Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Q&A with Joni Sensel




Joni Sensel is the author of the new book Feeling Fate: A Memoir of Love, Intuition, and Spirit. Her other books include The Farwalker's Quest. She lives in Washington state.


Q: Why did you decide to write this memoir, and what impact did it have on you to write it?


A: As I mention early in the book, I needed to lay out and examine my experiences with Tony and my premonition about losing him, both for myself and, in a sense, for him.


For me it was a way to try to understand what had just happened and find some meaning and comfort after his loss. And for him because I didn’t want to feel like there was a sort of secret between us, a rare thing we hadn’t shared (though I’d once tried).


To be really accurate, I guess, that motivation was not so much for him as to protect and strengthen my sense of having an honest and intimate ongoing relationship with him, though I didn’t realize that until now.


It was both a joy to write—reading old emails, recalling and reliving so many sweet times—and sometimes excruciating, but writing is how I understand life, and it was never even an option for me not to do it in some form.


Among other things, the process made me realize I’ve had more hard-to-explain experiences of the numinous than I’d toted up, once I started remembering them.


It took time, but eventually the writing did help me process my grief, ensure I could keep feeling the love, frame how we can continue to have relationships with those no longer here in body, and find more conviction in my own beliefs about life and death.


Q: The Kirkus Review says, "She advocates trusting your intuition—if you feel the presence of a spirit, it does not matter if it is authentic or imaginary, the experience is real for you." What do you think of that description?


A: It’s not at the top of the list of things I’d like readers to get from the book, and I catch a whiff of cynicism in the wording—but maybe I’m too sensitive about that.


Anyway, it’s accurate if oversimplified, and I think the book does a reasonable job of explaining what I really mean, which is that as valuable as science is to society, life is fundamentally an emotional and subjective experience.


The stories we tell ourselves about life, and the impulses and perceptions of our hearts, ARE really the only ways we have to give it meaning or make it worth living.


And I definitely think the world would be a better place if more people heeded and followed their hearts, were authentic about what they felt or sensed instead of caving to social pressures or rational materialism, and gave others more space to do the same.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: Before I even started writing I was struggling with and thinking about the concept of fate, not for the first time in my life, so I knew that if my writing got to the point of even having a title (or chapters, or anything else that separates personal writing from a finished book), “fate” would need to be involved.


A key theme, for me, is the question of whether life has a larger meaning or pattern or purpose, how to live in the uncertainty, and the value of being open to hearing or feeling or glimpsing—or creating?—our role in any bigger tapestry.


The few years of my life with Tony were about little BUT feeling—love, surprise, delight, shock, grief—and I have a soft spot for alliteration. Thus Feeling Fate. It captures my own questioning, reflects the conclusion I eventually come to, and I hope also serves as a reminder to feel, and acknowledge those feelings, even if they don’t always seem rational.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?


A: First, I want readers to enjoy the love story as proof that true love is real and unexpected life twists can be around any corner (if they don’t know both already).


I’d like to prompt them to consider their own “woo-woo” experiences and be open to the possibility that there’s more, maybe far more, to life than our rational minds can understand—and that those intuitive or spiritual experiences matter and deserve to be shared.


Finally, I hope that any reader grieving a loss, of any sort, will find companionship on that path and encouragement for following their hearts and imaginations in any direction that helps them find meaning and keeps them connected with their love and with life.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I have a new YA historical fantasy called A Curse on the Wind that will be coming out later this year, which feels sweet to me because I started writing it while I was with Tony, sometimes typing away alongside him on planes or our couch, and it was inspired by our time in Ohio, so it’s full of secret connections to him and I’m thrilled others will read it.


I’m also working on a creativity workbook structured around nature and the four seasons that in many ways continues my interest in listening to the more subtle voices of the world and our own hearts and spirits.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: While I tried to incorporate playful humor into Feeling Fate as a way of reflecting how playful our relationship was, it’s also frank about grief and suicidal ideation, so a trigger warning might be appropriate.


But I am adamant that we need, as a society, to talk more openly and with less shame about these topics as well as about our spiritual experiences of all kinds. I really hope that my doing so will not only make a few readers feel less alone with similar feelings but encourage all readers to be willing to speak up about hard topics of all sorts.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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