Friday, December 15, 2017

Anna Gatmon on Gifting for the Soul (Recommended for the Holidays)

In this special AuthorStory interview for the holiday season, Anna Gatmon talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her Wholly Trinity Tips for Holiday Fulfillment & Balance. The PDF is available through the links here, as a free download.

PLAY the VIDEO: Learn about the 3 aspects of the Wholly Trinity Holiday Tips

“Be creative.” ~Anna Gatmon, on gifting for the holidays

Anna Gatmon has spent the most recent part of her life finding a balance between the spiritual and the material, and presents ways by which the average person can achieve this balance. She calls one of these ways, the “Wholly Trinity” which is comprised of personal tips for holiday fulfillment and balance which are based on her own life experiences. Anna remarks that, because people live in the material world, they focus on the “to do” list of things to buy and activities to do, such as cooking meals, rather than getting in touch with the spiritual aspects of such celebrations.

Where the celebrations and holidays are concerned, Anna Gatmon’s Wholly Trinity Tips for Holiday Fulfillment and Balance can allow people to give themselves and those around them a “spa for the soul” treatment. The “Wholly Trinity” consists of three aspects, each of which has a material component, a spiritual component, and a person to bring these two components together, with all three components needed to create the whole. Anna notes that the material is an expression of intention, which springs from the spiritual aspect.


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Kate Lund on Helping Your Child Build Resilience and Thrive in School, Sports, and Life

Kate Lund talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, Bounce: Help Your Child Build Resilience and Thrive in School, Sports and Life.


“Focus on the relationship with the child.” ~Kate Lund

Kate is a mother, clinical psychologist and university instructor who is interested in resiliency and wrote Bounce from the perspective as a mother and university instructor, and based on her own childhood experiences with hydrocephalus. Kate noted that resiliency is particularly important where children today are concerned, as they face a lot of challenges. The book came out of her years of experience as a clinical psychologist and with her own curiosity about resiliency and is designed to be an easy read for parents, teachers and coaches. One of the times that she recalls was when she was working in Shriners Burn Hospital in Boston, where she encountered children who had serious burn injuries, children who needed a great deal of resilience in their lives after receiving their injuries.

Kate notes that resiliency is important mainly because children will face challenges, and the ability to get up after being knocked down by a challenge enables them to move on and eventually realize their potential, rather than getting stuck. She also remarks that resiliency varies from child to child, with some being naturally more resilient than others, and notes that it is important to help less resilient children shift their perspective to one which enables greater resiliency.

Kate remarks that children can become more resilient as they learn and grow, where the environment and the people around them can help out. She points out that helping a child manage their emotions and, thus, their frustrations, which will keep those children from shutting down. Kate remarks that kids learn in different ways and at a different pace, and that separating their classroom performance from how they feel about themselves enables greater resiliency in children.

The pillars of resilience that Kate notes in the book are

· the ability to tolerate frustration and manage emotions;
· navigate friendships and social pressures;
· sustain focus and attention;
· develop courage;
· build motivation;
· find confidence; and
· create optimism.

Kate believes that building the skills espoused by these pillar will create more resilient children. She notes that the model she uses is based on her experience and analysis, as well as on the research done on resilience, and that these pillars are the core elements of resilience. She gave an example of a situation where navigating friendship and social pressure was the concern, remarking that, by helping a child do so, they can be taught skills which would enhance their confidence and emotional intelligence, what their own strengths and values are and accept and understand individual differences in others.

Kate notes that, at the end of each chapter, are bullet points – action steps – that parents and teachers can do to help foster resilience in children. Teachers and parents, for example, can help by creating a positive, focused state of mind and identifying the way by which a child learns, as different children learn in different ways. Parents also need to be connected with their child’s strengths, passions and aptitudes, and then focus on these in daily life.

Purchase from Amazon: Bounce: Help Your Child Build Resilience and Thrive in School, Sports and Life by Kate Lund

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Nancy van Dyken on Dealing with Everyday Narcissism

Nancy van Dyken talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, Everyday Narcissism: Yours, Mine and Ours.

“It’s important that we be honest and direct, but we do so with kindness and graciousness.” ~Nancy van Dyken

Nancy is a licensed psychologist and licensed independent clinical social worker who has been practicing for nearly 35 years now. She specializes in working in relationship issues, specifically abusive dynamics. She wrote Everyday Narcissism for just about everybody, as the concerns within affect everyone. She began talking about narcissism in relationship with co-dependency, and as time went on, she discovered the patterns of everyday narcissism as she investigated the matter; and as she didn’t want to keep teaching the same thing over and over again to her clients, she decided to write the book.

Narcissism, according to Nancy, is a spectrum. The “personality disorder” type of narcissism is on one end and describes people who are self-centered, need to be right, and don’t accept disagreement. “Everyday narcissism” is on the other end of the spectrum, with people being pleasers, doing things to be liked and are fearful of rejection.

The five core beliefs that Nancy notes we have been taught from a very young age - beliefs that drive emotions, thoughts and behavior throughout one’s life are:
  1. I am responsible for, and have the power to control, how other people feel and behave.
  2. It’s your responsibility to take care of how I feel and how I behave.
  3. Your needs are more important than mine.
  4. Rules are more important than I am.
  5. I’ve got to follow all these myths, or I’m not likeable.
Nancy notes that these five beliefs are reinforced daily, and these are so intrusive that we aren’t even aware of their influence these lies have in our lives. These lies are what Nancy refers to as “hazy trauma,” being akin to continuous paper cuts that are inflicted upon a person over time, rather than the kind of major trauma inflicted by such things as sexual abuse. Nancy gave two examples of a subject named “Nancy” who is influenced, while still a child, by some of these myths, which resulted in role reversal, where the child “Nancy” becomes the parent in the social role. She points out the phrase, “I’m so disappointed in you,” when told to a child, being an example of shaming, which plays to everyday narcissism.

Nancy notes that all parents are doing the best they can, and that they are merely passing on the methods they learned and experienced. She notes that narcissism is created from being injured, and how one relates to narcissism - be it following these five beliefs or recognizing this and healing from them - will determine whether or not its effect on one’s life is negative or positive. Nancy also gave some examples about how situations were dealt with in a manner different from how these would be dealt in a way that encourages everyday narcissism - one about a math teacher who had read her book, and another about an example in her own life when she spoke with her own daughter.

Nancy points out that teaching children these five myths, or lies, teaches these children not to respect themselves. As a concrete example, she notes that these five myths drive home to women and girls that their body doesn’t belong to them, which is why they don’t speak up about being sexually harassed. Nancy also gave the example of abusive relationships where the second myth is used to justify the abuse, and she notes that, when these myths and lies are given up, freedom and joy are acquired. She notes that accepting these myths will most likely be best addressed by reading her book, but she believes that narcissism is a state of wounding, rather than it making people awful.

Nancy notes that people have learned not to trust themselves by buying into the five myths, and that we must trust our own inner wisdom to tell us what does and doesn’t work for us. She also wants people to know that they are likeable and loveable as they are, and don’t need to please everyone.

Purchase from Amazon: Everyday Narcissism: Yours, Mine and Ours by Nancy van Dyken

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Monique Darling and the 11 Basic Rules of the Cuddle Party (Beyond Cuddle Party)

Monique Darling talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, Beyond Cuddle Party: How Pajamas, Human Connection and 11 Rules Can Change Your Life.


“When they hear your ‘no,’ then they actually start trusting your ‘yes.’” ~Monique Darling

Monique grew up in a Mormon family and culture and didn’t fit in any of the “boxes” that those around her fit into. She eventually went over to Los Angeles to help out on conventions for TV shows, and as the designated sober person she was asked to create a safe space for people to cuddle in during these conventions. She then came up with her own version of a cuddle party, as she didn’t know what a cuddle party was at the time, after which she got involved in the world of cuddle parties. She then got involved in her first cuddle party a short time later, where the facilitator asked if she could hug Monique; and it was only some time later when Monique realized that she had been asked to be touched, or hugged, in her life.

It was really only after attending two hundred such cuddle parties that Monique truly began unpacking the experience and what it meant to her. Before attending cuddle parties, Monique was outwardly successful, with all the trappings of apparent success, such as the children and the dogs, but she felt there was no room for herself, for even though she worked to perfect her model of being a “good girl” she felt more and more “like a fraud.” After eleven years of involvement in cuddle parties, Monique notes that she now has the option to figure out what she truly wants and who she truly is.

Monique has become a cuddle party facilitator, and she notes that cuddle parties create the space for people to re-contextualize rejection, noting that a lot of people don’t want to say “no” because they don’t want to disappoint others. Cuddle parties are essentially a boundaries and touching workshop, with the emphasis on it being a non-sexual environment, and introduces people to being touched outside a sexual context or environment. Removing sex from the context creates a space that enables people to figure out what kind of touch they like and to figure out what it is that they really want where touch is concerned.

Monique gave an example of a woman who had been in an abusive marriage and who had been abused sexually who attended a cuddle party. She was aloof at first, but as the party progressed she began to open up more, and by the end of the cuddle party she lay in the center of the room and had everyone present touch her with their pinkies, which made her sob, as she realized that touch didn’t have to be abusive in nature.

Beyond Cuddle Party is for anyone who wants to expand themselves in asking for things they want and saying “no” to the things they don’t want. Monique wrote the book out over a two-year period after being asked, several times, by people how to do a cuddle party, and in response to their requests Monique realized she could write a book out. For her, the experience was one where it seemed that what she wrote wasn’t coming from herself, but that she was, rather, a conduit for what was being written.

Beyond Cuddle Party goes into great depth of the eleven (11) rules of a cuddle party which, according to Monique, are:

  1. Clothing stays on the whole time.
  2. No one has to cuddle at a cuddle party, ever. This creates a space where things don’t have to happen.
  3. You must ask and get a verbal “yes” before touching anyone. This enables people to reclaim their own voice.
  4. If you are a “yes,” say “yes,” and if you are a “no,” say “no.” This enables people to verbalize what they really want to ask for.
  5. If you are a “maybe,” say “no.” This enables people to stop doing anything because they “have” to do it.
  6. Changing one’s mind is encouraged. This enables people to figure out where they want to be at the moment.
  7. Please stick to inter-relationship boundaries and agreements already made. This is applicable to married people who attend a cuddle party without their partner, for example.
  8. “Come and get me, ‘cause I’m the lifeguard on duty.” This applies to people who want to seek assistance from the cuddle party facilitator, and they can ask for help at any time during the party.
  9. Tears and laughter are welcome.
  10. Keep the others’ privacy and confidentiality around cuddle parties.
  11. Keep the area clean. No one wants to “cuddle in a puddle.”

The rules in a cuddle party can also apply outside a cuddle party, and Monique gave the example of her presently asking other people for permission to touch them at times. She also doesn’t feel offended when others say “no,” as she understands that this is due to others’ taking care of themselves. Monique also remarked that these rules enable people to reclaim their bodies as their own. She also notes that, based on her experience, cuddle parties produce the same “magic,” regardless of culture.

Monique points out that one is in a relationship with oneself, first and foremost, and that the more one finds ways to get to know and honor oneself, the greater the life one can lead. She notes that people being “selfless” is an erroneous concept, as doing so will drain oneself. Monique notes that, by knowing what one wants in each moment, one can relate with the world at large better than if one were “selfless.” She notes that, the more one focuses on oneself, one loves and takes care of oneself, and this enables others to be who they are in the world as well as to have permission to be that.

Purchase from Amazon: Beyond Cuddle Party: How Pajamas, Human Connection and 11 Rules Can Change Your Life by Monique Darling

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Becky Thompson on Teaching with Tenderness Toward an Embodied Practice

Becky Thompson talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, Teaching with Tenderness: Towards an Embodied Practice.

“We need to be able to breathe with each other.” ~Becky Thompson

Becky is a poet, activist, yoga teacher, mother and grandmother as well as a professor in sociological theory in various universities for several years. As a teacher, Becky is familiar with what is presently going on in classrooms today, and she brought her academic discipline to bear on the topic of tenderness, which she defines as a capacity of humans learning and being with each other - a capacity which she remarks is being undermined by social inequality, such as racism. Becky remarked that she was in Greece when the first refugees from Syria and Afghanistan arrived, and she remarked that some of the first refugees she met were students no different from those she had dealt with in the United States, save in their experience of fleeing. Becky has returned six times to work with the refugees and the experience has enabled her to gain a deeper understanding into what tenderness is all about.

Becky notes that tenderness requires one to have an open mind which can embrace complexity, community and paradox, where rituals of inclusion are done along with habits that encourage deep listening and where memory is an antidote to alienation. Tenderness, in her opinion, is something that encourages people to realize that there is something more than oneself and where people are engaged on a deeper level. She also remarks that people need to be able to tap into the feeling at times of stressful disagreement, and notes that, at present, any kind of disagreement produces a sentiment where violence is likely to happen.

Becky wrote Teaching with Tenderness for students and teachers, and while she starts by talking about tenderness in the classroom, she goes beyond that by speaking about what it means to practice tenderness throughout one’s life. She mentioned a story of her fellow teacher who wondered about the kind of support available for teachers who could get worn out--support which is widely given at present, and where the stress teachers face is concerned, Becky gave the example of her own mother, who was a teacher, and she didn’t have time to go to lunch or have a bathroom break between classes several times. She also noted that teachers also sometimes pay for classroom improvements from their own pocket and that the teachers in college are under a great deal of stress to ensure that their students are able to apply their skills immediately after graduation.

Becky remarked that people “left their bodies” during highly stressful events in their lives and that rituals are needed to enable people to reconnect and re-enter their bodies. Becky noted that slowing-down learning is necessary as an embodied practice, where the body and spirit and intellect are all related and interconnected with each other, as being embodied is a psychological, emotional, spiritual and political practice. She gave, as an example of the kind of compartmentalization that is present in the educational system, the attacks of 9/11, when the teachers didn’t speak about the event as if it was (“business as usual,” outside the confines of the classroom), despite that several of the students were affected by the attacks. Becky also noted that there is a lot of dissociation going on, presently, amongst members of the government in the United States, which is an example of compartmentalization, and notes that this also goes on in other countries, from the stories told to her by the refugees she works with. She also noted that people she spoke to in Bali couldn’t recall a time when there had been a murder and had never seen a gun, which indicates that it is possible to live in a place where the fear of violence isn’t present.

Becky’s vision for an education where tenderness is integrated is one where students feel energized and involved with the subject matter they are investigating, noting that her yoga practice helps, since yoga enables people to become present to, and within, their bodies. She gave an example of giving her students around twenty minutes to relax, and after the students woke up from that rest, the ensuing conversation was the most vibrant one she had experienced. Becky would like to see contemplative practices be integrated into education to help students engage and become productive and points out that she doesn’t compromise the rigor where her own teaching is concerned.

To others, Becky would ask about when they felt most alive, confident and available to learn and what enabled this, so that they can teach others to reproduce these in their own lives.

Purchase from Amazon: Teaching with Tenderness: Towards an Embodied Practice by Becky Thompson

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Resmaa Menakem on Racialized Trauma as the Subject of His Book, My Grandmother's Hands

Resmaa Menakem talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about his book, My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies

 “Trauma is a protective measure, not a defective measure.” ~Resmaa Menakem

Resmaa was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and as he lived in a diverse neighborhood he didn’t encounter racism and violence until the 7th grade, when he got bused to a school that was then integrating kids from various races. He got through college and became involved with social justice matters with his friend, now-Congressman Keith Ellison, and after getting his Master’s in Social Work got involved with victims of addiction and violence. He then went over to Afghanistan, helping with contractors who were in war zones and who were thus getting traumatized by the conditions they were working under. Resmaa wasn’t aware, until he returned to the United States, that he was likewise getting traumatized, until he spent around a year after getting back from Afghanistan doing all the things that traumatized people did, such as pushing others away and getting depressed himself, as well as wanting to get back.

Resmaa got the title of his book from a conversation he had with his grandmother, while he was a child, where he learned why his grandmother’s hands and feet were as big as they were - and these were big from picking cotton since the age of four. It was then that Resmaa first got a glimpse of how hard life was for one of his predecessors, and it was years later, after he learned of the shooting of Tamir Rice, that he put all of what he learned about the effects of trauma on the body into My Grandmother’s Hands.

Resmaa points out that trauma is a protective measure, designed to protect someone from perceived or real overwhelm, and he remarked that trauma affects the body’s limbic, or animal, system, which means that trauma couldn’t just be talked away, in the regular psychological, cognitive-based treatment. The limbic aspect of the trauma is so intense it goes beyond cognitive treatment and ability, and those suffering from such deep trauma usually can’t articulate it, as they only have a sense of what that trauma is.

Resmaa also notes that research is presently coming out on how trauma inflicted on past generations affects the descendants of those upon whom the trauma affects by learning, when a child learns how an adult moves and reacts to the trauma that had happened to that adult, and Resmaa adds that some generations of Jews who are descended from Holocaust survivors experienced the same kind of conditions as those who had experienced the Holocaust. He also noted that such trauma can also be triggered through storytelling, like a child reacting to an intense story told to him by one of his elders.

Resmaa also noted a new idea called epigentics, which is based on the idea that the environment affects the gene expression of what gets turned on and off which aids in survival, and that such expressions are carried on in future generations. He brought up the example of the “cherry blossom experiment,” when it was noted that the offspring of mice who were exposed to trauma, mice who associated and reacted to the trauma of a painful electrical shock with the scent of cherry blossoms, would react the same way that their parents did, even if they hadn’t experienced the electric shock themselves, as a protective measure, even though the offspring never came into contact with their traumatized parent. Resmaa notes that this idea is presently coming under increasing investigation by scientists today, and this opens up the possibility that trauma is protective in nature, and not a defect in the person himself.

To those who are experiencing generational trauma, Resmaa says that what they are experiencing is protective, not defective in nature, and that, when that person is ready, he should find someone to help him get through it. Resmaa also points out that telling someone that there is nothing wrong with him helps out greatly, and that getting to the incident, be it generational, or personal, where the trauma originated helps create healing.

Purchase from Amazon: My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies by Resmaa Menakem

Monday, October 9, 2017

Jackson Fahnestock Talks about the Creation of Shu Wei's Revenge, His First Novel

Jackson Fahnestock talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about his book, Shu Wei’s Revenge: A Young Man’s Journey into the Depths of the Underworld.

“It’s never the end until it’s the end.” ~Jackson Fahnestock 

Jackson has been an architect and urban planner for 35 years, and his work took him around the world, including China and Taiwan, during which time he gained insights into east Asian culture, particularly since his work required him to work closely with the local communities. He also did a little writing, usually in technical and architectural journals, and Jackson also admitted that doing his thesis awakened his writing instincts. He retired when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, something which affected him deeply and which also made him think about doing things that he had always wanted to do. He started off doing artwork and audio tours of San Francisco’s historic places.

Jackson remarked that he started doing research for Shu Wei’s Revenge even while he was working as an architect, gathering information that he could base the book on. He remarked that writing the book about a culture that was different from the one he was born and raised in, was a challenge, and so he did a lot of research on Chinese culture and on the history of Chinese immigrants in San Francisco. He only really started writing in earnest in 2013, after he felt he had enough to start, and Jackson remarked that, while he can’t claim to be influenced by any single fiction writer, he has read a variety of books and styles and notes that his style might have been subconsciously influenced by the writers whose works he read.

Jackson noted that the original draft for Shu Wei’s Revenge was wordy, included enough material for three or four different stories, and that it included some stretches, such as life onboard the ship to San Francisco, because he was fascinated with that particular matter but which might have bored readers. He credits his editor with honing down the novel to what finally worked and remarked that the journey of writing a work of fiction expanded his knowledge, particularly with the terminology of writing.

Shu Wei’s Revenge is a young adult coming-of-age story which includes such elements as a free press, and enslavement of women. Jackson remarked that the tension was enhanced by what was actually happening, both in China and in San Francisco, at the time of the story, and writing out aspects of a culture which he wasn’t born and raised in was a real challenge, pointing that one could research all one wants and what would come out would be like an entry in Wikipedia. He remarked that he was fascinated by everyday life in China and remarked that, when he was working in Hong Kong, he would go to different places and observe what went on there. You'd find many of his observations in his book, which should make it a delight to read.

Purchase from Amazon: Shu Wei’s Revenge: A Young Man’s Journey into the Depths of the Underworld by Jackson Fahnestock

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Curran Galway on Her Ordinary Mystic Novel about a Woman's Spiritual Journey

Curran Galway talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, Ordinary Mystic: Practicing the Presence.

“The extraordinary is everywhere in the ordinary.” ~Curran Galway

Curran was raised as a Roman Catholic and has taught for over twenty-five years. She has raised four children and gotten her Master’s degree in Divinity and is interested in the new types of spirituality that are coming out. She was inspired to write Ordinary Mystic because she felt that some of the new views on spirituality need to be brought out in story form so people can see what those spiritual principles can be seen in a daily life. Curran also remarked that Ordinary Mystic, which is the second book she wrote, is a more personal one than the first because it includes an experience that she, herself, had, and that she also included some spiritual experiences that others, whom she had spoken to, have had.

Curran’s own spirituality started when she was undergoing a dark period in her life and went on a retreat to sort things out. She mentioned that, the night before her experience, she had experienced such strange things as crosses swinging, walking up to the top of a mountain and then having a spiritual experience, feeling arms around her and being told that she is loved and that she must to tell others about how they, too, are loved. Curran emphasizes that she wasn’t looking for this experience though she starts her day with meditation, which gives her a sense of mindfulness and energy and sets the tone for the rest of the day. She also takes hikes in nature and takes time to be still, which means being being both physically and mentally still, and going inward to connect with her inner divinity.

Ordinary Mystic is the story of a woman who is at a crossroads in her life and who, when she goes on a retreat, experiences a connection with God at the top of a mountain. The experience turns her life upside-down and takes the woman years to fully incorporate it into her own life, and while it is a spiritual story, it is also a great story on its own, with Curran’s own friends telling her that the book is “a page-turner.”

Curran remarks that she wants people to awaken to the divinity that lies within themselves, and of how much the Divine loves them. She differentiates spirituality from religion, saying that religion is a home for spirituality, while the latter is all about living and being guided by Spirit. She remarks that there are so many outside distractions nowadays that people don’t turn inward to find personal transformation and finding out who one is on the inside and one’s own divinity within, which is what spirituality is all about.

Curran remarks that speaking about spirituality nowadays is “a little bit scary” and points out that the Roman Catholic Church made mystics saints, but that this was so because there weren’t that many people who were spiritually awake, which made the presence of mystics very extraordinary. She also remarked that people are hungry for spirituality because they want a more vital life, which they can get by connecting with their own spirit, and that spiritual experiences are available for everyone, regardless of background or religious beliefs or lack thereof.

Curran defines spirituality as being a direct connection to God, which is what mystics have had. Spirituality, according to her, is the heart of religion, and most religions have lost that connection over time. Curran notes that ordinary people can connect with Spirit in various ways, such as walking in nature and meditation. She remarks that just being mindful creates connections all its own and that making the connection results in a feeling of bliss and ecstasy, where everything is taken up and one is bathed in a feeling of love.

Curran notes that Christianity is moving from an indoctrinated belief system to an experiential system. She remarked that, in the past, spirituality was all about suffering, which is a central idea of Christianity, in that suffering is a part of life that had to be endured, and that what was thought of as a “simple life” corresponds to poverty. Likewise in that context, matter and spirit were separate, that one was either spiritual or materialistic and that becoming spiritual was a difficult goal to achieve because one was unworthy of it. At present, there is a great amount of turmoil where people are trying out a lot of different things, and what is coming out is the abundance of divine love and provision, which means that people don’t need to live in poverty and suffering. This, in turn, creates an attitude of abundance and trust that such abundance is available to everyone. Curran believes that, in the future, more and more people will become mystics, and in that oneness, they can move beyond the “dualistic reality” that is present into a world view of wholeness.

Where duality is concerned, Curran referenced some recent scientific findings where there is a part of the brain that lights up in an MRI whenever someone has a spiritual experience. She also remarks that children, before around the age of five, do not have a mid-line in the brain, which means that, for them, everything that goes on is a “natural contemplative experience.” It is when the brain divides, which starts around the age of seven, that duality becomes present in the brain. That said, meditation enables one to rise above such duality, which then accesses the mystical part of the brain.

To those who have had a spiritual experience but who are reluctant to speak of this to others, Curran recommends writing down such experiences as, when one reads these, there are messages to be found in these. She remarks for people to trust that we humans are moving into a new vision of spirituality and that some of the old ways will need to be dropped, and that we should not be afraid because God is with us every step of the way and wants to give all of us the kind of deep connection that saints and mystics have had.

Purchase from Amazon: Ordinary Mystic: Practicing the Presence by Curran Galway

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Anna Gatmon on Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World

Anna Gatmon talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World: 4 Keys to Fulfillment and Balance.

“Living our calling and purpose is how we humans can live in spiritual and material balance.” ~Anna Gatmon

Anna lived in Paris in her twenties, where she worked as an international fashion model, and while she was fulfilled materially, she felt something missing. This feeling stayed with her when she went to the United States, where she got a doctoral degree, married, and raised a family, and she realized that she had to find a middle ground between spiritual fulfillment and material gratification.

Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World is intended for people who are looking for more purpose and meaning, be they spiritual people who feel an emptiness due to a lack of appreciation for the material or people who are gratified materially but who are spiritually empty. Anna intends for this book to be a road map that anyone can follow, whatever their culture or spiritual upbringing, or whatever their lifestyle, be one an office person or a guru, and remarked that her book provides an unusual approach to spirituality and materialism.

Anna points out that people create “amazing things,” and that there is a common misconception that spiritual people don’t lead lives of material abundance and gratification. She notes that people, as part of being spiritual, need to appreciate the material creation of others and gave the example of appreciating a chef’s work as an example of balance between a spiritual aspiration of the chef and the material gratification on the part of the diner. She notes that humans’ preference for either the material or the spiritual is due to seeing the world in duality of either/or, and that both the material and the spiritual both need to be expressed in order to create balance. Anna opines that being very spiritual in the context of balance with materialism doesn’t necessarily mean being rich, and gave an experience of hers as an example where, one morning, when she was concerned with her family’s financial situation, she became present to the abundance of what she had, with the six dollars in her account being merely one of the things she was blessed with.

The four keys that Anna notes in her book are:
  1. Expansive Presence - an expanded perception of reality
  2. Attentive Listening - becoming aware of the information present when one’s perception of reality is expanded
  3. Inspired Action - putting into action any prompting that became present during attentive listening
  4. Faith-filled Knowing - becoming aware that the Universe is a co-creator of one’s expression
The genesis of the book came about when Anna was in a meeting with the Dalai Lama and another woman asked the same thing Anna was asking herself: how does one integrate the spiritual teachings that one has learned into one’s daily life? She remarked that the four keys came to her in a flash while she was identifying spiritual experiences in her life, and that the research into these keys took three years, remarking that this is similar to the way scientists make their breakthroughs.

Anna advises people to live their highest calling, as doing so enables one to be in balance and unity with one’s spiritual aspirations and material expression.

Anna’s website is, where one can download her workbook, 7 Practices for More Prosperity, Peace and Purpose for free.

Purchase from Amazon: Living a Spiritual Life in a Material World: 4 Keys to Fulfillment and Balance by Anna Gatmon

Friday, September 8, 2017

Gurutej Khalsa on The Moon She Rocks You: Revealing the Secrets of Women's Inner Emotions

Gurutej Khalsa talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, The Moon She Rocks You: Revealing the Secrets of Women's Inner Emotions.

“The more that we can get our internal rhythms slowed down, the more that we can be present with each other.” ~Gurutej Khalsa

Gurutej Kaur, otherwise known as Gurutej Khalsa (“Kaur” is her middle name, so “Gurutej Kaur” and “Gurutej Khalsa” are both her.) built spiritual communities all over Canada in the 1970s and the 1980s, and some of the things she learned was that, when one has challenges in one’s life, one either practices the things that sustains one or gets involved with bad habits. She notes that, when one is in a leadership role, one can’t tell people to do things that one doesn’t do oneself, and along the way, through her life’s journey, she learned how to remain empowered and alive though the challenges that arose. The Moon She Rocks You is intended primarily for women, but men can also get something out of it as well.

Gurutej notes that women are ruled by the moon, which operates on a 28-day cycle, and that women have eleven moon centers, which alternate within that 28-day cycle. The summary of these moon centers, and some of the things that will come up in a woman’s life during that part of the cycle where a particular moon center is dominant, are:

Positive: very connected with visions
Challenged: paranoia, self-doubt
Neutral: immovable, vast; knowingness is huge

Eyebrows - act as shields for the eyes; healing dreams; understanding
Positive: capacity to know what one is doing
Challenged: move into fantasy
Neutral: can share these dreams with others

Positive: promotion queen
Challenged: out-of-control flirting (get someone else to tell you that you are good)
Neutral: radiant and beautiful

Positive: excellent communication
Challenged: sharp-toned

Positive: sharing own values
Challenged: self-deprecating; down on oneself
Neutral: empowered by values

Nape of Neck
Positive: susceptible to sound and voices
Challenged: unable to communicate
Neutral: can speak from the heart

Positive: over-giving
Negative: feel like a victim; exhausted
Neutral: unconditional love

Navel - power center to the world
Positive: physical energy
Challenged: unstable; have no energy
Neutral: unstoppability

Inner Thighs
Positive: organized, loving, connected
Challenged: feel disorganized
Neutral: creative strength and possibility

Positive: excel in social situations
Challenged: insecure; need to be around people you know and love
Neutral: charming, in control

Membranes of the Vagina
Positive: being energetic and connective
Challenged: total zero
Neutral: beginnings and endings are the same

Gurutej notes that there are more to these moon centers as described in the book, and that there are meditations and breathing exercises available for each of these moon centers, designed to bring one to the positive aspect. She notes that it takes three minutes before the breath enters the brain, and that this can change the brain’s cellular structure, and that there are lots of options available for each of the moon centers.

Gurutej notes that the moon centers don’t move in the cycle as noted above, but that charting the moon centers for three months will give an accurate feel of how these rotate. She also notes that, because the cycle revolves around the moon, even women whose periods are irregular will get something from the exercises in the book.

Purchase from Amazon: The Moon She Rocks You: Revealing the Secrets of Women's Inner Emotions by Gurutej Khalsa

Friday, September 1, 2017

Jenny Johnston on Claiming Your Past Life Inheritance and Being Free from Emotional Traumas

Jenny Johnston talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, Your Past Life Inheritance: Tapping into the Wisdom Within to Create Your Future Now.

“The things that we’re struggling with in this lifetime, they wouldn’t be there if we hadn’t already stepped through them in another lifetime.” ~Jenny Johnston

Jenny was an occupational therapist working with veterans who used relaxation therapy and she became interested in spirituality and past lives after her mother’s sudden death. It was while she had “a lot of time” while recovering from a spine injury that she told her Reiki healer that she wanted to become a past life therapist, a course on which, as it turned out, the healer’s sister had already done. Jenny then took the hypnotherapy course, where she also learned about Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), which is commonly called “tapping,” as it is a form of energy psychology that can be thought of as acupuncture without the needles which works to clear any blockages in one’s energy that are identified with particular memories. It was during her investigations into these that she came in contact with Kryon, which is a conglomeration of beings who speak through a channel and whose purpose is to aid humans find who they really are. Her contact introduced her to the Akash, which is essentially a library of one’s past lives, and she then combined what she learned in EFT with working with guides to work with clients on such issues as fears, self-sabotage and unfinished business in previous lives to release these and create a better life for themselves.

Jenny describes Your Past Life Inheritance as being a self-help tool that empowers its readers to be able to do the work, as it includes links to videos and other material so that people can learn and do themselves. The book includes transcriptions of sessions conducted by Jenny with clients who have given permissions to have their experiences included in the book. Jenny included these transcriptions so that readers can see, word for word, how this the session was conducted. Her technique is essentially that of what she calls “waking hypnosis,” as the brainwaves go into the subconscious range while the client is still conscious and awake, and deal with the totality of a person, including the soul and one’s Higher Self. Jenny notes that past life events sometimes come to a client - even ones who don’t believe in past lives - when she is conducting a normal EFT session, and that the realization often surprises the person concerned. During the first sessions, she asks her clients to go to their Akash and its Crystal Cave to help identify those memories in one’s past lives which are holding us back in the present, likening these to outdated background programs in a computer that are running and taking up space. Later on, she takes her client to places of higher learning for them to get why that incident was chosen by the soul and the lesson behind it, after which she takes her client back to the present with that learning, which takes away the feeling that one is a victim and enter a state of wonder and creation.

Jenny notes that, while we call previous lives “past lives,” this isn’t entirely true, as when one is in a past life, that past life is in the present and real, as the energy present in humans today enables humans to access their past lives. She takes into account information given by spirit guides such as Kryon, whose channelers are often accompanied by scientists who back up what Kryon describes with scientific evidence. Jenny notes that she creates the space for people to clear their blockages at a soul level, also noting that intention plays a big part in her work. She notes that the case studies in the book are a good representation of the regressions she does with other clients, and that a common thread in these regressions is the feeling that we humans are not alone, as well as that of connection to guides and Higher Self as well as of empowerment, particularly in the cases of people who, in their past lives, have suffered trauma for standing in their truths.

Jenny remarked that she’s training Quantum EFT practitioners to eventually do the work, as she admits that she won’t be around forever and she wants this to be available to the world at large. She notes that fear is behind people’s feelings of being judged, persecuted and humiliated, and that this affects people physically, and then gave the example of a client whose son, at the present, was blind because the client was guillotined in a previous life and the son in this lifetime was the son in that previous lifetime, who saw his father being killed. She notes that the effects of such traumas are there to protect us, and that releasing these includes acknowledging it for the protection offered and recognizing that it no longer serves us.

Purchase from Amazon: Your Past Life Inheritance: Tapping into the Wisdom Within to Create Your Future Now by Jenny Johnston 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Alena Chapman on How to Break Free from Unhappiness and Have Abundance & Joy in Life

Alena Chapman talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, The Prison Effect: Discover How You Are Blocking Your Own Happiness and Break Free to Abundance and Joy in Life.

“You never, ever know the awesome life you can have if you don’t try to have an awesome life, and all it takes is trying.” ~Alena Chapman

People have coined Alena as “the Master Manifester,” as a reflection of her ability to manifest things in her life, and she admits that she wasn’t always a master manifester, as she had been in her own prison. It got to the point where she stopped at a country road and told the Universe that she wanted a happy life and wanted it now, with the intention to have just that, and things started happening from there, with people coming in whom she needed at the time. She became so involved with manifesting that she taught everyone she could, initially in her hometown, and she remarked that those whom she taught began having happier lives. This made her realize that she needed to get her message out into the greater public, hence her writing the book.

Alena remarked that The Prison Effect contains the tools she used to create her life, and at the beginning of the book is included a chart which people can use to pinpoint where they are in their lives, where happiness or unhappiness is concerned. She then noted that people, once they know where they are, now have a choice whether to stay where they are or move on to the happiness that they are bound to be seeking. Alena then gave the example of, after dropping her kids off at school, meeting with other mothers to complain, which then carried into her day and showed up as her not feeling excited or being present to such things as the beauty of the day. She then remarked that it takes a wake-up call, when one truly notices that there is nothing positive in one’s day, for people to actually get moving towards happiness.

Alena notes that people aren’t happy because they are “just spinning around” in their comfort zones, and also notes that it is hard to step out of one’s comfort zone and into unknown territory. She also comments that a lot of people are not used to being happy and mentioned Earl Nightingale’s quote, “Conformity is a disease,” pointing out that the conforming nature of one’s life - work, school and the like - has been inculcated into people since childhood. Alena then remarks that, when people suddenly have the opportunity to create their own lives, they want to get back to the comfort of conformity without figuring out what it is that they really want to do, which could lead to something better for them. She then remarked that, yes, going outside of one’s comfort zone might be scary, but it’s better than living with boredom and unhappiness and regret over things not done.

Alena commented that people don’t have to take a huge step out of their comfort zone right away, but can start with small steps, such as creating a list of ten things to be grateful for every day and then feeling positive things about each item on the list. Doing so, she notes, raises one’s vibration and enables one to move into one’s day in a positive state, and she then described how to further this by asking for guidance or peace from the Universe, then sending loving light into any situation or person bothering one. Alena then recommends doing three things, every day, which one likes to keep the momentum going, as well as looking up at the sky, which is ever changing, and being present to it. She notes that this results in one opening one’s mind to the goodness in the world, regardless of one’s circumstances, after which the opportunities to move on to happier circumstances will appear and get noticed.

Alena remarked that the tools she practiced in the book gave her clarity and enabled her to deal with the worst parts of her life by enabling her to differentiate what is “smoke” and what is real - the important things in one’s life and who one wants to be and where one wants to go. She noted that what goes on inside one’s self is how one perceives the world and comments that, where one’s journey to happiness is concerned, there is a tipping point when one’s life changes, when things start happening in one’s life due to being tuned to the frequencies at which such opportunities can come into one’s life. Alena then recommended an experiment by going into one’s work or day with a negative attitude and observe what happens, then going into one’s work or day the following day with a positive attitude and observe what happens.

Alena remarks that she has studied with some of the best and went full bore into being happy, and has applied this in the writing of her book, which not only gives its readers a starting point of where they are in their lives but which also shows why one’s mind works the way it does and how to change old beliefs, in a way that is easy to read and understand. To those who are in their prisons, Alena recommends that they take responsibility for making their day beautiful and then going from there to change their lives.

Alena’s landing page for her book is, and she can be reached at

Purchase from Amazon: The Prison Effect: Discover How You Are Blocking Your Own Happiness and Break Free to Abundance and Joy in Life by Alena Chapman

Friday, August 25, 2017

Mia Tomikawa of Happy Science Reveals the Cause and Answer to The Unhappiness Syndrome

Mia Tomikawa talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about Master Ryuho Okawa’s book, The Unhappiness Syndrome: 28 Habits of Unhappy People (and How to Change Them).

 “Your words often reflect your thoughts.” ~Mia Tomikawa

Master Ryuho Okawa is a spiritual leader and international bestselling author whose goal is to help people find happiness and create a better world and has spent the past thirty years creating the Happy Science movement, which now has members all over the world. Mia herself became involved with Happy Science while she was living in Los Angeles, when she read some of Okawa’s books. She became a member of the movement then became a staff member, and among her present responsibilities are editing and publicizing Happy Science books. The Unhappiness Syndrome is for people who are unhappy, who unknowingly choose actions and thoughts that make them unhappy, but who still want to become happy themselves.

Unhappiness, according to Mia, is based on being unhappy with oneself and with everyone and everything in the world. She notes that attempting to to become happy by seeking this from other people or the environment does not make one truly happy, as one is not happy in the first place, and one of the major signs that indicate how unhappy someone is, is when he or she constantly blames others or the environment for the bad things that happen to them. Mia notes that unhappiness can be invited into one’s life, and that one who invites it can spread unhappiness to others. Events that can cause suffering does not necessarily cause unhappiness but can enable one to progress to enlightenment in the way that one handles that event.

Mia notes that the term “syndrome” refers more to one’s mental attitude and spiritual state, than referring to any disease itself. One method Mia recommends for changing one’s attitude is to see and assess oneself objectively, to become aware of the patterns of unhappiness, and gives a guideline for reviewing and writing down one’s thoughts and actions throughout the day, which would enable one to see the negative thoughts and actions throughout the day. Once these are recognized, one must then practice to replace these with more positive thoughts and actions, and Mia admits that this takes time, as doing so takes practice.

Mia notes that unhappy thoughts come from the desire to protect oneself from any hurtful events that have happened in one’s life and also notes that such unhappy thoughts actually wind up repeating the same pattern of hurt throughout one’s life. She notes that the first step in getting out of the rut is to spend less time immersed in negative thoughts, and the second step is to fill one’s mind with positive thoughts and be thankful for all the good that happens to oneself. She also recommends sitting and waiting for the bad times to pass and flow, to help oneself let go of any unhappiness - something which also takes practice.

Mia notes that The Unhappiness Syndrome, like other books of Ryuho Okawa, talks about spirituality rather than just deals with self-improvement, and this is what makes the book different from other self-help books. She also recommends that people rediscover their purpose in their life, the one they set for themselves before they were born, she says, to help guide them in achieving happiness.

Purchase from Amazon: The Unhappiness Syndrome: 28 Habits of Unhappy People (and How to Change Them) by Master Ryuho Okawa

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Steve Kardian on Teaching The New Superpower for Women (Trusting Their Intuition, Predicting Dangerous Situations and Defending Themselves from the Unthinkable)

Steve Kardian talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about his book, The New Superpower for Women: Trust Your Intuition, Predict Dangerous Situations and Defend Yourself from the Unthinkable.

“Educate yourself, empower yourself.” ~Steve Kardian

Steve has had a career in law enforcement for thirty years, covering such beats as homicide, investigation, bribery, fraud and organized crime and has been teaching safety and personal defense as well. Steve’s main emphasis with self-defense and safety is to create instructors, traveling around the world and to various organizations, both civilian and military, to do so, and the book is based on his teachings on personal defense to women. Steve points out that self-defense is the last resort, and he works to empower women with the knowledge necessary to empower themselves, with such knowledge including social situations and creating a blueprint to react to crises.

Steve notes that, in the United States, one in five women will be violated during her lifetime, and while this statistic holds in colleges, he notes that less than five percent of the women who are so violated in college will ever report the incident to the police, because the college they attend prefer to protect their brand rather than their students.

Steve refers to the Grayston-Stein study of 1981, when cameras took footage of people on a New York city street over a period of time, and when the footage was shown to incarcerated criminals the latter consistently picked the same people as soft targets by taking note of such things as the latter’s gait, stride and posture, amongst others. He remarks that situational awareness is necessary to helping avert an attack, with intuition playing a big part. He also notes that walking properly is a deterrent, and that putting the potential attacker on notice, sometimes by simply almost looking right at him, reduces the chances of being attacked by around 70%. And if a criminal accosts a woman, her best option is to hold her hands up while stepping back and shout “Back off!” to attract the attention of everyone else around, thus raising the concern, in the criminal’s mind, of either getting hurt or getting caught, both of which are things he wants to avoid. He also notes that one should scan, giving the example of looking left and right when entering and leaving a building, as well as immediately ascertaining where the exits of a particular place are. He also recommends that people believe their eyes and ears to help them stay out of trouble, and avoid being in large crowds.

Stalking is a major concern, and Steve notes that, ten years ago, there were around a million incidents of stalking, whereas today there are seven to eight million stalking incidents, with the increase being due to the availability of the Internet. He notes that a lot of popular apps reveal the location of the owner of the smartphone, which enables such stalking, and to counter this Steve recommends turning off the location services in apps as well as the location services in photos, as these can be geo-tagged.

Steve remarks that a “blitz” is an attack that comes out of nowhere, and that it takes a half second to four seconds to figure out what is going on. Steve remarks that, when one’s heartbeat reaches 115 beats a minute, the fine motor skills diminish, and that a lot of techniques taught in martial arts break down at a range between 115 to 145 beats per minute. Above 145 beats per minute, only gross motor skills are left functioning, and it would be best to employ these during the time of actual conflict. Taking control of one’s responses relies upon creating and following a blueprint, which is a plan of action that can be put immediately in effect, as Steve notes that the adrenaline rush lasts only ten seconds, and after this an adrenal dump takes place and the person is then exhausted.

Steve remarks that there is only one chapter on self-defense in The New Superpower for Women, as he focuses on enabling women to deal with the predator and the survivor, which is something a lot of self-defense instructors have little practical knowledge of - practical knowledge which Steve, after thirty years of experience, has a lot of.

Steve remarks that creating a blueprint is key to surviving a crisis situation. The blueprint is essentially thinking through the steps one would need to take if one encountered a crisis situation, and the example Steve gave was that of someone alone in their apartment or dormitory, with someone trying to break in. He remarks that that person needs to take the time to visualize oneself taking the actions necessary, such as grabbing a cell phone, calling the police, getting to a safe place and physically securing it and giving out all of the detailed and specific instructions necessary for the police to get to one’s place.

Where weapons are concerned, Steve remarks that, if these are carried, one must become familiar with handling and using it.

Purchase from Amazon: The New Superpower for Women: Trust Your Intuition, Predict Dangerous Situations and Defend Yourself from the Unthinkable by Steve Kardian

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Michelle Janning Teaches Living Life in Neither Extreme

Michelle Janning talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, Between: Living Life in Neither Extreme.

“Humor helps a lot.” ~Michelle Janning

Michelle is a professor of sociology who has been writing on topics related to sociology for some 20 years. Between is a collection of essays, which usually started out as blogs, which reflected her sociological observations of events in everyday life. The genesis of her book was in 2013, when she found herself in a challenging situation that she realized was actually interesting. She sat down, during the spring of that year, to write out the titles of some 50 blog posts which she wanted to write, and she later did write out some of these, some of which also became included into Between. Her constraints was that she could only do five minutes’ worth of research on each essay and that the essay would be written out in one sitting.

Michelle notes that her essays are easy reads, with the longest of her essays is around a thousand words. She thus jokingly refers to her book as “a daily devotional, but without the Bible.” Her book speaks about the various boundaries that roles play in life as well as the complexities in what can be viewed as extreme viewpoints, so it could appeal to different kinds of people, particularly given that various sections of the book deal with different aspects of life. Her favorite topic is family, as that is where the core of her passion lies, while politics was the topic she found the most challenging to write about, particularly as it is a challenging issue at the present time.

Michelle notes that extremes can be states that people can oscillate between or not being sure about something, or as vantage points which are both visible to the person, who takes a middle path. Extremes can thus be a misrepresentation of how our minds might work, with the example given being that of a working mother, where being a mother and being a paid employee are regarded as being on the opposite ends of the same spectrum, as managing both at the same time is challenging. Michelle also gave the example of childhood and adulthood, in that these are seen as two totally different aspects, whereas there is actually some overlapping between these states of life. She notes that the information people presently receive from news and social media feeds limit people’s views due to oversimplification.

Where the human tendency to simplify and classify is concerned, Michelle notes that sociologists need to define groups to to get to an understanding of where inequalities might lie, as well as to enable individuals to understand that they are not alone, as there are others who think like them or who have undergone the same experiences as they did. She then remarked that the downside is overgeneralization, where individual stories are missed because of the focus on the group. Michelle also notes that some people don’t fit entirely into a single category, such as those who don’t consider themselves to be entirely of one gender over the other.

Michelle notes that sociology doesn’t just describe what goes on but also looks to the future, so that whatever needs to be remedied can be remedied so that a particular problem doesn’t remain as such in the future. She remarks that sociologists take the very mundane and “make it weird,” going into detail about the why of those mundane activities, and that sociology is more needed than ever, as people are misunderstanding other groups of people and the world, making claims based on misinformation and snap judgements. Michelle emphasizes that understanding others and other groups builds empathy, which is lacking at present, and sociology can help with that.

Michelle notes that she’s still growing as a sociologist, and that she, like everyone else, is a work in progress.

Purchase from Amazon: Between: Living Life in Neither Extreme by Michelle Janning

Monday, July 24, 2017

Sarah Perry on Releasing the Essex Serpent Legend and Book

Sarah Perry talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by about her book, The Essex Serpent.

“I had a lot of rejection and I had a lot of failure, but I carried on.” ~Sarah Perry

Sarah was born in Essex, which is a county around thirty miles from London and which is a place is full of myths, legends and history. While she wanted to become a novelist, her path to becoming one wasn’t a short or easy one, as she first became a civil servant after graduation. She got “miserable” after a time and returned to school to get her degree in Master of Arts, during which time she wrote out her first novel. She then went on to get a Ph.D, and her first novel, After Me Comes the Flood, came out in 2014, with The Essex Serpent, her second novel, coming out two years later.

Sarah admits that she didn’t know what she was doing when she wrote After Me Comes the Flood, comparing the experience to having one’s teeth pulled out and returned again. Her experience with writing The Essex Serpent was a lot easier, as she was able to get three or four of the main characters and the main plotline set out during 45 minutes of a car ride with her husband. The novel is based on a legend of a mysterious beast / monstrous serpent which terrorized Essex villages, and she decided to place it in the Victorian era, as this was a time of scientific discovery and social turbulence.

Sarah noted that people today tend to think of the Victorian Age as being ancient and quaint, but in reality, by the 1890s, England was already modern, with the London Underground already having been in operation for thirty years, anaesthesia was given for dental work and to pregnant women for delivering babies, the Embankment in London was lit up with electric lights and there was a lot of social and intellectual ideas that were coming into play, such as feminism and the ideas of Marx and Engels. Sarah wanted to show the Victorians to be as progressive as they were, instead of the image that is commonly attributed to them. She already had some grounding of the Victorian Era and researched to ensure the correctness of the ideas she had on the era, and made sure that she researched only enough to make sure the characters and era rang true, one example of which was watching YouTube videos of surgery to make the doctor character come true.

Sarah acknowledges that her characters come to mind as strongly as if she knew them very well, and that the relationships amongst the characters is something that she is more involved in creating, as she is interested in the nature of intimacy, friendship and attachment. She created the character of Francis, which is the son of the main female character, would be characterized as autistic today, to see how people would react to him before a time when autism was a recognized condition as well as for people to think about their own behavior. Sarah also wrote her main female characters, Cora and Martha, to correct the misconceptions people today have about women in the Victorian era, pointing out that women were active in politics and social justice, math, science and medicine by the time of the novel’s period setting. She pointed out that Victorian age lots of women were interested in Marx and Engels because the philosophies of the latter two attempted to create equality in society, which women subscribed to, as they weren’t socially equal to men.

The village in The Essex Serpent is a fictional amalgamation of several Essex locations, and Sarah created it to be a character on its own, with a sense of eeriness to it. Sarah also wanted to highlight the interaction between conventional religious and scientific beliefs, and the conflict between the two is something that is still going on today. That said, she created the character of the religious vicar not as a two-dimensional caricature but as a real person who is aware of what is going on in the larger world.

Sarah acknowledges that she is interested in a lot of things and that she puts some of these in her books, and that people who are interested in these same things - such as medical science, socialism, the natural world, relationships, the Victorian age - can find these in The Essex Serpent. She remarks that her first novel was rejected by 19 publishers, which goes against the impression that successful novelists have always been successful novelists. As she tells audiences in literary festivals, “If you’re a writer and you’re getting knocked back, told you’re not good enough, well, so was I.”

Purchase from Amazon: The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry