Tell us a little about yourself.
I'm an American settled in the Malvern Hills. My husband and I collect our drinking water from Holy Well and are part of the well dressing festival every Beltane. I grew up in Arizona and California and have lived in New Mexico most of my life before moving to England. I miss the sun but love the abundance of green and flowers and have become a gardener for the first time in my life.
In 2010 I created an event on Facebook called Earth Day-Sing for the Trees. The idea is simple. On Earth Day, April 22, sing for the trees you love at noon wherever you are in the world. Since 2010 over 10,000 people in 41 countries have joined the song. This is how I met my husband Ian. He sang that first year for Whiteleaved Oak, the Great Oak of Eardisley and the Much Marcle Yew. When we met in 2011 he took me to see Whiteleaved Oak at the southern end of the Malvern Hills. I like to think that the trees brought me to England.
Music therapy and sound healing have been my main career. I have helped thousands of people find and free their natural voices through my workshops. I have travelled the world and sung in many sacred places including Chartres Cathedral, the prehistoric cave of Lascaux and Rosslyn Chapel. Three of my books have been published: Song and Silence: Voicing the Soul (1995, La Alameda Press, Albuquerque, New Mexico), Sacred Space Sacred Sound: The Acoustic Mysteries of Holy Place (2007, Quest Books, Wheaton, Illinois), and Emma Oliver and the Song of Creation, my juvenile fiction novel due out October 28 through Our Street Books. Several of my essays and poems have also been published.
Tell us about your latest book.
I wrote Emma Oliver and the Song of Creation after travelling for a full year in 2007. In every place I visited people spontaneously told me that their local trees were dying. Ideas began to weave around a story of an eleven-year old girl who must sing the Song of Creation to the dying Great Mother Tree in The Shining Land. But Emma doesn’t know that she comes from generations of tree singers, passed from mother to daughter. She doesn’t believe she can sing. Her grandmother's voice was stolen by an evil Ivy deva named Esmeralda who would just as soon all the trees die so she can take over. Her mother refused to sing.
Emma's ailing grandmother has just come to live with the family. Her father is hardly ever at home. Her mother has been acting strange. To add to Emma’s troubles, her mother’s great uncle from England is coming to stay. Then, a strange old woman wearing a hat full of feathers appears mysteriously in her garden. She gives Emma a white swan feather that emits a haunting melody.
Emma’s only solace is the oak tree in her garden, which she names Annie Oakley. What she does not yet know is that Annie is part of a network of tree spirits who disguise themselves as old women. These spirits have come to Peachtree City to help Emma remember her mission to sing the Song of Creation and save the Great Mother Tree.
I lived briefly in Peachtree City, Georgia and knew this would be the ideal setting for my story. Peach trees were once a common sight throughout Georgia. Now what remains are street names: Peachtree Industrial Boulevard, Peachtree Terrace, Peachtree Plaza.
What are your top five books of all time?
I have a very diverse list:
- Awakening Osiris: The Book of Coming Forth By Day by Normandi Ellis
- Memories, Dreams and Reflections by Carl Jung
- The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More Than Human World by David Abram
- New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver
- Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Where do you get inspiration from?
Travelling inspires me because it helps me to be in the moment and see things I've never seen before. I always keep a journal handy when I travel. Being in nature helps me quiet my thoughts so I can allow something deeper to be heard. When I am working on a book I read the chapter I am working on before I go to bed and often wake up in the morning with an idea.
Do you have any advice for budding authors?
Bringing a book to publication takes grit and determination. You have to allow for a book to take up residence in your heart and know that you are the only person who can make it live in the world. Make a mock cover of your book and put it near your writing desk. Keep writing until you have written a first draft of the book and then get out your machete. I agree with William Faulkner who said, “In writing, you must kill your darlings.”
Who would play the main characters in a film of your latest book?
- Eleven- year old Emma Oliver – Kylie Rogers of the movie Miracles from Heaven
- Ulf Alf – Ian Holm who played Bilbo Baggins in the Lord of the Rings
- Emma's grandmother, Maizy – Vanessa Redgrave
- Deva Esmeralda – Cher
- Birdie – Shirley MacLaine
- Emma's best friend, an oak tree she has named Annie Oakley – Diane Keaton
- The peach tree deva, Florabunda – Meryl Streep
- A beech tree deva, Lady Beech Bottom – Maggie Smith
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