An In-Depth Interview – Yay!
The Daily Mantra recently had the pleasure of conducting an intercontinental interview with novelist and Daily Mantra contributor Malayna Dawn. Malayna has recently relocated from Los Angeles to Sri Lanka, a country that figures prominently in her first novel, Echoes Across Time. Described on its cover as "modern day myth" and "[p]art spiritual adventure, part feminist fairy tale," Echoes is right up our alley and likely to resonate deeply with readers attuned to dreams, reincarnation or cross-cultural experience.
Malayna has written extensively about the Law of Attraction in her Daily Mantra posts so we were curious to learn, first of all, how her knowledge of this universal tenet figured in her approach to writing and getting published. Malayna had plenty to say on other topics as well, including the place of dreams and reincarnation in American and Sri Lankan culture, the inspiration she has received from writers like Julia Cameron and Joseph Campbell, and how writing nourishes her spiritually. If you are looking for creative inspiration Malayna’s answers to our questions are a good place to find it!
DM: Do you have any Law of Attraction stories related to bringing this project to fruition?
MD: Financially – not yet! Actually, I have attracted wonderful relationships into my life, which after the long period of time writing alone is a much appreciated dividend. I’ve found that so many people are willing to help me, and it’s been such a blessing. First, friends who were willing to proofread and lend their opinions; then my friend Jeff Gelb who I worked with in my music industry days, referred me to his writing partner Mike Garrett (both have long lists of credits in the horror genre) – Stephen King’s first editor – to help me edit. He was a huge, invaluable help in bringing the story to life. And then the book launch in Colombo was such a gift! From Ajai Singh, CEO of Grey Advertising in Sri Lanka who organized it, to my talented friends who MC’d, did readings, and helped in every way imaginable. Now I’m getting to play with all the things I dreamed of when I was young – being interviewed for press and radio, seeing stuff published in magazines that I didn’t pursue myself. It’s all so fun!
DM: How much (if any) of the novel is autobiographical?
MD: I like to say it’s a highly fictionalized version of my life. I’ve heard often to write what you know, so much of it is based on my reality. Many of the themes come from experiences that I’ve had myself or that someone I know has gone through. But having said that, I’ve mixed it liberally with ideas that I just thought were fascinating to make it more of a metaphorical journey than a true-to-life one.
DM: If it is somewhat autobiographical, which parts, in particular?
MD: I know what it’s like to be from two cultures, and I’ve found there are quite a few people of mixed Sri Lankan origin, not to mention many of other mixed origins, and we share lots of things in common. I visited Sri Lanka a handful of times with my family as tour guides before I moved here, so much of that is based on my experience to some extent. The rest of it dances between the real and the imagined so much it would take too long to separate here.
DM: Also, if it’s autobiographical, why did you choose to write it as a novel?
MD: There are a number of reasons I chose to write a novel rather than a memoir, but mostly because I have always loved myths and been fascinated by how myths instruct people about how to live life. Joseph Campbell rocks my world…even from the beyond. And that’s how I’ve always interpreted the messages of movies and books and songs.
DM: The story seems very cinematic and I know you have a background in television production; did you ever think about writing it as a screenplay?
MD: I initially started writing it as a screenplay, but it wasn’t coming out that way. Now that I’ve developed it as a novel, I have been asked to write a screenplay from it so that a film can be produced here in Sri Lanka in conjunction with a Bollywood producer. Living here has given me a chance to fall in love with Bollywood, so I’d love the chance to work with some of my favorite stars and introduce them to American audiences. But I’d also love to make different versions – because the sensibility of each audience is different.
DM: What other fiction writing have you done?
MD: The bulk of my writing experience has been somewhere between fiction and non-fiction in a genre that I guess can be called "inspirational." By that I mean that it’s poetic prose that is meant to uplift and ignite a spark inside so that you can do your own seeking. Even the non-fiction articles I’ve done have been less hard journalism and more of a symbolic study of life.
DM: Who are your favorite writers and which are your favorite genres?
MD: I love Anne Rice for mixing the real and historical with the mythological and creating worlds of depth that make both darkness and light beautiful and rich. I love Isabel Allende for much the same reasons. She, like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, speaks about the spiritual realm and people’s beliefs as an integral part of life. I read any book that allows me to experience and really feel different times and places – whether real or imaginary. And though I resisted the hype at first, I did fall in love with Harry Potter and his world, which reminded me of the books I loved when I was younger – Anne McCaffrey and Piers Anthony books my mom and I shared.
DM: Which, if any, most influenced Echoes Across Time?
MD: I think it was movies that influenced me more. I wanted to read something like Indiana Jones, The Mummy, and Tomb Raider, but after I read Celestine Prophecy I wanted more than just adventure. I wanted a deeper meaning. I found Isabel Allende and read practically everything she wrote, but nothing else seemed to grab me when I went trolling book stores. I read The Count of Monte Cristo and kept looking for sweeping adventures. So then I wrote what I was searching for.
DM: What did you learn most from working on this project?
MD: I started this project in the midst of a void that I don’t think most people have the opportunity to experience. I had moved to Sri Lanka and had no job and no friends, no car and nothing to do. I didn’t need to make money to support myself, so I had the opportunity to see what called to me most when everything else was stripped away. I played with all the things I thought I would want to do when I had the chance, but I found that all I really wanted to do was write, so now that I’ve dedicated myself to what really makes me feel fulfilled, I feel so much happier every day of my life.
DM: What do you like best about writing?
MD: I like that I can share who I really am, fully connected to my center, without having to worry about how I look or sound or if I fit in. I don’t have to be prettier or thinner or taller or darker or have a different accent or worry about my nerves making my voice wobble. Because I started from there, now when I go out to promote the book, I still don’t worry about any of that because I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I’m not trying to get a job or wow during an audition. I’m just sharing what comes from within. It feels good. Peaceful. Joyful. Free.
DM: Besides being entertained, is there anything else that you hope or expect that readers will take away from Echoes Across Time ?
MD: I’d love for people to learn about Sri Lanka, but more importantly to find a new way of thinking about their lives. To pay attention when a song pops into their heads or a plot line from a movie gives them a new perspective. I want them to listen to their inner guidance and find their true purpose.
DM: How has your spiritual life influenced your creativity or your relation to your creativity?
MD: It’s really the purpose for my wanting to share ideas with people. I want people to find and experience spirituality in everything they do. Not in a pious or righteous or limiting way, but to be able to feel spirit in the music they listen to and the places they go and the movies and books they take in. I love the way that Julia Cameron made the connection between spirituality and creativity in The Artist’s Way. We are all artists and our creativity is expressed in the creation of our lives: our own personal works of art.
DM: Succinctly, please give Daily Mantra readers a sense of differing places of dreams in the Sri Lankan and American cultures.
MD: I think in Sri Lanka, people are still really open to the concept of spirits and ancestors and a sort of magic being part of life. So dreams of such things might have more meaning than to someone from a Western culture who has rejected anything but the material and sensory and writes off weird dreams as just being because of something they ate. Unless they are Jungians, or people who have learned to look at everything as a metaphorical message from the universe, like me.
DM: Please do the same with the two culture’s differing attitudes toward and ideas about reincarnation.
MD: Because Sri Lanka’s main religion is Buddhism, reincarnation is really central in their belief system. The second largest religion here is Hinduism, which also recognizes reincarnation. I think this may be part of why Sri Lanka has one of the highest suicide rates-they may see it as something like hitting the reset button on a video game that you are clearly losing. In America, I’ve seen a lot about reincarnation being about soul mates and finding your one true love. The more Western Judeo-Christian idea is one life and off to heaven or hell. I wanted to play with the idea to say none of us really know what goes on, but what if it’s something different than any of us can imagine, or better yet, what if we’re all right? I think examining all the possibilities should leave us all a bit more open-minded which may also help create peaceful co-existence in our world-really the ultimate goal, don’t you think?
| 01/07/08 | Book Club | Permalink | Comments (0)