J.J. Hemmestad is the author of Visions of a Dream; here is a link to her website:
Q: What is Visions of a Dream about?
A: My story begins after Alexander the Great is king and as he takes his army to conquer the Persian King Darius III in Asia Minor in order to liberate the people from his oppressive rule.While there, he begins a spiritual journey that takes him through the universe of his mind, and answers as well as questions are revealed to him through his closest, most intense relationships (one with his closest officer Hephastion, and one with a Persian girl named Baphomet, who is fictional). He was inclusive of all people, and immersed himself in each culture he liberated, dressing like them, worshiping their god in their temples, and allowing them the freedom to retain their beliefs. He believed that each religion ultimately worshiped the same god. The end rift with his Army came when they insisted on spreading the Macedonian/Greek culture and were offended that he adapted to other cultures; and they mutinied.
Q: What made you interested in Alexander the Great?
A: I watched an A&E Biography about Alexander in the 90’s and I found his perseverance and persistence so familiar that I began to research him (especially through Arrian). In one of his battles he was hacked on the head with a cleaver that split his helmet in two, but he persisted.
Q: What made you start writing in the first place?
A: Writing was and is therapy for me. In 1990 (I was 19) my car was hit by a city bus – I sustained a severe brain injury, was in a coma, paralyzed, and the doctors thought that I would never recover. Within months I was walking again though and my husband and I eventually had seven kids (when the doctors told us we wouldn’t be able to). Reading was especially hard for me to learn again. In addition to my injuries I had severe PTSD and writing helped me cope. I used to have several stories going at one time, but my Alexander the Great story was the one I gained the most from. After my TBI I was essentially personality-less and the traits that I admired in someone I found myself adapting, which was the case with Alexander.
Q: What kind of day job or income source do you have and how does it influence your writing?
A: I’m a mother of seven kids, so I had to write through any turmoil and amount of noise. I learned to have intense focus, which was also something that was not supposed to have been possible with my severe brain injury. Sometimes I got up very early in the morning to write, too. Now three of my kids are adults and I only have four at home and I have a good routine I stick with. I’m also on disability due to my brain injury and my husband works full time.
Q: Who are some of your favorite characters from literature?
A: My ultimate favorite characters are Heathcliff and Catherine from Wuthering Heights because they have to fight through so much and though their love gets warped in the end, it extends beyond death. I also love Frankenstein by Mary Shelley because people freak out so much when they see the creature and he’s banished, which is therapeutic to read because I felt very much like that after my accident.
Q: What have you done to promote your book?
A: I’ve hired a publicist, who has gotten many interviews; it’s a new thing for me but I’m very glad I did it. I was interviewed last year by a newspaper for my novella, Truth be Told, and I found that publicity is the most effective tool to gain readers.
Q: What made you chose Turtle Shell Publishing?
A: I spent 20 years writing, but only a few years trying to get published (split into different time periods), and I often felt belittled or taken advantage of by the publishing world. I knew I wanted to have a small publishing home which was run by a woman, which is exactly what I found with Turtle Shell Publishing. I can also talk to her about how exactly I would like my books to appear and my oldest son Bradley Hemmestad has the freedom to create the cover art for my books (Truth be Told was also published through Turtle Shell, formally Faith by Grace Publishing).
Q: What makes your writing style unique?
A: I write what I feel, from my heart, and I write in the sense of the story that I’m telling, so my writing styles shift because I want to be faithful to the characters and the story itself.
Q: What is the oddest piece of advice anyone has given you about writing?
A: No one has ever really given me advice because I’ve been writing on my own, not connected to people who may otherwise advise me. But I’ve taken many writing courses through the Iowa Writer’s Workshop (I’ve earned a BLS from The University of Iowa and am currently working on my Master’s Degree in Literature through Northern Arizona University), and what I’ve learned about writing has been invaluable.
Q: If Alexander The Great could meet Donald Trump, what advice do you think he would give him?
A: Great question! I think Alexander would give the advice that he lived himself, which is that sincere, pure interest in a culture other than your own overcomes any fear of that culture. Also, he would advise Trump to think less about his pride and how favorably he’s seen as a leader and find his center (the source of his inspiration), and let that be his guide. Alexander knew his spiritual core and was willing to learn even greater wisdom than what he thought he had. He was never stagnant in his beliefs, but he was always evolving.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects.