Monday, November 14, 2011

Interview with Author Michael Sortomme

Michael Sortomme
Michael Sortomme is an author, artist and retired teacher of metaphysics, the occult arts and Active Indigenous Shamanism. Educated in anthropology and modern literature, she has journeyed in pursuit of truth that she translates into vivid paintings and equally compelling stories. A Reincarnationist, her prodigious past-life memory has motivated passions in Genetic Genealogy, Herstory and the Levant. The Pacific Northwest is home—the Oregon wine country—her piece of heaven. You may contact her through her main website.

What motivated you to start writing?
Lost in grief, I plunged head-first into poetry, prose and free writing after my baby sister died. The surrender changed me, opened me to words in a new way, using them to vent anger, sort through despair.

What is the primary source of inspiration for you?
My major inspirational subjects are the rise and fall of ancient and current civilizations, reincarnation, creative self-empowerment, the need for social justice, the human genome and evolution in all of its forms.

Do you write when the muse strikes, or do you follow a writing schedule?
When I saw myself as a starving, ill-fated poet, I waited for the Universe to hit me over the head with revelation and inspiration. But lesson plans, lectures and speeches broke me of that habit, to my benefit. It’s all about the schedule now, else I am lured away from the job at hand far too easily.

Please describe your process.
My body learned to listen to the demands of creative process, applying flow and trust to words as well as multi-media art. The process was almost sexual at first; it lured me to be better and bolder, taught me to pay attention. When a subject or happening stimulated my body, my brain learned to ignite and ideas sparked, words flew, paintings were visualized. When I combined the right mix of stimulation and a schedule, magick began to happen. I have always depended on my passion to keep me motivated.
     It’s not mysterious in reality, if a schedule is properly kept, writing at least one “keeper” page per day, a year goes by and you have a book. The challenge is to stay plugged-in and focused, inspired to give it every last drop of energy available. Flexibility helps, regarding what constitutes a full work day—it takes the sting out of a seven day work week. When dealing with a painful or cathartic subject, I give myself permission to stop and regroup whenever the need arises. Sometimes I go back to it, sometimes not. Short but consistent work-blocks keep me from burning out and getting lost in my own dramas. Illustrating my books helps the process stay fresh; no time is ever wasted, including staring out a window. No embarrassment or waste of energy exists; I am free to take mental license in order to expand space and time—my meaning of a bard.
    I live large in my office—the hub of my world—always a legend in the making. I embrace my work as worthy, use expletives at forces that try to lead me astray and, the struggle of all time: I try NOT to be a people-pleaser! My keyboard is well dusted—a tea cup on my right and pens on my left, a line of painted miniature horses and fairies face me—ready for action on my terms.

What have you done to promote yourself as a writer?
Website creation, social networking, befriending other authors wherever and whenever possible, entering awards, whatever I can do without making myself a total pest and an enemy of all. A creative person cannot hide, only if one wants a life as a miserably lonely, forgotten outcast. I don’t dig the whole Sylvia Plath thing; I want my words to heal, inspire, reinvigorate, so I navigate promotional land mines daily.

What's left to do?
So much to do—there’s never enough time! I am frazzled at present, getting two titles to market in a year. After a few months in the studio painting and another month or so working on our enormous family tree, I’ll be ready to hit the keyboard with a non-fiction occult overview for 2013. You never know until the very moment you sit down to write what’s going to come out—if you are not paid up front, that is. What needs and wants to be written will, as obtuse as that sounds. Another mystery featuring Emancipation’s hero, Sophie St. Cloud, might surface at any time though; the world needs more bad-ass women, in my worldview.

When did you discover your unique voice? How long did the process take?
Language was second nature for me, reading, writing and speaking before I could understand the meaning of the word vocabulary. My parents were artists and my mother had been, for periods of time, a serious poet. Paper and pencils, drawing boards and rulers found me, props for classes taught to invisible audiences. My head thought out-of-the-box from the beginning.
    Outer-world success frightened me; several career choices further confused my way. People, including professors, complained my writing was embarrassingly autobiographical, they doubted anyone would ever relate. Withering for a time after college, I abandoned written words for a spiritual career. Several decades later, as a teacher too busy to keep up with her own concepts, I was forced to return to writing, producing several volumes of guidebooks for in-house use. Since retiring from private practice and teaching, I have rediscovered my passion for words. Putting other people’s work aside allowed me to confront my demons head-on, make priorities and follow through with rough choices, by and for myself, my sanity and success. That’s when I became a real writer.

The Emancipation
of Giles Corey
What do you consider your greatest achievement as a writer?
Thus far, The Emancipation of Giles Corey, my first historical novel, is my crown. It won the Indie Excellence Award for Best Historical Fiction of 2011, Honourable Mention for the Hoffer Award and finalist for the Montaigne Medal.

What's the most recent book you read?
Fires in the Dark by Louise Doughty

Who are the writers you admire most?
The trailblazing women that have moulded literature in all forms and genres in the last century are my heroes; my limited list would never do them justice. Fiction, spirituality, feminist culture, social action, anthropology and the natural sciences, fine art or good read—all important, all valuable, all changing and fine-tuning the art as we know it.

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Meade
Ruth Benedict
Patricia Monaghan
Geraldine Brooks
Alice Munro
Rita Mae Brown
Anne Rice
Zusanna Budapest
Dalia Sofer
Tatiana de Rosnay
Anita Diamant
Gertrude Stein
Louise Erdrich
Gloria Steinem
Alice Hoffman
Kathryn Stockett
Marija Gimbutus
Susan Vreeland
Erica Jong
Alice Walker
Stephanie Kallos
Barbara G. Walker
Sue Monk Kid
Sarah Waters
Shirley Maclaine

What's your best piece of advice for novice writers?
1.    Be authentic. Write what you know to be true and what you feel is right. It makes no difference whether you write fiction or non, write from a place of experience.
2.    Risk disapproval. Regardless of how talented you are, not everybody will embrace the work you produce. Accept that fact and let it set you free. Write what you need to communicate, what you are driven to expose. Those who are inspired by your concepts will find you.
3.    Don’t be shy! Artists of all disciplines must believe in the work that is being created to have a successful outcome. It takes a strong ego to propel one into the spotlight; even a pale glimmer needs work and follow through to interest an audience. However, building one’s ego up enough to put a work of art on the chopping block of public opinion can lead to extremes: arrogance and its complement, low self-esteem. Temper your methods to avoid overt aggressiveness, but be strong enough to make a positive impression.
4.    Have a day job. Admit it, being an accepted published author takes time, energy, determination, luck, money, connections, Karma, and most probably, lots of gifts of expensive dark chocolate sprinkled throughout the publishing world on a regular basis. Not everybody has the magickal combination to get noticed, but everybody needs to pay the rent. Be smart, get a job and pay your bills, including college loans. Eating, drinking, having proper supplies and a working lamp are necessary ingredients for this work; wrap your head around the concept early, it will make your life more productive and a hell of a lot more secure. Poverty is over rated!

Is there anything else you'd like to add?
I would like to thank Betty Dobson for the opportunity to share my thoughts, hopes and experiences with her blog audience. Her invitation to appear in written form for InkSpotter Publishing was generous and the support for my work is greatly appreciated.
     The new world of publishing appears, to the untrained eye, open, accessible, affordable—yours for the taking. For those of us in the publishing trenches, the pitfalls of today’s industry are apparent and it’s tough out there for everybody—maybe not for Stephen King, but he’s a rare success story. No matter how stubborn, jaded, irritatingly isolationist and grizzled a creative person may be, to be truly successful one must reach out and be accepted on some level by others. Understanding, support and greater-world encouragement for the creative process must be had for the artistic temperament to produce consistently. Without it, it is far too emotionally paralyzing to be chronically misunderstood and rejected. An artist needs an audience, one that is hopeful.
    The world is ripe for talent, new and old—there's room for all genres and personalities as long as quality rules. We need a talent driven market instead of a celebrity showcase. The hard part is convincing large publishing houses, distributors and the people who still buy books that the world is much richer with diversity and subsequent choice. Large conglomerates are dictating intellectual future in streamlined catalogues. Have creative people devoted their lives for naught, unique ideas replaced by episodic reruns? It is my hope that independent thinkers and the small presses that print their work will flourish like never before because of the support of people unafraid to use their voices. Let us keep a growing library of ideas in circulation, not settle for a top five hundred playlist of someone else's choosing.

Welcome 2012—let the drama continue—write on,
my companeros!