Monday, January 15, 2018

Q&A with Simon Van Booy


Simon Van Booy, photo by Ken Browar
Simon Van Booy is the author of Gertie Milk and the Keeper of Lost Things, his first novel for kids. His other books include Father's Day and The Illusion of Separateness, and his work has appeared in a variety of publications, including The New York Times and the Financial Times. He lives in Brooklyn and Miami.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for Gertie Milk and the Keeper of Lost Things?

A: It evolved over about eight years...sketching out characters and scenes. I've never felt completely at home anywhere in the world--so I created the mythical island of Skuldark.

Q: Why did you decide to write a children’s book this time?

A: I love Roald Dahl, and wanted to write books for children that were adventurous, but funny and scary too...

Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?

A: That fear brings out the worst in people. Strength is not power, but the absence of fear.

Q: Is this the beginning of a series?

A: Yes! Book Two is out in September....no plans for Book Three yet though...

Q: What are you working on now?

A: A novel about five rabbits that live in a dusty old shop in New York City.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Although stories are made-up, to me they feel true. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Simon Van Booy.

Q&A with Patricia Hawse


Patricia Hawse is the author of the new book Divine Daily Messages: A Year of Daily Channeled Messages and Journal. She also has written Messages for Lightworkers. She is the founder of KarmaFest, which focuses on holistic health.

Q: How did you first get involved in daily channeled messages, and how did the book come about? 

A: I started doing my daily channelings for the most obvious of reasons: a boy broke up with me and I was devastated. I was so devastated that I asked God/Higher Powers what I was to learn from the pain. 

I wrote on a piece of paper: “what would you have me know today?” and received an answer that didn’t seem in my words, at all. I thought the messages were just for me until other people would talk of their experiences and I would think, “My message today might help you.” 

Then I realized the messages were general enough that they could help most anyone and everyone regardless of age, sex, religion or cultural affiliation, etc. So six years ago I began posting the messages each day. 

I have not missed one day of “channeling a message” regardless of being sick or on vacation or if it was my birthday: not one day missed in over six years so I have over 2,000 of these messages. 

From there I created a small version of this book several years ago called Messages for Lightworkers, for I wanted to encourage the young people to hang onto hope and to help them through their days of struggle. 

From there, people asked for a full year of messages where they can journal beside it (some groups were even using the Messages for Lightworkers book in their spiritual groups for discussion and reflection). That is where this book came from: the past year of channeled messages which seem to be getting more sophisticated in nature as we move along (higher spiritual concepts explored).  I don’t edit the messages and if I do it is simply spelling. 

The words they give me are 99 percent accurate in grammar and meaning, even if they seem foreign to me and don’t make sense: when I look them up, they are correct. I am honored people enjoy these messages and plan to put them out there for as many people to enjoy as possible.

Q: How do you hope readers interact with the book, and what do you hope they gain from it? 

A: I hope it is a reflection tool as well as an inspirational tool. I’ve found that everyone wants a guru and teacher ~ I am not that. I believe the teacher is within so I pray people will use the words to “work on themselves” to become better humans, in general, and more “enlightened,” in particular. 

For this Daily Channeled Messages and Journal, the ultimate goal would be for them to not only “journal” beside the daily reading, but to try channeling their own daily message and see what they come up with! From Self to Source we can glean all we need to know, to grow!

Q: Who do you see as the likely audience for the book? 

A: Anyone and everyone who is trying to make this world a better place and/or is trying to grow spiritually; anyone who is suffering; if read daily, they will find tools and words to help them with greater higher dimensional understandings which do indeed affect the everyday life of any individual for the better. 

Better humans create a better world. A healed heart creates a healed world. Start with healing self and the rest will follow.

Q: Can someone start working with the messages at any point, or should someone start at the beginning of the year? 

A: They can surely start at any point and just go to that date and work from there. Time is a manmade structure and enlightenment is a lifetime of work so you one might as well start where they are and go from there! So if you begin in February, you can just eventually get to January next year! The circle continues to spin ~ no time is lost.

Q: What are you working on now? 

A: I am working on a book of my awakening process. I thought there have been too many people writing too many books on “their awakening,” where people would be bored of another. 

However, I’ve found in my healing and enlightenment work, when it comes to spiritual concepts and elements, I often refer to stories of my own spiritual awakening to help explain things. 

That is where my next book will come in: to help those on the path know there will be the ups and downs and to try to put into words and stories that which is esoteric and hard to find in a manual of life.

Q: Anything else we should know? 

A: My goal is to help the planet by enlightening the human condition with love. Each heart that is healed, or on the healing process, and each spirit that is enlightened by words of encouragement, is my end game. 

If my daily channelings help in that regard, I will continue writing them. They are the best part of my day: when I am connected to Source/Guides/Angels, “The Higher Realms,” so it is perfect for me and my growth, as I hope it is for others, as well. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Jan. 15

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
Jan. 15, 1929: Martin Luther King Jr. born.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Q&A with Karin Esterhammer


Karin Esterhammer is the author of the new book So Happiness To Meet You: Foolishly, Blissfully Stranded in Vietnam, which focuses on her family's experiences living in Vietnam. She worked for the Los Angeles Times for 15 years, and currently resides in Los Angeles.

Q: Did you know when you first arrived in Vietnam that you'd be writing a book about your experiences?

A: I didn’t. I started writing emails to my friends and relatives. I was so excited about what I was experiencing, I wrote emails nearly every day. A few months later, more than one person said I need to write a book. Books are much harder to write than emails, so whoever recommended I do this…well, thanks.

Q: What do you think are some of the most common perceptions and misperceptions about Vietnam in the United States?

A: That the Vietnamese still hate us is a misconception. That’s definitely not the case. We were treated like family the whole 2½ years we were there. People might also think the country is still third-world. No entirely. Its GDP is consistently 6.5 percent. They are catching up with the world of technology, business and tourism.

Q: Of all the experiences you had during your time in Vietnam, were there a couple that especially stood out?

A: Simply watching people. The streets are amazing. So much activity, noise, smells—life going on. But my favorite experience was going to an orphanage twice a week to help hold and feed (and change diapers) the babies. It was pure heaven. They desperately needed the human touch and I wished I had more arms. At least I could share some love and kiss their little chubby cheeks.

Q: How did your experience in Vietnam change you and your family?

A: We lived in a fairly poor neighborhood. The people were so happy despite having very little. They were generous beyond measure, taught me how to get along with less, appreciate more, and pay more attention to family. I really came back changed.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: Mostly marketing my book. It takes as much time as the writing of it. But I also look forward to writing a book about our son, who is autistic. Vietnam really helped him come out of his shell, as well.

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: The title of the book, “So Happiness to Meet You,” came from a neighbor who said that. I thought it was so adorable and it makes a catchy title.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

Jan. 14

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
Jan. 14, 1912: Tillie Olsen born.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Q&A with Peter Manseau


Peter Manseau is the author of the new book The Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography, and the Man Who Captured Lincoln's Ghost. It focuses on William Mumler, a "spirit photographer" in the 19th century. Manseau's other books include Rag and Bone and One Nation, Under Gods. He is the first curator of religion at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, and he lives in Annapolis, Maryland.

Q: How did you first learn about William Mumler, and what intrigued you about his story?

A: Each of my books has grown out of a lingering question from the one before. In this case, after my 2015 history One Nation Under Gods was published, I realized that though I had told the stories of many minority religious groups in America, I had somehow missed spiritualism.

The massive popularity of ideas concerning communication with the dead in the 19th century struck me as full of narrative potential, so it was just a matter of finding an individual in that world who had a story that cried out for telling. With that in mind I read spiritualist newspapers from the 1850s and 1860s and soon Mumler crossed my path.    

Q: How did you research the book, and did you learn anything that particularly surprised you?

A: Having learned of Mumler in the 19th century press, I continued in that vein for my research. Mumler's career in Boston, and his arrest and trial in New York, were exhaustively covered in both spiritualist and secular newspapers.

It was possible reading through those accounts, and through the news of the world that was happening while Mumler was becoming known, it was possible to recreate the story in a dramatic way down to the smallest details.

One great surprise of my research came when I realized I needed to get some hands-on experience in order to write about early photography with authority.

I found an expert in wet plate photography -- taking pictures on small rectangles of glass, as was done at the time -- and convinced him to give me intensive lessons on the materials, chemicals, and methods involved. If I'm ever transported back to 1865, I might be able to find work as a photographer's assistant.   

Q: You also focus on other photographers of the era, including Mathew Brady. How does Mumler's work compare with Brady's?

A: The tension between the famous Brady and the infamous Mumler remains to me the most interesting thing about the book. Brady was the most esteemed photographer of his era, respected by all his peers, and lauded by history as the man most responsible for capturing a visual record of the Civil War.

Yet he was also a relentless self-promoter, as Mumler was in his own way, and both men recognized that there was something important to be discovered about the relationship between photography and death.

Brady and his collaborators brought images of the war's dead home to Americans as never before; Mumler's spirit photographs offered images of death in another way. Both photographers exploited a hunger to hold on to those who had been lost, while demonstrating the potential for photography to make permanent changes to human memory.   

Q: Do you see a modern-day equivalent to spirit photography?

A: Spirit photography has now managed to outlived Mumler by more than a century. It continues online in the form of widespread digital photographs that claim to capture ghosts and auras.

Seen more broadly, the digital sphere generally is a place where technology allows us to feel we are accessing a world of invisible entities. Facebook has an estimated dead population of 50 million -- when we interact with the social media pages of the dead, we participate in some ways in the kind of communication that 19th century spiritualists pursued through seances.   

Q: What are you working on now?

A: In addition to writing books, I am the curator of American religious history at the National Museum of American History in Washington, which keeps me quite busy! I hope at some point in the future to be able to present spirit photography within a physical space -- basically a walk-through version of The Apparitionists.

Meanwhile, my next book project is a collection of essays on religion, language, and travel called Revelation Road

Q: Anything else we should know?

A: Though The Apparitionists may seem to tell a strange story of a different time, it is also very much a story that resonates with our own image-obsessed age.

I began my research looking for a quirky story that would bring the era of spiritualism to life, yet the story that soon emerged was eerily relevant to our own world. Collectively, we take a billion photographs every day; we do so often in order to hold on to people and moments we fear we might lose -- just as the clients of Mumler and other photographers did before us. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Peter Manseau.

Jan. 13

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY
Jan. 13, 1926: Michael Bond born.