PAUL DeBLASSIE III, PhD, is a psychologist and writer living in his native New Mexico. A member of the Depth Psychology Alliance, the Transpersonal Psychology Association, and the International Association for Relational Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy, he has for over thirty years treated survivors of the dark side of religion.
His latest book is the psychological/paranormal thriller, The Unholy.
About the Book:
A young curandera, a medicine woman, intent on uncovering the secrets of her past is forced into a life-and-death battle against an evil Archbishop. Set in the mystic land of Aztlan, "The Unholy" is a novel of destiny as healer and slayer. Native lore of dreams and visions, shape changing, and natural magic work to spin a neo-gothic web in which sadness and mystery lure the unsuspecting into a twilight realm of discovery and decision.
Thanks for joining us at the book club, Paul! Can you give us a little background behind The Untholy?
The story comes out of over thirty years of treating patients in psychotherapy who are survivors of the dark side of religion…have been used and abused and cast to the side. I’ve seen that when this happens people, those around the victim, to include family and friends, often turn a blind eye and deny what has happened. Rather than writing a self help book I decided to approach this realm of human suffering in fiction. To tell a story moves the reader into a deep and unconscious dimension that bypasses conscious defenses, leaving us open to truths that otherwise would be blocked. So, dramatizing the dark side of religion, pulling what can be the most vile and evil, and pivoting it against an innocent and sincerely searching soul leaves the reader on edge, hopeful, but unsure as to what will happen and who in the end will survive…a truth conveyed symbolically and dramatically. To have written out a list of what to do or not to do in the midst of religious abuse might have helped some individuals, but would have left many people stone cold because there is no emotion is such guidance. In The Unholy, the story is pure emotion, fear and rage and hope and challenge, that inspires and frightens and causes us to stay up late at night in order to finish the story. Dream and chronic nightmares plagues people who’ve gone through the horror of being abused within a religious system. It could be emotional, spiritual, physical, or sexual torment---or all of the above---a true encounter with the unholy---that people undergo during childhood or adolescence or adulthood. They become anxious, depressed, or suffer a terrible emotional breakdown. I’ve treated them, helped them, and they helped to inspire the story of The Unholy!
I know you did a lot of research for your book. Can you give us some researching tips?
What you need to know about your story is often presenting itself to you during the course of daily life by what happens, what you read, and what you want to avoid, so listen, take internal notes and then hit the page. I find that I am always doing research, the newspaper article that I’m reading in the morning before starting to write, something my wife tells me at the breakfast table, a casual remark by a friend all act to inform my writing of the day. Research takes on a synchronous quality because I really believe in the meeting of the inner and outer worlds so that what we are writing about is swirling about us in our daily life, information constantly coming our way that will guide us in the development of the story. In The Unholy I was confronted with one priest after another, one zen master, one protestant minister, bishops, popes, ministers, all on the news. They and their antics fed right into what I sensed I needed to write about. I was familiar with all of this through my work in psychotherapy, but the more I wrote the more started hitting the press. Right before publication of The Unholy, the Vatican, various ashrams, and eastern cults were blasted over the news media. My pr people were jazzed about the coincidence, something that I feel is more synchronous a meeting of outer facts and inner realities informing and confirming the story, The Unholy. Research is always happening, during conversation, sleep, wakefulness and fantasy!
What are 5-10 musts every story in your genre should have?
Scary, mean, dark, compelling, transformational potential, and hope but not too much hope for the future. If there is too much hope then we run the risk of selling our soul out to an angel. Selling out to an angel is a terrible possibility because that trivializes the human condition, takes what is complex and looks only at the surface and ready made answers that seem to provide immediate relief from suffering. Scary and mean and dark and compelling set the stage for dark forces infringing on human hope and potential with no guarantees. We have to remain on the edge our seat, waiting to see what’s going to happen. Claire, in The Unholy, is a young woman haunted and intimated by a life-threatening figure, a man robed in black. He haunts her dreams, comes in nightmares, terrifying remembrances of things past. This deep fear from childhood trauma so laces The Unholy with compelling imagery and emotion that the reader is flung forward into the narrative desperate to find out not only what will happen but how it will happen, how a young woman could possible handle the power of a misogynistic religious male patriarchy. Archbishop William Anarch hates women and Claire Sanchez, curandera, is a young and vulnerable women. When a man carries the sanction of society, particularly of a huge religious organization, and mixes it with his own sordid inclinations so as to empower himself then we’ve got one of the building blocks of good set against evil. Innocence is the other building block, Claire Sanchez, and when she confronts face to face the worst thing in her life…we’ve got action and thrills. Scary, mean, dark, compelling with the potential for hope and transformation are the building blocks for good psychological thrillers and dark fantasy!
What are 10 things most people don’t know about you?
Those ten things will remain ten things that most people don’t know about me. But, the other ten things that I’m willing to share concern The Unholy itself, the fact that it was a story twenty years in the making. It’s held up over such a long period of time because every time I wanted to put it away my wife would encourage me. It was rejected well over one hundred times…so there’s one hundred things people didn’t know. If it wasn’t my wife, then my dreams would say not to give up on it, even though I had shelved it and moved on to other novels. People don’t know about the dreams about The Unholy that I had. They said to leave it in the kiln, to be fired some more, and then one day when I least expected it would be ready to be removed from the kiln. That’s when Jim White from Sunstone Press and I met up and he was on fire for the story. This is stuff people don’t know about me. Years, and despair, and patience, a plethora of dreams and nightmares, struggles, encouragement from my wife and family, and synchronistically meeting the right people went into publishing of The Unholy…dreams, nightmares, patience, despair, my wife, my family, encouragement, the phantasmagoric kiln, Jim White and Sunstone Press…all things some people know but many people do not. So, these ten things are hidden emotions and relational encounters and The Unholy and how it was woven into the fabric of my life for twenty years before publication in 2013.