Interview: T. Thorn Coyle on “By Moon”

A witch who wants to live in the shadows. A dandy who feels he has failed. To protect their friends, Selene must battle a corrupt magician, and survive.

Artist Selene feels overwhelmed by life, and their Goth club friends are dropping like flies. But when the witch realizes the situation involves handsome dandy they’ve been avoiding, they don’t know what to think. As Joshua keeps showing up trying to help, Selene realizes they can’t hide from a trauma hidden in their past…

With the help of their coven, Selene must uncover the root of the tainted magic that has put one friend in a coma and killed another. A magic that threatens Selene. What—or whom—stalks the community? To figure it out, Selene must risk exposing heart and soul to cast the spell that will save their friends, and maybe even themself…

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The Wild Magic bundle is available through July 14th, 2021.


Limning a bright line along the edge of the deer’s skull, Selene tried to tune in to the painting again. The moon was almost full. Selene could feel it. They had always been attuned to the moon. Their childhood fascination with the glowing orb was what led Selene to witchcraft, and, of course, to their name.

Selene, Goddess of the moon. Daughter of Titans, sister of the sun.

Selene had been raised by ordinary, flawed humans, and was an only child, but they felt as if they could be sibling to the sun. Maybe. Mostly, though, even though the full moon was gorgeous, Selene tucked themself away like the moon did behind the perpetually cloudy Portland skies.

Besides, darkness was good for a lot of the magic it turned out Selene was best at. Bindings. Uncrossings. Banishings. Oh, they could work the mechanics of prosperity or love spells, and of course collaborated with their coven on spells for justice, but…they were just more comfortable with working magic on the dark side of the moon.

Cassiel would give Selene shit if she knew her coven mate wasn’t comfortable doing magic for themself. Not after Selene had given Cassie a hard time for not asking the Gods for help with her own little situation last winter.

They rubbed a long hand across their forehead, careful not to smudge any paint on their skin. Selene spent too much time on their makeup to mar it with the thick paint that slicked the horsehair brush.

Arrow and Crescent coven was a good fit for a witch dedicated to the moon. Coven members all had different deity affiliations, but the coven itself was dedicated to Diana, another Goddess with ties to the moon.

It was funny—gazing at the moon always grounded Selene more firmly on earth. It reminded them that they were on a rock in the middle of space, and that the rock was home. Just like Portland was, and likely always would be, home.

They stepped back from the painting a moment, trying to see the whole. The bright edge of the skull reflected the moon in the water. The blade edge needed drawing out to form a magic triangle created by the lines of light. A triangle of edges.

Just like Selene.

Sometimes it really felt as if they were nothing but edge. No center. No core. No soft, beating heart. No warm lips. No laughter.

It was as if Selene had been built to be a weapon. A sharp sword to be wielded against those who intended harm.

It wasn’t a good feeling. Never had been.

Selene was a sharp sickle, not the lush fullness of the moon that practically set their long, dark hair afloat around their head.

“Fuck. May as well pack it in for the night,” they murmured. Once this mood hit, there was nothing to do but drink or dance, have sex or sleep. No way were they ready for bed, and sex? Yeah, unless it was with Selene’s own hand, that wasn’t happening. It had been too long since they’d found someone interesting enough who was also interested in them.

“Drink and dance it is, then,” Selene said. Setting the brush in the soaking jar, they began to scrape the paint off their palette. “I just hope you know what you’re up to, moon.”

Selene felt the small hairs on their arms stand up, as if something had just walked over their grave. They whipped their head around, looking for danger. Nothing. Selene’s dark eyes rested on the still life. The water in the chalice on the table moved, rippling for a moment, as though a form attempted to take shape.

A trick of the eye? Or a message to pay attention? All Selene knew was, the studio didn’t feel so homey anymore.

—from By Moon by T. Thorn Coyle

The Interview

The Witches of Portland series, which includes By Moon, combines magic, romance, and activism. What inspired you to combine these elements together?

Magic, love, and activism are all important to me. They flow through the communities I’m part of, and more importantly, they underpin the world I want to help create.

Why did you make Selene, one of the main characters in By Moon, a painter?

Making Selene a painter wasn’t a premeditated choice. They just were a painter. Some characters show up how they are, and I uncover more about their lives as the story unfolds. Art is a big part of how Selene interacts with the world, so that influenced the storyline, too. All of this is part of what I like about writing!

A few years ago, you moved from California to the Pacific Northwest. How has this change affected your fiction?

I’m the type of writer that not only builds imaginary worlds, but tries to reflect the world around me through the lens of fiction. So—except for some of my science fiction—my stories are mostly set in California or Oregon. It took me a few years of living in the Pacific Northwest to be able to write from this place. Place is its own character, so I needed to establish a relationship with this biosphere in order to write it properly.

A sign on the wall of your workspace says “Eat Words Drink Stars.” What does this mean to you?

“Eat Words Drink Stars” captures my imagination and reminds me to always reach for wonder. To not get bogged down in worry or fear. This is especially helpful when I’m writing about challenging topics. If my stories are infused with a sense of wonder and hope, I’ve been successful.

The banner also reminds me to take in words—other people’s thoughts and stories—and to glory in the natural world, and reach for the stars.

(The banner is handmade by Brooklyn artist Rayo and Honey, by the way).

Your series The Panther Chronicles is set in 1969, and combines magic and community with the politics of the U.S. in the late 1960s. What did you most enjoy about writing these books?

I loved doing all the research on the times. So much was happening then! I had already studied a lot of it—which inspired the novels—but needed to dig even more deeply to get the right flavor. It was also very satisfying to add magic into the history, and turning J. Edgar Hoover into an evil magician made me cackle. Plus, actual shape shifting members of the Black Panther Party? That was marvelous to write.

Your tagline is “Magic is real. Justice is worth fighting for.” Tell us what this means to you, and how this phrase comes through in your fiction.

I live my life as if those words are true. We can change our consciousness through actions and beliefs, and changing consciousness is one step toward greater justice. I believe in a world filled with wonder—both seen and unseen—a world that embraces paradox and the unexpected. I live with the sense that magic is always just around the corner.

I also believe it is up to us to create a society where justice is better distributed, where kindness and compassion take the place of punishment and oppression. My stories—whether serious or lighthearted—reflect this worldview. My activism is informed by my desire for justice, and my stories are informed by my activism.

Stories matter. Look at how history is taught: Whose lives are important? What stories get told and how? And from whose perspective? We see how policy is made according to what we believe, and what we believe is influenced by the stories we tell, whether we think they are “true” or not.

Stories capture the imagination, and once that happens, anything becomes possible.

What story (or stories) are you working on now, and what’s fun about what you’re writing?

I’m working on two series right now. One is a post-apocalyptic epic fantasy trilogy called The Steel Clan Saga (that might get a second trilogy added to it someday). It’s got motorcycle riding, sword wielding anarchist knights, dragons, trolls, elves, and magical creatures from many different cultures. I love near-future culture building, and it’s been great fun to get to do that on a grand scale. The Steel Clan Saga has multiple points of view, cool world building, and strong characters going on adventures. I wanted swords and motorcycles in one world and it’s been great to just say, “you can create that.” Book One—We Seek No Kings— is out now. Book Two—We Heed No Laws—is up for preorder, and releases in late July.

The other series is almost the polar opposite, and equally fun. It’s a paranormal cozy mystery series set on the Oregon Coast in a fictional town called Seashell Cove. It’s quite bonkers and I’ve been allowing my imagination to run wild. There are centaurs in the woods? Great! Actual garden gnomes and sprites? Awesome. A witch who owns a bookstore? What could be better? I’m really enjoying letting my mind play in this world. The first book is called “Bookstore Witch” and should be out in late September.

About Thorn

T. Thorn Coyle has worked in several strange and diverse occupations and been arrested at least five times. Buy them a cup of tea or a good whisky and maybe they’ll tell you about it.

Author of The Steel Clan Saga, The Witches of Portland, and The Panther Chronicles, Thorn’s multiple non-fiction books include Sigil Magic for Writers, Artists & Other Creatives, and Evolutionary Witchcraft.

Thorn’s work appears in many anthologies, magazines, and collections. They have taught magical practice in nine countries, on four continents, and in twenty-five states.

An interloper to the Pacific Northwest U.S., Thorn stalks city streets, writes in cafes, loves live music, and talks to crows, squirrels, and trees.

Find Thorn

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Goodreads ~ BookBub ~ Patreon ~ YouTube

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