as David Bowie sitting in on sax on “To Know Him is to Love Him”, or Peter Sellers on ukulele and vocals in “New York Girls”.
The cool thing about all their songs, though, is that they tell stories—whole, always tuneful, and frequently gruesome—with plots and characters and evocative worlds.
Later, when I was working at a bookstore, my reading choices followed the same folkish trend—Evangeline Walton’s Mabinogion retelling, Susan Cooper’s Dark is Rising series, pretty much everything Diana Wynne Jones. Give me a mythic link and I was so there.
From books to theater to music and back to books. I suppose you could say my love affair with folklore is a cycle—just like all the very best folktales.
It’s only fair that one of my characters should share the same journey.
About Stumptown Spirits
What price would you pay to rescue a friend from hell?
For Logan Conner, the answer is almost anything. Guilt-ridden over trapping his college roommate in a ghost war rooted in Portland’s pioneer past, Logan has spent years searching for a solution. Then his new boyfriend, folklorist Riley Morrel, inadvertently gives him the key. Determined to pay his debt—and keep Riley safe—Logan abandons Riley and returns to Portland, prepared to give up his freedom and his future to make things right.
Crushed by Logan’s betrayal, Riley drops out of school and takes a job on a lackluster paranormal investigation show. When the crew arrives in Portland to film an episode about a local legend of feuding ghosts, he stumbles across Logan working at a local bar, and learns the truth about Logan’s plan.
Their destinies once more intertwined, the two men attempt to reforge their relationship while dodging a narcissistic TV personality, a craven ex-ghost, and a curmudgeonly bar owner with a hidden agenda. But Logan’s date with destiny is looming, and his life might not be the only one at stake.
About EJ Russell
E.J. Russell holds a BA and an MFA in theater, so naturally she’s spent the last three decades as a financial manager, database designer, and business-intelligence consultant. After her twin sons left for college and she no longer spent half her waking hours ferrying them to dance class, she returned to her childhood love of writing fiction. Now she wonders why she ever thought an empty nest meant leisure.
E.J. lives in rural Oregon with her curmudgeonly husband, the only man on the planet who cares less about sports than she does. She enjoys visits from her wonderful adult children, and indulges in good books, red wine, and the occasional hyperbole.
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To celebrate the release of Stumptown Spirits, EJ is giving away $25 in Riptide credit. Leave a comment to enter the contest. Entries close at midnight, Eastern time, on May 21, 2016. Contest is NOT restricted to U.S. entries. Thanks for following the tour, and don’t forget to leave your contact info!