How do we measure sanity? The mind is an intriguing playground, and we all experience reality differently. When your reality stretches the boundaries, does that make you crazy – or more perceptive than most? Author Julie Elizabeth Powell uses this as a launching point for her novel Of Sound Mind. Julie is my guest today, so let’s meet the woman behind the words:
My eldest daughter has flown the nest and is married to a man who doesn’t mind his mother-in-law though my son is still fluffing his feathers.
My middle child is off on a mysterious adventure, the like of which I can only guess…and tried to do so in my first book, Gone.
I love to read and am looking for ways to double time so to indulge in the mysterious and wonderful and delicious and strange…my favourite kind of story.
Writing is my passion, though I enjoy creating handcrafted cards, jewellery making, scrapbooking and dabbling in encaustic art whenever I can.
Oh yes, I used to teach or mark exam papers but now concentrate on writing and enjoying my new life, which materialised, as if by a miracle. Though still dislike all those necessary domestic chores that would, for me, be included in the Rings of Hell!
That’s it. Thank you to anyone who reads my books…enjoy the flight!
Find me in the following places:
Facebook: www.facebook.com/julieelizabethpowellsbooks and www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1033399808
Twitter: www.twitter.com/starjewelz or @starjewelz
Here’s the book we’ll be discussing:
Jorja always knew she was different. But it wasn’t until she discovered her telekinetic ability that she realised just how different she was.Living with her frail mother and an obsessive, cruel and hated aunt, Jorja grapples with the truth of her being.
As her story is revealed, other powers are uncovered – not least that she can see other people’s souls in the colours that surround them – and we are led into a surprising and shocking world of fantasy, forcing doubt as to the sanity of the heroine.
We follow Jorja’s life, delving into her loves, hates and fears though cannot help but delight in the woman she becomes, despite the question which hangs mysteriously in the air.
It will be up to the reader to decide if Mageia and its diverse inhabitants are indeed real or only the illusionary world created by a disturbed mind, due, not only to grief but also to her persecution by her aunt and the defective qualities of a barbarous doctor.
Although the story is resolved, questions will remain.
On to our chat…
While this is technically a fantasy novel, I think of it more as a beautiful blend of fantasy and mainstream. You need your own hybrid subgenre. Your main character crosses the boundaries between the real world and a fantasy world. This is also true of your novel Gone. (And perhaps others I have yet to read.) What is it about this blend of genres that attracts you as a writer?
Thank you for using the word, beautiful, as I do like to blend my writing without it jarring on the reader. I often mix genres, not only because breaking the rules is good, but also that by merging fantasy with ‘reality’, in my opinion, gives the fantasy part its roots – and makes it feel like it’s genuine, and could happen. I like to keep an open mind on everything, questioning and challenging, because we can never really know what is real or imagination or a mixture of both – and I believe anything is possible.
You touch on some difficult issues that many people can relate to, such as childhood bullying and the struggles of fitting in. While Jorja’s struggles stem from her unique ability, many children (and adults) experience similar problems for a variety of reasons. I loved the way you captured the loneliness of being different. Was fitting in a problem for you as a child? What are your feelings now, as an adult, about fitting in to a specific societal mold?
Being different is isolating. And yet, ironically, everyone wants to be thought of as special. Though opposite ends of thought, I think that people are afraid of what they don’t know or understand, even to the stage that they won’t even reach out and try.
I have always felt different. I never really had friends, feeling that I could never fit into their way of thinking /acting. I’ve never been one to join – which is strange when I think of how I’ve become part of the self-publishing world. But still, I don’t like rules and find I’m constantly in trouble for breaking them (not always intentionally, though sometimes the challenge is just too tempting, especially if I think the rules are idiotic or hurtful).
Some of this (not fitting in) stems from experience, that when, for example, someone thought of as a friend, is really not. Trust is not easy.
I like an open mind and worry about how dangerous the closed mind can be. I don’t understand the need to hurt others by humiliation etc., and I really dislike the selfishness that has grown to such an extent that nobody is safe.
Maybe I’m an alien?
Keeping to the subject of the book world, I will say that for the most part, I’ve ‘met’ some wonderful people, read some fantastic books and many who support and help others for no reward. I too like to help in this way. And yet, there are still those who almost terrorise authors just because they can. They give poor reviews, without valid reasons, their only wish seemingly to hurt the author and their sales. It’s become a sport where the author cannot fight back – woe betide any who do – as the sharks smell blood and attack without mercy. Why does this happen?
Is it because authors are different? Is it because the ‘attacker’ is different and wants to ‘fit in’ by appearing witty and clever by pulling others down? Is it jealousy? I’ve been researching into this subject and found that many of the ‘attackers’ are authors and do this, especially to those more successful, so to bring them down, obviously feeling threatened.
I recently had a poor review. Fair enough, I agree not everyone can like my work – that is not the issue – but what I didn’t like was the inference that my good reviews were fake and only written by family and friends. I did find out that she is an author, and though she changed the review on the UK site about this point, it’s still there on the USA Amazon.
Writing is isolating, and I’m glad because I’m my own boss with my own rules, and now think it’s best not to look at reviews at all. I’m also trying to stop hoping my books will sell and enjoy the process of writing – I love it. And yes, I use writing to highlight the many issues we face through life and Of Sound Mind was one way – hopefully an imaginative way – of dealing with some of them.
I’ll never fit into any mould – even to the books I write – maybe that’s why I can’t sell them?
Oh dear – I’ve rambled, please feel free to edit, Darcia.
No editing by me. I love the free flow of your thoughts.
A big part of this book’s theme is how we define sanity. Jorja’s perceptions of reality are often challenged. Do you feel sanity is a black and white issue?
Nothing is ever black and white, especially areas such as sanity, in my opinion. I think it is a taboo subject even in this day and age, where anything wrong with the mind is thought scary and dangerous (although sometimes it is).
I’ve always been interested in how and why the mind works the way it does, and it’s fascinating – such untapped power we’ll probably never understand. I think the brain can do so much more than is credited and sometimes we need to dig at it to find out.
History shows us geniuses, and evidence has put some of them close to insane. We know of gifted children or autism or those with intelligence so high that they cannot understand anything other than their genius – does that make them insane? We also know of psychotics and sociopaths and cold blooded murderers – are they insane or just giving in to primal urges? And there are those who have been hurt (both emotionally and physically), damaged brains that don’t allow them to function in ‘society’.
I think it’s a matter of interpretation. And anyway, what is ‘normal’?
Once upon a time, as witches were burnt at the stake, women were thought hysterical and put away in institutions, parts of them cut away to satisfy the needs of men – ‘…she talked back, had an opinion…silence woman, how dare you…!’
Mental Asylums were used to dispose of ‘undesirables’, such as women who refused to tow the line, those with Down’s Syndrome, the blind or deformed, for example, who had to live alongside those who would kill for nothing or rape for power and so on.
Today’s world may be more enlightened, and yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if these events still happened.
We come again to being different – is different the same as being insane? Yes, of course there are the dangerous and this may be due to conflicting brain patterns, but there have also been cases where insanity has been used for defence – that doesn’t mean they are no less dangerous.
However, I think that anyone at any time is capable of amazing and terrible things – whether or not it’s because of insanity, maybe we’ll never know for sure.
I, for one, don’t mind being thought of as strange, at least it makes me different – alien and insane, what a mix!
You’ve written a lot of books. (Is it 11 now?) Where do you get the inspiration for your stories?
Yes, it’s 11, soon to be 12 with another 2 on the way. Inspiration is everywhere – dreams particularly for me. The magic, however, begins as I sit at my PC and type – I don’t always know where I’m going but it’ll fun getting there.
What do you find the easiest to write – the beginning, middle or end? Why?
The beginning is always great because the ideas flow so easily, however, sometimes I can’t write quick enough! Middle’s the hardest, especially if it’s a long book – momentum is the key, with no distractions (hence the hubby’s frequent burnt meals – he’s so good about it though). Once I’m in the zone, everything is uncomplicated. I don’t always know what the end with be, especially if I’m experimenting (something I love to do – the one I’m working on at the moment is something I’ve never done before) – although when I can see the end, I can’t wait to finish.
But oh, then the editing starts – grr.
You enjoy making handcrafted cards and what you call encaustic art. I had no idea what that was and had to look it up! Can you tell us a bit about your art, and maybe share some photos?
Encaustic Art is creating pictures with wax and an iron on specialise card. It’s fantastic for 3D and fantasy pictures – there are no two pictures alike. I’ve used one of my pictures for my last book, Lost Shadows. I do like creating in many mediums, such as drawing, painting, jewellery making, scrapbooking, cards and of course my book cover designs.
I read on your website that Tinker Bell is one of your heroes. What is it about her that fits your definition of a hero?
Ha, ha! Tinker Bell is one of my heroes because she’s loyal, has attitude, independent, brave, curious, self-sacrificing, and imaginative…and a fairy! I love magic and she’s wonderful. I have all the movies and various stickers, books, figures of her. I even met her in Disney World, Florida, have her autograph and had my picture taken with her. She rocks! LOL
Please share three things you’d like readers to know about you.
• I love chocolate, especially dark, although when I look in the mirror, I know it’s my enemy.
• Watching films /movies is a favourite, particularly at the cinema.
• I’d like to live in the Magic Kingdom, with Tinker Bell as a neighbour.
Thank you very much for your support, Darcia.
Thank you for being here, Julie. You are always such fun to interview!
Julie’s books are all available in print and Kindle format on Amazon:
Also available on Amazon UK.
Julie has been a guest here a couple of times in the past. She’s always great fun to talk to! If you’ve missed any of her visits, you can glimpse into archives:
What are your thoughts on sanity and reality? Do you think these are black and white issues, or do you see shades of gray?
Thanks for reading.
Tags: book cover design, Books About Fitting In, Childhood Bullying, Defining Sanity, Encaustic Art, fantasy authors, Fitting In, Indie Author Interview, indie authors, Judging sanity, Julie Elizabeth Powell, Of Sound Mind, Photos of Encaustic Art, Reality vs Fantasy, Trouble Fitting In, What is real?