My Interview with Steve Lindahl
Please welcome STEVE LINDAHL, author of MOTHERLESS SOUL and WHITE HORSE REGRESSIONS.
Tell us a bit about yourself and what you are currently working on or promoting.
I am currently working on a series of past life mysteries. I’ve published the first two novels, Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions, through All Things that Matter Press and I’m working on a third. In each book something occurs that needs to be investigated: a crime or a devastating accident. Glen Wiley, a hypnotist, is called in to regress the people who knew the victim. He uses events from the past lives they shared to solve the present day mystery. Relationships in the books present a second, different type of mystery, since they change from life to life. People who are friends in the present might have been sisters in the past, a mother and daughter might have been a teacher and a student or possibly two students, a woman might have been a man or even an animal, but all the souls exist in all the incarnations and all play roles in whatever tragedy occurs.
What genre(s) do you write in?
My books are mysteries, but they are also historical fiction. White Horse Regressions takes the reader back to Victorian London during the time of Jack the Ripper and also to the Han dynasty when Buddhism was first introduced to China while Motherless Soul has many scenes set in the American Civil War. My past life mystery novels share characteristics with time-travel stories because historical portions can mix in with present day sections. However, past life regressions avoid the discrepancies of time travel. Although the characters can observe and discover, events cannot be changed.
What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Writers need to write. It sounds silly because it’s so obvious, but life is hectic and finding the time to sit in front of a computer screen can be difficult. Staying motivated is hard, since only a very few writers find success quickly. It helps to share your work with family, friends, or other writers in a critique group. Still while it is important to keep writing, writers also need to keep up other aspects of their lives. Believable, interesting characters are what makes for great fiction and, although writing is a solitary art form, writers who don’t know people can’t write about them.
What are your three favorite books?
I’m going to change this question a bit and answer my three favorite types of books instead.
Doomsday Book by Connie Willis has great characters and mixes carefully researched history from the year 1348 (the time of the black plague) with a setting in the year 2048. Sometimes the pace of the book is frantic, but at other times it slows down and the emotions are strong. I love the way Willis’ people share the same human failings no matter what century they’re from. And I love her treatment of religion in the novel. I have recently read the sequel: To Say Nothing of the Dog, which was also good. Doomsday Book was published in 1993, but I still consider it my favorite from the large, commercial publishers.
Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy is my favorite classic. The pace is slow at times, which is something I expect and enjoy in nineteenth century literature. Perhaps it is that pace that makes the characters so great. I can understand the emotions that propel Anna into her relationship with Vronsky while also understanding her husband’s feelings. The story captures the importance of society and propriety in that period. I’ve read the book times three times which is more than I’ve read any other novel other than the ones I’ve written.
The last type of book I want to include among my favorite novels are the ones published by small presses, including my own publisher: All Things That Matter Press. Small presses are where readers find unique and fresh writing. My own novels are examples of this type and so is Conversations Among Ruins by the author of this blog. Others include Memoirs from the Asylum by Ken Weene, A House Near Luccoli by DM Denton, Out of Crystal Ice by P.J. Wetzel, Musical Chairs by Jen Knox, and others too numerous to list. All bringing something new to lovers of ideas and stories.
If you could have a conversation with one person living or dead who would it be?
Emperor Ming (the Chinese Emperor portrayed in White Horse Regressions) would be a good choice. I would get to learn why he wanted to introduce Buddhism to China enough to build the first temple. But the challenge I’m facing now is how to get the word out about my book, so instead I’ll choose someone who could help with that. I would love to talk to Hart Hanson or another television producer to ask about using my stories in a series. The characters and plots would translate to the small screen extremely well if I could be lucky enough to have an honest conversation with someone who could make that wish a reality.
What are you currently reading?
I just started Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser. It was published in 1900, but I suppose I can still consider it a nineteenth century work. It’s a book I should have read years ago. Although the writing is very different from modern novels, the characters, especially Carrie, are fully developed, interesting people. I’m enjoying it.
Is there a theme/message underlying your book(s) that you hope comes across?
As I mentioned before, I use the concept of past lives as a device in my writing and in doing so I cover the idea of the continuity of life. The idea that the soul is eternal is the most important message in my writing. But I don’t want any concept in my books to be accepted blindly. I hope my readers think and come to their own conclusions.
How do you keep sane as a writer?
My writing helps me keep sane rather than the other way around. I create characters I care about and watch them face problems that are often similar to ones I have faced in my non-writing life. As I experience these situations with my fictional friends, I learn how to handle my own frustrations. I imagine this is similar to what people get from role playing in therapy workshops.
Has reading a book ever changed your life? If yes, which one and how?
Many books have changed my life by making me think in different ways, but the one I’ll mention had an unusual impact on me. It’s The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks. Noah Calhoun, the novel’s main character, grew up in North Carolina where he loved being by water. He spent some time in New Jersey, but never bothered to visit the lakes up there. I grew up in New Jersey and had been living in North Carolina for a good length of time when I read the book. In NJ I spent summers near a lake, but I hadn’t found one to enjoy after my move. I decided I’d look around for a place where I could get back to the water. Now I have a kayak I use about every two weeks and have found a walking path that winds around a lake just ten minutes from my home.
What obstacles, if any, have you encountered in being a writer?
The main obstacle is finding time to write. I have a day job that pays the bills, so I work on the books in the middle of the night and on weekends. But publicity takes some of that time. I’m going to retire from that day job soon, so the obstacle should go away.
What do you like best/least about writing?
My favorite and least favorite aspects of writing are the same one, coming up with ideas. I’m as happy as I can be when the plot is going well and the characters are reacting in interesting ways, but when I can’t come up with the next step or somebody in the book has done something I know I have to rewrite, I can get frustrated. Writing isn’t different from any other project. When I’m in the zone, life is good.
Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?
I leaned so much its hard to know where to begin. The research was fun, especially about the introduction of Buddhism to China. Discovering Emperor Ming’s role in bringing a new religion to the people of that region was amazing. The research about life in Victorian London was also interesting, although I knew a little more about that era. The people in my novel taught me new things concerning emotions and coping with life. My characters have been my teachers in every story I’ve written and White Horse Regressions was no exception.
Thank you STEVE LINDAHL for sharing your time with us. I wish you all the best with your writing. Please keep us posted on the latest developments.
Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, All Things That Matter Press. More information can be found on my website: www.stevelindahl.com, my blog, www.stevelindahl.blogspot.com, and on Goodreads and Librarything.
MOTHERLESS SOUL (summary)
Emily Vinson’s entire life was impacted by the loss of her mother when she was 2 years old. At 82 Emily contacts a hypnotist hoping to draw out hidden memories and discover as much as possible about the short time she spent with the woman who gave her life. Glen Wiley, the hypnotist, teaches her more about herself than she had expected. He helps her bring out memories of many past lives, including an experience that took place on a smoke filled battlefield. All of Emily’s lives have had the same tragic outcome, the loss of her mother at a young age. Her soul is caught in what Glen calls circularity, meaning that the tragedy will occur again and again unless she can break the pattern. She and Glen must revisit her past lives and use what they learn to find the other souls who are part of the circle. They must use the past to change the future. Emily’s stubborn desire to know her mother is realized in intricate and unsettling ways no one could have imagined possible.
MOTHERLESS SOUL (excerpt)
Glen asked her to count backwards from one hundred. When she passed fifty-nine he started to guide her saying, “Go back, back further to a time before you were Emily Vinson. Keep going back.” His words seemed to run right through her body, like a shot of whiskey. Glen seemed to be growing distant, although she knew he was right next to her. She kept counting toward zero, even as he spoke.
Emily lost track of the counting. She was certain she’d repeated some numbers, but she tried to keep them coming. She knew she had to do what Glen told her to do. She closed her eyes. Shortly after that the dim light she could make out through her lids faded into absolute darkness.
“You’re slipping through time and space into a place that’s been buried in your heart for ages upon ages. Something important happened to you in this place. You’re starting to remember what it was like: the smells, the sounds, the texture of the world around you.”
Her eyes started to burn. Memories were flowing into her head after a period of nothingness and those sensations were different from what she’d experienced the day before. This time it was as if she were two people. The person she had been before the session began, the old woman nearing the end of her life, was now watching someone else from inside that other person’s body. The other person was very young, but in trouble.
“Talk to me, Emily. Let me know what you’re feeling.”
Emily started to cry. She wasn’t able to hold back. Her cry was the loud wail of a hungry baby. But Emily knew what she felt wasn’t only hunger. Something was very wrong.
“I can smell smoke and feel heat,” she told Glen. She was in a trance, but able to speak. “Images are coming into my head. I see my mother sitting beside me. She’s reaching over to pick me up. I’m an infant, too young to say words or understand what’s happening around me. There is so much noise, groans from men lying on the ground near us and shouts from other men behind the bushes and trees. There are blasts of gunfire and the sounds of branches breaking and feet pounding as men run in every direction imaginable. My mother’s lifting me to her face and kissing me. Her face is wet with sweat, so are her hair and her arms. She’s rocking me, comforting me. This isn’t the mother I saw yesterday, when I was still Emily. This is a different woman with light brown hair, blue eyes and two small moles under the left side of her mouth. She is covered in soot and dressed in a torn, filthy cotton dress that hangs loosely on her thin body.
“And then there is the voice of my mother. Everything will be all right, my darling. We’ll be home again soon. We’ll be with Charles and with Grandma. This will all be over. I promise. Remember what God tells us, Charlotte.
“Charlotte is my name. I’m so very young, but I recognized my name. I also know this isn’t the first time my mother has prayed with me. We have been walking for what seems like forever and during that long walk my mother often held me to her chest and talked with a soft, rhythmic voice that comforted me. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.
“The words aren’t enough this time. The noise around us is too loud and the sting from the smoke hurts too much. A burning tree is crashing down behind us. I’m crying. I’m crying so hard.
“Remember that I love you, my mother tells me.
“My mother kisses both of my eyes, then my cheek, three long, deliberate kisses. She holds me on her shoulder and turns my face against her neck, as if her body can be a filter from the smoke.
“My mother starts singing and I listen. Her voice is so beautiful and no matter what else is happening, I can’t help but listen.
“In Scarlett town where I was born… I know the song. My mother sings it often. It’s one of her favorites.”
Emily was Charlotte, so she could feel what the baby felt, but she could also understand it with the background her age offered. Charlotte’s mother was protecting her the only way she could. She couldn’t stop what was happening, but she could ease the fear for both of them. “…there was a fair maid dwellin’.” It was a folk song. The tone was gentle and soft. If Charlotte concentrated on it she wouldn’t hear the gunshots or feel the heat of the fires. She would be at peace.
“…her name was Barb’ra Allen.”
Then a nearby gun exploded loudly. Her mother stopped singing and fell to her right side, still holding Charlotte in her arms.
Charlotte lay still. She was too young to move, too young to do anything other than cry.
Emily was there, too, lying on the body of Charlotte’s dead mother. She could see the same blood the baby saw and feel the same warm but lifeless flesh. Charlotte didn’t understand death, but that didn’t lessen the sense of loss. Grief for the baby was instinctual and hurt in ways that were more akin to physical pain than the sorrow of an anguished adult. For Emily it was different. She understood death all too well.
“I won’t let you burn,” the man’s voice said clearly. He was the one who had walked with them. Now he was standing above her, where Charlotte could see only his legs. “Even Charles’ bastard deserves that much.” He leaned close to her. His breath smelled bad, worse than the smoke. He had a knife and he used that knife to cut her. He sliced her throat with one quick slash and, at that instant, Emily spun back to Glen.
WHITE HORSE REGRESSION (summary)
The soul is eternal, and no more so than in Steve Lindahl’s White Horse Regressions, the story of a group of individuals destined to share their lives throughout time, be it in ancient China during the Han dynasty, in 19th Century London during Jack the Ripper’s reign of terror, or in a small town rocked by murder in present-day Vermont. It’s been almost a year since Hannah Hersman’s girlfriend was killed, and the police still have no leads, no suspects, and no one in custody. Undeterred and longing for closure, Hannah calls in Glen Wiley, a renowned hypnotist, as a last resort. Glen quickly discovers that in a past life Hannah was a prostitute in Victorian London named Rose and her girlfriend was Annie Chapman, a victim of Jack the Ripper. In fact, many of Hannah’s friends and acquaintances were similarly connected to her, not just in then London but in multiple lives and multiple places throughout history. And, in all these incarnations, their existence is tied to a murderous plot that Hannah and Glen must uncover to ensure their future lives can avoid the pain and misery of losing their loved ones. White Horse Regressions is a compelling supernatural thriller that drops you down the rabbit hole and spits you out into the filthy streets of a not-too-long-ago London, the palatial estates of a long-forgotten China, and the seedy underbelly of small-town America. ~Patrick Lafferty, author of Anno Domina, Thinking Out of the Box, and Miller Time
WHITE HORSE REGRESSION (excerpt)
Stuart and Hannah sat in the audience of a small community theater in Springfield, Vermont, examining the set of A Doll’s House while they waited for the performance to begin. Paige was cast as Nora.
“Isn’t that picture odd?” Stuart whispered to Hannah, referring to the Asian-looking painting on the set. It did not belong to late-eighteen-hundreds Norway by any standard. “I’d like to have a closer look.”
“If we stay after the show’s over, there might be a chance we could go up on the stage. I’ll ask Paige.”
Stuart’s wife, Jamie, was also an actress, and when rehearsal and performance schedules prevented Paige and Jamie from attending each other’s shows, their significant others often went together. Jamie was currently in rehearsal for a production of The Drowsy Chaperone, so here they were.
The non-acting partners enjoyed their arrangement. Hannah had known Stuart and Jamie for years; before Paige, she’d been the tag-along friend, but had always felt welcome – more by Stuart than by Jamie.
The lights dimmed then slowly came up again. There was no curtain in this theater, so this was the signal that the performance was about to begin. Paige came out on stage, a dominant figure as always due to her red-orange hair. She set down the presents she was carrying and crossed to a Christmas tree on the far end of the stage. She started to add ornaments when Torvald Helmer, her character’s husband, joined her on the set.
There was no doubt Paige was the star as she made Nora’s transition from naïve to inured believable. Still Hannah could not stop thinking about the odd Asian painting, so out of place on the set.
When the play was over, while the cast was being congratulated by fans, Hannah asked her girlfriend if she and Stuart might look at the set up close. Paige took hold of Hannah’s hand and led them both up onto the stage.
Hannah and Stuart went straight to the Asian painting, which was a watercolor depicting a scene that was, they thought, taking place in China. There were a number of people dressed in the types of robes associated with ancient times in that country who were watching what, at first glance, appeared to Hannah to be a film; a closer look revealed that behind the screen men were holding objects up to cast shadows It was a form of puppet theater.
“What is this?” Hannah asked Paige.
“It’s been the talk of the cast. No one knows why it was included on the set, but you have to admit it’s fascinating. I suppose it draws attention because it seems out of place, but I wouldn’t want it taken away. There’s something warm about it.”
“Warm?” Stuart asked.
Paige shrugged. “Hard to say why. None of us saw it prior to tech week, so nobody was prepared. Some board member wanted it hung here. I heard he’s a history buff. Anyway, he’s got money so it’s hard to say no. But enough about the set. Tell me what you thought of the show.”
“I’m sorry,” Hannah said, turning to Paige to hug her again. “You were fabulous. I can’t say that enough.”
“Were local models used for this?” Stuart asked, still focused on the painting. “Some of these people look familiar. This young girl in blue, for example, where’d they get her?”
Paige pulled away from Hannah, laughing a little and shaking her head. “I have no idea where or when that painting was done. I know what you mean, though. There’s a man in it I thought might be someone I used to know. I think it’s the way he’s standing, with his shoulders hunched forward. I had a teacher who used to do that, but he wasn’t Asian.”
“Do you two want to go out for coffee?” Hannah offered.
Paige agreed, but Stuart begged off; he needed to pick up his daughter, Starr, from his parents.
Their happy mood turned gloomy as Paige was pulled for running a light almost as soon as they started to drive toward downtown Springfield.
“It’s not fair,” Paige said. “I swear someone’s out to get me.”
“It’s just a ticket.”
“No, it’s more than that.” Hannah tried to convince Paige she was being paranoid, but later the words would seem prophetic.
The next night Paige’s performance was as spectacular as it had been on opening night.
By the following weekend, the show was canceled. Paige was dead.