Kathalynn Turner Davis is the author of the new memoir Kiss Me, Swami: The Spiritual Education of a Beauty Queen. She is a life coach, psychotherapist, and actress. She lives in Los Angeles.
Q: You’ve said that you were motivated to write Kiss Me, Swami after a therapy session where you discussed some anecdotes from your time in Hollywood. Can you say more about how this book came to be?
A: My therapist was fascinated by all of my adventures and gave me an assignment to write them down. This was really the beginning of the book, 10 years ago. Up until then, it never occurred to me that my life was something anyone would want to read about.
I had done some academic writing in graduate school but I had no real experience or skill when it came to the art of storytelling. So, I signed up for a beginner-level memoir writing class at Gotham Writers in Manhattan. This is where my love for writing began.
Kiss Me, Swami started out to be a collection of light, funny anecdotes; however, in taking a second look, I realized that I hadn’t painted a full picture of myself and my life. The book then took another course. I wanted to reach people on an emotional level, as opposed to just being fun and entertaining.
I knew I would need to expose myself in an entirely different way. I was raised that polite people didn’t air their dirty laundry. As much as I still wanted my family’s approval, I felt I had to risk it and write the truth.
It was challenging for me because the most important thing to me was to infuse the stories with spiritual lessons--as it was also important to me that the book maintain an overreaching theme of spiritual growth. The answer of course, was everywhere--as truly, every moment contains at least a thousand hidden spiritual lessons!
Q: You write about various people you met over the years, in Los Angeles and New York City. Which of them had the greatest influence on your life?
A: Garry Marshall had the greatest influence on me in L.A. He and I became good friends and remained good friends until he died in 2016. Garry believed in me and my talent. He also understood the meaning of family and supported me in every choice I made.
Stella Adler was the person who influenced me not only in New York, but throughout my life. Stella did a number of things for me; however, one of the most important things was she taught me to watch people closely, as they’ll let you know who they are, sometimes with just a word or a sentence. This advice served me not only when I was an actress, my work as therapist/coach, but in my personal life as well.
Garry and Stella were gifts in my life. Two of the most brilliant and talented people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.
Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: In a dream!
I dreamt that I was in the presence of a great swami, and listening to him talk of spiritual things, all I could think of was how I wanted to kiss him. I said, “Kiss me, swami, kiss me.” He did--and it was a great kiss.
In my rudimentary analysis of the dream, I figured it to be symbolic of the fact that I’d spent so much of my life searching for the one who’d validate and fulfill me. I looked for a prince to make me happy or an enlightened being to heal and give me answers and transform my life. I discovered, however, along the way that through all the sadness and madness, there was no prince or “swami” coming to rescue me but that the power always resided within.
If I learned anything from all the princes and frogs, swamis and stars, teachers and enlightened ones in and out of my life, it is that by looking within would I find that the elusive acceptance of myself and trust that I would, in the end, be enough.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: Kiss Me, Swami is a combination memoir and spiritual growth journey. I hope people will come away from reading it feeling entertained, but also having gleaned some insights and tools with which they'll feel better equipped to handle some of the challenges that come into their individual paths.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: At the moment I am thoroughly enjoying riding the Kiss Me, Swami wave, as it has provided me a perfect excuse to travel, which you'll learn from the book is one of my favorite things.
I have found the literary community to be so supportive and full of fascinating people. I am grateful to officially be able to call myself a part of it. In addition, I am continually kept busy working with clients in my coaching practice and contemplating a follow up to Kiss Me, Swami.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: All the good stuff is in the book! I hope you'll enjoy it!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb