Sidd Burth was born and brought up in Assam. He obtained a degree in Economics from Guwahati University. Later, he pursued management studies at The Indian Institute of Management in Calcutta. He runs a business consulting company which helps enterprises  become sustainable organizations. Sidd spent his adventurous teenage years in the scenic lower Himalayas, before moving on and living in multiple cities around the world. During his college years, he worked as a cab driver,  a salesman, and shortly afterward,  he joined the corporate world. Sidd has traveled extensively "on the road" to discover the beauty and soul of his country, India. His curiosity has led him to experience events and people in neighboring countries as well. He set out to write his first novel in 2007, which will come out soon. In between, he started and finished THE POISON EARRINGS, a riveting novel about life and love with the world as a backdrop.


Shelby:  You have written a compelling book, The Poison Earrings,  a thriller of sorts that touches on many facets of life in India. When did you realize you were a writer?

Sidd: I got interested in reading very early in life because my parents brought me storybooks when I was still learning the alphabets of my native language, as well as the English language. When I read them I adored them. And eventually, by the time I was fifteen or sixteen years old,  I wrote my first short story. I wrote it in on an exam, and afterward I got impressive marks on my English language paper. The story was about a bank robbery. The outline of the story was given to me on the question paper, and I had to to expand it into a more interesting version. This was when I first realized I would be able to write long stories too.

Shelby: Your book is exciting. Because you are a natural storyteller, it twists and turns in surprising ways. How long did it take you to write The Poison Earrings? What was the hardest part of writing it? And the easiest? Do you have advice for writers who want to complete their first book?

Sidd: It took four years to finish The Poison Earrings. The romantic chapters set in France were the hardest to write. The easiest part to write was about the childhoods of the characters. It was the same childhood I had lived myself, in a liberal, close-knit neighborhood of Assam before the revolution started.

My advice to first time writers: I would like to tell every one of them to believe in their literary capability, and keep writing and editing their work with undiminished determination and energy, until they are pleased with their prose.

Shelby: Is any part of your book based on true life or is it all fiction?

Sidd: I think most writers write from their experiences with people they know closely. Writers capture the beauties and errors of human civilization and present them in fictional form, hopefully with soulful mystery and charm added.

Shelby: Your book is unique because it touches on so many aspects of India while it maintains a suspenseful story-line. Was this hard to pull off for you?

Sidd: The idea of The Poison Earrings took hold of me and I sank deep into my craft. I spent days and nights trying to finish it in an interesting way. I think most writers go through a struggle between idealism and imagination, versus human nature and reality, and I was no exception.

Shelby: Your book combines several genres: psychological thriller, adventure, and romance. Do you think it is okay to stretch over genres? Why or why not?

Sidd: Well, this has been long debate. Literary fiction, which in itself is considered a genre, transcends many other genres for the simple reason that a human being’s real life transcends more than one genre. Literary fiction is a reflection of real life, and therefore I think it's a natural thing that a good novel would invariably stretch over several genres, or would combine various genres in a unique way, certainly a rare thing. Sometimes a literary work might become sui generis—it would not fit into a particular genre because the piece of work cannot be identified with other genres.

Shelby: What message is most important to you in this book?

Sidd: This is a very interesting question and an important one, too. I would like to see what a reader takes away from the story. The Poison Earrings is a layered narrative—multiple layers of information for people with different interests: for a student of economics, to a historian, from someone interested in psychology, to someone researching immigration, a student of history, to a student of English literature—different readers would find my book interesting in different ways. At another level, it’s a story about two large democracies of the world—one shown through a close-up shot and the other through a bird’s eye view

Shelby: Your romantic escapades in your book were poetic at times. At other times, funny, entertaining, and surprising in your approach. Do you think men are as romantic as women? Do you think adding romance in a book makes it more interesting?

Sidd: Love has always been one of the most difficult emotions to portray in literature. But a love story helps readers grasp the intimate connection between life and romance—passionate romantic instincts and literary sensuality. True romance enhances the pleasure of reading fiction. Being romantic can be a man’s best kept secret of appeal for women. I believe it definitely exists in reality.

 Shelby: You brought up women a lot in your book and you describe them as becoming independent through education.  Is this the case in India?

Sidd: I have seen firsthand quite a few women from my family and friends who bravely beat the odds. They fought archaic rules and broke through patriarchal barriers to became independent and successful professionals.  This has been the phenomenon in the past four to five decades, an accelerated movement since the Indian economy was liberalized (its borders were opened up to foreign companies) in the early 1990s. An overwhelming number of women are now joining the professional and political spheres.

Shelby: What are their rights like in India?

Sidd: The women’s rights movement has gained momentum in the past decade. More and more women are becoming employed, urbanized, and independent. They have learned to assert their rights, make decisions conducive to living happier lives. free from the burdens of patriarchy and conservatism. Recently, there has been a movement against sexual harassment, too.

Shelby: Are there still arranged marriages?

Sidd: This is a very pertinent question. Yes, the semi-urban and rural scenes are still held in the clutch of feudal patriarchy where arranged marriages remain a strict social norm. “Honor killings” of daughters and sisters are frequently reported from orthodox pockets. An “Honor killing” is a gruesome practice where the male members of a family kill a young woman if she chooses her life partner on her own and the man is from a different caste or from the same clan (blood relation). On the other hand, quite interestingly, for many people, arranged marriage is considered an acceptable institution. Some call it “arranged-cum-love marriage," and in certain cases, there are “love-cum-arranged marriages.” In the traditional marriage, parents and elders finalize the marriage between a man and a woman and then love grows between them. In the latter case, the pair in love informs their parents about their affair, and after a parent-level meeting, they are good to go and get married socially.  

Shelby: There are several types of women in your book. From the beautifully traditional, but slightly muted woman, to the spoiled princess who breaks hearts, to the modern intellectual woman who concentrates on her career, to the woman who gets lost along the way by making costly choices. Which of these is your favorite type of woman in real life?

Sidd: This is indeed a very interesting question. I have never thought about it in such a way. As far the women characters are concerned, I like each of them quite dearly. I have never imagined them in real life, or perhaps have never suffered from the dichotomy between their fictional existence and real existence in my life. As the author, or more aptly, as the creator of these characters, for me they are strangely real. I feel their presence in every moment of my life.

Shelby: Your book is fascinating. Your main character travels across the globe after he starts out with an idyllic life in a small village in India. Did you travel to all those places?  Which country did you find the most fascinating culturally? Why?

Sidd: I have had the opportunity to travel to quite a few countries for two reasons: one, for work and the other, for research to write my novels. On my fact-finding missions in the guise of a traveler or writer or researcher or professional, or simply as a tourist, I met incredible people. I absolutely loved them. It has been an exciting journey because I love everything about discovering other countries—whether it was in an Afghan village or in the vast and beautiful America, whether in an Irish fishing village or in a French hamlet by the coast of the Atlantic, whether in a tiny island of a river in India or in the green mountains of Malaysia, whether in rural Pakistan or in scenic Sri Lanka, or serene Burma (Myanmar) or a desert village near Abu Dhabi, the people, their food, their music, their dance forms—I was mesmerized. Every person I have met; every culture I have come to know, each is unique in their own right. The world is a beautiful place.

Shelby: Your book shows the major influence of English culture on India. Does this influence still exist today? If so, how does it affect India?

Sidd: The British contributed a few things, and chief among them are the civil services, the university system, the defense forces, the railways, the postal system and the rule of law. The influence of the English language and English literature are quite visible in India. It has brought remarkable prosperity. It has substantially contributed to connecting us with other modern civilizations of the world.

Shelby: You mention in your book that India was once a great empire. How far did it span and what countries did it rule?

Sidd: The Indus Valley Civilization (2500 BC to 1800 BC) had the first known form of municipal government with urban planning, efficient water supply and sewerage systems. Then for 1700 years since 1 AD, India accounted for 40% of world GDP. The Mauryan Empire (322 BC to 187 BC) comprised today’s Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and parts of Iran.
Shelby: What was the effect of this great empire on India’s culture?
Sidd: There have been significant contributions by ancient India. One, for example, is the contribution to the decimal numeral system that included the concept of Zero—Sunya, and “zeroness” meaning Sunyata, translated as emptiness or void or a meditative state, a state of complete silence. It does not refer to nothingness. It refers to the non-self. It means all things are empty of intrinsic existence. The awareness of Sunyata is important to understand, say, in the context of life without love. Life without love is zero. Or, in the context of global politics, the pointlessness or hollowness of wars; Sunyata today has more than a hundred interpretations including that found in Buddhist philosophy. As a result of this notion, resilience, tolerance, inclusiveness and most importantly the idea of Ahimsa— Nonviolence (“A” meaning non; “himsa” meaning violence), Sunyata of violence or absence of violence—the idea that people and all life forms matter the most. These ideas were cornerstones of the ancient civilization.
During the period 207 BCE to 220 CE, there were trade routes from Europe and Central Asia through high altitude passes in the western Himalayas, through the plains of India and up to today’s Thailand. This was the Silk Road and it was the first trade route to join the East with the West. Ideas, technologies, spices, silk, friendship and spirituality traveled in long caravans of camels and other beasts along the silk route and its arteries to the remote regions of Asia. This period gives us an account of an India that flourished through endurance and composure against multiple foreign invasions, and the land continued to create fascinating history.
The period from 320 AD to 550 AD was the Golden Age of India. Ruled by Chandragupta Maurya and his descendents, it was called the Gupta Empire. This period marked great contributions in the fields of mathematics, astronomy, fine arts, literature and philosophy. It was a judiciously imaginative and psychologically astute Empire that encouraged creativity and invention for humanity’s good.
When I studied Indian history I realized that the Golden Age of Indian history has been under-celebrated. As a result, new generation of people have very poor knowledge about the intellectual and spiritual heritage from this time period.

Shelby: Your main character moves away from life in a small village to eventually becoming a global person. Do you think this is becoming commonplace? Will the younger generation become world travelers?

Sidd: U.S.A. and Europe have given platforms to Indian men and women to become global success stories. A small town girl from India who could not have become a space scientist has become one in America. Silicon Valley has a substantial number of Indians living as successful entrepreneurs. An Indian woman heads a global beverage giant based out of Harrison, New York. There are more than a hundred such examples. Of late, financially independent women have stated to travel across borders to learn about new cultures and taste new foods. Indians, although a minuscule percentage of the total world population, have started to explore newer geographies in the past few years.

Shelby: Why do you think so many people are drawn to India? What do they come away with?

Sidd: India is a beautiful example of diversity, the genius of a civilization, solid without heaviness and noisy without violence; young people laughing with enjoyment and a desire for flight to the unknown. Parts of rural India are a pleasure for the eyes and the ears of someone visiting, even for the tenth time. In small towns, with lives more in the streets than at home, life is always a celebration. People with their secret obsessions, weird fantasies, and their noisy political debates; the street foods, fine cuisines, fascinating characters with strange behaviors, sometimes funny and at other times murky⸺takes you back five hundred years into the history of central Asia’s wisdom. Small towns tucked away behind mountains still serve as seats of artistic and intellectual conversations—it’s an eternal and delightful experience for someone unfamiliar with the harmonious co-existence of beauty and ugliness. With strange rituals, stunning temple architectures, splendid churches, beautiful synagogues, magnificent mosques, artistic pagodas, ascetics, saints, magicians, fakirs, music, dance, weddings, tantra, mantra, tribal art, women with dark and shining eyes and men with buffalo-horn whiskers; no doubt, India is a mysteriously inviting land.

Shelby: When you travel, what is it that you miss most about India? What does India have that is special?

Sidd: I miss the scenic and tranquil Himalayan foothills. If I travel for too long outside India, I miss the food, too.

Shelby: You mention the Himalayas a lot in your book. What is your connection to the mountains? What are the Himalyans like?

Sidd: You will be instantly captivated by the Himalayan experience. I love the ice-capped mountain range from the sky. I feel gratitude for its foothills full of streams, meadows, rivers, virgin forests, oceans of tall grass, vast rice fields, green hills and charming wildlife. The Himalayas nurtured me and my thoughts, and they have made me what I am today.

Shelby: Now that you have written a fantastic book, what are you doing to get it marketed?

Sidd: Well, I have not done much to market it, because I have been busy adding the final touches to my next book, alongside my busy schedule earning a livelihood.

Shelby: Have you approached any publishers?

Sidd: I approached a couple of publishers in India who requested me to take out three things from The Poison Earrings and I politely declined to do so, for the simple reason that without those three parts, the artistic beauty of the story would be compromised.

Shelby: Is it hard for you to bring your book into the world?

Sidd: Yes, it is hard in today’s world when the publishing industry is going through rough weather. But a brave new publisher took it upon herself to publish it. And I have a couple of friends who have an innate appreciation for the beauty of my original work, and they are helping me to market the book through social media.

Shelby: What have people's responses to your book been?

Sidd: It has been remarkable to see how people have responded. Most readers have liked The Poison Earrings. I am deeply happy and humbled by words of praise by readers. Other people have expressed disappointment for representing Indian culture in a poor light. An NGO even filed a lawsuit against the novel. But we hope to win it soon.

Shelby: What is the next step for your book? Have you sent it out to publishers or looked for an agent?

Sidd. I have not yet looked for an agent or publisher outside of India. But I would love to explore the American and European readerships.

Shelby: Are you writing another book? What will it be about?

Sidd: Yes, I am working on my first novel which I sat down to write in 2007. I have not been able to finish it yet. It delves deep into the root causes of terrorism. It examines how peaceful societies are gradually transformed into war zones. It will give you a glimpse of 1970’s London, post 9/11 Detroit and Mojave, and Malaysia, Afghanistan and Pakistan constituting the story’s most vibrant chapters. It brings an interesting cast of characters from different races. There are three love stories, with twists and turns, based on lives and events of real people.

Shelby: The Poison Earrings entertains with a light, carefree, romantic character but at times it turns frightening. Did you create this contrast to keep readers enthralled? How did you pull off such an exciting contrast?  What were you trying to convey?

Sidd:  After completing the first draft, I felt like there were too many frightening events in the story. To reduce the negativity, I had to work hard to add laughter and pleasant surprises to create a more riveting, but enjoyable, contrast.

Shelby: What author has influenced you the most? Why?

It would be a long list of names. My early influence was from Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. And then from Ernest Hemingway, Toni Morrison, D. H. Lawrence, Leo Tolstoy, Doris Lessing and Virgina Woolf, to name but a few.

Shelby: Please share a link to your book and to your social media sites.

Shelby:  Finally, please share an excerpt from your book to give a sample of your incredible creativity in The Poison Earrings. Thank you for this great interview, Sidd.

Book Excerpt:

It was a terrible summer with temperatures reaching forty-eight degrees centigrade. One day, I delivered cash to a few clients throughout the morning, and by noon, I reached a farmhouse with a line of expensive cars and sports vehicles. Just as I arrived with the cash in my bag, a menacing greyhound dog appeared from nowhere and rushed towards me, barking wildly. Crazed by the heat of summer and by my thirst and hunger, I overcame my fear with rage, as I surged forward with my crash helmet and thrust it over the dog’s head. The frightened creature swiftly turned around and hit its sealed head on the concrete footpath with its muffled barking. Then I noticed something horrendously frightening. An intimidating figure, about six and a half feet in height, appeared from a side house near the swimming pool. He aimed a rifle toward me. I swiftly ran across the gate and hopped onto my motorbike. I dashed off.

The next day, when I came to work, my boss summoned me into his office and informed me that a police complaint was lodged against the registration number of my motorbike. In fact, several complaints were lodged against me by the owner of the greyhound dog and the owners of the expensive cars, the sports vehicles, and by the huge man who branded a gun.

When I reached the station, the police detained me for eight hours until the greyhound’s owner arrived in an S class Mercedes Benz. He accused me of unlawful intrusion onto his farm with a clear motive to kill his hired man and dog. When I protested and accused him of falsely implicating me of a crime I never committed, the policeman beat me on my back with his baton. I screamed in pain while the greyhound’s owner laughed as his fat belly rose in and out. My screams gave him pleasure. “Saale behenchod, en paharion ke waje se hamara Dilli barbaaad ho gaya hein!” he spat in Hindi with a sour grin. What he said was: “Because of these hilly sister-fuckers, our dear New Delhi is getting destroyed.”

Sergio Tinoco,

Author of: A Proud American,
Migrant, Soldier, Agent

Sergio Tinoco, Author

Sergio, you have written a book with raw intensity and honesty. You don’t hold back from telling what it was like to be a migrant worker at a young age, and what you had to go through to break out of your family’s circumstances. Let’s talk about what your earlier life was like. You started out working in the fields as an immigrant. Do you remember what it was like on your first day at work? How old were you? Also, what is the worst day working in the fields you remember?

My first time in the fields was in the summer of 1981, I was seven years old. I do remember the first couple of days in the fields. I wasn’t expected to do much because it was my first time and I was so young. My grandmother was trying to teach me how to pick cucumbers. It is actually a time that I’m fond of because I can still remember my grandmother's kindness as she taught me how to work.

The worst day in the fields for me probably took place two years after that when I was already expected to do the workload of an adult. I remember the first time I was told that I had to complete six rows of cucumbers every day. Each row was at least half a mile in length. I was so young and in no way capable of keeping up with the adults or older kids. It was then that I truly realised that my childhood was not like other kids'. It was a sad day for me.

You seemed to have two sets of lives. You had a family in Mexico. What were they like and how did you feel when you were in Mexico?

Family life was great in Mexico. We were a very poor family and the location where my mother lived in Mexico reflected that. But there weren’t any reminders around me of things I didn’t have. It was a time of innocence. Imagine visiting loved ones every week and being able to bring them vegetables and fruits that they otherwise, had a tough time purchasing. Yes, I had to work in order to pick those fruits and vegetables and take them over to my mother and other relatives, but it was always nice to be well received because of something so basic and simple.Life in Mexico didn’t get tough until other kids began bullying me because I was “too American” or “not Mexican enough.” Sadly, those kids didn’t know that I was actually having to work for a living and that I wasn’t living a life of luxury simply for being in the United States. Those things didn’t seem to matter, though. I had left Mexico in order to obtain an American education. The sacrifice of not being with my mother, and the tough work I had to endure in order to have food on the table, was not known by anyone who wasn’t family.

Can you describe your relationship with your mother and how it felt to be away from her?

My relationship with my mother is something that was constantly changing. Like any kid, I missed my mother a lot the first couple of years after I left her to live with my grandparents. At first, I didn’t understand their reasons for making the decision about separating me from my mother; taking a child from a mother is tough on everyone involved.

I think it’s safe to say that my mother and I both got used to the separation and were content with the weekends and holiday visits. Unfortunately, this led to other issues as well. As I got older, I became accustomed to asking my grandparents for permission if I wanted to do anything. My mother didn’t like it when she visited me, and I asked grandmother for permission instead of my mother. As a parent myself, I now understand why this bothered her, but it was the situation we were in, and nothing more.

Your other life was travelling with your grandparents as immigrants in America and living in small quarters. Will you compare that to your life in Mexico?

In Mexico and Texas, I was surrounded by people of the same financial standing as my family. We were all poor. The house I grew up in was not much bigger than my two-car garage now. Since we were just like everyone else around us, life was good, Nobody was looking at us in a bad way, as though we didn’t belong.

Life in Michigan and Ohio was completely different. It was there that I was constantly reminded of our economic status and of everything that we didn’t have or couldn’t do. We didn’t have money to go to the zoo, drive to the beach, have cable television, attend a show or a movie, not even enough for eating out at a fancy restaurant like McDonald's or Burger King. We had to use school migrant programs to have decent clothes and shoes. This, of course, was widely known by all the other kids who didn’t have to endure such a low-income lifestyle.

It was when I went to school in Michigan and Ohio, that everyone around me treated me as though I did not belong. Fortunately for me, that experience made me the rebellious person I needed to be in order to break my family cycle of working as crop pickers. Being in those painful situations helped me dream of a greater life and became my energy and sole purpose of achieving something more.

What did you love most about your grandfather? What did he give you that became part of you?

My grandfather was a complicated person. He was an introvert and wouldn’t share his life stories with any of us until we were adults. He instilled a powerful work ethic in me that has helped me immensely. He also gave me a sense of pride once he finally opened up to me and shared his life’s struggles with me. As much as he challenged me, and as much of an obstacle as he was throughout my life, he was my first mentor. He wasn’t the kindest of people, and he had a twisted way of showing his love for us, but he was a mentor nonetheless.

My grandfather was not the disciplinarian in the family; my grandmother was. When it came to working hard, showing respect, and owning up to my responsibilities, my grandfather was the person I had to deal with. He never accepted excuses for any of these matters. Either I was “all in” or I was going to pay the price.

Because he was not the disciplinarian, I actually spent more time with him than with my mother or grandmother. Did he spank me? Of course, but it wasn’t often, and it was never that bad. However, he didn't show affection in typical ways. The dog story in my book is an example of that. My reason for adding the story is to show how parents can sometimes lose sight of what their actions cause, even when they're trying to do something good for their kids. It’s a rough story and it was a horrible ordeal. I didn’t have another pet for thirty years. After that dog, I didn’t have another one until I was 36 years old, and it wasn’t a pet really; it was a working dog. I did lose a lot with that dog ordeal. I deprived my own kids of having pets because of it. Now we have two dogs and a whole bunch of chickens. 

As you became a man, you went through more terrible things. You described some horrifying atrocities in your book about war. What has being witness to war done to you? Do you have any advice for other veterans?

My experiences in Bosnia shocked me. My experiences also made me the leader I am today. Having to make decisions is tough sometimes. Having to make split second decisions inside a volatile situation is damn near unimaginable until you’re actually doing it. Those experiences, along with most of my military career, closed me off from people. There was a time when I again felt “out of place,” or as though I couldn’t hold a conversation with anyone who wasn’t a military veteran. It’s been a tough road, but I am slowly getting past all this.

Do you have advice for other war veterans?

Yes, find an outlet that will lead to talking about war experiences more freely. It has taken eighteen years for me to discuss the stuff in my book, and I find that I’m able to talk about it more now than I could in the past. It’s still tough and troublesome for me because it is emotional stuff, but I am getting better at it.

What made you decide to write this book?

My mother passed away in the summer of 2015. After her passing, I fell into a depression because I felt truly alone in the world. Being the only child of a single parent can do that to a person. I had my wife and kids with me but I still felt utterly alone, and I couldn’t shake it off.

My wife kept pushing me to discuss my thoughts and feelings, but I could not muster up the strength. I didn’t know how to discuss what I was experiencing. My wife suggested that I write my feelings down. For years, my wife has been telling me that she believes I’m a good writer. For years, I’ve been ignoring her compliments.

One night after dinner, she brought a letter to me. She handed me a piece of paper and asked me to open it. When I did, I saw that it was a letter I had written to her eight years ago. Eight years ago was when my wife and I first started dating, and one night she asked me over the phone, why I had joined the Army. I wrote her a letter and poured everything out on paper. It opened up the floodgates for me. That letter is now the first chapter of my book.

What is the main message you want to give your readers?

The book has several messages. One of my messages is my belief that even though we come from different places, we all strive for basically the same things. That's important to remember when we come into contact with people from different backgrounds.
Here's another message: It’s great to dream, but attach goals to those dreams. Without goals, we are just dreamers with no destination in sight. Once those goals are developed, NEVER GIVE UP!

Figure out how to respect where you came from. It might not be the best of settings, or it may be the best of settings, but it's the place where you began to develop into the person you are today.Here's a quote I wrote: "The greatness of our destination is lost without the memory of our beginning."

Sergio, your book is unforgettable for readers. Your writing, because of its gripping honesty, touches the hearts of readers. Did writing this book bring up unexpected emotions and forgotten memories for you? If so, what were they?

Writing the book brought up unexpected emotional moments from forgotten memories. My experiences in Bosnia were very tough to deal with because I hadn’t truly expressed my feelings on the matter for such a long time.

The time I was being bullied and my mother forced me to defend myself was another bad memory. Not gaining “support or comfort” from your mother when you need it the most can be tough.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

 The realisation that my mother passed away, not knowing half of the stuff that’s in my book. I hardly ever shared any of my Bosnia experiences with her. I tried to keep as much bad stuff from her as possible. I never wanted her to lose sight of the little superman that jumped off her ledge at home. I wanted her memory of my innocence to always be with her.

What was the best part?

I think the best part of writing my book is taking place now. I enjoy seeing how so many people are relating to it and are being affected by it. The book has been out four months and has already garnered me motivational speaking contracts, because of the inspirational and motivational message behind it. This, of course, helps me discuss my experiences more and assists with my own therapy.

What have you done to promote your book and how have you been received by readers?

I’ve been doing radio promotions, television interviews, podcast interviews, and various multimedia promotions. I’ve also submitted the book to various competitions and blogs. Readers have been very receptive towards my book. I’m loving the fact that so many different people can relate to it. There is a story for everyone inside this book.

If you have any wisdom for other writers, what would it be?

Don’t allow your fears to hold you back. Let it all out. You never know what might actually come out in your writing.

Would you give us a writing excerpt from A PROUD AMERICAN?


At age seven, I knew very little English and not nearly enough to interpret what was being said on the news. Yet, I was expected to interpret everything as though I were an English professor. So I did what any other kid my age and in my position would do in order to survive this ordeal, I would watch the television screen and come up with my own stories to tell my grandfather. The stories would of course depend entirely on the images on the screen. With the regular news, this tactic actually worked and kept me out of trouble. 

The weather was a different story though. I was too young to understand the importance of the weather, but I learned its significance very quick. The weather is an important factor for migrant workers trying to make a living. How was I supposed to know this at such a young age? 

Well, it only took a few wrong guesses about the weather for me to realize its importance. At least the importance of me surviving the following day without a scolding or spanking with a thick leather belt. 

I now believe my grandfather knew I was just making up stories when it came to the regular news. How else could one explain how a seven-year-old could interpret the fast paced material with such ease when he was barely learning English? 

It was all a test of sorts to see if I would catch on to the importance of actually paying attention and learning in school. 

I still remember how my grandfather would re-position himself on his chair just before the weather segment would begin. I’m quite certain that he could decipher the weather images far better than I could and yet I was held responsible for the correct interpretation. 

Will you let readers know how they can find your book and how to make contact with you? 

My book can be found at, (Barnes & Noble), and
People in the United Kingdom and Canada are able to purchase the book through their respective as well. 

Readers can contact me via my webpage : (there are various blogs in there as well and some additional images).Or direct email at

Instagram: @tinoco_proudamerican

Twitter: @VeteranTinoco

Facebook: @proudamericanjourney

Sergio, thank you for your willingness to participate in this interview today. You are a writer who will persist in the world of great literature. It is an honour to be part of your writing journey, and I wish you luck with more writing success down the road.


Author of FUKUSHIMA and the coming TOKYO EARTHQUAKE

Tony Smyth is an ex-pat from Ireland who has lived in Japan for almost forty years. He lives in a city that is facing a coming earthquake that could  be devastating. Tony talks about why he stays, what the Japanese culture is like for him, and what he believes citizens of the world are urgently in need of. Tony is a writer who does thorough research and presents his findings in an easy-to-understand manner. His book is an amazing read!

Tony Smyth, Author

What brought you to Japan?  How many years have you lived there?

 I went to art college in England and became interested in Japanese art. I came here originally to see Kyoto and thought I was coming for three weeks. That was 39 years ago!

What is it about the culture that compels you to stay?  How are you treated as a foreigner?

 I've lived in Tokyo since I came here. I met my wife a few months after I came here. Tokyo is a very exciting city although these days I'm a bit blasé about it. It's a wealthy city and you can make a good living here. I just liked Japan much better than England and there was no reason to go back.

As a foreigner I'm usually treated well. There are occasionally cases of subtle discrimination but it's mostly bearable. Of course it's easier if you know the culture and can speak the language and know the ins and outs of the society.

What are the best parts of the Japanese culture? The worst?

 Well, the answer to this depends on the person. I like the traditional culture a lot so Kyoto is probably my favourite place. However I live in Tokyo because the better jobs are here. I've been teaching English since I came here, and am also a wedding celebrant on weekends – this is in Japanese – and also occasionally I do hypnotherapy and NLP, but only in English so this isn't very frequent.

Best aspects of Japanese culture are how safe and really organised it is. It's also a very high-tech country. While being very Westernised on the surface it has also retained its own culture very well – for example today is New Year's Day which is the biggest holiday of the year in Japan. It's very much a family occasion and there are special foods served called Osechi. In the first three days of the year people go to a temple to pray for good fortune for the New Year.

Worst aspects of Japanese culture? Well, you are never fully accepted here no matter how long you've been here and also it can be a very rigid society. However, on the whole, its pretty good.

You mention some of this in your book; however on a more personal level, have you been able to make friends and fit in? Are there opportunities there for you? Are there a lot of foreigners and a large multi-racial stratum there?

 Sure I have friends here, many of them I've known for a long time. The foreign men I know are almost all married to Japanese women. Women friends tend to be Japanese.  Although there are quite a few foreigners in Tokyo I think the majority of them are Asians. The Westerners here in general either work for multinational companies or are English teachers. I wouldn't say there's a large multiracial strata.

          Japan has been through a lot of natural disasters. Do you find the people are resilient due to their experiences with the upheavals of nature?

 Yeah, Japan is the most seismically active country in the world and about 11% of seismic activity happens under or near Japan. Also it gets visited by typhoons in the summer and autumn, plus of course sometimes we get tsunamis. Japanese people do their best to adapt to this – Japan is the most advanced country in terms of earthquake protection for buildings and it also has a string of warning systems along its coasts to let people know a tsunami is coming. So yes, the Japanese are resilient.

How do the Japanese people feel about living on the ring of fire with shifting plates under them?

 They just have to accept it. It's just a fact of life here.

Your book is a well-researched study into the scientific effects of climate change? What is your scientific background? How did you become interested in climate change?

 Thank you. Actually I started writing in 1998 and for four years wrote a book called  ‘Bubble to Quake’ which was about the period from the ‘bubble economy’ in the 80s up to an earthquake which sometime would hit Tokyo. I couldn't get it published then but a few parts of that book are contained within ‘Fukushima and the coming Tokyo earthquake’, specifically Chapters One and Two, and also the description of Tokyo come from the earlier book.

After the earthquake happened I decided to write a book. At first I was going to use parts of the old book but in the end, as I did research, it changed a lot. So I had to find out how Japan had gone from a country that was bombed by atomic bombs to one that got the third of its power from nuclear energy. And I had to learn how nuclear reactors worked, and the effects of radiation on human health. So that was quite a bit of reading involved there. I don't have a scientific background at all. When I was in college I studied art – I was a painter. That was where I got my interest in Japanese culture. However I've always been a reader and I especially like reading non-fiction, and also any country I visit I try find out about its history and culture.

Regarding climate change I think it's a really important topic and is something that should be given very high priority.

What do you think people around the world must do immediately to stop the rising temperatures?

 Actually I'm doing research for another book which will probably be called ‘Inverting the pyramid’. The title comes from the fact that I believe we should change our values – under capitalism the Earth and nature has very little value, and the financial world is valued too highly. If we represent that visually it looks like an inverted pyramid. In actual fact, without enough water and adequate topsoil, we can't live on this planet. Both water and top soils are being depleted at an alarming rate. There is much more I could say on this topic but it would take a long time, but basically that's where my reading and research has been for the last two years.

Although there are actions that individuals can do to help stop global warming, the most important thing is to put pressure on politicians and industrialists to change. This will not be easy. I believe we need to form new political parties, ones that put priority on sustainability, equality and preserving nature. I think we really are coming to a major turning point where if we don't change we could cause civilisational collapse. This is happened before the 22 or 24 times (depends on how you count a civilisation) so the Khmer, the Maya, at least a few Chinese civilisations, the Sumerians, the Indus civilisation and so on. Each of the civilisations outgrew the resources needed to keep them sustainable and also an elite grew up who took too many of the resources to themselves. This happened in each case. If we look at the world around us that exactly the same situation now. That's why I think if we continue on the present path it leads to civilisational collapse, but this time on a global scale.

What should the governments be doing? Why do you think some governments refuse to believe climate change is a reality?

 Governments are procrastinating. All of the signatories to GOP 21 are failing to keep their word. They're not doing what they signed up to do, not one of them. The financiers and the heads of multinational companies influence them too much. They do not listen to the warnings from their scientists, or at least not sufficiently. That's why I think ordinary people need to wake up and place relentless pressure on politicians.

What do you foresee happening environmentally by 2020? By 2025?

 It seems likely things will just get worse simply because we are not taking sufficient actions to avert catastrophe. Carbon emissions need to be cut yet there has been no reduction in coal use worldwide. It's true that some of the Western countries are reducing coal usage but this is not true worldwide. Aquifers are being depleted, topsoil destroyed and plants and animals are going extinct at a frightening rate. All we get from politicians is fine words and token messages. We need to move away from this addiction to perpetual growth. It's just not possible to do this much more without destroying the planet.

If the temperatures keep rising, what cities and lands do you believe will be submerged? When?

 Well, this will be a gradual process. In the United States the east coast, particularly Florida, is at risk. I don't think most coastal areas get submerged, but damage to property, roads and infrastructure is very costly. Small islands in the Pacific are threatened, as is the Maldives, part of the east coast of China, deltas of rivers such as the Mekong, the Nile and the Ganges. Bangladesh is a country that is very low-lying and is seriously threatened by rising sea levels. I don't think we'll see anywhere being submerged in the next few decades except perhaps some of the Pacific Islands. Nonetheless rising seas will cause major damage and coastal housing will be destroyed.

What will be the economic effect of this climate change be?

 Damage from climate change is very expensive, just look at the costs of the recent disasters in the US, Katrina, Sandy and so on. Poorer countries will not have the ability to recover from such disasters.

Back to Tokyo: In your book, you describe the magnificent designs of buildings in Tokyo that can withstand massive earthquakes. Will you describe the architecture?

 Well, you do need to read the book to get the details on this but basically there are various methods to protect buildings. One of the most common ones is to put huge dampers underneath the buildings to absorb some of the vibrations. Most of the buildings in Tokyo are built with in the last 30 years. It's a very modern city. The problem is not in the skyscrapers so much as in the suburbs.The suburbs are 70% made of wood and the main danger in a big quake is fire. The roads are very narrow so fires can easily pass from house-to-house. This is a huge danger in Tokyo because it is so overcrowded.

Why is a flexible building safer than sturdy ones?

: A building that is rigid will break, one that is more flexible acts more like a bamboo in that it bends and flexes and so is better able to withstand a big earthquake.

What about the glass in Tokyo’s high-rise buildings?

 This is a very good question. I had a student once who told me that the very heavy glass in some of the tall skyscrapers was built to a very fine tolerance but that they didn't actually cut the glass to the exact size they should have. I heard that story in the late 80s but that's the only such prediction like that I've heard. Certainly when the quake strikes, if you're out on a footpath, you should try and get inside because the footpaths will be very dangerous, as glass and advertising hoardings will be thrown to the ground.

How many floors can these buildings hold and still be considered safe?

 There are buildings in Tokyo up to 40 floors high and presumably the engineers and architects think that these will be safe. The truth is we will only know when a big quake hits.

You say in your book there are fast speed-bullet trains running under Tokyo? How safe is this form of transportation if a large quake hit?

 Actually the high-speed trains don't go under Tokyo they are all overground. The Shinkansen is on special elevated track. So there are both overground and underground trains in Tokyo. The subway system is supposed to be earthquake proof, but there was a big earthquake in Kobe in 1995 which killed 6,500 people. Some of the supporting pillars in stations there cracked and crumbled, and the subway was unable to be used for many months. That may be the case in Tokyo too but we just don’t know. At any rate I hope I'm not in a train moving at speed when the big quake hits.

In fact, you say a massive Tokyo earthquake is inevitable. Why? What would the impact be on the city?

 Historically big quakes of magnitude 6 or 7 hit the Tokyo area every 60 or 70 years. The last time there was a big quake was in 1923 so the next one is well overdue. As well as that, the quake in 2011 has affected the seismic faults further south, near Tokyo and further south.

As for the impact on the city you’d really need to read the book but briefly: imports and exports stop as the harbours in Tokyo and Yokohama are seriously damaged, fires break out in the suburbs, some of the roads are blocked, and looking after the survivors will be an impossible task for the government. The international consequence will be that Japan will have to repatriate a lot of its investments abroad, which will have a knock-on effect on Wall Street and then on most Western economies.

You explain much of this in your book. But for readers presently being introduced to you, will you talk about nuclear reactors along the coast of Japan. Are they dangerous if an earthquake hits? Or a tsunami? 

 The nuclear reactors are built along the coast because they require prodigious amounts of water to cool them, and this has to come from either rivers or the sea. Many of these reactors are quite old and with the new safety standards now enforced few will be reopened. I think 6 are restarted at the moment. Japan had 54 nuclear reactors in operation before Fukushima. A few of them have been restarted but most of them won't be, either because they're too old or because of the huge amount of local opposition.

Does the danger of their melt-downs affect the rest of the world? If so, how?

 Nuclear power is not anywhere near as dangerous as most people think. Coal kills far more people every year than nuclear does – used to be about 10,000 people died in the US each year because of coal power production. At Fukushima a few workers have cancer and I expect a few in the community will too but it's nowhere near as much as coal. My main objection to nuclear is the gigantic expense and the fact that we don't have a good way of storing the leftover nuclear fuel, which is dangerous for tens of thousands of years.

Where are other nuclear plants in the world that are in unsafe zones?

 I don't have a good answer for this one is my focus has been on Japan. It is said that safety standards for nuclear power plants in China are really inadequate.

Do you think nuclear plants are harmful to workers?

 Safety standards in nuclear power plants are incredibly high so I don't believe there is much danger to staff who work there. Fukushima was an anomaly – Tepco underestimated the size of potential tsunamis, and built the seawall too low. Also, they put all their backup generation near the seawall and in the basements. In retrospect this was a stupid thing to do. However most nuclear reactors in other countries are not in earthquake zones and there is no danger from tsunamis.

What country is most committed to stopping the advance of climate change? What country is the least committed?

 I would have to say some of the countries of Northern Europe. Iceland gets almost all its power from geothermal. Denmark gets all of its energy from wind, Germany is big on solar and wind power, though it also burns a lot of coal to make up for closing down its nuclear-power plants. One of the least committed countries at the moment is the US, thanks to Donald Trump.

As citizens of the world, what do you advise each and every one of us to do right now to stop the melting icecaps?

 We can all do things like carry a shopping bag, grow plants and herbs, refuse disposable chopsticks, recycle kitchen waste as compost and so on, but the problem is that as long as governments are addicted to growth, and companies to their profits at all costs, nothing will change. Therefore it is much more important to get involved politically and connect with other people were like-minded to get the changes that are necessary to stop the path to disaster.

Why do you think the governments of the world are reluctant to sponsor renewable forms of energy for its citizens?

 I think this question is hard to answer: it really depends on which country you're talking about. In the US I believe that most politicians are controlled by money input from fossil fuel companies. In other countries, though the government may support renewable energy, they just don't want to spend money subsidising it. This is the case in the UK for the most part. Other European countries, particularly in the North of Europe, are much more positive about funding renewable energy.

Renewables are now cheaper than coal as a source of power. This is good news as it means that a country like India, which previously was going to build many coal power stations, is now switching to solar. Basically things are changing but too slowly to avert very dangerous global warming. It's not that change isn't happening, it's that it's happening too slowly and not on a big enough scale.


At what point will it be too late to heal the planet?

 This is a great question. I couldn't possibly put a date on that; as soon as we start talking about the future all we can do is give estimates and a range of possibilities based on current trends. However, if we hit a tipping point, and there are various tipping points that could occur, then things become worse on a continuous basis and can't be stopped. An examples of this is the Greenland ice sheet melting: there is less white ice which used to reflect heat back into space, so now more heat gets to the oceans which become hotter, which then melt even more ice, and this becomes an automatic and continuous cyclical process.

Another example, one that is truly frightening, is the melting of the tundra regions. These are mostly in Canada and Russia. There is organic matter frozen in the ice of these regions, but what is now happening is that small lakes are appearing on the surface as the ice melts. This then releases either CO2 and methane, depending on whether releases are in water in the air. Methane is a much more dangerous greenhouse gas than CO2, up to 82% as damaging.

What do you see as the most hopeful consciousness and conscious actions of the global community at this time?

 Great question. In the last 10 years my reading has been to find out the answers to this question “what is the big picture?” I do think we need a new consciousness and awareness of how dangerous things are becoming. Unfortunately most people on this planet stumble along week to week, heads on their mobile phones, concerned with the latest fashions, unwilling to devote time to finding out what's really going on.

I believe that the current economic paradigm about the necessity for exponential growth is disastrous in a world where there are 7.7 billion of us and most of the easy to get resources have already been consumed. Moreover, the basis of all the wealth that we take for granted is energy. Most of us don't even notice that, but once oil becomes scarce and expensive and we have to live with far less energy than we are accustomed to them the whole game changes. Energy is THE key resource.

There is a lot more I could say about this but I think that's enough for one interview. This is actually one of the major themes of my next book. My main aim is to get people to realise how dangerous the current path is, and to demand change. We do need to join together and demand change.

While more and more people are beginning to realise this it's not anywhere near enough to force the actions necessary to make a decisive change of course. Tinkering at the edges will do no good. We have to learn to live within the physical limits of this planet otherwise we destroy everything. I wish I could be more optimistic but right now the odds are not good. We are not making the necessary changes in time.

Link to book:

Links to Tales of Tokyo:


You are the founder of Tell us how you have helped authors. has helped over 5,000 authors to reach readers. Many of our authors are selling lots more books because of us. We have 759,493 real Twitter followers, 245,254 readers on email lists, and 45,178 followers of our Facebook Groups. We tell these readers about great books.

Our service doesn’t work for every book however. We struggle to sell poetry, experimental literary fiction, YA and children’s books. But if your book is for adults and in a popular genre we can probably help you sell lots of copies. And even more so if you have a jaw-dropping-goose-bumping cover. I know, it’s not very artistic to focus on book sales and covers, but writers have to eat! Don’t they?

      You got published by Harper Collins in 20 countries and 11 languages. How much marketing do you need to do for your own books? Or does the publisher takes care of it completely and you just write?

Harper Collins ran competitions, got me interviews on TV and radio and in magazines in 2012-2014, but my editor has gone! She ran away! And her replacement has gone too! To Amazon! So, I bit the bullet, and self-published the next two installments in my mystery series, The Nuremberg Puzzle and The Cairo Puzzle and I’m getting paid every month by Amazon and can buy anything I ever wanted! 

I just thank God I have always had limited tastes. A meal in a fancy McDonalds, a few pints, and a trip to the sun every few months to stop my skin getting even paler and what more could you ask for?And now I help other writers experience these luxuries too!

      You have been writing a book a year, well nearly. How long does it take for you to write a novel? What is your process?

My current novel took two years to write and edit. I had most of it done in the first six months, but then I paid for two edits and a proofread, which sent me back to the beginning for major re-writes. I believe it’s important to deliver the best possible book we can. Especially if you’re going to ask strangers to read them. Which is the whole point, isn’t it?

      Is Social Media the key to growing your reputation? What if the author does not have this skill?

One of the reasons I started helping other authors was because they didn’t have the time or inclination to expand their following on Twitter or promote on Facebook or build a giant email list. Our service gives authors instant access to a huge reader base. The fees are low, and compared to the time you’d have to invest in building such a following it’s an amazingly cost-effective way to reach new readers.

     What about Networking? I heard that you found your editor at a networking event, the 9th you attended in 5 years. What is your advice to authors who are bad at networking? How can they increase their chances of getting discovered?

Yes, I enjoy networking, especially with writers. It’s one of the reasons I founded the Dublin Writers Conference – linked here – in late June every year. It’s a small and friendly conference ideal for anyone new to networking.

Sure, you don’t have to network, but if you can push yourself the rewards are amazing. We had a Hollywood producer coming for two years and have something special lined up for next year as well as lots of great writing teachers with lots of great ideas.

The social aspect of writing is something I enjoy. I know, sad, but true. Whatever happened to the writer in the ivory tower? 

      How do you manage the different hats you wear? You are a busy author, manage an online portal and run a conference.

With difficulty! But we have six staff at, so it is getting easier. Though I still work seven days a week. It’s my last addiction!

     Where do you find your inspiration to write?

Reality is an amazing inspiration! I was reading about the Vatican’s involvement with Adolf Hitler, which inspired me to write The Nuremberg Puzzle. 

Online news sites and history books inspire me. There is so much that has been hidden. I want to make stories about it all!

    What is your view on writer’s block? Do you ever get blocked?

Yes, I do occasionally. It’s hard to stay inspired, especially if life is difficult. Reading and finding time for writing helps, as will networking. It’s not an easy road, being a writer, but it is hugely rewarding.

 Your advice to aspiring writers?

Persevere. Be patient. Be open to learning. Never give up! And good luck with all you do from all of us at 
Laurence O’Bryan
Author & Founder: 
Founder:          The Dublin Writers Conference
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Skype: LPOBryan




You write crime novels based on your law experience. Obviously, you mix your truth with fiction. But I was surprised by how many times the lawyers and judges meet before trial each day in your book. Does that really happen?

Yes, at least it did in my practice. We would meet to discuss any problems either attorney had with what transpired the day before and basically discuss the current day’s schedule. We would have a chance to discuss upcoming problems with witnesses, review jury instructions, and make sure no scheduling problems had surfaced concerning future witnesses. That happened every morning before the day’s proceedings began.

Can a lawyer tell from those meetings whether a case will swing one way or the other?

No. the guilt or innocence of the defendant was determined, almost without exception, by a jury, not by the judge. The meetings held before the day’s activities started in the courtroom, were procedural in nature. None of us ever knew what the jury would ultimately do.

What about the plea bargaining that happens so much in your book? Is there really a lot of that going on? Do the plea bargains happen over drinks or in the judge’s chambers?

Discussions between the attorneys concerning a plea bargain continue constantly. Normally, they occur outside the presence of the judge and jury, but never over drinks. Mostly they occur in one of the conference rooms or on the phone.

Is it dangerous to be a criminal attorney? Why or why not?

Not really. I never had a problem personally with a defendant, whether I was prosecuting during the 28 years I was the county attorney, or as a defense attorney during the remaining 13 years and doing defense work. I did have an opposing party show up at my door with a shotgun once, but that involved a custody case—a civil matter rather than a criminal case.

Your main character in your book is a female protagonist. What made you decide to write from a feminine perspective?

I love writing about strong women—whether it was Kat in the Brakustrilogy or Lois in Out of Reach or Rosa in both An Absence of Ethics and Forever Bound. I have used them as both a protagonist and a heroine. To be honest, for me they are much more interesting than men. With many men, you pretty much know after your initial contact with them, which direction they might take under most circumstances. Not so with a woman. Her outward appearance conveys no indication of her inner strength one way or the other. To me, women as central characters, are much more interesting to write about than are men.  I do use men as central characters in my novels, but normally my emphasis is on the women.

 Rosa is a unique character. She is flawed when it comes to her personal life, but fearless when it comes to her professional life. She was the same flawed character in An Absence of Ethics that became involved with the Judge who was presiding over a trial while she represented the defendant. I’m never exactly sure which direction she’s going to take. I have her all figured out when I start writing about her, and for some reason, I seem to find a number of different directions for her to travel during the course of the book. She’s been a fun character to develop.

Is there a female attorney, past or present, who you admire? What did she accomplish?

Linda Fairstein was a prosecutor in New York and is now a fiction writer. I admire her work, her accomplishments, and her ability as an author.

In your book, lawyers from both sides of a case work outside the courtroom to maneuver the outcome of cases. As an author, you are privileged to make up what you want in your book. But does this maneuvering really take place to bring a criminal to justice?

  Preparing for a trial is a work in progress every minute prior to the verdict. You are constantly evaluating your case, figuring out witnesses, and even during the trial, there might be testimony you didn’t expect that could affect the outcome, so you are constantly trying to determine how to rebut that testimony. Right up until the judge gives the jury their instructions, you are trying to get an edge anywhere you can to ensure the verdict ends up in your favor.

How much do private investigators play a part in criminal cases?

Very little as concerns the prosecution. They have police officers and detectives to handle all that. Since the defendant doesn’t have those people available, there are times a Private Detective might be used, but not often.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Becoming successful in the writing business is obviously incredibly difficult. Don’t expect it. Hope it happens but don’t expect it. Don’t quit your day job under any circumstances.

What are you most proud of in your life?

My family.  Nothing else is even close.

What is the best advice you have ever received?  How have you carried this advice into your life to make you the accomplished person you are? 

 This old phrase has been passed around a lot, but I was told the harder I worked, the luckier I would become. In the 41 years I practiced law, I found that statement to be extremely accurate in most aspects of life. The more you put into it, the more you get out of it.

Synopsis of Forever Bound:

Synopsis     How much would you risk in the name of friendship? Attorney Rosa Norway was retained by her client Angelo Bonaventura, to represent him concerning a charge of murder—the murder of her best friend. But once she concluded her client might, in fact, be the murderer, she was faced with a number of issues. Should she do what she could to make sure Angelo was exonerated? Or should she continue to represent him, but in addition, do what she could to make sure he was convicted. The story involves a number of legal, moral and ethical issues, but more than that, it’s the story of how much Rosa Norway was willing to risk in the name of the friend she had loved and lost.








Kasi, what is the meaning of energy?

Energy is what brings life into us. This energy in its purest form allows our heart to beat, our lungs to breathe, AND our brains to work. We don’t physically see it, but it is there and imperative to life. 

Can it be seen or felt and where does it start from?

Energy can be felt, although if we are not aligned to the frequency in which it is created, we may not be able to recognise when or why we feel it.

Does energy send information and how do people pick it up from each other?

Originating energy in its highest frequency comes from the purest place, the universe, God, moving through each individual. We, as individuals can pollute the frequency of spiritual energy, simply by adding layers of dense physical, emotional and mental energy, which is normally created by challenging experiences we deal with in our lives. It transforms the spiritual energy that we individually have access to and dilutes the frequencies, and we then emanate diluted energy outwards. What we emanate out, is what can be felt by others, especially if we embody a higher frequency.

In your book, you talk about energy imprints, the holding of energy from previous situations. Will you tell us what you mean by that?

Energy imprints are pockets of energy frequencies that are embedded into physical items or places.

How do you clear energy imprints?

We can ask the universe to pass pure white light through a place to clear any discord, much like sifting the energy through a sieve, and blasting what is remaining in the sieve with so much light that anything other than light cannot exist.

Do you think the original settlers in Australia – often people who were exiles from England, left an energy imprint on Australia?

I do, but the crimes they were convicted of were considered petty, and often they were political prisoners. Serious crimes were not transportable offenses. So who benefited from their exile? I think those who were exiled did. They had an opportunity to come to a new land, without the old pockets of energy holding them back. I believe the exiles, unknowingly, were presented with an opportunity, once they were emancipated or their term of servitude had expired, to change their lives positively. Many rose to prominent positions in Australian society. Interesting to note: Australia is known to be the land of the free.


What does the land feel like there?

It is very pure and beautiful. It is so vast, depending on where you go; it carries different energies because of people in different areas, but the land remains pure. Aboriginals see the land as their spiritual mother, so I also think that we all unknowingly benefit from the spiritual significance that the Aboriginals bring to the land. Most Australians have a respect for Aboriginals and consider them the true first settlers.

Kasi, how did you get into the work of clearing spaces?

Knowing the Law of Energy brought me to the understanding that what happens within us, is also influenced by what is outside of us. There is a relationship between the two, and through my own experiences, I put my theory to the test with wonderful outcomes.

Were you always sensitive to energy in your environment?

I have always been sensitive to the energy of others and the environment. It is important to first notice energy and then to intuit the why, and what to do about it.

What do you think is the biggest energy drain in someone’s environment?

Internally, it is our thoughts. Externally, it is our possessions. We acquire most of our possessions through expending our energy, albeit, working in our chosen professions. That energy is transformed into money which we often spend on possessions. So, our possessions are transformed into the energy around us. If our possessions do not provide positive experiences or serve any good purpose for us, it translates to wasted or diminished energy from our lives.

What about work environments? What kind of surroundings impels more productivity and creativity on the job?

Colorful decor and elements of nature harmonize embedded energy. A work environment is like a base blanket applicable to all individuals; again an individual’s energy will influence their own productivity and creativity, but it is great to introduce a harmonic base for workers to build on.


When you clear space, what is the first thing you look for in an environment to remove?

Clutter. I start with the internal blocks first, then move to the external blocks and then I work on the energetic blocks.

What is the first thing you would add to an environment to improve the density of the energy?

Fresh air, cleanliness, and organization of possessions. It is amazing what can be achieved by just doing this. 

How does old, unused clutter affect people’s physical health?

Old, unused clutter will affect people’s health due to associated energy with the items.This happens if we are keeping an ‘inactive’ item. This also happens if an item is connected to a negative time in our lives, so much so, that when we look at it, it brings memories of despair back to us. Our thoughts impact our nervous system and create biochemical reactions that impact our health negatively. Point to note, I exclude items from passed loved ones from this list, as it is not the item itself, but the grief of loved ones the passing soul has left behind.

You talk about crystal grids. What are they and what do they do?

Crystal grids are crystals arranged into a grid that energetically connects to other crystals (the same or different) and magnifies the crystal's energy to form a sphere of energy, mostly the energy that was programmed into the crystal. It forms a barrier and deflects or transforms (depending on the crystal) any energy frequency not compatible with the crystal's energy.

How do crystals transmit/and/or clear energy?

Crystals are the DNA of mother earth. They formed under the earth’s surface from molten magma (molten magma is renamed lava when it is above the earth’s surface), and because of this, crystals are imprinted with the energy of millions of years of evolution. All crystals have electrical and magnetic properties based on their internal unchanging structure. Crystals emit an electrical and magnetic energy frequency, and when we program crystals we also add our energy frequencies to them. So whenever a lower frequency comes into the vicinity of the crystal grid, that grid will transform lower frequency into the program of the crystal energy. As an analogy, if the lower frequency is fire, the crystal grid acts as water.

Can evil energy really be cleared? For instance, if I sit in a room where there was a killing, would I feel that terrible situation? Can that horrendous energy ever really go away?

Evil energy can most definitely be cleared. In a situation where a horrendous act occurred, there are two factors. First, the lost soul(s) still bound to earth and second, the frequency of energy still left in that room. Energy will not move unless we transform it, although we have to embody a higher frequency in order to do this. There is a hierarchy of energy: the higher the frequency, the greater the light and power.

You discuss Himalayan Salts. What are they and how do they work?

Himalayan salt is around 250 million years old from a large salt lake that naturally dried. A heated Himalayan salt lamp will attract water molecules (moisture) from the air, forming a solution of NaCl (sodium chloride) and H20 (water). Sodium is a positive ion and chloride is a negative ion. The evaporation of water through salt emits negative ions. Negative ions are known to create feel good biochemical reactions in our blood stream, so introducing negative ions into our environment causes us feel better, rested, and happier. Point to note that negative ions are abundant near oceans, at waterfalls, in thunderstorms, and forests – anywhere where nature is.

You talk about sound clearing. Can you expand on that?

Let’s take, for example, a dog’s ability to hear sounds that we cannot hear. Similar concept. Sounds can heal us without us realizing it. As we continue raising our soul's vibrations, the sound frequency also rises. It becomes more defined. Sound clearing is about introducing techniques such as Tibetan or crystal singing bowls or bells that can reach higher frequencies. Discordant Energy is dense, and the higher, refined frequencies break it up and disperse it into tiny segments, as opposed to stagnant pockets of energy.

You mention color therapy. What is that? What is the best color to wear if you feel down? If you want to attract more money? More people?

Color therapy is closely related to the chakra system, documented in the Vedas some 3500 years ago. Light is made up of vibrating energy, and color is made up of a spectrum of light vibrating at different speeds. Lower light vibrations produce colors like red and oranges, which is correlated back to the chakra system. When we focus on a specific color, or if it is abundant in our environment, this can influence our energy vibration – it aligns our chakras to the vibration of the color. If you are feeling down, the first thing to consider is why. If it has to do with feeling disconnected to life, then red is perfect. If it has to do with feeling a lack of energy, then orange is perfect; if it has to do with a lack of confidence, then yellow is your color. It is more beneficial to consider what is causing you to feel a certain way, then utilizing color to heal that.

What is the most important room in the house and why?

The bedroom. This is the room in which we rejuvenate and where we are in our theta state, therefore the interference of the ego is at a minimum. It is the optimum time for our soul to take in information relating to our life purpose, direction, and where soul healing is also performed.

What is the best way to design that room?
It should represent our soul, our heart, and our connection to God.

What kind of space should a writer work in for enhanced creativity?

For writers, I suggest creating a space that draws on all of the senses. Display things that inspire you, or take you back to a time of success and achievement. Display pictures of your loved ones; surround yourself with your favorite colors, sounds, and smells that promote for you, the inspiration of creativity.

Do you think there ought to be a private space put aside for meditation and clearing one’s mind?
I do, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be a separate room, just a designated space. By doing this, each time you utilize that space, you also embed pockets of energy with the frequency of meditation or tranquility. Therefore, when you continually enter that space, those pockets of energy will already be there from your previous serenity.

Finally, what is the best advice you can give for keeping the energy flowing harmoniously in one’s life?

Self-accountability and responsibility are paramount and conducive to a harmonious life. If we conscientiously own the energy we emanate, we realize that we influence the energy that circles back to us. Also, when we own our power, we are the master of out own lives.

What other kinds of information and tips does your book offer that you would like to tell readers about?

I have included examples of intentions that can be utilized to cleanse energy, as well as explanations of the history and use of essential oils, geometry, and symbology in living and work spaces.

What is your next project?

There are many projects I am working on such as online courses relating to my books. My next book I’m working on is about how to keep your heart open by establishing boundaries.



Social Media:





Igor Eliseev, Author

Igor Eliseev's debut novel


Igor, is One-Two your debut novel? How long did it take you to write it?

I began my literary activity in 1999 with a number of short stories, essays, and a film script. Later, the plot of the script developed into a literary novel that I almost finished. In December 2015 however, I finished my second novel One-Two, which, by a twist of fate, became my debut novel. It took me almost two years to write and edit One-Two.

You have chosen a rather odd title. Is the title your creation or someone else’s?

The title of my book has been chosen intentionally and accidentally, simultaneously. Offensive nicknames were created during the writing of the novel as an example of how a system can deprive its children of even their own names. My decision to create a truly chilling and profound effect – when the reader realizes the reason for the strange title of my novel – was sudden, like a storm. Lightening struck and the title was “born.”

I was inspired by similar stories set in the Soviet Union era (particularly during the Perestroika period,) and the 1990's historical period of Russia. All these stories were particularly tragic because they were preventable. Thus, although I created a completely fictional character, my novel is based on real life.

How do you know what an orphanage is like? Are there many of them in Russia?

I have read several biographies of children who were abandoned. I also read articles related to orphanages, and I watched documentaries to improve my depth and breadth of knowledge on this topic. My main goal, and my motive as a writer, is not only to entertain people, but is primarily to study the most important topics of our time. 

Does Russia have a foster care system?

There are some infant emergency centers in modern Russia for abused and neglected children, and there is a child call center to receive information which can be given anonymously about mistreated children. The center creates awareness among citizens about how to protect children’s rights. 

Does Russia have an opioid/heroin problem like the U.S. does?

In Russia, there are rather severe consequences for supplying drugs (and paraphernalia) and for “encouraging” drug use. We don’t have legal medical marijuana and never have. Concerning the opioid/heroin problem, I find it difficult to answer. Regarding pain killers, they are not common in Russia due to the backlog of progress and globalization.

Does Russia consider addiction to drugs a crime or a health problem?

I think both. However, the first attitude is more prevalent than the second.

Throughout your book, One-Two, you mention the economic condition of Russia as the political landscape changed. What political changes did you witness there?

This is a highly sensitive matter for our country and for me personally. I'm afraid that I will need thousands of pages to answer this question.

A Thoughtful Author

Were you born in Russia and how long did you live there?

I was born in Rostov-on-Don, Russia. I have been living in Moscow for fifteen years.

What was schooling like in Russia? As an artist, did you feel left out from other kids? Did you ever suffer depression and/or bullying?

I cannot begin to tell you how happy I would be to get those school years back.With the fall of the Former Soviet Union, we lost the socialist infrastructure that provided for us in the Soviet period. This had a terrifying effect on Soviet people. On the other hand, the disintegration of the Soviet Union was required to end the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall back in November 1989. And those developments cannot be overemphasized.

Yep, I had to deal with depression and bullying in school. However, I did not face this more than any other students.

What authors did you read and how did they influence you?

This is my favorite question! I consider my literary mother to be Nikolay Gogol and my literary father to be Fyodor Dostoevsky. I was born the year Nabokov died, the same year Brodsky began writing in English. Also, I was greatly influenced by Andrey Platonov, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Leonid Andreyev, Mikhail Lermontov, Franz Kafka, Jean Paul Sartre, Toni Morrison and Mò Yán.

When did you decide to start writing? How did people around you react to your writing? Did you get support or ridicule?

I began my literary activity in 1999 with short stories, essays and a film script. Later, the idea of the script was repeatedly reconsidered and developed into the literary novel – the most important project of my life that is almost completed. In December 2015 I finished my second novel, One-Two, which by a twist of fate, became my first one. I was ridiculed by almost everyone. 

Have you ever been to the United States? If so, what do you think of the attitude towards writers in the U.S?

I think that everywhere, writers face constraints that reduce their productivity. And yet it seems to me that there are more (much more) opportunities for the writers in America than in Russia. Here's a good example: writing in English is a way of getting a wider circulation for my works.

Have you entered any writing contests in the United States?

I have no right to enter any writing contests in the United States because I do not have American citizenship. 

What do you think is the purpose of writing?

I think that only those people who have something really important to say should write books. But, at the same time, this statement is disputable.

If modern people – both writers and readers – are indifferent to the enduring need of humankind – the need to discover and understand each other, and people only care for practical and pragmatic things, then they do not need poetry, literary fiction and critical literature. What we, (Russians, Americans and others) already have, is nothing more than making money for the money.

I use my writing as a vehicle in order to make my dream come true: an ethical world in which humanity will flourish, with humans full of love, not humans full of hatred.

What do you think countries should do to support their writers?

They should integrate fine art, including literature, into more areas of culture.

Igor, I notice your book has a British accent. Did someone from England translate your book for you?

The original language of my book is English. The Russian version of the book still does not exist.

With regard to a British accent, I’m certain that you are right. One-Two is checked, proofread and edited by a qualified native British speaker Jonathan Finch, the author of several books. Largely thanks to this man, my book is a quality item and I’m very satisfied with it.

If so, why did you choose England to send your book for editing?

England editing is a matter of circumstance. I was rejected by about 500 literary agents and 30 American publishing houses. After all that, one independent British-Dutch publisher Glagoslav Publications decided to publish my book. And it so happened that my friend Jonathan Finch is British. 

What do you do for a living?

I am a professional fashion and portrait photographer.

How much do you write every day? Do you have a set schedule or do you write on the fly?

I write seven days a week, “producing” about 300 words a day. But this is not important; the main thing is that I nurse ideas for my books for a long time. Sometimes, nursing an idea takes more than 10 years. Until I “see” the novel completely (from the first to the last word,) I do not sit down to write it. At the moment, I’m writing three novels in my head and one on paper.

What kind of life do you want your writing to bring you?

I would like my literature to feed my family, give me security, and the right to live wherever I wish.

Igor, your book One-Two touches on painful areas of existence. Why do you take readers to those places?

I believe that touching painful areas of existence and bringing more insight to people is my literary destiny. I take readers to “those places” because they exist! People can turn their backs on reality, but it still exists.

You challenge the humanity of readers. Do you deliberately dare readers to become more compassionate or is that an accidental offshoot of your book? Speaking of marginalized, are there homeless people in Russia?

I’m afraid that there are quite a bit of homeless people in Russia.

Are you influenced by Dostoevsky and his question about the value of life for those who are not productive within society? In what other ways might you be influenced by this great Russian author? What do you think is the greatest aspect of his writing?

Most certainly. One attentive reader has already noticed that I, and the better part of Russian writers, have been influenced by Dostoevsky. I consider Dostoevsky to be the greatest writer in the history of Russia. Dostoevsky’s novels are first and foremost, the dialogue between existential reflections affecting the questions of morality and the irrational within human psychology. I think great Russian literature began from this author, while such geniuses as Pushkin, Lermontov, and Gogol wrote their novels before him.

What do you think society should do with people who cannot fend for themselves?

Every community and every society has members who are unable to fend for themselves and need the support of others. Without ensuring a minimal subsistence level for people, as well as health care and basic education, it is difficult to expect the poorest and those who are most in need, to fend for themselves. It all depends directly on an active undertaking by the government and society to protect and promote basic rights. I personally like how Scandinavian countries tackle and solve the above-mentioned issue.

What does Russia do with its mentally ill people?

There are Social Affairs Centers in Russia responsible for looking after marginalized people, including sex workers, victims of trafficking, people who use drugs, homeless people, beggars, street children and mentally ill persons.

Many times in your book One-Two, people in society feed on the vulnerability of the disabled characters around them. Do you see this as typical of the human condition? 

I presume this is typical. However, this “typicality” is undeniably the main reason to promote intellectual and moral development of the personality. To my mind, a human being’s first duty is to work at mental, moral and physical development – a set of “three in one.”

What do you think makes a great society?

I am totally convinced that educational opportunities are necessary to create an inspired society, and for great science to flourish which is useful to society. Some time ago, I read a wonderful article titled “Education for All, All for Education.” This quote is an exact replica of my thoughts. For my part, I also want to add that education is the cornerstone for greater human development. 

Igor, do you think humans are evolving into more just and compassionate beings? Why or why not?

If you want to know whether I think that “humans are evolving into more just and compassionate beings," the answer is unequivocally yes. The majority of the modern world’s population is unwilling to fight wars, particularly far from home. We are witnessing a growing tendency of people to care about protecting human beings from racial and religious victimization. In other words, today we see positive developments that seemed unthinkable 50 years ago. While we have much to do, I think that humanity – despite all its shortcomings – is moving in the right direction.

Do you think there is a chance for world peace in the future? If so, what will bring people together?

On the one hand, we should understand that peace in the world depends not only on securing borders, but also on securing people against threats and risks to their security. On the other hand, the question arises as to whether it is possible to provide the security of all human beings, to “defuse and destroy” all crimes through government power only. If this were to pass, this means that we have confronted an authoritarian regime and a tremendous dictatorship. World peace is not found in organizations and establishments, but in our heads. I hope that one day peace around the world will be possible.

What is your next writing project?

My second book is about discovering the nature of a genius. There will be lots of history, sex, race, boxing, writing, philosophical and social topics, but the basis of the novel is about a great love. It will be almost three times larger in volume than One-Two, and I assume, more significant in its affect upon humanity.

Do you go to writer retreats and/or conferences?

I don’t go to writer retreats and conferences. I am a totally reclusive writer. 

What is the greatest message you hope your writing will impart to readers?

 There are no “good” or “bad” people, only poor living conditions and other social, economic, political and environmental health issues that make some people “better," and some people “worse.” All people are good (except for human genetic variations affecting human psychology.) My task as a writer is to encourage all people to become better.

What do you think makes writers different than other people?

Ideally, poets and writers are thinkers – people who are changing the world in which we live. But certainly, writers may (and should) enrich, entertain, and inspire millions of people of all ages and cultures around the world.

I don’t see large differences between writing books and working in the garden, fighting for human rights and working at a construction site … 

What do you think is the hardest part of being a writer? What is the best part?

Probably the hardest part of being a writer is writing books and not being heard by the people who control books. It’s very offensive and painful.

The best part of being a writer is to know that there are people in the world who enjoy reading books.

What advice do you have for writers starting out?

Don’t start writing your book until it has “risen from the dead.” Writers should create a complex and detailed portrait of a book with its own life. Live for writing, so as not to write for living.

Igor, what is your greatest dream for yourself? For your family? And humanity?

Although it sounds a bit prosaic and overworked, I’d like to make a small contribution towards helping people make the world a better place.

Is there anything I have left out that you would like to say?

I am very sad when I hear news like: “The Russians Are Not Our Friends” or vice versa: “The Americans Are Not Our Friends;” news being driven from talking heads. These are inhuman statements that make me want to take out my pen and notebook and go on writing.

Igor Eliseev between writing sessions
  A brilliant author and photographer

Igor's Website:

Here’s a link to Igor's book on the publisher's page: (Publication date: 5th December 2016)

Buy the book from


I first met Jim when I called Midwest Book Review to change my contact information. To my surprise, he answered the telephone himself. He was unhurried, friendly, and a natural story teller. When I contacted him again to ask if I could interview him, he said "yes." Here are his helpful words for all you aspiring writers. He has also given you links to help you find more support for your writing.



Q. Jim, you started Midwest Book Review in 1976. That is over forty years ago. Why do you think Midwest Book Review has been so successful?

A. The three key elements to the success of the Midwest Book Review are:

1. We always provide authors or their publishers with a copy of our review of their book and an accompanying cover letter telling them all the places we have posted or published that review.

2. We give special consideration whenever possible to self-published authors and small press publishers.

3. We do not charge authors or publishers for reviewing their books as long as those books or published print editions (hardcover or paperback) and the book is in print and available to librarians and the general reading public.

Q. Jim, do you have a word of advice for business owners such as bloggers, publishers, and writers, as they step into the business world?

A.Yes! Please spend some time reading basic 'how to' books on successfully operating a small business venture. You can find them in any public library. There are reviews of a great many good ones on the Midwest Book Review web site at:

Keep careful records of all your income and expenses. Become knowledgeable of all possible state and federal tax deductions.

Q. As you know Jim, many authors, even those who are traditionally published, have to promote and market their books. This does not come naturally to people who spend a long time dreaming in front of their keyboards. What advice do you have for authors who need to build platforms for their books? What steps should they take to market their books?

A. There are a great many 'how to' books devoted specifically to this issue. My advice is to read at least one of them every month. You'll find scores of them reviewed and recommended on the Midwest Book Review web site at that same link:

My advice is to jot down the titles of 3 or 4 of them, then go to your local community library and ask that they be procured for you through your public library's free Interlibrary Loan System.

When you get them, read them with pen and paper at hand to make notes and jot down ideas.

If you find one that is so useful you want to have it for your own personal reference shelf you can then buy it from the publisher or order it through your favorite bookstore, or even go up onto Amazon to buy it.

Q. Jim, let’s talk about your review process. Books arrive by mail to Midwest Book Review. How many arrive in a month?

A. We receive an average of 2,000 titles a month from the publishing industry.

Q. Out of all those books, how many actually get reviewed?

A. 600 to 700 a month on average.

Q. Who opens the packages and reads the books when they arrive?

A. My mail room guy. He pops them out of their packages and boxes, puts the accompanying paperwork (cover letters & PRs) into the book, then stacks them on my desk to be screened and sorted out by me.

Q. What are the biggest reasons books get rejected after their first readings?

A. Here are the reasons for rejection:

1. It's a pre-publication manuscript, a galley, an uncorrected proof, or an advanced reading copy (ARC), and we require a published, finished copy the way it would be encountered in a bookstore or a library.

2. It is disfigured by being stickered or written on- most often with the message 'Review Copy - Not for Sale'.

3. The cover art is atrocious and renders the book noncommercial when competing with other titles in the same genre.

4. There is a serious production flaw with the books such as the binding, or the print is too small for the intended readership.

Q. What are the qualities of a book that drive it deeper into the review process?

A. Here are the reasons for passing the initial screening and being eligible for a review assignment:

1. It arrives with the proper paperwork. 

2. Attractive in appearance making it visually competitive in its genre or subject 

3. It's in a genre or on a subject that is of interest to one or more of my reviewers 

4. It's by a self-published author or small press publisher 

5. It's from a freelance publicist that I have good experience with and respect their judgement 

6. It's a unique or new subject matter to me or something that is currently a hot topic

Q. Are there differing levels that a book goes through to get to a final review? If so, what are the levels?

A. It's all pretty simple and straight forward. There are no levels beyond the initial screening. Once a book has passed my initial screening there is a 4 to 6 week 'window of opportunity' for it to be assigned out for review. When a book is assigned out for review, the reviewer has 30 days in which to review the book and submit their review to me.

Q. Do you have an editorial team that agrees on final book reviews? If you do, what happens if the members have varying opinions on a book?

A. I don't operate on a team consensus basis. I am the sole arbiter of whether or not a book will become available for review, and to which reviewer it will be assigned. Reviewers can express their preferences and they will be adhered to as much as possible.

The Managing Editor decides which review will go into which of our nine monthly book review publications.

Q. Do you have affiliate book review sites or alternative channels, where authors may fish for book reviews if they don’t make it through Midwest Book Review?

A. No. But I did create "Other Reviewers" as a section of the Midwest Book Review web site. "Other Reviewers" is a database of freelance book reviewers, book review magazines and publications, book review web sites and blogs. The database link is:

Click on "Other Reviewers" and it opens the database. The trick is to go down the list (and it's a long list because it is a huge database). When you seek one that looks promising, click on it and you'll be zapped to that particular web site. Read through that other web site and you'll be able to determine if that reviewer or review resource is thematically appropriate for your particular book- and if it is, what their book review submission guidelines are.

Q. What about interested book reviewers? Do you have open spots for them, and how do you determine the quality of their reviews?

A. We always welcome new reviewers. I have a form letter I send out in response to such inquiries called "Reviewer Guidelines," which lays everything out that they will need to know to be a volunteer book reviewer for the Midwest Book Review.

Their first few reviews pretty much will tell me how good they are at it. Sometimes, if it would be helpful, I give a word of advice or counsel as to what might improve their work. I see that as part of my job as a book review editor.

There are no word limits to a review. My advice is for reviewers to say everything they think needed to be said in their critique of a book.

Q. Jim, I notice you send out reviews electronically to bookstores and libraries across the U.S. and Canada? What does this process involve? What do the agencies and companies do with the information you send them?

A. The Managing Editor takes care of electronically posting the reviews to authors, publishers, subscribers to our publications, and Gale Cengage Learning (for their Book Review Index data base program for library systems throughout the U.S. and Canada). We have a database of email addresses so it's just a matter of plugging an email address into an email confirmation notification letter and hitting 'Send'.

What the recipients do, if so motivated by the review we send them, is use the reviews to make out purchase orders. Authors and publishers utilize the reviews in the context of their own publicity, promotion, and marketing campaigns.

Q. Do you have catalogs and print-out reviews that you mail out? If so, who writes them and where are they sent to?

A. We don't have catalogs. For those authors and publishers who would like to have a hard cover of a review on our letter head stationary we print them out, put them in an envelope, add a stamp, and snail-mail them along with a form letter. All our reviews are archived on the Midwest Book Review web site for five years.

Q. You have a review section called Reviewer’s Choice. What is that?

A. Reviewer's Choice is a monthly book review column that is reserved for:

1. Reviews of books that cover more than one subject area (e.g. biography & military history; or photography & wildlife).

2. A given reviewer who only has one review submitted in a given month (it takes 2 or more reviews to have your own byline column).

3. The review is one furnished by the author or publisher by a non-Midwest Book Reviewer because, while the book passed my initial screening, it didn't get a review assignment in the allotted time frame only because of 'too many books, not enough reviewers'.

This is a 'safety net' idea I came up with so that we could provide some modicum of value to authors or publishers who made an investment in submitting a copy of their book to us. This at least gives those folk access to our audiences and the review is posted in the "Reviewer's Choice" column in their behalf and under the reviewer's byline.

Q. Is there a category of books that you do not accept? Why not?

A. Pornography. We only review books that you would find in a general bookstore or a community library.

Q. What do you think is the most popular book genre or book category in today’s market?

A. Adult coloring books are hot right now. Other enduring popular categories include: cookbooks, art books, military books, needle craft books.

Q. What is your favorite kind of book to read when you are not working?

A. My personal recreational reading is currently dominated by Large Print Editions of western novels distributed by Ulverscroft. I also am partial to graphic novels and science fiction/fantasy.
Q. Jim, what do you think about the decreasing role of book critics in newspapers and other journals nowadays?

A. I have mixed emotions. One the one hand it saddens me because it is a reflection of how the reading of books as a pastime pursuit has been a diminishing trend over the last 30 years. On the other hand, it has benefited the Midwest Book Review immensely because many of those book critics who lost their newspaper or journal columns, now send their review to me!

But one only has to look at the growing number of book review oriented blogs and Amazon comments on line to realize that there is still a huge number of people who enjoy sharing with others their opinions, comments, and recommendations on what they've been reading.

Q. What do you believe is causing this decline, and what do you predict the literary consequences will be?

This decline is directly related to the advancing popularity and increasing 'market share' of electronic based pastimes. It all began with the advent of television in the homes of America. Nowadays it's the rise of the Smart Phone and all those apps that are further eroding the reading of books for recreation and continues to shrink the percentage of the population that reads/buys books -- and therefore decreases the revenues that magazines and journals can derive from the publishing of book review columns.

Q. What is your opinion of the current trend of laypersons doing reviews for books on sites such as Amazon and internet bookstores? Do you think this is a fair way to determine the quality of a book?

A. You are talking to a man whose mentor (John Ohliger) first brought me into the book review game because he wanted to take what had been a kind of academic white tower of book reviewing reserved for the literary elites into the province of the common folk -- housewives, cab drivers, students, (and in my case) social workers. Ordinary folk who wanted to share their opinions about what they were reading but otherwise had no forum to do so until our little weekly radio show came along.

The 40 year success of the Midwest Book Review and our continuing popular reputation within the publishing industry, is a very positive reflection on the contention that having 'laypersons' reviewing books is a very fair way to determine the quality of a book for its intended readership.

Q. Have you ever been the first to spot a book or author that would become a huge success during your company’s review process?

A. There is a very successful science fiction author by the name of Kevin J. Anderson. He was a teenager attending the Oregon High School here where I live and had written a science fiction story and wanted my opinion. I had him as a guest on my radio show and told him, based upon what I had read, that he had talent. That was more than 35 years ago.

And there have been others down through the years -- but Kevin was the first.

Q. Do you still personally review books?

A. Every day.

Q. What has been the most dramatic aftermath of a book review you have ever experienced at Midwest Book Review?

A. For me personally it would be receiving the 2012 Lifetime Achievement in Publishing award from the late Dan Poynter and his publisher association out in Santa Barbara, California.

For the Midwest Book Review it would be opening up an author 'thank you' letter about twenty years ago and finding an unsolicited check for our Postage Stamp Fund in the amount of $1,000.00 -- it was from a lady in New York whose three self-published books I had reviewed. It turned out I was the only one she had approached (and apparently there were a lot of them) that had done her that service -- and not asked anything of her.

Q. Okay, let’s get to the topic everyone is talking about nowadays: self-published authors. Why do you think there is a growing influx of Indie authors, and how are they impacting the publishing world?

A. The numbers are proliferating because of the ease at which POD (Publishing On Demand) companies can turn a manuscript into a book; because of the rise of the Kindle and such publishing sales outlets as Smashwords; because of the increasing difficulties of an unknown author being able to persuade the established major publishers into accepting them.

Being self-published authors, and putting in the work of effective marketing, thereby being able to secure potential buyers through the use of social media and the internet is what is driving their numbers up.

Q. Do you have an opinion about authors and traditional publishers? For instance, do you think it is fair for authors to give away 90% of their royalties to publishers?

A. Traditional publishers have been squeezing authors since the invention of the printing press. What's going on these days is that Amazon is squeezing publishers just as hard as publisher squeeze authors.

By way of an example, here is my view on what a break down for a $10 book should look like: 

$3 for the publisher manufacturing the book 
$1 for publicity/promotion/marketing 
$1 for distribution/wholesaling 
$4 for the bookstore 
$1 for the author

Q. Do you think the rise of Independent authors will change the ratio of royalties between authors and publishers in the future?

A. No. I'm afraid not. Unless an author is willing to learn how to market a book -- and put in the time necessary, the advantage will always be on the publisher side of the financial equation.

Q. Jim, I notice your company reviews self-published writers and also reviews books from small presses. Why are you so supportive of the lower hierarchy in the publishing world?

A. There are two reasons: One professional & One personal

1. I needed a niche, something that would help the Midwest Book Review stand out against such book reviewing competitors as the Publishers Weekly, the Library Journal, The New York Times Book Review, etc.

That niche turned out to be an emphasis on self-published authors and small press publishers that the other established book review publications routinely ignored.

I've never had a problem getting books from the big publishing firms, but it was the job that I was doing (in terms of the quality of the reviews I and the other volunteers were personally churning out) of the little guys (and the audience for those reviews that I was also generating and expanding) that demonstrated to the publishing industry that I was a legitimate and desirable person to send review copies to.

That's the professional reason. Here's the personal reason:

2. I am myself a self-published author. When I was in college I wrote a book called "The Social Contributions of Joseph Smith to Plural Marriage". My stepfather owned a hand operated printing press as a hobby. I printed out, collated, and bound 1,000 copies (which sold out in six months).

I had to hawk copies to bookstores in Salt Lake City, as well as the campus bookstore at BYU (where I was a student).

So I got a first hand exposure to what it was like to be a self-published author and have to market my own wares.

That left me with a life-long appreciation for what self-published authors have to go through and a firm desire to help them out whenever and however I could.

Q. There are still companies that will not review self-published writers. Why do you think some literary doors remain closed to independent writers? What do you think it will take to change the reputation of Indie authors?

A. A lack of proper editing is what created a negative image of self-published authors that still exists to this day. To change that reputation only an emphasis on editing what you publish will help.

Q. I know from reviewing books myself, that there are many poorly-edited books, but I have also read self-published books that are superbly edited and are literary gems. Do you think there will ever be a self-published book that wins a Nobel Prize?

A. Yes. The means and process of turning a manuscript into a book by an author working on their own is improving year by year. In my opinion it is only a matter of time before a self-published book wins a literary award as prestigious as the Nobel Prize.

Q. Will it take something that drastic for closed literary doors to finally swing open for independent authors? 

A. No. What it will take is for great literary works having been self-published to raise an awareness among librarians and the general reading public that they exist. The means to do so is improving annually through the means of social media and the internet -- and (all modesty aside) the organizations like the Midwest Book Review.

Q. Although Indie authors are left out of book reviews and grant opportunities, there are still places where they are welcomed. As mentioned before, Midwest Book Review accepts Indie authors’ books and so does Publisher’s Weekly. At the same time, independent authors cannot apply for the National Endowment for the Arts, although they can apply for the Pulitzer Prize. Do you think literary discrimination exists against Indie authors? If so, based on your experience, is it warranted?

A. Of course there is literary discrimination against self-published author. Of course it is not fair. But it is based upon the personal and professional experience of reviewers, editors, and publishers having waded through a great deal of self-published books that are poorly written and badly in need of even the most basic editing.

I think this will change as self-published authors get more sophisticated -- and as more sophisticated software (beginning with simple spell checkers and evolving into manuscript editing programs) become available and easier to use.

Q. .Is there anything I have left out or anything you would like to add to this interview? Do you have parting advice for aspiring writers?

 There are three fundamental reasons to write a book:

1. You have a compulsion to put your ideas or stories down on paper and yearn to have others read them.

2. You want to financially support yourself by writing as a career.

3. You have a cause to promote.

No matter which of these (or any combinations of these) applies to you, be aware that none of them will materialize unless you learn how to publicize, promote, and market what you have written, what you have published, what you have to offer the readers of your work.

Thank you for this interview, Jim. I appreciate that you remain down-to-earth and are accessible to writers and reviewers. You are an asset to the world of authors and books. I personally thank you for your many years of devotion and hard work.
Contact Jim Cox and Midwest Review at:

Joseph Willson


This is a soul-searching book that reveals the inner life of an alcoholic. Not typical of recovery books that share messy lives and bouncy recoveries, this book goes into the author's inner mind and courageously reveals a journey of normality turned to chaos, forward to the sanctum, to hope, to loss, and onto the spirals that preclude and follow recovery. This author fascinates with his writing. This is a mastermind of a recovery book.

Joseph, you have written a provocative book THROUGH THE MIND’S EYE about addiction and recovery. You reveal the inner process of healing and its forwards and backward motion. Did you start your book as a journal?

Absolutely, the entire book is derived from journals and various other writings that I needed to do as part of the treatment program I was involved in (the journaling); the writings were simply an extension of the journaling.

Why did you start writing your book and what made you decide to share it?

While I was in the program, I was asked to write a piece for an application for a grant from the Salvation Army for schooling. Because I was taking writing courses at the time, also writing pieces for the newsletter of the Salvation Army, it just seemed a natural progression to me. I knew the information in my journals could help others in my same situation, and I needed to share this. Still using this as a therapeutic tool for my own recovery— the journals— I created a manuscript, got initial feedback that was wonderful, then I found a publisher, and the process took off from there.

Joseph, you stated that addiction starts out innocently. What did you mean by that?

I said that? I must have been drunk…. Seriously, the meaning behind the phrase was simply that people have no idea they may be an alcoholic at first. The early warning signs can be very deceptive; we may have an inkling that we are drinking a little much and we may wholeheartedly decide to slow down a little yet, it never occurs to a person they are a full-fledged alcoholic. I didn’t for many years. I truly thought I had control over how much I drank. Truthfully it was my wallet in the end that had the control. No money- I didn’t drink, but not because I didn’t want to deep down.

Was your life “normal” when you started drinking or was your drinking different than others when you were in your social drinking phase of life?

Let me say this. I started drinking at roughly fourteen. From the very first drink, the reason I drank was the for the conclusion of getting drunk. That was it. I did not drink for the appreciation of a fine wine or a thirty-year-old scotch until I was much older. So, was my life normal? Sure. As with all of my friends at the time, when we drank, it was for the purpose of getting drunk; yet as we grew older my needs did not change, I needed to get drunk; others did not see this as such an importance anymore.

Were you in denial about your drinking being a problem? What does denial look and feel like?

No, of course not. I didn’t have a problem for thirty years! When people in my life started referring to my drinking as being perhaps a bit much, for many years my answer would be, “okay, I’ll stop.” And I would, without any problem, and just continue on with life as if nothing was wrong. This is classic denial. At these cruxes, I should have sought help. One other thing about recovery my initial counsellor constantly said to me, “the what if’s and should haves are of no consequence; they no longer matter. Let’s deal with the here and now.” She was right. When getting into the step-work fully later on— this was the time to deal with the past indiscretions, steps eight and step nine, in particular.

Are there early signs of alcohol addiction that people overlook?

Yes. Because of the denial process, we tend to negate the meaning of these little nuances. The morning after drink, for instance, the one that makes you feel like a normal functioning adult. It cures the hangover so this must be a good thing, right? Dead giveaway smacking you upside the head. What this should be showing you is an addiction, not a cure-all for the stupidity of the previous night’s shenanigans.

When did you know you crossed the line into addiction? How did it feel?

I think that would have to be when I became homeless. Do not misunderstand, long before this point, I was aware I was an alcoholic, yet that denial you mentioned earlier was so ingrained in my mind. When I finally lost my apartment, had nowhere to sleep that first night; that was difficult, an eye-opener for sure. Plus, the circumstances of why I lost the apartment were still weighing extremely heavy on my mind, because I had to move out very quickly, under supervision no less. Wandering the streets with absolutely no clue as to what to do, I was truthfully at my wit's end. This was horrible, something I would not wish on my worst enemy. Guess what I did? Correct, I got drunk. I think there was a revelation right there and then I simply chose to ignore it for one more night.

How did your drinking affect your relationships? How did you feel about yourself?

My EX-wife —does that answer your question? Seriously though, that really is only one part; all my relationships suffered, personally and professionally. My ex-wife, she is the person you have referred to in the next question. My professional relationships started out well, as I am very good at what I do, yet when the effects of the booze became a deterrent in my abilities to perform my job, I lost my job and would move on to the next, hoping a poor reference did not come along with losing the previous position. My abilities overshadowed the alcoholism for many years, because alcoholism is very prevalent in the hospitality industry, almost accepted, yet only up to a point. In many instances, my employers “put up” with my drinking because I was difficult to replace. I never drank while at work; it was because of the depth of the hangovers that my abilities started to lack. Hence, once a replacement was found, well, you can guess the rest.

There was one person in your life who told you the truth and stuck by you? Did that make a difference in your movement towards recovery?

As stated, this was and remains to be, my ex-wife, the mother of my child. She tried endless times to get me into treatment. She was successful one other time also, and it worked for a time. As much as I hate referring to her as my ex, for the sake of this piece, I shall for her anonymity, not that she would care, but I do. There have been so many times when she should have simply moved on with her life and let me rot. I just refused to listen. I played her game, said what she wanted to hear for a while and then just returned to the same nonsense over and over again. For the sake of our child, we remained close because we believed our daughter needed both of her parents. Plus, she truly cared what became of me even if I sure as hell didn’t seem to. She knew I was capable of this all along, even when I did not.

Can you describe the moment or episode that made you decide to go into recovery?

Well, I was staying at the Salvation Army in Victoria, I needed to go through an initial intake process before I could even be considered for a bed. I had an intake worker and he asked me about my circumstance —what it was that had brought me to this point in my life. He mentioned he had been through this program and how hard it was for him, but that he thought it would be just what I needed. I agreed wholeheartedly, sort of. About two months later the opportunity finally arose and I was drinking again at this point, He took me into his office, sat me down and said, “Joseph, you have two choices here; you can continue to drink as you are now, and more than likely be dead in a very short time frame, or, you can take what money you have left and get on that damn ferry to Vancouver, make your way to the treatment centre, and just maybe turn your life around. It’s your choice but you need to decide right now!” I made a choice.

What was it like when you first got into recovery?

Frightening, literally frightening.

How did you feel physically to go off the alcohol?

Oddly enough I was not physically ill. I was hungover for a full month before I started feeling like a normal person again, yet I was not aware of this for almost a year, simply because I did not know any longer what “normal” felt like.


I was terrified to even leave the building for quite some time. I did not understand my surroundings at all. I was now living in the poorest postal code in North America. The simple act of walking the eight or nine blocks from the bus station to where the treatment centre was located scared the hell out of me. I truly could not believe the horror I saw on these streets. I have since started writing another book about this which is not finished yet because there is just much information I have yet to gather. I was not in a good place with my sobriety for some time.

At what point did you feel you could cope without the alcohol?

There are still days when I feel that the only thing that will make me feel better, bring me out of the “funk” that is my life at times, is a drink — or ten. So truthfully, I may never know this feeling completely. Realistically, it would have been about six months into sobriety that I felt I was strong enough to “cope” by myself, but I made sure, as everyone in recovery needs to do (this is a must) — I made sure I had the support of others when I needed it. This I cannot stress enough.

What tools did recovery give you to quit that you didn’t have before?

I use the “tools” I learned while in the initial stages of recovery and continue to learn to this day and probably for the rest of my days here on planet earth. Quite obviously one cannot be in recovery until one quits, but I get the gist here.

The largest and most important tool is that of a support group. I am not a “twelve step” meeting kind of guy, so although this is a support group, it is not the only explanation of a support group. People that are aware of the issues you have and are willing to be there for you whenever the need arises, that is a support group. It does not have to be a set time and a place every day.

The AA premise is wonderful and it helps thousands of people every single day —if not more than that. Yet for me, the meetings were not of any help. As contradictory as this sounds from earlier statements, you cannot do this alone. You need support, yet you are the only one who can make the decision in regards to step 1. (We admitted that we were powerless over addiction. That our lives became unmanageable).

No one can make this decision for you. After such time, get as much, and keep getting as much support as you can. Never can we have a support group that is large enough. Do not misunderstand. I fully believe in the “twelve step” process and do use it wholeheartedly in my recovery, I just have no place for meetings personally, yet they are a very valuable tool.

What advice do you have for someone with an alcohol addiction?

It isn’t worth it. Realize you have a problem and get some help. There really is nothing else to be said until there is the admittance as per step one. Once this is done, there is an entire world of people out there willing to help in almost any way you can imagine. Truly.

How has recovery improved your life?

Honestly, I feel the question here should read, “How has recovery NOT improved my life?” Quite importantly there are many things that I still need to, and am in the process of, improving in my life. These things vary, yet this is what life is all about, is it not? Being the kind of person that is not about to simply “settle” for anything. I like to do things to the best of my ability or I will not do them at all. Having said that, recovery could not have done anything BUT improve my life. So here I am.

You mentioned you had underlying problems when you started drinking. Perhaps you had a chemical imbalance. Is that what a core issue is? How important is it to deal with core issues in order to recover? 

I have implied there were underlying issues I had, yes. Exactly what those were and how they truly affected my drinking, I will never fully know. My biggest was the addictive personality. Anyone can have this, whether we are born with such a thing, who knows? Perhaps it’s a learned behavior; again, who knows? There were family members who drank also. Is it hereditary? Again, there is no clear documented evidence either way. So, the possibility I am/was predisposed to the addiction could be a possibility, sure. I do not believe I will ever know one way or the other. 

The chemical imbalance is one theory, yet again it’s simply a theory at this point. As for “core issues”, the general consensus is, if we do not deal with these issues, the recovery will be short-lived. My firm belief is the reason the statistics are so depressingly poor for extended recovery, is simply because people do not deal with these core issues in the initial stages of their respective recoveries. If they do, and then believe there needs to be no follow- up with these same issues; again the success rate of continuous recovery, falters.

What kinds of core issues do you think a majority of alcoholics have?

Wow, there can be so many, just as there are so many different personalities in people. Most core issues in my belief, stem from the word self. Lack of self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-respect are biggies, yet there are so many others. The hardest one for me was discovering just how little I cared about myself and my own well-being. My largest concern was for others. My feelings were nowhere to be found. I did not like myself. I always believed that nothing I ever did was good enough, so my opinion of myself was very low. I would always try to please others with absolutely no concern of how this made me feel. Hell, why wouldn’t I turn to the bottle for some solace? It was my relief for being abused on a daily basis because I was unable to say "Hey, wait a minute, you cannot treat me like that you shit!' This could also be referred to as classic denial.

Have you fully recovered or do you still experience damage from alcohol addiction? 

To have “fully recovered” or “healed” to me is an oxymoron of sorts. Addiction is something that does not go away because one is sober. I’m an addict, end of story. I will always be an addict, just a recovering addict, not a recovered addict. At any given time, I could once again use. Even though I choose not to, does not mean I will always be successful, because I will always have that addictive personality. One can only change this to a certain degree, in my mind. Whether my health problems now are directly related to the many years of addiction or not, I do not have an answer for that. Odds are, more than likely— to some degree, yes.

What does a person’s life lead to if they keep drinking after fifteen or twenty years?

In a nutshell, death. In some way shape or form, inevitable death.

How should people around the alcoholic communicate?

Be nice. Shower them with gifts, take them out to dinner and buy them cars and the like. No seriously, one of the reasons most recovering alcoholics do not tell others they are such. is because when we do, people treat us differently. It is NOT because we are ashamed of this. If you are ashamed of being a recovering addict, then you are going to relapse; this I can almost guarantee with 100% accuracy. Just be yourself. If in fact, the recovering addict has any issue whatsoever with the manner in which you are treating them; trust me, they WILL tell you.

Your book is a courageous book. It takes readers into the depths of healing. You share your pain and triumphs. Is that what being healed is like? A series of ups and downs, or does everything start to even out? Do you feel more hopeful when you don’t drink?

The wording here is sketchy at best. There is no “healed” or “cured”, it simply doesn’t work that way, I am a recovering alcoholic and I will always be 'till the day I leave this life. At any moment, I can relapse; it really is that simple. I still get urges and cravings, just not as regularly as when I first stopped. It does get easier the longer one is sober, but it never subsides. If one loses a limb, we learn to compensate without that limb as best we can; sometimes, most times almost to a full 100% of the previous ability. Addiction is the same premise. We need to compensate for the things that made us use in the first place, to replace those fears or what we believed were shortcomings in our lives. To rebuild our self-esteem and self-confidence. To believe strongly enough in ourselves as individuals that we can be just fine without that “crutch.” Life is a series of ups and downs; one of the ways to deal with these is with this renewed sense of hope. This is a choice.

What kind of guide do you want your book to be for alcoholics?

A reference guide only. The things in this book are the things that worked and to some extent those things that did not work for me. This does not mean any of this is written in stone and the only way to live one’s life for a successful recovery. This is my story and the ways in which I managed this colossal feat. I would be an idiot if I believed this was the only way. The intent was for others to take what they can from this and use the ideas presented here in any way it would help them in their own recoveries.

Joseph, is there anything I have left out about your book that you would like to talk to readers about today?

Probably Shelby yet this eludes me,.You did pepper me with some rather intense questions you know…

What do you plan to accomplish next?

Whatever the world decides to throw at me. For lack of a better cliché, one day at a time. There is a follow-up book to Through the Mind’s Eye that is in the publication process now. I am expecting a release date sometime in August of this year (2017). Titled, I believe most appropriately, How to Become a Successful (recovering) Alcoholic.

Your book is a bold and beautiful journey into the mind of an addicted person. It does not try to please the reader, but instead, moves truthfully into the dark night of the soul leading into and out of recovery. Yet your book bursts with hope and new ways of living and perceiving the world. Can you leave us with any “words of wisdom” about the recovery journey and what you wish for others who suffer from alcohol addiction?

Every single person has the strength within them to recover; it does not matter how bleak and discouraging you see the future in initial recovery. No doubt this is hard, just don’t give up. Things do eventually begin to fall into place in their own time. Recovery, to be successful, cannot be rushed. Take your time, talk to people until you’re blue in the face, if necessary. No one is about to fault another for trying to improve their lives…

Patrice Foster 

Author of: Molding My Destiny

Patrice, in your book, Molding My Destiny, you said you spent the first part of your childhood in Jamaica. What do you remember about living there?

I was the youngest and I played a lot of cricket with my brothers and sisters. We were a team, always playing outside together. Neighboring adults kept an eye out on us kids, so we never got in trouble. My mother was home but she kept to herself a lot.

What do you remember about your parent’s relationship?

I remember them arguing. My father came home drunk or he wouldn’t come home at all. When he was mad, he cursed and beat my mother.  I was little and my oldest sister covered my and eyes and sang to me while my father beat her.  My oldest brother would try and protect my mother but he got hurt when he jumped into her beatings.

Do you ever remember seeing your mother look like she was beaten?

I was too little then, but my older brothers and sisters said my father broke her fingers.

You said in your book that the hardest part of your family splitting up was losing your brothers and sisters.

Yeah, I don’t know who decided this for me, but I got sent to a distant family’s home where I was treated badly. I was around six then. I had to live in separate quarters and I didn’t get the clothes and money my mother sent me. I wore old clothes and was bullied by other kids. There was another little girl in the main house, and she got the clothes I was supposed to receive from my mother.

My two sisters went into a foster home together and my three brothers went into another home nearby. They got to see each other a lot over the years, but I was further away. When I did see my brothers and sisters years later, they didn’t treat me well because they thought I was better off than them, because I got to stay with family instead of going into foster care like them. They didn’t realize I had been abused and exploited.

When your mother left, you didn’t know where she went to at first.  Did you ever get to know her?

My mother, who had fled to America, sent for my sister and me a few years later. I was excited. I thought now I will be with my mother and father, my brothers and sisters, and we will all be a family again. All the people who lived in America came back to Jamaica and told everyone how wonderful it was to live there, so I thought we would live in a big house and be happy together.

Of course, when I got to New York, it was crowded and there was no house to live in. I was poor and I got bullied all over again when I went to school. It took my mother years to get us all together, and when she finally got us in a house, my brothers were acting wild. She couldn’t handle them so it didn’t work out. Years later, I moved to Georgia where my mother lived with my sister and brother. I visited her every day. I came to understand why she had to leave Jamaica and I didn’t hold it against her

She wanted to bring all my brothers and sisters together and talk things out. Later, when she got breast cancer, my brothers and sisters and I took care of her until she passed over. She never had to go to the hospital.

Patrice, tell me about your father. In your book, you talk about how your mother’s parents didn’t like him because he was poor, and he couldn’t take care of his family in Jamaica. Yet when he got to America, he became a wealthy businessman. How did he do that?

My dad was a charming man. He always had women all over him. Women liked to help him; that’s probably how he started out when he got to America. My father had kids all over the place, even in Japan. He started up a church, opened health food stores, and created a healing service. He traveled all over and was on talk shows. 

How much money did he have when he died?

I don’t know. He had a wife and another family by then. We assumed they got it all. They even traveled to Jamaica to meet his family, something my brothers and sisters never got to do. But two of my brothers joined his church and hung out with my father.  My youngest brother, the one who had to steal food to feed us when my mother left us, wouldn’t join his church. None of us got anything from an inheritance. He had an apartment building and health food stores when he died.

Why did your father lock all the doors and throw you and your sister out in the snow when you stayed with him in New York?

My dad was a vegetarian and I accidentally left fried chicken in his refrigerator. He was mad.  I came home after that incident and none of the locks worked anymore. I was in the snow for hours trying to get in as it was getting dark. I know my dad was in there because lights were going on and off in his apartment. He never let me live with him again.

Why couldn’t your father accept you?

He told me I was too much like my mother and I was dumb like her.

Let’s talk about the time you returned to Jamaica when you were an adult. Unfortunately, when new Americans return to their homelands, they are often ridiculed and ostracized. In your case, you had a terrible earth-shattering welcome. How did you deal with what happened to you?

It’s called transformation. I had to pull myself back to the place where I could move forward again. I always tell myself this too will pass.

Patrice, you take readers on an open-hearted journey through your hard life. Yet, you are a woman who climbed out of poverty and took business risks that generated success. You accomplished a lot. What do you have to say to others who are struggling with poverty and other hardships?

Always go forward. Don’t ever look back. Just keep moving ahead.

Thank you for this interview, Patrice. Your book Molding My Destiny is an unforgettable one, and I think it will inspire others. Thank you.

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