Rory Mackay is a blogger and author of the book Eladria; Here is a link to his blog:
Q: What is Eladria about?
A: ‘Eladria’ is a fantasy novel with a slight twist of science-fiction and metaphysics. It tells the story of the titular character, a seventeen year-old princess whose home is invaded and overthrown by a militant religious order. She’s forced to witness the destruction of her home and the execution of her father, but she manages to escape and spends much of the novel on the run, a fugitive in her own land. Before long she learns of an even greater danger that’s been lurking in the shadows for millennia, an ancient evil that’s trying to claw its way back into a universe it was long ago banished from.
Q: What inspired you to write the book?
A: Although ‘Eladria’ is pretty much a self-contained novel, it’s also a prelude to a series of books that I first conceived when I was just a kid. It’s a story that’s been with me most my life and try though I might, I just couldn’t let it go. It’s always been there in the back of my mind.
I’m never really sure where my inspiration comes from. I think there are two types of inspiration: external and internal. External sources of inspiration are easy to identify — often coming from other stories, books, movies, people, events and ideas. Inspiration can be found everywhere! But internal inspiration is more elusive and harder to pinpoint. Those are the ideas, stories and insights that just seem to spontaneously rise up from the recesses of the unconscious mind. It’s a more passive form of inspiration. You’re just kind of waiting for the right ideas to come to you.
That’s what I did with ‘Eladria’. I knew I wanted to write the book and I had a vague idea what it was going to be about, but I wasn’t clear on the details at all. I just kind of let it simmer in the back of my mind for some months, and then one day I was suddenly flooded with ideas. It was as though I was watching a movie unfolding in my mind. I got a pen and paper and began scribbling furiously, transcribing the images and storyline I was seeing in my head. The whole plot for the book and all the characters just popped into my mind, more or less fully formed. It was a strangely effortless process! I love it when the ideas just flow organically like that, with a seeming life of their own.
Q: What were the challenges of writing about a female protagonist?
A: I didn’t actually find it too hard. I’ve always had at least as many female friends as male so that helped. Eladria is a vivid character: I had a strong grasp of who she was quite early on and I just followed that. She’s a strong, dominant personality, very much a tomboy, determined and headstrong, qualities that both serve her and can be her undoing. The opening chapter sees Eladria dealing with some of the issues that are typical to a teenage girl, or boy for that matter: first love, a disapproving father, feeling constrained by her life circumstances, believing she belongs somewhere else, but not quite sure where. Then things take a frightening turn and it becomes all about survival. It’s not really a story about gender issues, but it is very much about human issues.
Q: What do you do for a living and how does it impact your writing?
A: I was working in social care until my health broke down and I ended up with a chronic illness which left me exhausted pretty much all the time. I had to quit the job I was doing and take some time out to try and fix up my health, which has been a challenge. However, it brought me back to my true passion as an artist and writer, and I have now been able to pursue this as a career, setting my own hours and branching into different aspects of the profession, such as blogging, copywriting and editing. So life took an oblique turn and nudged me into the only career that I ever really wanted anyway!
Q: What kind of educational background do you have?
A: I have a BA degree in Social Science, in which I studied a range of subjects including sociology, psychology, politics, history, communication and behavioural science, media analysis and literature. I really loved it. It helped me immensely as a writer and, as a person, giving me a huge insight into human nature, why we are the way we are and why we do what we do. It also led me to study Eastern philosophy and spirituality, including Taoism, Vedanta and elements of Buddhism such as zen. This has been the greatest education I could ever have possibly had, especially Vedanta, which I adore. I spend a lot of time reading vedanta texts and listening to commentaries. It totally changed my outlook on life, myself and everything.
Q: Who are some of your literary influences?
A: One of the first was Tolkien and CS Lewis was another, I have clear memories of reading ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe‘ in school as well as watching TV adaptations in the early 90s. David Eddings was another fantasy author whose work inspired me. I also loved exploring the work of Herman Hesse, Aldous Huxley and Paulo Coelho. I very much liked the way they used stories as vehicles for exploring deeper topics and reflecting on the nature of the human condition, life, philosophy and spirituality. That inspired me hugely. Reading their amazing works made me want to write stories that were about something.
Q: Who do you think is the most overrated writer in history?
A: Overrated? That’s a tough one, because I think most art has merit, even if I don’t like it personally. I’d probably say E.L. James for ‘50 Shades of Grey‘. I read a bit of it and couldn’t believe it had become such a phenomenon. But then, this was the same year that ‘Gangnam Style’ became one of the most successful songs of all time. Go figure. There is so much amazing literature and music out there (music is one of my other great loves) and yet….well, I guess I just don’t get mainstream culture sometimes!
Q: Your blog bio says you are a nondualist; what the hell is that?
A: Oh no…! Ask me something like that and I’ll be answering for the next year! It’s an excellent question. Nondualism is the assertion that life exists as a complete, interconnected whole. I think I first came across the notion in a quote by Einstein:
“A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the ‘Universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — which is a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task is to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”
That quote, which is a concise and powerful definition of nondualism, highlights the illusory nature of our perception of being something that’s completely separate and cut off from other people and from the world. I mean, we go about thinking that there’s *us* and then there’s life, when in fact that’s a false dichotomy. There’s just life. We are life. We are the universe. I was so fascinated by this and it led me to study advaita vedanta, which is one of the core ‘schools’ of nondualism. We’re hardwired to think in terms of duality and our entire language is subject/object based, but when you learn vedanta from a proper teacher and begin to assimilate it, the logic is just irrefutable. It’s amazing. When you no longer see yourself as separate from life and from other people, it gradually changes the way you see and relate to everything.
Q: What is the central theme of your blog?
A: The tagline of my blog is “life, awareness, creativity and happiness” and, broad though that is, I guess that about covers it! In my previous blog, which I wrote from 2005 until last year, I wrote quite deep posts about philosophy and nondual spirituality. I actually never promoted that blog, it was almost like a little private place, although it did have a small but loyal readership. My new blog, which I began last November, is called ‘Beyond the dream’ and it’s designed to be a bit more accessible. I wanted to express some of the same themes in a simpler, more relatable way.
I believe that happiness and wellbeing is something that’s innate within us — you need only look at very young children to see that. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the ways we tend to lose that as we grow up and it largely has to do with habits of thought and belief that obscure our wellbeing. I’ve been sharing some amazing tools for identifying, questioning and moving beyond limiting thoughts, beliefs and emotions, and learning to be and express all that we truly are. My approach very much ties in with what I spoke about in my previous answer. I guess my blog is basically about digging ourselves out of the ‘perceptual prison’ Einstein spoke of.
Q: What makes your writing unique?
A: I think if there’s anything unique about my writing it’s that I strive to find ways to use it to share my outlook on life, which is a little different to that of the average person. I like creative works to have some depth to them, some meaning and purpose, otherwise I don’t feel it’s fulfilled its ultimate potential. So that’s what I endeavour to do with my work: to entertain and to make people think.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)