3 Apr 2015

An Interview with Jenna Hiott, Writer and Theologian

Hello readers! Today—as promised—I have published my interview with Jenna Hiott: writer, theologian and historian. My questions are largely philosophical in nature (as befits both my nature and that of the story in question) but there are also some more general literary discussions. Alas, there is no talk of favourite seasons—I deemed such matters too trivial for discourse.

You say, in your words, that Revelation was a book somehow inspired. I believe all works of art are inspired; but of the inspiration, I am not so sure. What inspired you? And how did you feel—excited, nervous, perhaps even a little awed?

I agree that all works of art are inspired. In fact, I believe that every action we take is inspired by something. For me, this trilogy was almost a channeled experience. I saw the whole story flash before my eyes and then it took on a life of its own. As I would sit down to write, I would simply watch what the characters were doing and then write that down. Although it definitely felt like creative work on my part—and continues to—it was also as though the story (and characters) transcended my existence. It’s sort of like the trilogy is its own living entity and I am the medium of expression. As far as my feelings about the experience go, I would definitely say that awe is part of it. Writing this trilogy is my sacred time. In the moment of seeing the story play out before my eyes, I felt thrilled and honored and humbled. Then I felt lit up and excited to start writing!

In the first sentences of the trilogy, you write,“The three Deis moved as one, spoke as one, though they kept silent in the absence of time and space.” My question is: how, in an atemporal dimension, can the Deis both impart and experience change? What do you really mean by an absence of time? No change—or no continuum of existence in the sense we experience and comprehend?

Great question! It is a challenge to discuss the ‘absence of time and space’ using language created within the paradigm of time and space, but I will give it my best shot. The Deis exist where (see? a place-based word) there are no limitations of perception. By their very nature, time and space limit perception. The Deis perceive infinity. They simultaneously (a time-based word) perceive existence within and without time-space. More importantly, they create within or without whatever limitations they choose. It is through creation that they experience change, and yet they are also unchanging. I know this is a complex topic so, maybe to put it a little more simply, the Deis exist in “the absence of time and space” because they are wholly unlimited.

Have your religious studies influenced your work? If so, how?

Absolutely! I don’t think there is a single aspect of the trilogy that was not informed by my studies of religion in one way or another. There are too many things to list them all here, (Although, I will say that I am nearly finished with The Todor Concordance, which does this very thing. It will be available for free on my website very soon!) but I can tell you that I drew character and place names from various traditions. If you look hard enough, you will find parallels to Christianty, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Science of Mind, and many ancient pagan traditions throughout the trilogy.

In your book, you speak of the Joy; an idea which—if I understand correctly—means experiencing life for what it is, at least in its normative sense (perhaps a la Søren Kierkegaard, though with less focus on negative experience?) Also, is the pursuit of Joy similar to the ethos of utilitarianism,—and by this I mean not hedonism, but utility in all its abstract and complex forms—or is it something altogether different?

Joy can only be defined by the individual experiencing it, or seeking to experience it. What joy means to me, means something else entirely to another. This is one of the many things the characters in the trilogy struggle with. Is the thing that brings me Joy, the thing that would bring everyone Joy? Or does my Joy result in others’ suffering? The Ten Truths are supposed to be the guidelines for living a life of Joy, but until the characters can define Joy and Suffering for themselves, they will experience confusion. The Ten Truths do not use the words ‘good’ or ‘bad’ or ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ or ‘moral’ or ‘immoral.’ Rather they point out that the choice to sustain Oneness will bring Joy while the choice to disrupt Oneness will bring suffering. On the surface, it appears that any choice that helps the greater good is the one that will sustain Oneness. This is what I believe you mean by utilitarianism and it is this very thing that keeps the characters in turmoil and conflict. The crux is that they do not understand the true meaning of Oneness. Without giving any spoilers, I can say that in Disintegration (the second book of the trilogy), the concept of Oneness is clarified for one of the characters. Of course, this character still struggles with making the choices that would bring Joy, but that’s all part of the story. For me, personally, joy is simply a stirring—a blossoming—of Divinity or Lifeforce within.

Is the Viyii a single entity; and, if so, can it be considered meaningfully different from the three Deis that form it? Is it more than just the sum of its parts? What about the Christian Holy Trinity—is the Viyii like the pot, in which each Deis is water, earth and fire?

The Viyii is the entity formed when the three Deis come together as one. It is totality. The Viyii could be compared to the Hindu concept of Brahman. Although it is the three Deis as one, it is also more than the sum of its parts because it is additionally the connection and relationship among the three: body, mind and spirit, as well as the wholeness that their integration means. Yes, the Viyii could also certainly could be compared to the Christian Holy Trinity. The three aspects of God as One. Another interesting point is that the Zobanites have come to interpret the Viyii as the place where the Deis live, much like Valhalla of Norse mythology. They believe the Lifeforce of a person travels there when they die. Even within the land of Todor, everything is subject to interpretation.

Was writing the books difficult? If so, what were the greatest challenges?

There is no question that writing a book is a challenging undertaking, but The Todor Trilogy has not had the same sort of struggle for me as I experienced with previous books (unpublished). There is an ease in flow of this work, which goes back to the first question about it feeling channeled. The biggest challenge for me has probably been prioritizing time for writing. One of the best things I ever did was make an appointment with my Time Alchemy coach (shout out to Cynthia Lindeman). She helped me set time aside EVERY SINGLE DAY for writing and reminded me of my commitment to this work. The thing I find the most challenging as far as the actual writing goes is killing off characters. It breaks my heart every time, but they assure me that there are no hard feelings.

Do you believe ars gratia artis, or do you believe your art has some external purpose? Or do you think there is really some combination of the two?

Interesting question. I guess I believe it’s a combination of the two and then some. Art for the sake of art, art for the sake of the artist, and art for the sake of the world. I feel like The Todor Trilogy serves all three of these. It serves itself, it serves me, and, hopefully, it serves the world. Really, any creation fits this model.

What are your opinions on poetic writing—is it just a silly exercise; is it wonderful, to be used in novel and poem alike; or is it, indeed, beautiful, but not in the way a novel should be?

I wouldn’t presume to define what any creative work “should” be. Poetic writing can be magical and, if it serves the creation, then I’d love to read it!

PS: for more information on Jenna, her books and goings on, check out her website.

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