Interview with Shannon Emmel
LPR: Shannon Emmel is the author of Touch Me Not. Ms. Emmel, please give us a brief summary of your book and tell us a little about yourself.
SE: I think that before I give you a summary of Touch Me Not, I should first explain the concept behind it. The Lotus Circle (TLC) is a fictitious secret society that dates back to ancient Egypt. The origin story says that the women of TLC possessed great gifts that they used to help all of mankind— regardless of their station in life. Their gifts and their history were passed from mother to daughter, but both were nearly lost when men of religion and politics sought to either control or destroy them.
In the introduction to the book, Sadira says that everyone has a story and a part to play in the game we call Life. Touch Me Not is her story, not mine. It is the story of just one of the five women at the heart of The Lotus Circle whose combined talents are required to resurrect its practices and beliefs. Sadira’s journey takes her on a winding path to her higher-self, but teaches her the lessons she needs in order to finally embrace her destiny. Her story is also the only one that primarily takes place BEFORE the five women are brought together.
In fact, Sadira’s story ends as The Lotus Circle begins. Which is NOT to say that we’ve seen the last of her. She and the other founders of The Lotus Circle will be close at hand, (at lease on paper ;o) and you never know when or where fate will guide them. What you can be certain of is that Sadira and the sisters of The Lotus Circle will ALWAYS turn up when they’re needed the most!!
LPR: I am terribly interested in the people who claim to have such talents as described by the women who finally got together at the end of the story. Do you actually have this special touch of healing that Sadira Montgomery displays? If so, tell us a little about its effects on you and your life.
SE: As far as my own abilities, I have used touch and empathy to relieve pain in others, but nothing to the extent of the healing described in the book. The original premise of the book began with the questions, “What if you actually had the ability to heal anything with a touch of your hands? What would you do?” At first glance, it seems that it would be an ability that could be used for the ‘higher good,’ and that anyone would gladly embrace.
But if you take it a step further, stop and think of what your life would really be like after news of this miraculous gift got out. Even in today’s ‘enlightened society,’ skeptics would do everything they could to ‘debunk’ the reports, religious groups would either praise you as a ‘saint’ or claim that you do the devil’s work, and the sick and dying would invade your every waking hour with desperate pleas for help and hope.
Then, there’s the entrepreneurial few who would seek to wrap you up in a neat little package that they could market and sell to the highest bidders.
Where would you draw the line? When do you stop and say, “I’m only one person…I can’t heal the entire world!”
In effect, what Sadira chooses is to deny her gifts, rather than subject herself to public ridicule. At least until she reaches a point in her life where she understands that she can use her gifts without announcing them to the world and where she trusts that fate will guide into her life those who need her most.
LPR: Do you have any of the special talents listed by the story’s characters? Do you know anyone with these types of skills? Is a person born with these skills or are they taught them?
SE: If you’ve ever attended a conference or national convention that brings creative people together, you find that most writers/ artists/musicians, etc., admit to ‘abilities’ of some kind. It makes sense when you consider that the energy they must tap into in order to ‘create’ is part of the ethers—the same universal energy— through which so-called paranormal abilities are also channeled.
I have found that most people, especially women, have varying degrees of psychic/paranormal ability. Nearly everyone you ask will admit to things like ‘first impressions,’ déjà vu and intuition. The difference lies in the individual’s willingness to listen to the messages they receive, their ability to interpret them and their belief in what they are experiencing.
The ways in which people receive messages are as different as the individuals themselves. Some are given flashes of images that they must learn to interpret, sometimes accompanied by a particular scent or emotion that helps in the interpretation. Others see events as though they are watching a movie, but still have to determine whether what they see is in the past, present or future. In other cases there might be a single word or phase that they hear, and again they must find the meaning attached to it. Sometimes it’s a combination of all of the above!!
For me, I don’t see or smell things, or get words or phases that I have to interpret. If I get a message I am supposed to pass on to someone whom fate has guided to me, I get the entire message as though the fully formed thought is ‘dropped’ into my mind. In those instances, there is no need for me to interpret anything. It is up to the recipient to take the information and to do with it what s/he will. No tools of divination (i.e.: cards, runes, crystals, etc.) are needed when I receive these messages. I’ve never been one to ‘lecture’ and I rarely offer my opinion unless asked. Consequently, my friends and family learned long ago that if I say, “Be careful,” it’s not a mother’s habitual parting statement and if I go so far as to say, “Don’t” do something…they listen without question.
Although I use both Tarot and runes, I don’t do structured readings. The exception being occasional Tarot readings that I do at charity events, like Heather Graham’s annual ‘Vampire Ball’ at the Romantic Times Booklover’s Conventions. Then, I leave it to my guides to provide the messages needed for the cards that are drawn. (Which may or may not correspond with the traditional meanings of the cards set before me.)
Which brings me to the next part of your question…Anyone can learn the literal meanings associated with the different cards in a particular Tarot deck and regurgitate that information upon request. The inherent gift lies in the ability to go beyond the meanings and images drawn for the recipient and to call upon your personal guides, spirits and angels for the information that is pertinent to the situation or question. Since I believe that everyone has some ability, I therefore also believe that they have the capacity to develop their natural talents to their highest potential.
LPR: Did the idea for Touch Me Not come from your association with The Lotus Circle or a desire to tell your own story? Did you have to do a lot of research for it?
SE: I’ve pretty much explained where the idea came from, and the entire process was triggered when I first read the fictional origins of ‘The Lotus Circle’ in the early stages of Jasmine-Jade Enterprises’ development of the TLC imprint. As far as research…well that’s a little harder to explain.
I had the general story outline, as well as the TLC origins and the other four female characters (Leilani, Olivia, Temperance and Ursula) who would need to be incorporated in order to ‘resurrect’ The Lotus Circle at the end of the story. However, the actual scenes in the book where Sadira uses her gifts were shown to me as I wrote them. I saw, in vivid detail, what the character saw. The shifts in the auras, the quickening of her pulse, the heat in her hands as she worked, etc.
I have to add that none of what I saw as I wrote is anything that I have personally experienced, therefore writing it was a total leap of faith. Faith in the angel, guide or muse who came forward to assist me. It wasn’t until after the book was finished that I consulted ‘healers’, both Reiki and Therapeutic/Light Touch, and verified that the process I described was dramatized, but essentially accurate. The only other real research was to make sure that the wildlife and Native American populations existed in close enough proximity to Sedona, Arizona to make it a believable setting.
LPR: About your writing preferences, Ms. Emmel. What authors and/or books have inspired your own writing?
SE: I have been a voracious reader since I was old enough to hold a book in my hands, so picking specific influences and favorites is difficult. My tastes also vary with my moods but in general, my preferences lean toward books that either leave me feeling upbeat and satisfied, or when it’s over just make me say, “Wow, I want more!”
I like to be entertained. I like to laugh and cry happy tears. I like to be challenged. I like to be transported to a place that only the written word can take me. I enjoy science fiction, futuristic & fantasy, time travel (both futuristic and historical), urban fantasy (Vamps and Werewolves and Witches, oh my!) and anything with an unusual or paranormal twist.
I don’t care for straight horror, (or anything that scares the begeezus out of me!), politically based stories or unnecessary /graphic violence.
Having said that, some (but by no means all) of my favorite authors are Marilyn Campbell, Heather Graham, J. K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkein, Anne Rice, Katie MacAlister, Jayne Ann Krentz, Laurell K. Hamilton, Bertrice Small, Virginia Henley, Jennifer Ashley, Cheyenne McCray, Edith Layton, Laurie McBain, Chelsea Quinn Yarboro, Anne McCaffery, Jennifer Cruisie, Mary Janice Davidson, Linda Lael Miller and the late Kathleen Woodiwiss.
LPR: How do you fit writing into your daily life? In other words, do you have to fit writing around a day (or night) job?
SE: I took six months off from a regular ‘day job’ to stay at home and write. Unfortunately, the longer I stayed at home, the less writing I got done and I just recently made the decision to go ‘back to work.’ I find my most productive/creative time to write is between 9pm and 2am and that despite my best intentions I really don’t get much done through the day. I’m used to working and writing and find it difficult to focus during my peak times unless the rest of my day is used in a productive (but non-creative) way. I guess for me, it’s balancing the left brain and right brain aspects of my life. I also work best under pressure.
LPR: Do you write an entire first draft before editing or do you edit as you write?
SE: Both. I write as much as possible in a given day. When I begin the next time, I review what I wrote on the previous session to get ‘back in the groove’, edit for content as needed, then move forward. I don’t begin line editing until the entire story is complete.
LPR: Concerning writing, what would be a most important piece of advice you can give an aspiring writer?
SE: First, read as much as you can and expose yourself to different authors and styles to see how ‘the pros’ do it. Not to mimic them, but to understand that each author has his or her own distinct ‘voice.’ Second…write! Anything and everything you enjoy, until you find what suits you best. Only then will you find your voice and begin to fine tune your skills. Third, join or create a serious critique group. Not one made up of friends and family who praise everything you do, but those who are knowledgeable in the technical aspects of writing and who will challenge you, question you and push you to polish every word, sentence, paragraph and page until it shines!
LPR: Can you offer two or three writing prompts to your writing fans?
SE: I always played, “What if?” Just as I posed the question above about what would you do if you had the ability to heal, you can use the same technique (either alone or with a group), to begin your own story. Here are some suggestions for a variety of tastes.
Do you like mainstream fiction/personal stories that touch the hearts of everyone at some point in their lives? What if you found you only had one year to live? What would you do with your life? What would the repercussions be for those you leave behind? Do you tell them or not? How do you cope with the ‘stages’ associated with death and dying? If you’re dead…how are you telling the story? (Now there’s something to think about!)
Enjoy paranormal elements? What if your great-grandmother passed away and left you a family heirloom with a magical power? How did you learn it had special powers? What kind of heirloom would it be, what would it enable you to do and if granny never used it or spoke of it.…why not? Could using it have dire consequences? Are those consequences personal or global? What could you gain, or more importantly, what would you risk losing, if you accessed its powers?
Are you more into suspense or horror? What if you started having nightmares and began noticing what you read in the morning paper was eerily similar to your dreams? What if the similarities became greater as the days passed? What if you began to suspect that you were somehow influencing real events with your dreams? Do you try to prevent tragedy from striking? Who would you tell? Who would believe you and why? Finally, what happens when it becomes personal, when you see someone you know and care about in your nightmares? What if you see yourself in the dreams?
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I, like most writers, could go on and on and on with story starters like these. The trick is to be able to find one that sticks, that holds your interest and makes you want to write the entire story! It also helps when the characters begin to come to life and if you’re fortunate enough for them to begin speaking to you, and eventually through you— then you’ve got a real story that won’t let you stop until it’s been told!!!
Creativity has its downside though. Sometimes, there are so many stories and so many characters vying for my attention that I have to bargain with my muses. I’ve found that if I jot down the ideas with a promise to work on them as soon as the project at hand is complete, then ‘they’ usually leave me alone long enough to finish the story I’m working on ;o)
LPR: Will you give your readers an idea of what your next book will be about or what you’re working on now?
SE: I can give you info on at least one of my projects! Antonella Kopelakis, Sadira’s eccentric and disgustingly rich friend, will be back for more in Midas Touch, which is the sequel to Touch Me Not.
Those of you who have read my book, probably realized that there’s something different about Antonella, but couldn’t quite figure out what it was. In Midas Touch, you learn that she has the ability to see past, present and future events by touching a person or object. She also has a natural talent for making money. The two make a combination that someone wants at any price and whether the cost is Antonella’s heart, or her life, is in the hands of fate.
LPR: Thank you for your time, Shannon Emmel, and for the story Touch Me Not. Thanks, also, for the story prompts. We wish you the best for your future writing endeavours. I look forward to reading your next book.
SE: It’s been my pleasure and for the latest news, photos and more, check out my website: and interesting links to other TLC books and psychic resources. Readers can also ‘contact me’ or view my BLOG through the website. Happy reading and remember…Everyone needs a little TLC!
Lucille P Robinson