Q&A with LaShawn M. Wanak

Guest post time!

Please welcome author LaShawn Wanak, one of the contributors to the What Fates Impose anthology/kickstarter, being edited by Nayad Monroe. The anthology’s subtitle is “Tales of Divination,” and I was particularly curious about LaShawn’s thoughts on divination/prophesy and how that intersects with her faith.


1. What’s interesting to you about divination?

Growing up as a church girl, it’s been emphasized over and over to me that any type of divination was of the devil. Ouija boards, tarot cards, astrology, all of that was demonic and thus, I was to keep far away from those as possible. But I’m learning that Christianity itself has a fascinating history of divination.  King Saul visiting a fortune teller to talk to Samuel’s ghost.  Sailors caught in the storm casting lots to see who was responsible, and the lots pointed to Jonah. Jesus’s disciples cast lots to find out Judas’s replacement. I grew up in a church where people spoke in tongues and gave prophetic words. I never considered it weird. In fact, I go to a church now that doesn’t do any of those things, and I miss it. To me, it’s an important component of how God works today.

2. Have you ever had a reading (Tarot, palm, runes, or whatever)? If so, what did you think of the experience? Was it accurate, or at least useful?

A couple of years ago, I had my palm read at a Renaissance Faire. It was purely out of curiosity; I didn’t expect to learn anything useful. A lot of what the reader told me was general statements — you like to read, you have a kind and gentle spirit, you’ll will have moderate success in your job. It felt like more of a personality assessment than a fortune reading.

3. If you are against the idea of getting your fortune told, what are your reasons for that?

Trying to divine the future is a dangerous thing, especially if you don’t have the gift for it. Even in the church — no, especially in the church — it’s something to tread with care. When I was a kid, a minister who had a ‘prophetic word’ told my mother that when I marry, my husband would eventually become a deacon at whatever church we’re in. Well, I’m married, and my husband has absolutely zero interest in becoming a deacon. (No one asked me if I wanted to become a deacon, but for the record: no.) That’s just one of the tamer prophetic words I’ve received.

At the same time, though, I do believe in having the gift of foresight, which is very different from seeing the future. When I did research for my story in the What Fates Impose Anthology, I looked into fortune tellers, which is one of those taboo things at my church. I was surprised to see that many people who went to fortune tellers didn’t go to have their futures spelled out for them. Many just wanted advice, or they needed encouragement, or wanted to get a sense of themselves from an outsider’s point of view. Very similar to how prophetic ministry is used in most churches.

So I’m not against it. I’m just saying it needs to be done with care, because it can be easily, easily abused.

4. How did you get started on developing the idea for your story in What Fates Impose?

As Christians, man, do we love our personality tests. My friends pored over their Myers/Briggs results in the same way people pored over their horoscopes, which got me to thinking: how are the two related? What if you could predict the future using personality assessment? Then, last year, I took the StrengthFinders test, a Love Language quiz and a Spiritual Gifts questionnaire all in one month. All those questions I took gave me the idea for the format of the story, and it went on from there.

Also, some friends of mine just got the sweetest, the most adorable chocolate labrador ever. Once I saw Marti and her gorgeous golden eyes, I knew I had to have her in my story.

5. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Stretch yourself. Write about things you normally wouldn’t. When I was in college, I got an image in my head of walking down a hotel hallway and realizing that the patterns on the carpet were really the backs of playing cards. I tried to write a story around it, but it didn’t work out. I thought about changing the cards to tarot cards, but at the time, I wasn’t ready, because tarot cards = evil, etc, and so forth. When Nayad approached me about the anthology, that scene popped in my head. I decided I would use tarot cards. I did my research and talked to friends who showed me their decks. It demystified them enough that I was able to use them to flesh out my story better. I can now look at tarot decks and appreciate them for their beautiful art.  Which is more than I can say for the stack of Chick Tracts I have stashed in a locked box up in the furthest corner of my closet. Perhaps I’ll write a story about them…someday…when I’m sure they won’t give me horrible, apocalyptic nightmares…

6. Which subjects and themes do you write about often, and why?

Well, obviously, my faith plays a big role in the stories I write, but it’s not all happy yay-Jesus parables. Most of my stories deal with struggling with a lot of questions I have about my faith: is there a God, why do I believe there is a God, why doesn’t he make himself more visible…that sort of thing. Writing allows me to explore those questions. Sometimes, some pretty dark stuff come out, but I try to balance those out with stories that are more fun.

7. Where can people find other published work of yours?

You can find me in the anthology Dark Faith Invocations, edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon. I also have stories at EscapePod, Ideomancer, StoneTelling, and Expanded Horizons. You can find links to these stories and more at my blog, The Café in the Woods.

8. What else would you like to tell people about any subject?

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the What Fates Impose Kickstarter, which is happening right now. One of the rewards is a 4X6 card from me with your personality type of your choice (Myers/Briggs or StrengthFinders) and its description written in calligraphy.  Also check out Nayad Monroe’s blog, where she has more interviews of contributors to the What Fates Impose anthology, such as Alasdair Stuart, Ferret Steinmetz, and Wendy Wagner, among others.