Tag Archives: author interviews

Helen Zuman dishes about her book – Mating in Captivity

I am pleased to share with you this fascinating interview with Helen Zuman, the author of Mating in Captivity, a memoir that tells the story of Helen’s quest to find meaning in life and relationships that led her to Zendik Farm; a place that espoused a philosophy of saving the world from lies and corruption through art and harmony. What she came to realize was that Zendik Farm was something she hadn’t entirely expected.
Publisher: She Writes Press

Release date: May 8, 2018

book cover - Mating in CaptivityTell us about your book!

Mating in Captivity: A Memoir chronicles my five years, post-college, in a cult called Zendik Farm. When I moved to Zendik, at twenty-two, I was seeking meaning, belonging, and skills not taught in school; I had no idea I would gradually lose sovereignty over my time, energy, mind, and relationships—that is, surrender self-trust. In writing this book, I’ve both composted the stinky guck of my Zendik experience into fertile soul-soil and, I hope, enticed readers to turn their own piles.

What are you working on now?

I have a seasonal gig editing college application essays for an admissions consulting company; in the fall and early winter, that’s where most of my writing energy goes. However, I do write a monthly e-newsletter and blog post, and I spend five to ten minutes each morning engaging, through writing, in an effort to explore and transform my relationship with money.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

Embrace the shitty first draft! Decide that the mission of your first draft is to be shitty, and that if you don’t make it shitty enough, you will have failed.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and the quality of my writing has always been extremely important to me. However, what made me a writer, and an author, was my determination to share the full tangle of my Zendik experience with readers who knew nothing about it. It was the book project that compelled me to establish and keep faith with a regular writing practice, and accept writing as a process. It kept asking me to learn more, travel further—and I kept saying yes.

Who is your favorite character in your book(s)?

My current favorite is Owen, who pops up to deliver some shocking news to the protagonist, then fades out. I like his peculiar blend of whimsy and mysticism.

Where do you do most of your writing?

At my desk, in a nook in the living room of the one-bedroom apartment I share with my husband in Beacon, New York.

What inspires you?

Crisis. Magic. Things that disturb me deeply, or strike me as miraculous. I’m also inspired by delicious writing—in particular, the word-feasts cooked up by my dear friend Nina Kang.

What else would you like your readers to know about you?

I see my book, my other writing projects, and my book-related events as shuttles with which to weave and reweave the web of relationships, i.e., the fabric that both holds and comprises all life. Each connection made, each book read, each story shared is one more thread in the web.

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

Since my book is a memoir, I knew the basics of my story before I started writing it. However, I did make many rounds of decisions, over the years, about what belonged and didn’t—and chose, eventually, to focus on my development as a sexual being and my quest for a partner. Those two threads became the spine of the book.

What are you reading right now?

Writing Down Your Soul, by Janet Conner. It’s a guide to getting in touch with, and listening to, one’s inner wisdom, while connecting with the infinite knowing of the larger whole. Also, I just finished two books by Ursula LeGuin—The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed—that seem to be grappling with big questions close to my heart: Is it possible to create a culture without money or overlords, in which everyone cares for everyone else? Is it inevitable that any pathology a group roots out will eventually be replaced by a new one?

If you could spend the day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

Wulf—the male half of Zendik’s founding couple, whom I never met. I would ask him questions, or perhaps just listen to him ramble, in quest of a better understanding of his motives, his contradictions, his unsolvable knots.

What actor/actress would you like to play the part of your protagonist if your book became a movie/television show?

Reese Witherspoon.

What are your top 3 favorite books?

In order of appearance in my life: Bomb the Suburbs by William Upski Wimsatt. New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver. Lost and Found: My Life in a Group Marriage Commune by Margaret Hollenbach.

Do you have any rituals that you practice before sitting down to write?

I make sure I have an adequate supply of homemade chocolate balls—also known as “crack”—on hand, so I can bribe/reward myself with one ball per half hour of thought-work.

What do you like to spend time doing when you aren’t writing?

I like engaging in nourishing conversation driven by open, honest questions about things that matter. I like villaging—especially at Earthaven, an off-grid intentional community in Black Mountain, North Carolina. I like growing food with as little effort as possible. I like singing, writing songs, writing skits, inciting laughter. And I like walking—if not for my quota of six miles per day, I would be a cyborg.

Photo Helen ZumanMore About Helen:
Helen Zuman, author and witch, turns waste into food and the stinky guck of experience into fertile, fragrant prose. A graduate of Harvard College, she lives with her husband in Beacon, NY and at Earthaven Ecovillage in Black Mountain, NC. Mating in Captivity (She Writes Press 2018) is her first book.
More about Mating in Captivity:

When recent Harvard grad Helen Zuman moved to Zendik Farm in 1999, she was thrilled to discover that the Zendiks used go-betweens to arrange sexual assignations, or “dates,” in cozy shacks just big enough for a double bed and a nightstand. Here, it seemed, she could learn an honest version of the mating dance and form a union free of “Deathculture” lies. No one spoke the truth: Arol, the Farm’s matriarch, crushed any love that threatened her hold on her followers’ hearts. An intimate look at a transformative cult journey, Mating in Captivity shows how stories can trap us and free us, how miracles rise out of crisis, how coercion feeds on forsaken self-trust.

Read Helen’s blog:
helenzuman.com.
Buy her book!

http://helenzuman.com/signed-copies/, https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781631523373, https://www.amazon.com/Mating-Captivity-Memoir-Helen-Zuman/dp/1631523376/

Things Unsaid – Author Interview with Diana Paul

I am so excited to share with you my interview with Diana Paul. Her book, Things Unsaid, released in 2015 by She Writes Press, explores the dynamics and emotional landscape of caring for elderly parents, while trying to navigate life’s other plans.

Book cover Things Unsaid

 

What was/is your latest book release? Tell us about it!

My debut novel, Things Unsaid, was released exactly three years ago and focuses on the sandwich generation:  what to do with aging parents who are driving you crazy?  Conversely, for the elderly, will their adult children be willing to contribute to their caregiving financially, emotionally, and physically? This could be about anyone’s family.

Inspired by a true story – Jules Foster, a Stanford child psychologist, after hearing news of her estranged, narcissistic mother’s terminal diagnosis, chooses to care for her mother over her own addicted daughter.

What are you working on now?

I have two novels in the pipeline–one is a rom-com about online dating .  The other is a mystery that continues where my debut novel, Things Unsaid,  leaves off, turning an ambiguous subplot into a possible murder.

What advice would you give to your younger writing self?

Stay with your dream of being a writer, even if that means only writing for yourself.  My advice would draw attention to the fact that you will be  surprised by how much you enjoy meeting others along the way in your writing/reading adventure.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? What made you decide to become one?

I have always been a scribbler and writer, from elementary school on.  I wrote stories for the school and college newspapers, academic books on Buddhism (my graduate school specialty), and then finally turned my energies to fiction.

Who is your favorite character in your book(s)?

All the characters, of course, have part of my psyche but my favorites are the protagonist, Jules Foster, who is deeply flawed, and her daughter, Zoe, who has to contend with her own crisis.  I had fun with Courtney in the online dating novel as well.  She’s hilarious and also vulnerable.

Where do you do most of your writing?

If the weather is nice, I like to write on the deck with my laptop.  Otherwise, at my desk.

What inspires you?

Almost everyone has a story, and I love hearing what others have experienced. Sometimes, I will even record what a friend says with her/his permission, of course.  Movies and television series also have great writing. The structure and character arcs of the best screenwriting never cease to inspire my own writing.

What else would you like your readers to know about you?

That I meditate every day as a way to bring a clear mind to the writing process and to unwind and let thoughts just surface.

Tell us a little about your process. Pantser? Plotter? Mixture of both?

I usually start with an outline, so that makes me a “mini-plotter”. But the story and characters evolve in a way that surprises me so I become a “pantser” as well.

What are you reading right now?

I haven’t read mysteries in a very long time, but since I’ve just finished the manuscript for one, I decided to pick up the genre again.   I’m enjoying reading The Suspect by John Lescroart, featuring a female attorney as the protagonist.

If you could spend the day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?

I’d either sketch or paint with Jules, the protagonist in Things Unsaid.  Or, I’d attend university classes with her daughter, Zoe.

What actor/actress would you like to play the part of your protagonist if your book became a movie/television show?

I always thought that Kate Winslet, Reese Witherspoon, or Naomi Watts would make a great Jules Foster who is on the cusp of fifty years old.  For the narcissistic matriarch I would go for Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, or Melissa Leo.  I kept these actors in mind when working on Things Unsaid.

What are your top 3 favorite books?

A Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende,  Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell, and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

Do you have any rituals that you practice before sitting down to write?

I meditate, then I review the previous day’s work.  And I also have to deal with our cat, Mao, jumping on the keyboard of my laptop.

What do you like to spend time doing when you aren’t writing?

Creating mixed media art, gardening, and dancing.

More about Diana:

Diana PaulDiana Y. Paul was born in Akron, Ohio andhas a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has a B.A. in both psychology and philosophy from  Northwestern University.  Diana is a former Stanford professor in Buddhism with a focus on the role of women.

Diana is also the author of three books on Buddhism, one of which has been translated into Japanese and German.  Her short stories have appeared in a number of literary journals. She lives in Carmel, CA with her husband and calico cat. Her  second novel, A Perfect Match, is  pending as well as a third, Deeds Undone, a mystery which continues the narrative in Things Unsaid. When not writing, Diana  creates mixed media art.  Her art has been in museums and galleries in California, Hawaii, and Japan.

More about Things Unsaid: 

Family is never easy to deal with, elderly family is even more so.  Jules, a former university professor, has always played “the good daughter.” She and her husband Mike have set aside a college fund for their daughter Zoë, who is preparing to leave for Stanford. But when Jules’ parents lose everything in 2008’s Great Recession, she must make an impossible choice: her daughter’s future or her dying parents.

Things Unsaid is an award-winning novel: a 2016  USA Best Book Awards Finalist in two categories (Best New Fiction and Best Literary Fiction),  2016 Beverly Hills Book Awards Winner for Best New Adult Fiction, Readers Favorite Silver Award Winner for Best Drama, and a 2016 Pushcart Nominee.

“With a grace that is absorbing and deft, Paul tackles many difficult questions, including filial responsibility, depression, marital strife, and sexual identity. …The author depicts heart-wrenching conundrums as the three siblings are forced repeatedly to evaluate their personal priorities….An engaging tale of family dysfunction and intractable senior citizens.” ~Kirkus Review

Connect with Diana:

Visit Diana’s blog on movies and art at:  www.unhealedwound.com and her author website at: www.dianaypaul.com. Or stop by on Facebook, Twitter:  @DianaPaul10 and/or  Instagram: dianapaul10  and dianapaul4675

Buy Diana’s book:

https://www.amazon.com/Things-Unsaid-Diana-Y-Paul/dp/1631528122?  https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781631528125