Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Lily Andrews is talking with Diane Solomon, author of Eva: A Riveting Romantic Suspense with a Supernatural Twist.
FQ: In my review, I mention that Eva fits nicely into the genre of "magical realism." I suspect some of our readers may not be familiar with this genre. If you had to describe the genre to a potential reader, what would you say to convince them to give it a try? Basically, what makes magical realism so much fun to read?
SOLOMON: Defining magical realism is simple. It’s a genre that employs a realistic setting but with magical elements that are accepted as real. Eva’s power, although strictly supernatural, is set within a normal, current-day reality in Connecticut and Rhode Island. Magical realism differs from fantasy in that the latter creates a whole new world, almost invariably.
A few current authors using magical realism successfully are Alice Hoffman, Sarah Addison Allen, Emily Colin, Menna Van Praag, Laura Esquivel, and even Neil Gaiman. Gaiman veers into the surreal, and indeed, some magical realism authors do. I prefer to stay in the real world and bring in supernatural ideas. That’s what is fun for me; the idea that magic could happen in our daily lives.
My husband and I have written two time-travel novels, and are working on a third, and many time-travel stories occur within a realistic setting. I consider Lake House, for example, the movie with Sandra Bullock, to be a good example of a movie that fits in the magical realism genre.
FQ: You describe Eva as "a romantic suspense novel with a supernatural twist." That's quite a lot for one novel! And, I might add, part of what makes the story so enjoyable. Most romance novels might add a little suspense or a little mystery, but few have all the elements you mingled together so well. Was it hard to keep all the elements working together throughout the story?
SOLOMON: Oh my, you’ve hit on it! The book is certainly a blend of genres, making it hard to know where to place it when publishing and marketing. It is suspenseful but is not a suspense. It is romantic but is not a romance. It has fantasy elements but is not a fantasy. However, magical realism is too new a genre to be allotted a slot in many venues. “Romantic suspense with a supernatural twist” was as close as I could get.
As for being hard to pull it together, no, it wasn’t. The story was in my head, and I realized the arc of the character was the most important element for me. Her growth, self-determination, finding her power, both in real life and in her gift, drive the story. The romance, the media pressure, the new family, and the danger are all subplots that stress her and bring her to her knees. Almost.
Writing it as Eva, in my head, simply drove it along, and I didn’t spend much time worrying about genre. I know many people can write to genre, but I prefer to go with the creative flow, as much as possible, and then figure out where it fits. Backwards, perhaps, but that is creativity for me. The story just wanted to be told.
FQ: Is there a "real" backstory that inspired the storyline (or part of it) or is Eva purely a creative work?
SOLOMON: My years working hard at helping people heal, as a homeopath and nutritionist, are what qualifies as backstory for this novel. My compassion for people suffering led me to fantasize about being able to touch people and heal them. Plus, ever since I was a child, my bucket list has contained a yearning to swim with dolphins. So, vicariously, if only in my head, I fulfilled two dreams.
FQ: With Eva's desire to be a veterinarian and the strong animal theme running throughout the story, I suspect that you, too, are an animal lover. Am I correct? Do you share this desire to help animals with Eva? Do you have any pets? Did you ever have a dream to be a veterinarian or another job helping animals (communicator, trainer, vet tech)?
SOLOMON: I am very much an animal lover. I tend to be more comfortable with them than with people, being a complete introvert, and more and more reclusive as the years go by. My husband and I have three dogs, two English Cocker Spaniels and an English Setter. And a half-Siamese kitty. They are the joys of my life. I hold them for long minutes, eyes closed, meditating on the love I feel for them. It is blissful!
As for being a veterinarian, I am too sensitive, too soft, soppy, too compassionate, and I don’t know how I would control my emotions when an animal was suffering. You have to have strong control over your emotions for that work, and I admire those who do. It was hard enough when I treated people…
FQ: In Eva's world, sick animals are healed through supernatural abilities. I found this a very heartwarming concept. Is this something you've imagined for a long time and wanted to put into one of your stories? Do you believe that animals have spirits that their human friends can connect to?
SOLOMON: Yes, animals have spirits just as we do. For me, mankind has been guilty of arrogance regarding the treatment of animals, and I hope and pray that day is soon over. We all share this planet, and I don’t believe humans have any more right to its resources than other species on Earth. This is a passion for me.
Not only does every cat or dog I’ve ever had the pleasure of “owning” have a different personality, each has feelings. And I don’t just mean feeling pain, which of course they do. They feel embarrassment, for example. I was playing with my little black cat, Fudgie, with a feather on a rod, on the bed, and she leaped into the air to catch it. One time she misjudged her landing and slid down between the end of the bed and the bench at the bottom of the bed. There was nothing to hurt her, it was soft, but we laughed. We laughed. She stayed under the bed and wouldn’t come out, wouldn’t look at me. When she finally reappeared, she was not hurt at all, of course, but had been embarrassed, or even angry that we laughed at her. I’ve seen examples like this many times.
And how about animals' ability to connive? That takes brains and cunning. We had a beautiful English Setter named Feather, who was obsessed with a robin’s nest in a lilac, with a few babies in it, chirping. Drove her crazy. We kept demanding she leave the area alone, and I must have said “No!” a hundred times. She would back away, then sneak all the way around the house, thinking she could slink around unobserved and get under that lilac. And when I caught her doing it, she stopped abruptly and looked around innocently. “La la la, here I am, what a nice day, just happened to be here…. La la la.” It was too funny.
That spirit in an animal that I can feel when I hold them and meditate, quietly, focusing on them, is the energy that Eva connects with when she heals them. But how I wish I knew how she does it!
FQ: I love how you portrayed the media - how they had to get their hands on the story of Eva and try to ruin her happiness (through their carelessness). Was this meant (perhaps only in passing but still...) as a statement on today's media and how they seem to jump on stories quickly, with no thought to the lives they may be destroying? And how, once the story is "used up," they move on to the next big story?
SOLOMON: I was famous for a while in the UK, and the media was bad enough then! Now it seems the bottom-line drives everything, and photographers and journalists fight to get candid shots, with no mind to the privacy of the celebrity. Or even the slightest attention to their own sense of decency. You phrased it perfectly in your question; yes, they jump on stories with little regard for the consequences of their actions and use up a story (or a person) and move on. It makes me cringe.
FQ: Speaking of the "enthusiasm" of the media, the death threats that Eva received sound all too real, again in today's world. Why do you think people today seem so eager to embrace their "side" in whatever story is currently playing and make such evil threats to others? Is it the anonymity of the internet? Or maybe just the breakdown of society?
SOLOMON: Oh boy, how long have you got for an answer? I think you have hit on a great deal of the issue with the anonymity of the internet. I believe people say things online that they’d never in a million years say in person to someone. My husband has a rather coarse term for it, but I shall just say it’s “Cyber Courage.”
I think too positively to believe we are really approaching the breakdown of society. And my personal experience every day is evidence to the contrary. People are angry and treat each other poorly on Twitter or Facebook, but when I am in Market Basket or Trader Joe’s I have no idea what someone’s political affiliation is, or know any of their other beliefs. And almost everyone is universally nice. They are helpful; they help you reach something on a high shelf. They say excuse me, smile at you. I make a point of watching out for a pretty scarf, nice hair, cute dress, and complement a woman on it. And I am jazzed and thrilled by the huge smile I get for that small kindness. I don’t think people are becoming evil, I think the current atmosphere of partisanship, fueled by social media and opposite “news” channels, has created a strange current of venom that I thought I’d never see. Online mostly.
I hope it settles out somehow without deteriorating further.
FQ: Your biography is quite interesting - you've had so many different, and amazing jobs/careers/interests! While planning on going to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, you were discovered playing guitar at a party and your singing career began. Is singing/music your first love?
SOLOMON: It was for many years, starting at about four or five years old, when I found it easy to sing harmonies with my sister, then loved being in choirs and chorus groups until I was given my own TV series. I just found it so easy that it never occurred to me that could be a career; I was bent on acting!
I don’t sing much anymore since I am now not pleased with the sound. I have been focused on writing for the last decade. The vocal instrument is a muscle, and it atrophies a bit with disuse. And I am passionate about writing now. It is like acting for me; as I built Eva’s character, I started writing as her and it is very like my experience when taking on a role on stage. The difference is, in this creative act, I am able to create the dialogue and narration as well! It is fabulous fun.
FQ: Having a friend who struggles with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I was fascinated by your experiences and how you were helped by a "German homeopathic system of healing, plus nutrition, and diet..." There are a lot of people who struggle with similar issues - what would you tell them about the path you followed and how you were helped?
SOLOMON: I wrote a book that answers that question. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; a guide to the homeopathic treatment of CFS/M.E.
In the nineties, after a period of prolonged stress and my father’s death, I came down with the flu and never recovered. Rest didn’t work. Exercise was impossible. I couldn’t sleep, so I never felt better in the morning. My first waking thought was "Oh my God, another day. How on earth do I get through it?" There was no reprieve from the never-ending headaches, body and muscle aches, and the inexplicable, all-consuming fatigue. Imagine you flew from L.A. to Bangkok (16 hours or so), with the flu, and a hangover, and then add the sensation that you’ve drunk five cups of coffee so you can’t sleep. When you do sleep, it is a light, floating, semi-sleep full of horrible dreams, and you wake up over and over and over again. So, the nights go on forever, but you feel no better in the morning. You just hurt all over like someone has hit you with a baseball bat about 40 times, and you honestly wish you were dead. That’s Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Over the next seven years, I tried every possible modality. First, of course, were the orthodox physicians, three of them. No help at all. Just the offer of anti-depressants. I also tried, oh, so many alternative practitioners, who, while more caring people, couldn’t seem to help, either. I would find a bit of improvement from herbs, a chiropractic adjustment, acupuncture, or whatever, but it would not hold, and I’d sink right back down. I sought out naturopaths, acupuncturists, Chinese herbalists, chiropractors, a DO, massage therapy. I even tried hypnotherapy in case I had somehow brought this all on myself and therefore my mind could undo it. I felt guilty contemplating that I had somehow done this to myself. But nothing I tried was of much use, certainly nothing lasting. I spent a fortune, was unable to work at the time, and was terrified. And very depressed about it. It truly felt like a lifetime, those years of suffering, and thoughts of suicide haunted me. I know it was cowardice that prevented it, not any sense of hope. That was long gone.
Then I tried homeopathy – goodness knows why I did not find it sooner. A Los Angeles-based homeopath recommended I take a remedy made from the Coxsackie virus. I took three doses over 24 hours and then promptly experienced a full-blown aggravation. Any tenuous balance or coping I was holding on to vanished. I fell into bed – boy, did it ever make me sick! I was much worse; for about a week and a half I felt as if I had the full-blown flu again. It scared me, I can tell you.
But then it was over. At about the ten-day mark, I just woke up. Everything felt different. There was no pain, no foggy feeling in the head, much less exhaustion, no swollen glands, no sore throat, no sore muscle points. I was still tired, weak, still had some mild IBS and gut problems, and the occasional inherited tendency to migraines that I had experienced for years before the CFS. But the majority of the symptoms were gone, and I was a consistent 80-85% better. No relapse. Then I got to work to mop up the other symptoms, allergies, etc. And began studying homeopathy at the British Institute of Homeopathy in London.
I have since helped many people with CFS to recover some or most of their health with a remedy similar to Coxsackie. It might be another virus, such as Influenza or Cytomegalovirus, or even the Mononucleosis EBV virus. This is not to say that I think everyone with CFS will recover this dramatically with the use of a viral nosode, but it certainly can be a part of the picture needing to be addressed. Or at least viral involvement must be eliminated as a cause.
FQ: What's next for Diane Solomon? Is there another novel in the works that might follow Eva further on her journey? Or another book (fiction or non-fiction) that you are currently working on?
SOLOMON: I am laying out the next novel, this one I will write with my husband Mark Carey. He is brilliant, both as an ideas person and as a wordsmith, and it’s a joy to brainstorm with him. The new novel will be called Dream Traveler, a time-travel mystery.
Plus, I have a series of non-fiction health eBooks, called Healing Therapies that Work from my experience as a homeopathic practitioner. The first is Ear Infections, the second is Allergies. Both of these conditions respond very well to homeopathic remedies. The next in the series that is almost ready to publish is The Homeopathic Treatment of Depression and Anxiety, and I have seven more topics in the series.
Back to fiction and what fun it is, too! I am noodling around with the ideas for the second book in the Eva Chronicles, and even a third is coming clear. So, I have my work cut out. But the good news? I don’t find it work!