This is part two of Robin Gregory’s interview with author Rea Nolan Martin. For part 1, please click here.
Robin: “It is entirely possible that behind the perception of our senses, worlds are hidden of which we are unaware,” Albert Einstein said. Some of your characters have contact with non-physical beings. Can you talk about what lies beyond “the perception of our senses”?
Rea: Ha! Everything! Our senses are keys that unlock doors to the next chamber, wherein another locked door awaits us, and another, etc. The secrets of the universe are contained in a tabernacle at the epicenter of existence. The observable “seen” world, however, is full of clues if we have “eyes to see” and “ears to hear” as is repeated over and over again in ancient sacred texts. But we have to attune ourselves to that world, which means constantly adjusting and refining our spiritual antennae to new and evolving signals.
Robin: In The Anesthesia Game, Pandora blogs about energy “left behind by imbecilic ancestors,” about energy that attaches “itself symbiotically to a new host.” The energy then becomes the host’s problem. Is this something with which you’ve had experience?
Rea: Pandora is so harsh! Even so, ancestral DNA is definitely a thing. Energy doesn’t disappear. Years ago after my mother passed away, I assumed a chronic condition that had plagued her for decades. At first I thought, ah…so now I’ve inherited this drat disease. But then, in a moment of clarity while meditating, I realized that it was actually a cloud of dissonant energy I did not have to take on. Just to see what would happen next, I refused it. Much to my shock, it disappeared and I haven’t had symptoms since. That was 12 years ago. Every illness or condition isn’t a result of ancestral DNA, of course. Illness can also have physical and mental sources. The only way to really know what’s what is to develop awareness and sensitivity to the energy around us, as with every interior challenge. We have much more control over our lives than we think, but first we have to wake up and take responsibility for our power.
Robin: While your books are modern tales, it seems that the characters find themselves grappling with ancient religious mores and male-dominated traditions. They have to defend their spiritual gifts, and even their desire to commune with divine forces.
Rea: In a way, the mystical seems to reference medieval or older times because readers bring that idea with them to the book. A recurrent narrative question in my books is—why? Why do we tend to relegate prophets to biblical periods and mystical concoctions to Arthurian times? As long as we fail to see their presence (and usefulness) right before our eyes, we won’t heed the messages of our own times. It’s true there are false prophets, but there always have been. There are also true prophets right before us whom we ignore. Referring back to a previous question—if there’s a cautionary tale, it’s that.
Robin: Have you ever encountered any kind of censorship from the religious right, or been marginalized for your interest in mysticism?
Rea: Definitely. But I think that’s been going on since the rise of science. People who express mystical points-of-view have to go much further than others to demonstrate credibility. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Mystical experiences are largely personal and interior, which does not make them any less real. However, it’s easy to understand that if a person has never had one, they’d have a hard time understanding or believing in them. In all things, balance is key. It’s as absurd to offhandedly deny science as it is to deny the wholesale existence and truths of the mystical world. After all, science only accounts for the physical world, a world that is ultimately unsurvivable. So it’s important to share experience and knowledge from other energetic realms, and let the chips fall where they may. Eventually everyone will need that information. It’s not up to me when that happens. I just do my thing and move on.
Robin: The women in The Anesthesia Game, especially Pandora and Mitsy, seem to resist their own healing processes, that is until critical circumstances force the issue. Do you find this to be universally true?
Rea: It’s a human tendency to procrastinate the tough things in life. But in some ways our journeys are time-release capsules, so sooner or later our spirits will force the issue. When that happens, we may think the discomfort is being imposed from the outside, when it’s really emerging from within. I think that’s what mid-life crisis is about. The later we delay our spiritual work, the tougher the confrontation as we age. Having said that, we have to be careful not to judge someone else’s growth experience. A sick family member, neighbor or friend may actually be the fuel for our own awakening, not theirs. The true measure of awareness is compassion to all. We need only worry about cleaning up our own behavior.
Robin: Do you see any of your books adapted into film?
Rea: Yes, because I visualize them in 3-D from the beginning, taking great care with physical properties, location and all the sensual aspects that allow a reader to occupy the story with the characters.
Robin: What actresses would you love to see playing Hannah, Mitsy, Pandora, or Sydney of The Anesthesia Game?
Rea: Writers love to imagine this, right? The only one I imagined from the get-go was Angela Bassett for Pandora. Once I finished, I thought maybe Debra Messing as Hannah and Sandra Bullock as Mitsy. Sydney would be an ingénue.
Robin: On the practical side of writing, did you consider traditional publishing before going the Indie route? Because your work is part of a new genre called Visionary Fiction, is it more difficult to market?
Rea: I went the Indie route because I am no longer interested in waiting years for a book to be published, complete with all the compromises that go along with traditional publishing. Genre is definitely an issue, but my work has been compared to Toni Morrison’s, who is smack in the mainstream of literary fiction. I consider my work literary as far as bookshelves go. It definitely falls into the visionary subcategory, and I’ve won several awards in that genre. I’m not complaining about it, but the larger publishers still haven’t built that shelf.
Robin: Could you say a little more about the “compromises” that go along with traditional publishing?
Rea: For one thing, traditional publishing is a very lengthy process. Then when the book is published, many traditional publishers don’t support it from a marketing and PR standpoint. That’s up to the (exhausted) author. In traditional publishing, each book (unless it’s a major release) has a shelf-life, too, which isn’t the case in the Indie on-demand world. So if all traditional publishing does is stamp their imprint on your book and consume royalties, why would we do that? If a traditional house was willing to place substantial marketing muscle squarely behind one of my books, I would reconsider. But that hasn’t been the case.
Robin: Arielle, in Mystic Tea, and Sydney, in The Anesthesia Game, young girls who face dramatic challenges, become the backbones of the stories. It would seem that their suffering accelerates others’ healing and awakening. Is that true?
Rea: There’s a piece of me in Arielle and Sydney, sure. For one thing, those characters were the most fun to write. I identify with their fresh take on everything. Arielle sees God as a newborn would, clean and clear, not through the dark veil of human history and all its weighty rules. She’s about love. For me, love is the only authentic take-away from any religion—or it should be. No matter how I worship, if in the end I fail to love the least of us, I fail.
As for Sydney, she’s the one with the acute illness, but she’s the only one of the characters who’s really alive. She doesn’t let the illness prevent her from anything. It doesn’t even monopolize her inner dialogue. She’s a perfect example of an advanced being whose life crisis is a lesson for others, not for her. Even though she has the most at stake, she’s the least afraid.
In the end, what is it that inspires you to write? What motivates you? Is there something you would like your readers to take with them?
Take away this:
Life is not what it seems, and neither are the people who walk among us. Everyone’s on a journey. Be open to the people who have been placed in your path. They’re there for a reason. See through the obvious human messiness to their spiritual core. Strengthen yourself and help your neighbor. The one you regard as your biggest problem is no doubt the one who will teach you the most.
Robin: Exactly. Beautifully stated. Is this a predominant theme in your work?
Rea: The three books are very different in terms of voice, character, setting, and complexity. Like Mystic Tea, The Anesthesia Game is told with humor and is well grounded in the material world. I want readers on all levels to relate to it. It’s about a group of women on a journey from the ordinary to the sublime. Unlike the other books, this one employs more complexity of character and plot, involving story threads that lead the characters to the distant past in their efforts to heal the dying child among them. For one thing, working with different timeframes takes a lot of thought and finesse.
Each of the characters is addicted to something—shopping, psychic advice, alcohol or drugs—and has to punch her way out of those crucibles. Fifteen-year-old Sydney is the only one undergoing real medical anesthesia, and she is the inventor of the Anesthesia Game.
The unifying factor in all of my books is the expansion of consciousness, because why else are we here? ***
Robin Gregory lives in California with her husband and son. Her debut, visionary novel, “The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman,” was awarded the Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award, 2015. More at www.MadMysticalJourney.com, Twitter @tweety_robin, facebook.com/RobinGregoryAuthor.bio