Friday, July 22, 2011

Jay Hartlove: An Interview

I happened to meet writer Jay Hartlove through a mutual friend on a popular social networking site.  Initially, he impressed me with his blogging and prescient views on contemporary themes.  So, I asked Jay if he'd be willing to take time out of his demanding schedule to discuss his lifestyle, his writing, Magick and  "The Chosen." He graciously accepted.  So, without further delay, here's Jay....


Q1. How has your personal Magickal praxis shaped the way you approach writing Magickally-themed stories, aimed at a population that is, well, not cognizant of Magickal lifestyles and the way Magick really works?

Jay:  "Since you ask about my personal practice, I should explain that first. My magickal practice is focused on achieving greater human potential. I feel I can influence the world more effectively by improving myself first. I believe the Thelemic principle that the human will is holy, But I do not adhere to any one practice tradition. I have hybridized from several sources, including Crowley, but also Thich Nhat Hahn, Frederick Nietzsche and Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Focus, awareness, willpower and humility. I’m all about achieving human potential and finding your place in the universe. Human potential is nearly limitless. Finding what we are supposed to do with that potential, our role in the universe, has been a lifelong quest for me.

One of my favorite human potentials is learning. I believe anyone can learn anything if they have the right teacher. Yes, I put it on the teacher, since the teacher knows the subject. So when I teach, I start with a big contextual framework, then I go back and fill in the details. Details don’t make sense unless the learner has someplace to hang them.

The same is true in writing. I know magic is complicated, subtle, hugely contextual, with a big irrational human component. So when I set out to explain magical things to uneducated readers, I have to give them a context. Even though my stories often have a lot of plot, my writing is very character driven. I get the reader to care about the characters and then I show the reader how magic makes sense to the characters. By the point in a story I have magic happen out in public, I have already convinced the reader it belongs in that world and in that story. That way, I also don’t get bogged down in trying to explain how the magic works. Consistency within the story is paramount to maintaining the reader’s suspension of disbelief. You have to stick to the rules you’ve laid out. No hat tricks that cheat the reader. I hate arbitrary Deus Ex Machina and Hand of Fate endings, they show a lack of care and craft on the part of the writer. If your characters are believable, and they believe in magic, then the reader will accept magic in the story."
Q2. Can you tell me something you have discovered through Magick that you are certain you would have not discovered any other way?

Jay:  "The Zone.  I demand a lot of myself. I approach life from the assumption that life is short and I’ve got a lot to do. I’ve been given great gifts and I’m not going to waste them.

I flunked out of college in a clinical depression the first time around and spent my twenties as a performance artist bouncing randomly through life wondering what I was supposed to be doing and where I was supposed to fit in. Eventually I realized philosophers and spiritualists had already covered that ground. So I started reading them. I started with science and logic with Kierkegaard and Nietzsche. Then I moved on to spiritualism with the Vedas and Sufis. By the time I got to Sylvia Boorstein and Paschel Beverly Randolph , I saw there were actual techniques for finding your mojo.

Once I started finding the keys to linking focus and willpower, I turned my life around, actually reinvented myself. I went back to school, graduated Valedictorian from my law school paralegal training, and went on to graduate second in my class with a Master of Science in Finance. I divorced my aimless artist wife and married the woman who came to bear my children.

Now I can access the Zone pretty much on command. My wife is a newspaper reporter who often works in the evenings, so evenings are up to me. The Tasmanian Devil’s got nothing on me. While others around me are road raging, I meditate on the drive home from my full time job and hit the ground running. I fix dinner, bathe the children, run laundry or grocery shop (or both), feed and walk the dogs, put the girls to bed, and THEN fire up the computer and start writing at 11 PM. I joke that my muse is named Eleven. (I should explore her archetypal Female aspect.) After a few minutes of focus, I can usually pick up where I left off and write a couple thousand words before I fall asleep around 2. Then I get up at 6 and do it all again.

I don’t do much metaphysical work. I do indulge myself the occasional selfish changed green light or hole in traffic. Squeezing in an extra minute has come in handy too. I used to do more, back in the day, with interesting but very mixed results. It took me a long time to learn the importance of humility in the practice, and I lost a few friends along the way. Now I am happy to report I find myself up on the roof with old man Ignatius breathing in the night air and crying at the overwhelming beauty.

So while I don’t do much magic, I have achieved a higher level of my potential using techniques perfected by magicians. It lets me get done what I want to get done in my life. I guess that makes me more of a yogi than a conjuror. At some point I will probably go back and study some more and tap into even more mojo, to what end I can only guess. Something is working. I get derelict cars and computers to work when no one else can. I’m turning 54 this month but I look and feel 45. Maybe my next goal should be satori by 60."

Q3. So what is this book about?

Jay:  "Revenge and redemption. The bad guy wants revenge. The good guy needs redemption, even though he doesn't think that's possible. The bad guy is the reincarnation of the High Priest who succeeded Sammael after Exodus, the priest who had to pick up the pieces after Sammael did his damage. This priest, now named Silas Alverado, saw the magic Sammael wielded and then took away, and Silas wants it back. So 100 generations later, he is back to capture his old teacher and wrest the secrets of creation from him, with the objective of restoring the glory that was once ancient Egypt. He wants a redo on Exodus.

The hero, Charles Redmond, as a youth was a hit man for the Duvalier regimes in Haiti. The CIA took his testimony and gave him a new life as an importer in Washington DC, but Charles still sees the blood on his hands. As much as he wants to run away from his dark past, he ends up doing business with a guy Charles suspects is supernatural. This is Joseph,who turns out to be a demon, and is Silas' right hand man. So Charles gets dragged into Silas' plans, and back to Haiti. He drags his psychiatrist into the mess. It is the psychiatrist, Sanantha Mauwad, who tells the story."

Q4. You describe your work as "Dark Connections Revealed." What dark connections do you reveal in The Chosen?
Jay:   "There are two Big Ideas in this book. First, I postulate that in the biblical book of Exodus, the High Priest of Amun in Ramses' court was actually Sammael,the Hebrew Demon Prince of Liars, the snake Iblis from the Garden of Eden. How else could a man convince Pharaoh that Moses was not doing anything the Egyptian temple didn't already know, and that Ramses should not take Moses and Yahweh as a serious threat? This set up Ramses and his legendary ego up for a fall. It actually made it harder for God to get the Hebrews out of Egypt. But it left Pharaoh far more harmed. It is this ancient intrigue that sets up the modern day story.

The other Big Idea is that modern Haitian Voodoo is the inheritor descendent of the religion of the ancient Egyptians. When Rome conquered Egypt, the gods went underground and became the animus spirits in Western Africa. When the Africans were brought to the New World as slaves, they were forced to adopt Christian dogma, but instead blended their old faith with the new. So the best way to get back to the old gods is to show Voodouns that the real power of their gods is to call them by their real, original names, those of ancient Egypt."
Q5.  Is there a message to this book? What should folks take away from reading "The Chosen?"
Jay:  "That revenge comes with a price, and redemption is possible even if you have given up on yourself."

Q6.  What sets this book apart from other occult thrillers?
Jay:  "The book is unique in the way it treats the religious beliefs of the characters as an integral part of who they are and how they act in the story. Too often horror novels focus on making puzzle plot points work or developing atmosphere for atmosphere's sake. What people believe, and believe in, is an important and often overlooked aspect of what people are willing to accept as normal or outside their comfort zone, and therefore scary. What people believe makes a difference in how effective they are in the extraordinary and trying circumstances of the story. There is a strong and respectful vein of the occult running through this book.

It is also a fast paced thriller, with magic, gun fights, plane crashes, exotic locales, and of course, the fate of the world in the balance"

End of interview....rcg

We, at MSI, wish to thank Jay for his time and we hope he enjoys the literary success that "The Chosen" is sure to bring him!

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