I am an equal opportunity author interviewer. That means that, whether I read the genre or not, I’m interested in the writer and his/her process. I think today’s interview is a first, since Kathi Ellis writes what I would call spiritual self-help books. So she’s breaking new ground for me, but I doubt it will be my last interview in this category.
ME: As someone who ended up writing a book entitled THE DARKNESS CANNOT KEEP US: CHOOSING A BETTER TOMORROW, how would you characterize or describe your childhood? Where did you grow up and do you have any regrets? (I’d love to post a picture of you as a child.)
KATHI: Actually, the book begins in the womb of my mother. Although most people would consider this an odd place to begin a story, it seemed fitting to me. I have discovered some amazing things about my own life, and the processes in it. My childhood was incredibly difficult.
The book describes the life my brother, sister and I had. Our family was being torn apart even as I was developing in the womb, and we were all placed out for adoption. There were six living children. The oldest two had died at birth. We were placed in an alcoholic and abusive home with no love, no nurturing in our family.
I grew up in South Dakota. My greatest regret about the childhood of my brother, sister and me was that we didn’t know our birth family, including our parents and siblings. I eventually grieved a childhood lost.
(I suspected the roots of your book began in your childhood. You certainly wrote about what you knew.)
ME: What did you want to be when you grew up and how did that evolve as you got older?
KATHI: When I was young I always wanted to be a nurse. I wanted to help people. I think it was mostly because of the lack of nurturing I received as a child. I think on some level I knew I was meant to help people as part of my life purpose. Through my book and workshops I am able to do that now. Writing and speaking are passions of mine.
ME: Did you go to college and, if so, what was your major? When did you realize you had a gift for writing?
KATHI: I went to college to study nursing, but found after the first year I was too empathic toward my patients and could not deal with their pain on an emotional level.
I have always loved writing as well as reading. In high school, my teachers told me many times I had a gift for writing. I have written many unpublished essays and poetry and did publish one poem in a National Poetry Association anthology, as well as my first book, THE DARKNESS CANNOT KEEP US: CHOOSING A BETTER TOMORROW.
ME: Part of the description of the book on your website says “the author shares insights that took her from the depths of despair to fulfillment and love in every area in her life.” You’ve already touched on it, but when and why were you in “the depths of despair,” and how did you get there?
KATHI: I was born into the depths of despair as the reader can experience in the book. My mother was in the throes of severe post-partum depression, as I was the youngest of eight children, and our family was being torn apart even as I grew in the womb. By the time I was 18, having grown up in an abusive adoptive home, I made a decision to commit suicide. I talk about the miracle that changed that path of my life in the book.
I felt compelled two years ago to change the direction of the book I had previously written. As I have grown and changed throughout the years, I finally came to a point that caused me to have meaning and understanding about my early years. What I discovered was a process called cellular memory and how it affects everything we think, say and do on a totally unconscious level. Once I understood what was going on with me, I was able to heal a lot of physical and emotional pain, and correct the direction of my life.
The depth of despair was a cumulative effect for me all through childhood. Getting to fulfillment and love was a journey that I describe in the book. I encourage others to consider the elements I have found that produce love and fulfillment in our lives.
ME: What led you to write about your journey from despair to love and fulfillment?
KATHI: When my youngest brother was dying in 1995, we had just lost our birth mother. He asked me to promise him that I would make sure our lives made a difference, and would tell our story. I began this book at that time in part as a tribute to him.
When my brother passed away, he left me a book called “Hands Of Light”. It talks about the body’s human energy field. I was fascinated by the material so I decided to take some courses on it. I have studied the human body’s energy field for a long time, and became a Reiki Master over fifteen years ago. That knowledge, together with the study of cellular memory, has helped me to understand more completely how much we are in charge of our own destiny, physically, mentally and emotionally.
ME: How did you become a motivational speaker and at what point did you develop your workshops? Please describe briefly the kind of workshop you put on and how it relates to your book (if it does).
KATHI: I have always loved public speaking. It started when I took speech and debate in high school. In my adult life, I was active in political and social activities that called for public speaking. In the late 80’s, I joined a Toastmaster group because I was teaching adult education courses at the local college where I lived and wanted to improve my humor. Public speaking got into my blood as I began competing in Toastmasters.
In 1994 I had the opportunity to become a Professional Development Consultant through the National Professional Women’s Network, and was trained and certified and began doing seminars. I also had the opportunity to contract with a national speaking circuit to do personal growth workshops. I lost my $50,000 investment, however, when the company was shut down by the Federal government as illegally operating a pyramid scheme.
Now, I conduct personal growth and goal setting workshops to help people focus forward toward a better tomorrow. I know from my own experiences that what we focus on we will move toward.
ME: Please describe the writing process you followed to produce your book.
KATHI: Because of the promise I made my brother, I began by journaling. It was important for me to just start somewhere. The more I wrote in my journal, the more I began healing myself.
It’s important for people to remember that all of us have a story within us. The most basic concept begins with going inside to find and touch that seed that will grow into our story. Once we can get that story out on paper, we can move forward in our own lives. It doesn’t matter if you put your story out as fiction or non-fiction; it’s just important that you start somewhere.
(Well said. And I agree–we all have stories in us.)
ME: Which came first, the workshops or the book? And can we expect other books from you in the near future?
KATHI: I have to admit the workshops started before the book. However, I realize that since I wrote the book and had it published, the context and tone of the workshops has changed entirely. Writing this book has changed my life. After my youngest brother died in 1995, we had another 12 family losses and 6 of our best friends pass away in eight years. My two older brothers passed away two years later three months apart as well. It literally sent me to my knees. (I can well imagine!)
Two years ago, I picked up the book again, and began re-writing. I had an epiphany one morning during meditation that totally changed the direction of the book.
I will be writing more books. As a matter of fact, I have three titles in front of me to work on. My readers are asking when the next book is coming out, so I guess that means I had better keep my nose to the grindstone and keep working on them.
I have been really busy with the promotion of this book. Having self-published through Balboa Press, I find that much of the work is my responsibility. I’m sure it would be easier if I had a publisher that took care of all of that work for me, but right now I am arranging my own book signings and speaking engagements, etc. It keeps me pretty busy.
(Actually, unless you get signed with a big publisher, you’re still likely to have to do a lot of your own marketing. Writers rarely catch a break.)
ME: Finally, please describe your writing space or office, and list the five things in it that make it unique to you. (And I have to have a picture of it.)
KATHI: I have a beautiful office! My husband hung a chandelier in it because he said every queen has to have a chandelier. It has my favorite colors on the walls, a muted purple and a purplish taupe. I like lots of light in my work place. I want cheerful and warm but serene at the same time! I have light colored plush carpet on the floor. AND I have a cross stitched sign on my desk that says “SHHH – I’m talking to God!”
I also play beautiful soothing music when I write. It helps me go within to that space where all inspiration is found.
My space is bright and cheerful, and the walls are lined with bookcases filled with books. Most of my books are spiritual, self-help and motivational works. I have angels, pictures of my kids, grandkids, and friends around me, and a photo of my husband on my desk. He changed my life and is my life!
(And here’s the proof):
Next week I’ll be featuring an interview with fantasy author, Candi L. Norman, who also happens to work at our local Barnes & Noble.