There is nothing short about my bio so I am writing My Impossible Life due out at the beginning of 2017. Look for trauma, travel, transcendental exploration, home and mothering, directions from dreams, publishing, meditation, teaching, therapy, all infused with healing.
Tell us a little about yourself. (How did you get started writing? What do you do when you’re not writing?
For the longest time in my life I wrote because it was one of the very few actions that brought relief from the constant inner carping, negativity, criticism. I kept writing. And healing through other modalities until I began to write for pleasure, for joy, for expressions of the ecstatic jubilation of life.
Is this your first book? How many books have you written prior (if any?) List other titles if applicable.
The Stain is my first fiction novel. I have co-authored two books of poetry Uncritical Mass
in Consort and Bliss Pig.
What genre do you enjoy writing the most and what is this book about?
I like non-fiction but after writing this fiction book I feel even more respect for the struggles of fiction authors. I enjoy writing poetry the most, although it feels like such a long road since I traveled through poem land.
What inspired you to write this book?
I had no choice. The inner world experience demanded it.
How did you come up with the title of your book or series?
I just waited. And asked. And asked. And waited and one day I contemplated what in Tibetan Buddhism is called the Uppa Kelesa or higher defilement. Cecilie Kwiat described Uppa Kelesa as the stain left on the counter if you squeeze a wet tea bag and then leave it there. That stain is the remnant of the karma upheavals that shape our lives. Once we have cleared the upheaval, then we have to wait for the Uppa Kelesa, the higher defilement to arise. Only then is all that karmic activity from that event gone.
Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
Sue Reynolds, a fabulous graphic designer, writing instructor, counsellor, great person with an intuitive take on what I’m (and many others are) trying to express designed my cover. I sent her the three photos taken off a free photo site on the web and she designed it from there. I really love it. These three pictures capture the essence of the three main characters in my book.
If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaptation of your book, who would play your characters?
Diana would be played by Susan Sarandan, Mary would be acted by Scarlett Johansson and Tahni by Cardinal Tattoo.
Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?
Daphne DuMaurier and Charlotte and Emily Bronte carved their words into my pre-teen soul. C.S. Lewis for the majesty of the worlds he created entranced my pre-teen brain and heart. I am a great fan of Herman Hesse. His book Demian was the first one I read from cover to cover in one sitting. I also love the work of the great Greek writer Kazantzakis who wrote Zorba the Greek, Report to Greco and The Last Temptation of Christ, made into a superb film.
When and why did you begin writing?
I wrote my first poem when I was 6 years old and I have not had any choice, since. If I don’t write, I find there is a voice inside of me creating titles of books, dialogue, very bad narratives out of the stuff of my life, making up stories about people I see everywhere in the world. To channel that, I write.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I always have.
What does your writing process look like?
Chaos, struggle, silence, music, dancing, walking in nature, crying, sobbing, dreaming at night, and a little bit of tapping on computer keys.
Where do you write?
Yellow notepad on my desk overlooking the lake or at my computer.
Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?
Spontaneous fits of singing (for hours) and dancing as well as talking to myself.
Are you a plotter or do you write by the seat of your pants?
Neither. I write by listening to what is going on inside of me.
Is there a certain type of scene that’s harder for you to write than others? Love? Action? Racy?
Is there one subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?
I’m not into gore porn.
Who is your favorite character from your book and why?
I had the most trouble with Diana and I think that’s why I like her the most, although Tahni is pretty magnificent too.
How about your least favorite character? What makes them less appealing to you?
Mary bothers me because she is so man driven.
What book do you wish you could have written?
Only my own.
What other books/authors are similar to your own? What makes them similar?
Cloud Atlas creates through time, and so is similar thematically. I was surprised to learn Mitchell writes novellas then brings them together. That’s how he constructed Cloud Atlas. And I was forced to do the same at some point. I had to separate the stories and then organize them again. That took days. Another book of similar nature to The Stain is Diana Garibaldi’s great first in her series, The Outlander. The similarities lie in the love themes and the sense of history as non-linear.
How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning? Do you have any name choosing resources you recommend?
I love Dickens for his use of names. That early love of the classics has proven vitally important to me.
If you could change ONE thing about your novel, what would it be?
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
In life, it has been raising my son. Artistically it’s that I finished writing The Stain.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Much more media savy, with at least six books finished and out there and some income from them, however small.
Have you always enjoyed writing?
Yes. Reading and writing.
What writing advice do you have for other aspiring authors?
Read. Read as much as you can and as widely as you can. Read weather reports, sports columns, novels, read especially outside your genre.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I read reviews. I have had a few reviews from people I don’t know who gave my book five stars and that of course feels very good. I have had a couple of bad reviews, one in which the writing was so poor I couldn’t take the review seriously and assume others will feel the same. One review of two stars said the themes did not appeal but the reviewer felt the book would appeal to others. Of the people I know who reviewed it most are very very erudite, well read people who love reading and writing too much to blow smoke. Therefore I respect their four and five star reviews. I love that a couple of people gave the book poor reviews and I’m particularly happy with the lowest review because the writing by the reviewer is so riddled with mistakes it makes me embarrassed. I don’t worry about bad reviews.
What (when not writing) do you do to support yourself?
I am a Psychotherapist in private practice and have been for over fifteen years. One thing that surprised me was learning that I do not want to turn to writing full time. I have always assumed I wanted to write full time so I thought once I finished my book I would want to give up my profession. It has come as a great surprise to realize how deeply honored I feel to work with people, help them through their troubles. I don’t want to give that up!
Do you have any other talents or hobbies?
I’m an astrologer, I read Tarot cards professionally, teach meditation, have played five instruments (trumpet, piano, drums, recorder and voice) love riding horses and have traveled widely.
What is your least favorite part of the publishing / writing process?
Everything to do with “pushing” my books is anathema. I try not to but to let the book and the reviews do their job.
What can readers who enjoy your book do to help make it successful?
Please write a review, even a short few lines, expressing what pleased you and what didn’t about the book.
What is your best marketing tip?
Keep at it.
Do you have a favorite conference to attend? What is it?
I love the Ontario Writer’s Conference. It’s the only one I’ve been to and it was just fine this spring.
What are you working on now?
I am in the final stages of Medicine Buddha/Medicine Mind, a non-fiction book which draws parallels between the fascinating discoveries of Neuroscience and the ancient method of meditating called Tibetan Vajrayana Tantra.
Why did you write a love story?
I had no choice.
What is your next project?
After Medicine Buddha/Medicine Mind I want to complete My Impossible Life. I have a major first draft complete (although really it’s about draft number eight or nine) and am ready to improve the structure.
What can we expect from you in the future?
More podcasts and more writing.
Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I like Lori Schafer’s voice. It’s strong and unapologetic. I am a fan of Mary Karr, and of Guilia Enders who has written a book called “Gut” about how we digest. It is simply written but fascinating. I’m sure I’ll use it for my next non-fiction book, which will be about septic systems.
What are your current projects?
As stated, completing the publishing part of Medicine Buddha/Medicine Mind, becoming proficient at podcasting, completing My Impossible Life, continuing with podcasting, publishing Linda Stitt’s great poetry (check out her eBook Talking to Myself) and then writing the book on septic systems.
Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Two entities: one is Writers Community of Durham Region, the other is Whistle Radio in Stouffville.
Do you see writing as a career?
If it is, it’s a piss poor paycheck.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
It was always there. I sat on the floor and cried at a child’s version of the Wizard of Oz because I knew she couldn’t get home. My mother told me she’d take the book away unless I stopped crying. I was less than three years old at the time. I taught myself to read when I was 2 and a 1/2, by having memorized the Little Red Hen. I also loved a child’s book about a Turtle because he always had his home with him. I used to take all the books out of my father’s small bookcase and spread them on the floor, before I could read. It just seemed important. I still have that bookcase.
The first time I visited the local library I vowed to read all the books in it because I wanted to know everything. I probably have thought, until recently, I achieved that goal.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Not in the writing phase. That seems to flow and grow on its own.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned real respect for fiction writers.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
Keep writing. All the time. Every day.
Which of your books was the most fun to write and why?
So far I believe Medicine Buddha/Medicine Mind was the easiest and the most fun because the subject of neuroscience fires me up.
What is the most difficult thing about being an author?
I don’t find much difficult about it.
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
What genre do you enjoy writing the most and why?
I love writing poetry and have had the most experience in that. I am most at home with non-fiction because I enjoy unusual patterns, putting things together out of order and then taking them apart to see how they fit philosophically.
What do you wear while writing?
Do you have a pet or pets?
Two house cats and one stray cat.
Are you a compulsive shopper/hoarder?
Nope. Have to be dragged, kicking and screaming toward shopping.
What is your favorite snack food?
Don’t have any.
What literary character is most like you?
I haven’t found her.
When was the last time you found yourself in a situation that was hard to get out of and what did you do?
Check out My Impossible Life: held hostage for three days when I was 16 by two armed robbers, sailed the Gulf of Mexico during tornado season in an unseaworthy vessel, drank chang with Mongel mne in the north of India, followed a teacher around the world even though he sometimes didn’t show up and more.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
So many writers I admire and respect: Austen, both Brontes, Urquart, Rainer Marie Rilke, Pablo Neruda, Jacques Prevert and more. And I have an odd response to books. For instance Cormac McCarthy’s book “Blood Meridian” made me laugh out loud. But then so did Kafka’s Metamorphosis
What is your biggest fear?
Don’t believe in them.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
Om is where the Art is.
What is your favorite Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?
Provide photos if available! Years ago I dressed in a full length kaftan of deep blue lacey material, and painted my face silver. No one guessed, in 1975 that I was the Moon.
If you had a supernatural power, what would it be?
I have enough telepathy to believe we all have super powers.
If you were a super hero, what would your name be? What costume would you wear?
I wouldn’t wear a costume! That’s so passe! I’d be as fleet as a positron and as shifty as an orbit of Jupiter’s moons.
Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
The Hermitage in Russia.
If you were any plant or animal, what would you be?
Provide images if you want! A red wood tree – those gigantic friends that breathe for us – and definitely a great Blue Whale.
What is something you want to accomplish before you die?
Finish the books and provide my family with some money.
If you could have any accents from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?
Do you have any scars?
Only on my soul.
What are they from?
What were you like as a child?
Horrible. Terrible temper, absolutely a liar, full of fantasies and desires and clutching my insides writhing with the angst of being in the world. What was your favorite toy? My tiny teddy bear.
Do you recall your dreams?
Often. I am a dream reader.
Do you have any recurring dreams/nightmares?
Not any more.
What is your favorite song?
Moon River is the one right now but there are many.
Do you have an embarrassing moment you’d like to share?
Not outside of My Impossible Life. There you’ll get enough to fulfill the most salacious appetite.
What is your favorite Fiction/Non-Fiction book?
The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge.
What is your favorite movie?
Midnight in Paris, My Talks with Dean Spanley.
What books have most influenced your life most?
Demian and Narcissus and Goldman, and Steppanwolf by Herman Hesse. Also A Voyage to Arcturus.
Karma Tenzin Dorje Namgyal Rinpoche and Cecilie Kwiat.
What book are you reading now?
The Emotional Life of Your Brain by Goldman.
Do you remember the first book you read?
The Little Red Hen.
What makes you laugh/cry?
Is there one person past or present you would meet and why?
Bodicea. She’s probably my ancestress.