His historical novel Land Without Evil details the first contact between shamans and Jesuits in 18th century South America. Having received rave reviews, a San Diego Book Award for mainstream fiction, and having been chosen as a Reading Group Choices selection, it was adapted into a full-length stage and sky show and became the subject of a PBS series, Arts in Context, which was nominated for an Emmy award.
Matt Pallamary has kindly agreed to join me for Simon’s 10 Q Interviews.
His most recent book, A Short Walk to the Other Side was an Award Winning Finalist in the International Book Awards. The Infinity Zone won the International Book Award in the New Age nonfiction category and then of course there is Land Without Evil, which was not only award winning but went on to feature as a stage show and an EMMY Nominated TV documentary… Matt’s first book The small dark room of the soul was mentioned in The Year’s Best Horror and Fantasy. His second short story collection, Dreamland, co-written with Ken Reeth, won the 2002 Independent e-Book Award in the Horror/Thriller category.
Matt also received the Man of the Year 2000 from San Diego Writer’s Monthly Magazine. His memoir Spirit Matters detailing his journeys to Peru won first place in the San Diego Book Awards Spiritual Book Category, and was an Award-Winning Finalist in the autobiography/memoir category of the National Best Book Awards, sponsored by USA Book News.
He has been the guest of more nationally syndicated talk shows and radio shows than one can count and regularly speaks out about fading cultures.
For over 20 years Matt has lent his experience through teaching at various conferences including; the Southern California Writers’ Conference in San Diego, Palm Springs, and Los Angeles, and at the Santa Barbara Writers’ Conference. He has lectured at the Greater Los Angeles Writer’s Conference, the Getting It Write conference in Oregon, the Saddleback Writers’ Conference, the Rio Grande Writers’ Seminar, the National Council of Teachers of English, The San Diego Writer’s and Editor’s Guild, The San Diego Book Publicists, and he has been a panellist at the World Fantasy Convention, Con-Dor, and Coppercon. He is presently Editor in Chief of Muse Harbor Publishing.
A frequent visitor to the jungles, mountains, and deserts of North, Central, and South America pursuing his studies of shamanism and ancient cultures, I think Matt will relish the opportunity to climb aboard my Time Machine!
So here we go… Welcome Matt Pallamary to Simon’s 10Q Interviews…
SD Q1: I have interviewed authors whom aspire to reach television or the big screen, authors who have had work on the television or the big screen, Emmy nominated and Emmy winning interviewees. But, I don’t believe I have yet interviewed an author with a single piece of work which has ended up as a stage production and an Emmy nominated television series amongst its other accolades and awards. Was Land of Evil written with a stage show in mind and if not how did that transition from paper book to stage spectacle come about?
MP A1: I had no intentions of making Land Without Evil a stage show, but like every novelist, I secretly hoped it might find its way into being a feature film. My amazing co-writer and director Sarah Agent Red Johnston is a world class aerialist who had a horrific accident while performing, shattering both of her wrists and cracking her skull in numerous places. She was told that she would never perform again and became quite depressed.
A mutual friend raved to her about Land Without Evil, so she read it and became very inspired. She found it healing to the point of wanting to make a show around it. She took scenes from the core of the story and made a few plot changes to adapt to the strengths of her performers, then the two of us honed that into a working script.
As a result of the amazing show that she produced and directed I have a producer who is interested in making a Land Without Evil, which prompted me to adapt the novel into a feature screenplay.
SD Q2: You have been lecturing at writing conferences across the states for over 20 years. Whilst it is a noble endeavour to give back to other writers, 20 years is almost a career in itself and I am wondering what the motivation to keep going can be. So, what (or who) got you started on the lecturing circuit and is there any single event within those 20 years that sticks in your mind for any reason at all, and if so what took place to make it so memorable?
MP A2: The writing conferences are my writing family. Way back when I was just getting started, they made me part of their family. Ray Bradbury took me under his wing and became one of my primary mentors and I got to spend time with and learn from numerous literary giants. I became a workshop leader at a very young age and was the youngest workshop leader there for about fifteen years. Charles Schulz of Charlie Brown and Snoopy fame was another mentor and inspiration. His son Monte has since bought the conference and continues to carry on the tradition.
One of my fondest memories is sitting in the hotel restaurant with a very select few people listening to Ray tell us about writing the script for Moby Dick with the famous American Director John Huston, doing an awesome imitation of John.
The comedian Jonathan Winters used to come regularly. He was fun to be around. Many other big names came and all connected as kindred spirits, inspiring writing and creativity.
My writing roots are with the conferences.
SD Q3: You have a great interest in shamanic plant medicine and you wrote an autobiographical account of your experiences and trips to Peru: ‘Spirit Matters’ which was an award winning finalist in the National Book Awards (sponsored by USA Book News). I know very little about the subject, but what I have read is that some shamanic medicines are incredibly dangerous, not necessarily due to their toxicity, but rather the “effects” on the psyche of somebody who is perhaps not prepared for such an experience. I am assuming that due to your on-going passion for the craft, your experiences must in the main have been pleasant. Can you give an example of the best (or most rewarding) and worst (or most worrying) moments in your pursuit of learning about shamanism and what made them so?
MP A3: I have been through the agony and the ecstasy in my experiential studies of shamanism and visionary plants, passing through moments of pure hell and terror as well as moments of extreme and sublime bliss. Every experience I had has been worth it for what it has taught me. This path is not for the faint of heart, but it is part of the oldest form of psychotherapy known to mankind. In shamanism, if you want to truly learn the most, you must embrace the light and the dark, so you can see it all instead of simply one side. It’s about facing your fear and discovering what it has to teach you about yourself and about what life and death are really all about. In the Amazonian traditions as well as the traditions of others you must pass through ordeals that are often physically, mentally, psychically and spiritually uncomfortable to show that you are worthy of the gifts of knowledge and power that the plants have to give you. I have been lucky through my extensive research to find reputable guides and teachers to help me on my quests, which is critical. There are many disreputable people out there banging the “spiritual drum”. It’s all about increasing awareness. My memoir Spirit Matters addresses all of these points in great detail.
SD Q4: Over the years you have written in a variety of different genres: which has been your favourite to pen, why, and have you found that being a multiple genre author has in anyway disadvantaged your writing career or has the journey through those genres been a part of finding the power of your own inner self that you wrote about in ‘The Infinity Zone’?
MP A4: They are all my favorites in different ways although I love being a storyteller the best. For me it’s all about finding and discovering truths whether universal or personal. It may have been a bit less of an advantage not sticking closely to one very specific genre, but I do like to “get outside the box” as much as possible, and in spite of the diversity of my writings there are indeed themes and methods to my madness underlying it all.
Every book takes its reader on a journey.
In shamanism, as in the infamous hero’s journey, the hero/shaman has to leave the comforts of his home and travel through a major transformative ordeal to another reality with different rules to gain personal power and knowledge and return with it as a gift from spirit and/or cosmic forces to heal, enlighten, or in some way enhance. That’s why shamans are also called bridges.
The shamanic path is also called the power path. The quest or journey is what’s called, “A bid for power”, which can make or break you and is ultimately transforming.
SD Q5: As you are aware The Truth is Stranger than Fiction, so it won’t surprise to find out about the well travelled Time Machine that I often lend out to my guests… On handing you some plutonium fuel I am intrigued to find out your three desired destinations; Past, Present and/or Future, where would you go, to what year and what would your purpose be on reaching your destination? Whilst taking care not to distort the time space continuum, it’s always nice to receive a keepsake from my guests journeys… so what would you bring back as evidence of your trip?
MP A5: This is not a simple question for me. I would have to say that my destination is “To Infinity and beyond!” From what I have learned in shamanism, reality is infinite, multidimensional, and holographic, being both everywhere and nowhere at the same time. In my shamanic journeys I have had a number of quite memorable subjective experiences of bi-location – being fully aware of being in two places at the same time. For me it’s always been about pushing the envelope as far as possible. As I often like to say, in my view of the universe, the normal rules of time and space no longer apply, in fact I open Spirit Matters with this. I am outside of time and space where the normal rules of perception no longer apply. Colors with hues that defy description bombard me, then unfold in multicolored geometric progressions that could be microcosmic quantum expressions, or unfolding galaxies. Within these realms I have lived as an insect devoured by still bigger insects, which have in turn been devoured by lizards and snakes with long ethereal stomachs that have passed me into non-rational dimensions that both amaze and terrify. Outside of my physical body the frogs, birds, insects, jaguars, and other creatures of the Peruvian Amazon fill the night air with their calls, cries, twitters, and buzzes. For me there is no difference between the infinity expressing itself outside of me and the infinity that I soar through inside of me. It is all one. Outside of time and space a noise from deep in the jungle sounds as if it is right beside me, startling me. Sometimes I feel myself fully present and aware in two places at the same time, often in different times and dimensions. I would return with greater personal power and a higher level of awareness that just might take me beyond the normal boundaries and limitations of three dimensional consensual reality.
SD Q6: Which three authors have been most influential in your own personal development, what has been the overriding message from their works that has inspired or motivated you and can you give an example of how, when times have been hard, reflecting on their work has encouraged you to move forward?
MP A6: Ray Bradbury has probably been the most influential. He kicked off the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference for 35 years and became a mentor to me. I have been teaching there for 25 years. He was not known for giving out book blurbs, but he gave me one that said “Bravo! More!” for my first published short story collection, The Small Dark Room of the Soul. I dedicated my latest short story collection A Short Walk to the Other Side to him.
Science fiction writer David Brin has been a good friend and a staunch supporter for many years now.
Carlos Castaneda was a big influence on my studies of shamanism.
Ray Bradbury has always urged writers to “Write for the love of it!” He was very poor when he started and had to rent a typewriter at the library to write. If you’re not writing for love you will drive yourself crazy.
SD Q7: The Amazon rainforest is a resource for life and in my mind its continued destruction remains an unresolved travesty with astonishing long term repercussions to the human race; an Easter Island on a planetary scale. Do you think human arrogance is such that reliance on winning the race to colonise other planets will excuse us, or at least the consciences of those involved, from continuing to squander our planet’s limited natural resources?
MP A7: If we continue in the ignorant ways that we have, we will continue to screw up everything we touch everywhere we go. One of my biggest fascinations with shamanism is that it is ancient literally prehistoric knowledge that was run over by narrow minded egocentric colonial ignorance that continues to this day.
In shamanic terms all life is sacred and everything is interconnected, so our planet is an all encompassing being as is the rest of the cosmos. The rain forests are the lungs and we have been the cancer that eats it.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
SD Q8: Unable to deliver an adequate interpretation of your amazon experiences to the wider public at your first attempt, you also find it difficult to make the transition back from Amazon to Upstate. You become distraught and dismayed with mainstream life and it is not long before you decide to move permanently to live with a lost tribe you came into contact with on a previous visit to the rainforest. There you will remain until you have written the perfect novel ending with the meaning of life as you see it. You decide to take three personal items with you to remind you of home. What three items would they be, why, and given that you’ve already had a spin in my Time Machine….What did you discover was the meaning of life?
Item 1: hummingbird totem
Why? It’s empowering
Item 2: pen
Why? to write book
Item 3: paper
Why? to write book
Meaning of Life? The meaning of life is to cultivate awareness to expand and grow beyond our own self-imposed limitations of ignorance to the truth of what we really are. There are forces surrounding us that are far greater than anything we can conceive and if we pay attention to them in the old ways, we can discover that they have much to teach and share with us, otherwise we are our own worst enemies. I have spent much of the last 15 years doing extended plant diets in the Amazon and each time I rediscover in a new way just how transitory life and “things” are. Each time I feel more and more non-attached. Not detached and disconnected, but non- attached in a liberating way. I would probably bring three powerful totems and/or symbols of things that have great meaning to me like hummingbirds. I don’t know if I would want a camera or not as I like to totally disconnect form any kind of technology and totally “go native” as much as possible, so I guess I would have to have something to write with and on to record my epiphanies.
SD Q9: If we could grant you the power to change one action of any individual during history, what would it be, why and how would we be a better race of people today as a result of that change?
MP A9: I suspect that Nikola Tesla had many gifts to share that were stolen, stifled, or ruined in some way. If he did indeed have the knowledge to access free energy without all the environmental consequences that we have today, the world might indeed be a better place. We might possibly live in balance with nature instead of being the greed driven consuming cancer that we are. So my answer would be to grant Tesla the opportunity to share free energy. (If it was possible.)
SD Q10: I feel there is so much more I could have asked you, perhaps a future interview may be warranted! But for now, many thanks for taking part in Simon’s 10Q Interviews. If we can summarise in two parts (Yes, I’m cheating a little!); Firstly, what does the future hold for Matt Pallamary, will there be more visits and more writings based around the Amazon? Finally, if you were to take the helm as interviewer on Simon’s 10 Q Interviews, who would be your first guest and what would your opening question be?
MP A10: Matt Pallamary will continue to write and publish his works and do his best to utilize his energies on alignment with a higher purpose to help everyone else including himself to wake up more, smarten up, and embrace the expansive possibilities of what the mystery has to offer us. At present the written word seems to be my best tool to do that with. I continue to go to the Amazon to learn what it has to teach me and it never fails to deliver and show me something new.
I think of my plant diets as going into deep conversation with Mother Earth to hear what she has to whisper to me in my most open moments when she has my full undivided attention.
After careful consideration I thought I would like to interview Sting as my first guest for Simon’s 10Q Interviews. I had the honor and pleasure of spending extended time with him some years back and he clearly “gets it.” He’s done a lot for environmental causes and such and he wrote a great memoir titled Broken Music, so he is a published writer of a book length work as well as with his songs and music.
My first question to him would be. “What do you think is the best thing that all of us can do to help make our planet healthy again?”
SD Comment: Thank you so much for your time Matt and I wish you all the best for the rest of 2014 and beyond. Readers, before you go, please spend a few moments watching the videos at the bottom of the page, which are both highly interesting. Then perhaps go and visit Matt’s amazon pages from where you can download his novels and short story collections;
The Matt Pallamary interview took place on 07 July 2014.
Simon Duringer © 2014.
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