Month: February 2014

An Interview With Art Therapist Jamie Rogers



Jamie Rogers is an art therapist who owns Emergent Pathways Through Art in Portland, OR; here is a link to the website:



Q:  What made you interested in art therapy?


A: I wish I had a simple answer to this question. And yet, I personally enjoy that the answer is not so simple because it comes from an intertwining of situations and learnings within my life that have spanned the last decade and have brought a greater richness to what I am offering as an art therapist. So, I will offer some of the highlights that led me in the direction of art therapy.


To begin with, I had hit a point in my life where I recognized that I didn’t have any passion for the work that I was doing as a systems analyst. At the same time, I had become interested in tile mosaics and was thinking about becoming an artist. But, my future plans were delayed as I began having neurological difficulties that would set the stage for a whole new set of experiences during the next few years.


Dealing with neurological dysfunction was challenging and yet it was here that I chose to work with alternative care practitioners. These practitioners did not specifically include a mental health therapist, but they all really held a healing space for me and actually took the time to listen to what I was going through while also offering advice and direction. Within this, I found the qualities of holding space and listening to be equally healing as the specific healing modalities being offered by each of the practitioners I encountered.


During this healing period, I also pursued my desires to become an artist by taking classes in drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. In doing so, I became especially interested in what would happen when I worked without any particular intention on the final product. This was an experience that I had previously described as something coming through me, rather than of me, giving me the sense that some kind of spiritual connection was guiding me to the existence of something deeper within myself. Then, in looking back on the finished product, I was able to discover and acknowledge something that was in fact occurring within my life.


Thus, my experiences with art during my own healing process created my initial interest in art therapy. But, actually making the decision to become an art therapist took more healing and deeper investigation on my part. A turning point came, however, after engaging in a consistent meditation practice and deciding to attend a “Life Vows” meditation retreat, where I found my life vows to include:

  • Creating art with the intention of making people feel their heart
  • Helping people create value in their life
  • Listening to the spiritual stories of others with compassion and respect
  • Encouraging others to grow in their own way
  • Holding a calm and positive space for others
  • Speaking and writing from the heart
  • Being respectful of the earth and the resources it offers

After discovering these vows, I felt that I wanted to do energy work and became interested in a form called bioenergetics. But, I found that the training for this type of work required a masters degree in mental health and thus my attention was redirected to art therapy.


Today I feel that art therapy is in fact energy work, but I also currently see myself incorporating other energetic modalities in the future that are likely to include bioenergetics, reiki, and medical intuition.


Q:  You have a Masters of Art Therapy Counseling from Southwestern College of Santa Fe, New Mexico and a Bachelors of Science in Computer and Information Science from the University of Oregon. How do you use your computer science degree in your work?


A: Both areas of study have their own complexities to them and require a particular kind of analytical thinking. That is, when an problem arises, you need to look beyond the symptom being displayed at the surface. Because, just addressing the surface symptom may not in fact “fix” the undesired effect. Instead, this might also cause additional issues to arise, in people as well as computer systems. Thus, looking further inside the computer program or at the underlying cause of a behavior is more pertinent to finding a desired resolution. Within my work as an art therapist, I address looking underneath a behavior by defaulting to a person’s body, heart, and spirit and encouraging the development of their own personal guidance system for healing.


Q: . You are currently not registered with the ATCB, is there a reason you have chosen not to register yourself?


A: The Art Therapy Credentials Board (ATCB) has a number of requirements for registration. For the designation of “Registered Art Therapist” (ATR), these requirements include graduation from an approved master’s art therapy program and 1000 hours of supervised, post-graduation, direct client work. After these requirements are met, a “Registered Art Therapist” may take an exam to become a “Board Certified Art Therapist” (ATR-BC). Since only a couple of states license art therapists, Oregon not being one of them, these are generally the only available credentials beyond a master’s degree for art therapists. Many art therapy programs however, Southwestern College included, offer a dual degree of art therapy and counseling, allowing for further credentialing and job opportunities as licensed counselors, which generally have yet another set of requirements.


Thus, since I just graduated in October of 2013, I am not eligible for registration with the ATCB. I am, however, listed with the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) as a new professional. But, as to obtaining further credentials from the ATCB, I have not made plans to take this further step, since I am uncertain of the value in doing so with regard to the services that I am providing and the associated costs. If I were to proceed more in the direction of counseling and mental health diagnoses and treatment, then this might make more sense. But, my current focus has more to do with holistic health improvement that includes: developing connections to the body, heart, and spirit, clearing energy blockages, working with chronic physical conditions, discovering life purpose and passions, and moving through the stages of life. Within this realm, I see myself as more of a healing guide who utilizes processes that are largely based on extrapolations from my own life and educational experiences.


Q:  What is the difference between drawing a picture for therapeutic reasons at home and doing it in a therapist’s office?


A: You can certainly gain therapeutic value while engaging in artistic creation at home and I highly encourage all of us to do so, because I believe that it is vital to our well-being as it introduces a metaphorical language that can be interpreted by the body for healing. But, our culture has greatly devalued the artistic process and has elevated it to a level that can only be achieved by the finest of artists which are designated as an elite group. Because of this, many people say they are not artists and cannot draw anything, but in fact almost everyone can make marks on paper or otherwise engage and experiment with art materials.


So, to begin with, the therapist’s office provides a space that gives permission to engage in the artistic process. But, to even do this, means that the space needs to be cultivated to provide safety, confidentiality, and support. And, for me, it also means inviting in spiritual guides that will support me, the space, and all who seek help within it. Beyond this, creating art in a therapeutic setting will allow greater insights to be gained as the therapist bares witness, invites reflection, and offers additional perspectives into a client’s art-making process and resulting artwork.


Therapeutic insights can be offered in different ways, however, depending on a therapist’s philosophy or purpose. Some therapists do interpret client art and, in fact, specific art directives do exist in the art therapy field that are used for diagnostic assessment of a client’s state of mind. But, this is not the direction of my practice, although I do keep these ideas in mind to alert me of potential issues that may need to be addressed. My therapeutic style is to allow the client to interpret their art, to question their process, to question what they see and feel, and to give additional insights, which may or may not be valid through the client’s eyes.


Q: What are some of the methods you use in your work?


A: The methods used during a session depend largely on the level or depth that a client is prepared for. At the very top or surface level, a client may just need to express and talk about their emotions. So, asking them to draw their anger, fear, or frustration might be the most therapeutic action to take, because it can provide some relief to their current situation.


At a deeper level, I am most often trying to help a client see something just below the surface of their consciousness. To do this, I first ask them to energetically hold whatever they have come into my office to work with, which I call an intention. Then, to ground them and to deepen their intention, I lead them through a short guided meditation. And Finally, I ask them to come out of the meditation as they are ready, to continue holding the energy of their intention within their body, and to draw or make marks on the paper by drawing from their body. This last piece, “drawing from the body”, is really important because I want them to get out of their mind, out of thinking about an art product, and out of thinking about a solution to their problem. Instead, I want them to be in their body, because I believe it holds some important information that is currently unavailable to their conscious mind.


At a similar but more extended level, I use a body map, which would be more applicable to chronic conditions or deeper traumas. Within this method, I will place a body outline before the client and guide them to hold their intention. As they hold their intention, I will ask them to scan their body for sensations. Once a sensation is identified, I will ask them to choose a representative color, to draw what it feels like on the corresponding area of the body map, and to label that sensation. This process will continue until all sensations around the intention have been identified. I call this resulting map a “treatment plan” and I will then start to work with the least threatening sensations on this map as I form appropriate art directives for the client.


Within any of these levels I am also likely to encourage journaling or dialoging. Journaling encourages reflection and helps to capture the information from the experience and to bring out further information that the experience has invoked. Dialoging, on the other hand, is a technique that is used primarily for attempting to access information from the right side of the brain, which is more sensory in nature. With this technique questions can be asked of the image using the dominant hand and responded to by using the non-dominant hand. Both practices bring a greater depth of understanding about the information that is being brought through an individual’s image about a specific life situation.


Of further significance to note here is the manner in which these methods are applied. Although, all methods will include an initial conversation about a client’s current situation, the resolution or opening of a pathway is found through the art and the discussion, journalling, and dialoging that follow the art creation. Thus, my role in applying these methods is simply to help with the client’s own discovery process.


Q:  What is the difference between individual art therapy and group art therapy?


A: The main difference between individual and group art therapy is the comfort level for the client or clients. That is, some topics are not comfortable for an individual to share within a group and likewise some topics would be more traumatizing than helpful to other group members. Beyond this, individual art therapy is generally for deeper, more personal work, while group art therapy or classes are restricted to more general topics that are common to all members of the group.


Q:  What can a person get out of art therapy that they could not get out of traditional psychotherapy?


A: Traditional psychotherapy actually encompasses many types of theories and techniques, but for purposes of simplification I’m going to assume that you are asking about “talk” therapies. With that regard, I believe the greatest strength of art therapy is that it allows for an externalization of unconscious information in a metaphorical format. On the one hand, this means that unknown information can be extracted from within, given a tangible existence, and then discussed and reflected upon over time. On the other hand, the information provided is more sensory in nature and provides for a type of language that can be more easily interpreted by the implicit, sensory functions of the right brain. Thus, the mere process of art creation and reflection can cause an alteration to the interpretation of sensory inputs, which are the driving force behind behaviors.


To define this more specifically, here are four levels of potential interaction within the art therapy process and their associated effects:

  • Art creation is therapeutic in and of itself, providing relaxation or stimulation based on media selection and usage
  • Exploring personal art allows insights to surface that were not previously present, by investigating both the art and the process of creating the art
  • Creating personal artwork allows the encapsulation of information about a particular moment within a person’s life, making it available for greater examination, reflection, and integration over time
  • Working on a sequence of art pieces allows a person to integrate change more completely and at their own pace, as their awareness increases, as their sensory and mental information finds congruent expression, and as their artwork and life experiences come to bare witness to the changes that are occurring

Q:  What are some if the problems you have seen art therapy help with?


A: The problems that art therapy can help with are actually very wide and diverse, from the therapeutic value of play to having an effect on severe mental illness and everything in between. My own area of interest, however, includes working with unresolved trauma that inhibits the experience of joy, clouds the pathways toward a satisfying and fulfilling life, or manifests as an energy blockage or chronic physical condition. Within this, my main goal for resolution is to utilize art therapy to enable reconnection to the body, heart, and spirit, which I believe will allow the client’s natural guidance system to bring them back into health and happiness.


Saying all of this, however, means that I am pushing the use of art therapy into new territory. While I’m sure you can find that art therapy is being used for life improvement, you are not likely to find instances of it being used to resolve physical conditions. The term “medical art therapy” is out there, but this generally refers to the palliative care of a patient and relates only to their emotional well-being within their current circumstances. But, I have used the “body map” method discussed above to work with an energy blockage that seemed to be related to an unresolved remnant of PTSD. I have also resolved my own chronic shoulder pain by creating art, dialoging with the art, dialoging with the body, and applying other energetic healing techniques. So, I hope to be able to serve clients in a similar fashion.


Q:  What is the most unusual case you have seen in your work?


A: At this point in time, I don’t feel that I have observed a particularly unusual case. And, to speak of a particular case would likely be a breach of confidentiality, so it would not be appropriate to discuss here. However, I have observed different levels of trauma and their associated levels of resiliency. Surprisingly, some people with a great deal of trauma also have a great deal of resiliency. Additionally, I have observed that our current culture brings about a huge amount of trauma within most of us that often gets passed over as being “normal”, which is the area that I hope to help address within my therapeutic sessions with clients.


Q: What famous artist do you think needs some professional help?


A: As stated above, I do not make interpretations of a client’s or an artist’s work. Their interpretations rule in my book. What I think and feel about another’s art work may not have anything to do with what is going on within them, but may in fact have everything to do with what is going on within me. But, as an art therapist, I do endeavor to discern whether the observations I am making are associate with me or with my client. I do this by listening to their story and by questioning whether my insights are pertinent before I offer them to the client. 


On the other hand, I will note that all artwork carries the energies and intentions of those who create it. Rather than being concerned with whether an artist needs professional help or not, I would suggest that you be more aware of how these energies and intentions are affecting you when you see it or are around it. Art is very powerful! So, be careful about the artwork you choose to keep within your life, for it can actually affect your own state of being.



Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)


An Interview With Actress Ashley Sugarman



Ashley Sugarman is an actress who appears in the web series Lost at Da Jersey Shore and the film Casting Couch; here is a link to her YouTube page: 






Q: What made you interested in acting? 


A: I actually started out as a dancer when I was a kid.  I competed almost every weekend and then when I was about 16 I started backup dancing for a local singer in Florida and we got to perform and travel for years.  I loved being on stage and becoming someone different.  I realized I become more comfortable taking on a different persona in front of people.  I also just love being around the entertainment business in general.  I decided to take some acting classes at a local college in Florida and decided that I loved and wanted to pursue it.  I learn something new about what I want all the time.  One day I’ll realize I love writing, then theater, then managing other people too.  I really just want to tap into it all.


Q: What kind of training have you had? 


A: I took theater classes at a local college in Florida and when I moved out to LA I took scene study classes with a great coach Vinny Guastaferro.  I then decided I wanted to try improv classes so I took classes at Upright Citizens Brigade which I loved!  They were so much fun!  Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of plays which I think always keep you sharp. I somehow always have the luck of getting cast last minute so it’s great practice when you have a day or two to learn all of your lines!


Q: What is Lost at Da Jersey Shore about? 


A: Lost at Da Jersey Shore is a mash up of LOST and MTV’s Jersey Shore.  The Jersey Shore cast gets stuck on an island with the LOST characters.  It was perfect timing because when it came out, Jersey Shore was at it’s peak and LOST was just ending so it had so much hype.


Q: What role do you play? 


A: I played the beloved Snooki.  She is such a unique reality TV character and so much fun to play.


Q: How did you go about preparing for the role? 


A: Luckily I was a big Jersey Shore fan so I already knew all of her mannerisms, story lines, accent and outfits.  Sadly enough, my sister had some of her exact wardrobe in her closest so I put all of her exact outfits together.  I listened to her whine about a thousand times to get it perfect and studied her accent.  I have an airbrush machine at home so I airbrushed my face orange every time I would audition or go to set.  I was a huge LOST fan so it helped that I can incorporate Snooki’s character with the LOST characters because I already knew everything about them.  The hardest part was actually getting my Snooki “poof” to stay.  It was really exciting when Snooki herself saw the series and talked about it on a NY radio station and then her and Pauly D tweeted about it.


Q: What kind of day job do you have and how does it effect your pursuit of an acting career?


A: This has been the hardest struggle for me.  People make it seem so easy but its not.  Financially, I need a full time job with benefits to live out here.  I was working in retail and styling which allowed me to have two days off during the week and if I got an audition, I had to pray it fell on one of my days off, or try to rearrange my whole work schedule.  I remember booking the play “The Columbine Project” that performed on weekends and I had to leave work early for a few months and I thought my boss was going to kill me.  I remember I wasn’t allowed to leave work too early so I had to sit in traffic on the 405 praying I would make it on time and at the same time listen to depressing music to get me in the right mind frame for the show.  It’s tough.  I always like to have my day free on show days so I can relax and not rush, but it doesn’t always work that way.  Luckily, I just got approached to work for a publicist part time helping her out so I finally am leaving my retail job.  I’m so excited to be around “the business” and learn as much as I can and soak up everything.  Having a job sucks period, but if it’s in an industry that interests you than it’s not so bad.  I also started managing hip hop dancers on the side.  My sister is a hip hop dancer for film and TV and I have so many ideas and opportunities to build her brand.  As an actor, I’m always trying to figure out how to branch out and create new and exciting opportunities for myself and I’m excited to do it for dancers as well.  The two industries are so different so it’s cool to tap into both.  It’s letting me be creative and business minded at the same time.


Q: What is Casting Couch about? 




A: Casting Couch is so hilarious because it’s so “LA.”  It’s about a group of guys who don’t have much game and can’t get the ladies attention so they decided to make a fake movie and cast a bunch of hot actresses in their “movie.”  They put up a casting searching for each of their dream girls.  It was written and directed by my brilliant friend Jason Lockhart.  


Q: What role do you play?  I play Iris, one of the girls auditioning for the “movie”.  It was so inspiring to see the whole process for this movie be made with all of my friends.  The whole cast and crew were so passionate about this project and whether the roles were leads or smaller roles, everyone got together for pool parties and barbeques and celebrated when it got distribution.


Q: What do you like about Hollywood? 


A: The sushi, mostly.  Just kidding.  I like the lifestyle and the fact that you can have a business meeting or go over a script at a cool outside cafe on a Wednesday afternoon and its still considered “working.”  It has a hustle but it’s chill at the same time.  I lived in NYC for years and there is so much going on there that it was hard to focus on the big picture and what I really wanted to do. 


Q: What would you change about it? 




A: A lot.  I don’t like the fact that when you meet someone, one of the first questions they will ask you is “what do you do?”  It bothers me so much.  What do I do?  I cook, I go to the dog park, I watch cheesy scary movies, I sit at a park and people watch.  I do a lot of things and I’ll never answer that question with “acting.”  If someone straight up asks my occupation and I am a steadily working actor then I’ll answer with that.  Also, a lot of people put so much time into their “craft” when they don’t realize it’s all around them. Living life is one of the best (and cheapest) acting classes you can get.  Talk to homeless people, go on blind dates, join a magic class.  Some people get so caught up into “making it” that they forget to actually enjoy life and have fun.  I genuinely feel that everyone’s time will come where they get their “big break” and you shouldn’t stress yourself out waiting for it. 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)




An Interview With Horror Writer Ralph Bieber


Ralph Bieber is the author of the novel Ashes and the Horror anthology Sweet Nightmares; here is a link to his Twitter page:

Q: What made you want to become a writer?


A: Before 1997, I never had aspirations of becoming a professional writer. That year I met a former English Lit major online and began chatting. Do you remember chat rooms?

This Temple University graduate turned out to be Holly Newstein, who asked me to take a look at a short story she had written, and give her a critique. I had a liberal arts background, but was never a wiz in English class. Music was my area of expertise. Nonetheless, I agreed to have a look. The story was a Sci-Fi tale in the world of Star Trek, and was to be submitted to Simon and Schuster for a short story contest. We had previously discussed our mutual love for all things Star Trek, so I did my first literary critique.

During the time we were waiting to hear from Simon and Schuster, I remembered an episode from the original Star Trek series in which a handful of Federation officers and a few Klingons were trapped on the Enterprise by an evil entity who fed on hatred and destruction. This premise became the central theme for Out Of the Light (later titled Ashes). Thank you, Gene Roddenberry.

When it returned from New York, the Star Trek story was very dog-eared, but didn’t win publication. Holly & I were disappointed, of course, but the plot for our first novel was already in the planning stage. Out Of the Light was “in the can” approximately fifteen months later.


Q: Why Horror?

A: Since childhood I’ve loved the horror genre. I had all of the Universal Monster Revell models lined up on a shelf in my bedroom. I would watch The Twilight Zone, Dr. Shock, Creature Double Feature, and Night Gallery without fail. I still love the classic Christopher Lee Dracula films, Godzilla, Nosferatu, Jaws, and the Universal Monster movies. The truth be told, I still have some of those models in my office today. The classics are the foundation on which all future imaginings are built. As for horror fiction, I think the possibilities are limitless. As in any aesthetic, the boundaries of acceptability are always being pushed. There will always be a market for dark literature that pushes the envelope of human feelings.

Q: What is Ashes about?

A: The story begins in Honduras where a team of university archeologists unearth an ancient Mayan entity that possesses a host body, and feeds on death and chaos. Through a series of events, the entity finds it’s way to a small south-central Pennsylvania town called Aronston, leaving behind only the ashes of it’s victims. Aronston has a dark history, and the entity finds a kindred spirit in Roger Philips, a disgruntled and displaced employee of the town’s largest industry. As Roger seeks revenge on those who have hurt him, the town is preparing an anniversary celebration. The local theater group decides to convert a section of the town back to the way it looked in colonial days, and hold their play outdoors. While the renovations are being made, the oldest living resident watches from the top floor of the assisted living facility where he lives. He shares his knowledge of the town’s dark history with his granddaughter, and becomes more agitated and frightened as his story and the town’s conversion progresses. We learn that the town’s founder had a son who horribly beat his wife, and in turn, her brothers killed him. The brothers were hung in the town square in a media circus. What the old man doesn’t know is that Roger Phillips is a direct descendant of the wife-beater, and the closer the town square gets to completion, the stronger Roger becomes. Q: How did you go about getting it published?

A: Out Of the Light (the original title) was originally marketed to e Book publishers, and was picked up quickly by Unfortunately, at that time e Books were in their infancy, and just a few copies sold. The lackluster sales prompted us to seek a venue for print copies. Xlibris was the print-on-demand press that we selected. At that time Holly and I both had families with young children, so a no-frills print-on-demand trade paperback was the route we took. We began selling copies to our friends and families, and managed to arrange some local book signings. I should mention at this point that print-on-demand was also in its infancy, and we were extremely fortunate. We got to have all the fun and cachet of being early adopters of publishing technologies that now dominate the market. Back then, self publishing was frowned upon by the industry, unlike today. Through networking with other writers in our area we learned of the Horror Writer’s Organization with a Baltimore chapter and a yearly horror convention in the Baltimore area. Holly and I became involved with both, and became friends with some very good established and up-and-coming writers. Horror writers as a breed are generous and encouraging folks, and these writers appreciated our book for its quality. The book was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award in 2001 in the Best First Novel category, and was voted all the way into the semi finals. In 2004 a copy of Out Of the Light found its way onto the desk of an editor at Penguin, and the contract for the mass market paperback was offered through Berkley Press. The publisher required a change in title and a pseudonym as the book was previously published. The title became Ashes, and the pen name we selected was H.R. Howland.. Ashes is now available for download on Amazon, brought to you by my friends at Crossroads Press. Q: What kind of day jobs have you had and how do they influence your writing?

A: I wear many hats, actually. I was a professional musician for thirty years. I’ve worked in customer service for both private industry and government for many years. And, as an entrepreneur, I’ve been a part of launching three businesses. Sweet Nightmares was the second company that I launched, first as a corporation and now as a sole proprietorship. The original business plan was for an independent book store and coffee shop. As it turned out, the company is now solely for my writing endeavors. The employment situation that I’ve used the most is the private sector customer service engagement. That was used in Ashes as well as my new screenplay, Fire and Water. Q: Who are some of your wring influences?

A: I am a firm believer in cross-genre reading. Looking back, I now understand how Earl Stanley Gardner, Ian Flemming, Sidney Sheldon, Louis L’Amour, Kurt Vonnegut, Peter Benchley, and John Jakes influenced me without my realizing it. Involuntary learning. Who could have imagined? Certainly not my English Comp teachers! Today, the non-horror authors I read include Jeff Shaara, John Irving, Lee Child, Harlan Coben, and Clive Cussler. For all of you writers out there, if you ever want to feel humbled by your story-telling skills, just pick up anything by John Irving. The first horror novel I ever read was Floating Dragon by Peter Straub. Shortly thereafter, I picked up a copy of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, and I was forever hooked on horror fiction. If any horror author ever says that they haven’t been influenced by King, they’re creating fiction. In this business we all need help from mentors who can guide the way. For me, that person was Brian Keene. That’s right; the zombie guy! I still consider Brian one of my best friends in the genre. In the beginning he was always there with advice, words of encouragement, and useful industry news. We shared many a signing table, as well as attending each others book signings. I would be remiss if I didn’t again mention my coauthor of many stories, Holly Newstein. As I mentioned earlier, our methods of getting where we are today were successful, albeit unorthodox. Lastly, I want to recommend some other friends of mine who should be influences to any aspiring horror writer. Neil Gaiman, Dan Simmons, David Morrell, Jonathan Maberry, J.F. Gonzalez, Rick Hautala, Christopher Golden, F. Paul Wilson, Jack Ketchum, Tom Piccirilli, Richard Laymon, Thomas F. Monteleone, Chet Williamson, Gord Rollo, Ray Garton, Nate Kenyon, Gene O’Neill, and Joe Hill. What are you waiting for? Run to the bookstore! Q: Why do you think horror is such a popular genre?

A: That’s easy. People want to escape from their version of reality into a world that is far worse than their experience so their problems seem less complicated. Q: What is the central theme of Sweet Nightmares?

A: There is no central theme in Sweet Nightmares. The collection contains ghosts, sea monsters, living tattoos, dead gunslingers, fictional characters coming to life, an alternate ending for Ashes, and even a love story with a twisted ending. Some of the stories tie into each other. A nice trick I learned from Stephen King. I really enjoy doing that because it allows my the option of revisiting locations like Aronston. We also revisit two locations from The Epicure; Upper Darby, Pennsylvania and Sea Isle City, New Jersey. The Epicure is available for download at Sweet Nightmares is available for download at Amazon.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Writer Mary Hamer





Mary Hamer is the author of Kipling and Trix and Incest a New Perspective; here is a link to her website:


Q:  What is Kipling and Trix about?


A: It tells the story of Rudyard Kipling the famous writer and his brilliant, damaged younger sister, Trix as they grow up. Happy as small children among the light and colour of India their lives change when they’re left in England while their parents go back to Bombay. Their foster-mother turns out to be a dangerous woman who tries to break the boy’s spirit while making a pet of the little girl.


Kipling & Trix shows how they survive this confusion: growing up each sets out to become a writer and to look for love. Moving between continents—India, South Africa, Europe– and momentous world events, it makes emotional sense of these lives.


Q:  What made you interested in writing a book based on the life of Rudyard Kipling and his sister?


A: I’d always loved Rudyard Kipling as a writer, ever since I was small and read The Jungle Book. But when I started reading about his life, with books of my own behind me, I was startled to see what a textbook case of emotional danger their childhood exile presented. One way and another I’d learned a good deal about child psychology and about the vulnerability of children separated from their parents. One of the risks that not everyone knows about, for very small children—Trix was three and a half when her mother left her—is their absolute need to attach themselves to an adult. However unsuitable/untrustworthy the nearest adult may be.


So I wondered whether Ruddy and Trix had indeed been damaged by those years with the unsuitable foster-mother. Asking that question seemed to make sense of the way their lives turned out. I wanted to share that.



Q:  Why did you choose to fictionalize the story rather than just write a straight bio?


A: There were already good bios available: no need for a new one. What’s more, I had a particular angle I wanted to highlight: writing my previous book, where I was trying to think in new ways, I found that the voice of the story-teller was surprisingly helpful in presenting an argument. Wanting readers to share what I could see — the links between the experience of Ruddy and Trix as children and the way it played out in later life—I thought it would work best if I showed that by presenting their lives in the form of fiction.


Plus I was sick of footnotes and thought it would be interesting to see if I could do it, write a novel.



Q:  What kind of educational background do you have?


A: I’ve had a lot of that stuff, education!  Raised a Catholic, a convent schoolgirl, it took me years, no decades, to learn to think for myself and to be skeptical.


A lot of my life has been spent in universities: I’m a PhD and published four academic books before this novel.


Q:  Do you think Kipling was a racist? (why or why not)


A: There are two questions here, really, and the answers overlap, complicate each other.

Did Kipling share the assumptions about race that were common among his educated contemporaries? The answer’s yes.


Did Kipling respond to individual members of other races solely according to those assumptions? The answer is no. He valued the Indians he worked amongst as a young journalist highly, reserving his scorn for cheats and liars of any race.


However, when he went out to South Africa, embittered and confused after the death of his small daughter, he allowed his anger to blind him. He was vicious in his contempt for the Boers and his indifference to the political rights of the black population.


Q:  . What kind of research did you do?


A: It was a blast. Lots of reading around the subject, of course, not just the published stuff, biographies, his letters, his stories and poems but scrabbling about in archives from Sussex to Massachusetts and Vermont. I had to educate myself too about the Anglo-Boer War, which played a crucial role in his life. I enjoyed that a lot, learning so much, though it was painful visiting South Africa’s Anglo-Boer War Museum and seeing the war from their angle. I visited houses the Kiplings had lived in at Southsea, Burwash and Rottingdean. Then there was the travel, for instance to Mumbai where the children’s lives began. In South Africa I followed in Rud’s footsteps, travelling up on the train from Cape Town to Bloemfontein and prowling round the house he lived in near Cape Town and taking notes. In Vermont, where he and his wife Carrie built a house, I slept in his bedroom and soaked in his very own bath! I’ve stayed in the Edinburgh house Trix lived in too.



Q:  You are the author of Incest: a new perspective, what made you interested in writing about the subject?



A: I never set out to write about incest. I was as scared of going near the subject as anyone. But once, in my book about Cleopatra, I’d pointed out a couple of facts that I thought were connected. There wasn’t much distinction between the rights of sons and daughters in Egypt; at the same time brother-sister marriage was not taboo among the general population.


That led to an invitation to write about incest in literature; in the course of writing that essay, I began to be interested in the issues that artists, writers and film-makers—among them Bergman, Toni Morrison, Tennessee Williams— were raising around sexual abuse, trying to pin point or measure damage.


Several years later that led a publisher to invite me to think and write about incest.

He didn’t want me to summarise other people’s ideas but to look at the subject with fresh eyes. So I put the work of artists, the writers and filmmakers, together with the work of therapists, among those Judith Herman. They correlated, confirming each other. That gave me a new take on incest and abuse.


Q:  What did you discover about incest in your research?


A: It’s complicated. Really, you need to read my book.


But here are a few points to ponder:

First, who says incest’s taboo? There’s a lot of incest about, though it’s claimed that civilized society is based on forbidding it. Why don’t we take that into account, start our thinking there? There’s a huge amount of confusion gets in the way of clear thinking about incest.


Perhaps one of the most important discoveries was this: not all acts that are technically incestuous involve the same kind of experience or damage. It doesn’t make sense to lump brother-sister incest of teenagers with an adult’s penetration of a young child, or a mother’s seduction of her son.  The experience and the degree of harm are not the same in each case.


It’s worth observing that in some cases the incestuous relationship may be the only source of warmth and closeness in the victim’s life. How does that complicate our thinking?


You probably know that the incest taboo concerns the relations that you’re not supposed to have sex with/marry. Did you know that varies enormously, even from one US state to another? There is no absolutely invariable veto, especially if you look at history.


I began to suspect that the taboo was connected more generally with separating male and female, keeping them apart and older men in charge, perpetuating a particular structure of society.


Q:   What do you think about the renewed interest in the Woody Allen/ Dylan Farrow case?


A:  For a few years now the subjects of incest and abuse have been coming forward. We’ve learned to listen. And others who had previously been silenced have found the courage to speak. I can well imagine that Dylan Farrow, who has made this claim before and received no satisfaction, was affronted to see the adulation of Woody Allen. I have no idea where the truth lies in this case. But it’s worth noting that top men are often lonely and cut off, not finding room to express simpler more childlike emotional needs except in circumstances where they retain their authority and adult sexuality—for instance with a person who is very much younger, or a child.



Q:  . If you could meet anyone you have written about who would it be? (why)


A: What a lovely question!  Trix wouldn’t be restful, though if I caught her when she was the toast of Simla at twenty, I’d have liked to see her. I think it would have to be Rud, at the time when he was a new father, happily married, building a beautiful house for his family and making any amount of money by his writing. They tapped maple syrup from the trees and had dances in the barn: a regular American idyll.


Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview with Horror Writer Alistair Cross


Q: What inspires you to write?

A: Inspiration usually seems to come from quiet places; while I’m taking care of idle tasks I’m often struck by an idea. When it does come from an outside source, it usually springs from images I see or words I hear. Sometimes, I hear a random bit of conversation in a restaurant or  while watching a movie and it just sparks an idea, but usually, inspiration strikes when I am quiet. 


Q: What is the central theme of Footsteps?


A: Footsteps is a poem I wrote a few years ago. On the surface it’s about the end of a relationship. I often write things this way because I think people can relate to relationship turmoil. It is about an ending, but more specifically, it’s about the end of passion; that moment when you realize something you loved no longer empowers you.


I’ve been writing poetry for many years and on my website,, there’s a page (Cross Talk) that showcases many of them.


Q: Why horror?

A:  Because my characters are courageous to a fault. No matter who I write, they invariably turn down the darkened alleyway or decide to investigate the strange noises coming from the basement.


Q: Who are some of your influences?

A: That’s a very long list. I’m influenced by writers who push the envelope and fully exercise their creative freedom. Ira Levin, Stephen King, Richard Laymon. I think these guys think outside of the box.


Q: What sort of day job do you have and how does it make you angry and bitter enough to write?

A: Writing is my day (and afternoon and evening and night) job. Before this, I did a lot of manufacturing and retail jobs; none of which permanently embittered me. I don’t think anger or bitterness have ever helped me write anything, and I work very hard not to indulge those emotions.


Q: What is your new book about?

A: Grandma’s Rack is a collaborative novel with bestselling horror author – and one of my long-time heroes – Tamara Thorne. It’s a horror story with a humorous edge about a boy named Joey and his grandmother whose hometown has been invaded by a coven of very twisted witches who have a particular interest in Joey. At its base, it’s an account of the ever-raging battle between good and evil.


Q: Why do you think horror is so popular?

A: I think because most people realize that horror is as much a part of the world as love, greed, hate, joy, pain, and anything else. Horror as a genre is an artistic expression of the darkness all around us and within us at any given time. I also believe a lot of people find hope in horror  – not slasher, but horror. I know of no other genre that exemplifies human strength the way horror does. I think it often illustrates the power of good more than a lot of other genres. Horror doesn’t concern itself with the material world. It doesn’t worry about what shoes you should wear or whom you should date. Horror tends to ask – and demand answers to – the harder questions in life. Horror wants to know the meaning of it all.


Q: What makes your blog unique?

A:  I suppose the blend of different topics makes it unique. I have author interviews, poetry, updates on my own writing, and my personal adventures in the writing business.


Q: What is the biggest challenge you have experienced as a writer?

A: Finding the balance between making myself clear and respecting the intelligence of the readers.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Jeremy Lin, The Unauthorized Musical Creators Edelyn Okano and Ana Parsons


Edelyn Okano and Ana Parsons are part of the creative team behind the play Jeremy Lin, The Unauthorized Musical which premiered at the Zephyr Theater in Hollywood. They are currently raising funds for a new production of their show; here is a link to the Indiegogo campaign:


Q:  What is Jeremy Lin, The Unauthorized Musical about?

Edelyn: It is our take on the Jeremy’s journey to NBA stardom.  The backstory of the makings of a champion. 


Ana: It’s all in the title. In 500 words or less: the rise of Asian basketball star Jeremy Lin. A guy who conquered all. His elevation to stardom, and the stuff he had to fight along the way. Stuff  = racism, backlash, many a naysayer.  It’s a show with heart.  It’s about an underdog kicking ass, and never taking no for an answer. 


Q:  What inspired you to create it?

Edelyn: Firstly we wanted to create an original piece of work together.  We respect each other especially as artists and we knew that by fusing our ideas, nuances and humor together we would make something special.  Secondly we wanted to explore and answer the questions: “What/Who was Jeremy before the Linsanity movement?  What is the backstory of this unlikely hero?  We wanted to celebrate someone that was following their passion and inspiring a movement on the world stage and certainly in the Asian American community. 



Ana: Originally Edelyn, Aidan and I came together because we just wanted to create something. We also wanted to give back to the community in some way  – and  what better way to do that but with what we do for a living, act?  We got together, wrote the show, and boom –  it began.  Our first night in LA the proceeds went one hundred percent to Love Never Fails World Charity: helping woman who have been affected by human trafficking. Jeremy Lin the Musical was born.



3. Why Indigogo and not Kickstarter?

Edelyn: Indiegogo lets you keep the money you raise even if you don’t completely reach your goal.  Some budget is better than no budget.


Ana: That said, go to:



Q:  What kind of day jobs have you had and how do they influence your creative work?

Edelyn: I’ve been very lucky to have had day jobs that have been supportive of my acting career.  From being the PR director of the American Institute of Architects NY Chapter to selling high end designer jewelry and random things in between I was always doing something creative.  Writing, designing, consulting, event’s all art.


Ana: In New York I had to wait tables all throughout theatre school, which I obviously hated.  I would work until 2 am in the morning, scramble to wait in line at Actors Equity at 6 am, try and do a coherent do a 2 minute monologue for said theatre on a hundred and 157th street while praying to the union gods I would be blessed with a job and my union card. This just made me want to work harder as an actor. It drove me: I didn’t want to be Flo at 70, schlepping it at Norms pouring coffee to my regulars. No offense, dear Flo.

Thankfully in LA I’ve been able to work part time and full time live, drive, change clothes in my car and be a steadily working actor. “I am a proud member of Actors Equity and SAG-AFTRA”. 

Q:  Why do you think Lin had such a hard time getting into the NBA?

Edelyn: I don’t think getting in was the hard part.  He clearly had the skill but it was getting the playtime and respect he deserved that were the obstacles.  Racial stereotypes are still quite prevalent in our society and with them exists limited beliefs in someone/something and judgment.


Ana: Why do you think it was hard for Eminem? Didn’t everyone see 8 Mile?


Q:  What is the most misunderstood thing about Harvard?

Edelyn: That it doesn’t produce future NBA superstars.  Of course, I had to go there.


Ana: Word.



Q:  What are some challenges you came across in writing the script?

Edelyn: Given that there are three of us writing we had to often find ways to combine and streamline our ideas – especially when it came to differences in our humor.  What one of us thought was funny may not have worked for another.  We love each other though and so a good compromise was usually found. 


Ana: Getting through  writing sessions with Aidan and Edelyn. We would literally be rolling on the floor laughing for HOURS. I am amazed we ever got anything done. Also running into problems and finding solutions in our creative differences.

Aidans is definitely the wild card,  Anas the middleman, and Edelyn the calming voice of reason…… luckily everything always balanced out. 



Q:  What is your strangest show biz story?

Edelyn: Somewhere out there is a tape of me at a dance audition I should NEVER have been at.  Let’s just file it forever under: “New York: The Early Years”.  Haha!



Ana: Not the strangest but one of the funniest as of late. I’ve worked quite a bit with an actor out here named Eric Artell: turn on the TV and you see him in pretty much every commercial. And consequently he looks like the spitting image of Topher Grace (from the 70’s Show)……I’m sure there’s not a day that goes by that he doesn’t get asked “you know you look like-“

I also part time host at a restaurant on Sunset Blvd called Delancy. One night this couple comes in.  I turn to the beautiful blonde:


Ana : “HI, table for two?”


I notice the guy that she came in with.




(I’m practically accosting the guy, hugging him etc.)


Guy: “Um, my name is Topher?”


Awkward pause.


Ana : “Do you get Eric Artell, like, a lot?”



….I don’t think he thought that was very funny. Sorry Toph.


Q:  What would you change about the film industry?

Edelyn: That some of the most talented actors, writers, and directors have projects that never see the light of day or get very limited exposure due to some lack of funding or mass appeal.  I love a great blockbuster as much as the next person but mostly I want to be told a great story.  Great storytellers deserve to be heard.   


Ana: I mean, do we have 5 hours? More woman directors, more working actors of color, more woman writing, less image based media, less nepotism, getting rid of the “name actor” game giving the new guy a chance. More risk taking. More indie films.   Going back to the cinema and the days  of the Group Theatre, Strasberg, Brando, it being about THE WORK and nothing else. See: HBO’s fantastic documentary “Casting By”. If you had 10 more pages for us Eliza, I would take them. I’ll stop here. Edelyn, I concur. 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)


An Interview with Musical Artist Shawn Jermaine


Shawn Jermaine is a singer and songwriter who has released the single Go to Work; here is a link to his Youtube page:




Q:  What made you interested in music?


A: It’s always been a passion of mine. It’s in my DNA. Ever since I was able to talk, I started singing tunes. As I grew up, I was always into all types of music and so fascinated with performing in front of crowds. I just knew it was what I wanted to do in life.


Q:  What inspired you to write Go to Work?


A: My inspiration for Go To Work was really organic. I was going out non stop since I had just moved to SoCal, and when I would go out I always felt as if it was about that time to “Go To Work”, really in my zone and ready to show out. It’s definitely an egotistical track that gives off a feeling that no matter what your doing, swimming, working out, dancing, or even headed to your job, your basically in YOUR ZONE, and it’s time to Go To Work.


Q:  What kind of day job do you have and how does it influence your work?       


A: I’m a freelance make up artist, so my schedules pretty flexible, But it influences my job in many ways. I get to be on different sets for videos/photo shoots, see how behind the scenes stuff works, I can get myself ready for events or whatever I need to look good for, and just being around people who share the same passion of being in the entertainment industry in general.


Q:  Who are some of your influences?


A:  Some of my influences are Prince, Michael Jackson, Grace Jones, Beyoncé, Madonna just to name a few. I’m really influenced by their uniqueness and courageous character, which really makes them stand out , and their legends because their great performers, their actually great at what they do.


Q:  What is your oddest backstage story?


A:  My oddest backstage story would definitely have to be when I was a lead role in a musical play when I was in theatre school, and I was putting on my outfit and there was a rope that was suppose to be tied around this sheet-like attire, and instead of the too short rope, They wrapped a rubber band around me and it snapped as soon as I was about to go on stage, so the whole time I’m thinking, this is going to fall down and I’m going to be so embarrassed.


Q:  What do you like about the music industry?


A:  I like that it’s really up to the audience and the people in the world to decide who it is that they want to like and look up to, or who they want to be influenced by and follow. I also love the fact that you get to express yourself in many different ways. There’s so much talent out there and so many different types of people that make the music industry interesting.


Q:  What would you change about it?


A: I would definitely change the political stand point. or certain blue prints. I feel that when your an artist you should be able to express yourself the way YOU want to express, so I would just say the business aspect of it would be what I would want to change about it.


Q:  What has been your most memorable celebrity encounter thus far?


A:  I was at a friend of mines movie premiere, his name is Shane Bitney Crone, for his documentary Bridegroom, and I was literally standing next to Adam Lambert, conversated for awhile, took pictures, and he was so humble and down to earth, It was a pleasure.


Q:  Do you think your androgynous style will help or hurt you in the long run?


A:  Honestly, I’d be lying if I said I’ve never had thoughts of it hurting my career in the long run, but after a while, I came to grips with myself and embracing individuality and I’m at a point right now where I just don’t care, because it’s a way I express my artistry. On a spiritual note, I know that if somebody doesn’t appreciate it over there in one corner, it’s not meant to be, and I’ll be lead in the direction that it is appreciated. I’d rather be respected for embracing standing out than fitting in.


Q:  What are some of the things you are doing to be heard?


A:   I’m doing a lot of promotion, radio, blogs, social media networking, going to events for press, I’m teaming up with friends of mine who have been involved in major projects and showing my face in some of their stuff here and there and definitely just staying relevant in all good ways that I can; and most importantly continuing to put out music as my following grows daily.




Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)