Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Five – Secret Lives by Barbara Ardinger

On Fridays, we have our visiting authors share the Five Fun or Laugh About it Later type things that happened during the writing and publishing of their novel. Today, we welcome Barbara Ardinger author of Secret Lives. 

About Barbara Ardinger 

Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (, is the author of Secret Lives, a new novel about crones and other magical folks, and Pagan Every Day, a unique daybook of daily meditations. Her earlier books include Goddess Meditations, Finding New Goddesses (a parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Quicksilver Moon (a realistic novel … except for the vampire). Her day job is freelance editing for people who have good ideas but don’t want to embarrass themselves in print. To date, she has edited more than 250 books, both fiction and nonfiction, on a wide range of topics. Barbara was born in St. Louis, Missouri, earned her Ph.D. at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, and now lives in southern California with her two rescued Maine coon cats, Schroedinger and Heisenberg. 

About Secret Lives

Set in Long Beach’s historic Rose Park neighborhood, Secret Lives tells the adventures in a year in the lives of a circle of crones, mothers, and a maiden. Among the other characters are the Green Man, an ageless Neolithic shaman, a ghostly inquisitor, the Norns gone mad in the modern world, and a lost goddess who reminds us of Red Riding Hood. And then there’s Madame Blavatsky, the talking cat that is the circle’s too-familiar familiar. There are both earthly love and cosmic war in Secret Lives, and there are also 15 rituals in the 27 chapters.

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 addressed in Secret Lives become more significant to readers. 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 be curious about pagans and gods and goddesses. As they read, they will learn a great deal.


1.      As I began writing Secret Lives, which is about a circle of elderly women who do magical work, I remembered a couple years earlier when I wrote columns for a business magazine in Orange Co., California. I’d met Nina and Marie, aged 96 and 98, who told me they were “taking care of the older folks.” How inspirational they were! Equally inspiration were my grandmother, who bought her first pantsuit at age 76 after my grandfather died; my ex-husband’s great-grandmother, who was 100 years old when I met her; and the grandmother of one of my friends, who told me a “dirty joke” that I put in the book.
2.      I started writing Secret Lives before I had a computer. I typed 300 or 400 pages on an IBM Selectric typewriter. When I got my first computer, I had to key the whole thing in again, using WordPerfect 5.1. Then I bought a new computer and had to type it again, this time in Word XP (which I still use). Altogether, the book has had perhaps five titles, and I’ve archived it on paper (from the typewriter), 8-inch floppy disks, 5-inch floppy disks, and 3-inch disks. Now it’s on a CD. Of course, every time I retyped it, I also did a lot of rewriting … which might help explain why the book is now 650 pages long. (And every page is worth reading!)
3.      I also got to remember events from my younger years. Some of the characters go to the same college I did in southeast Missouri. One of them takes a trip into the Ozarks and the guys at the gas station don’t know where the put the gas in a Volkswagen Bug. That happened to me in 1967. One of the characters remembers living in the same dormitory I lived in and how the girls threw her a party the night she lost her virginity. I remember those parties with bottles of “Paris Nights” eau de cologne, Rod McKuen albums, and bouquets of wilted flowers. Ahhh, the olden days, when we were all young and innocent. (Well, I was!)
4.      I used to read cards at psychic fairs, but I quit because they were so boring. So I decided that when my women went to a psychic fair, they’d use magic to pep it up. The furniture starts dancing. The books start parading around the room. All sorts of energy breaks loose. It was enormous fun to write.
5.      I also had great fun writing about the talking cat. She looks very much like the calico cat who lived with me for twenty-one years, but she talks like she’s from New Jersey. I named her Madame Blavatsky, after the famous occultist of the late 19th century who founded Theosophy. In the FREE READER’S GUIDE on my website I write about the transmigration of souls, which is one of the core doctrines of Theosophy. It teaches that the soul rises from mineral to plant to animal to human to angel. We might think that, like Don Marquis’s archy the cockroach, Madame Blavatsky is going the wrong direction, but it’s necessary to remember that the cat is the highest form of life. In my imagination, HPB’s soul began in a fluorite mine and progressed to a mugwort bush. Next, she was a Russian bear, then the famous occultist. After spending eight more happy lives as Felis catus, she will begin climbing up through the nine angelic hierarchies.

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