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David Angsten
David AngstenDavid Angsten was born in Chicago, attended Grinnell College in Iowa and American University in Rome and Paris, and graduated from the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana. He initially worked in Chicago, traveling internationally as a writer-director of videos, documentaries, fiction shorts, and animations. His half-hour drama, Notes From a Lady at a Dinner Party, was selected for competition at Cannes.

Since 1990, David has lived and worked in Los Angeles as a screenwriter and video director, and is a story analyst and senior editor for Atchity Entertainment International. His debut novel, Dark Gold, from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press, was followed by Night of the Furies, and most recently, The Assassin Lotus.

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McNaughton Author Profile: David Angsten

1.   Where did your idea for Dark Gold come from? Do you have diver experience?

I’ve been diving for decades, but the idea for Dark Gold came to me while reading under the shade of a palapa on the beach in Puerto Vallarta. I was with my wife; it was Christmas.  All these beautiful people were strutting around in scanty swimsuits, flying through the air on skis, lapping up margaritas, staring out at the gorgeous ocean - which you never seem to tire of staring at - and being catered to by a battalion of barmen. Roman emperors vacationing on Capri were probably not treated so well. 

In contrast to this sunny confection of civilization, I knew that just south of the city, along the Pacific coast, there’s a wide stretch of mountainous jungle that’s mostly wild and unsettled, accessible only by boat. Most of it remains as it was at the time of the Spanish and Portuguese explorers, nearly five centuries ago. I had traveled down that coast and seen isolated fishing villages there that didn’t show up on any tourist map. So I wondered what would happen if you set a few of these pampered gringos down in one of those primitive towns. The idea had immediate resonance for me. I can’t look at the ocean without thinking of it as a metaphor for the unconscious mind. So I began to imagine my hero, not so much as a fish-out-of-water, but a fish in deeper, darker water. That idea, combined with several others I’d been toying with, gave me the foundation for a novel.    

By the way, mind your metaphors: That beach in Puerto Vallarta was wiped out by a tsunami shortly after we left. Like any healthy ego, it was quickly reassembled, and hopefully this summer all those vacationing gringos will be back under their palapas, sipping margaritas and reading my book.

2.  As most writers have expressed, there is no such thing as 'overnight success’ when you’re in the writing profession. How long did it take you to realize this success?

Hate to do it, but here’s another velvet-painting metaphor: Success is the bright snow capping a mountain of failure. After years writing and directing videos in Chicago, I moved to Los Angeles and started writing screenplays. My intention was to write something that would allow me to direct - otherwise it’s just a form of masochism. Well, I indulged in that masochism for ten long years. I had a few screenplays optioned, but nothing got produced. Finally my manager, Ken Atchity, convinced me I ought to write a novel. I’d ghost-written two previous novels, adaptations of other people’s work, and I’d been editing AEI’s fiction clients for years, so I had a good idea of what it would take. What surprised me was just how enjoyable it was. There’s a freedom to prose fiction that’s unavailable in screenwriting - it feels like a whole other world. But without all those so-called "failed" screenplays, I doubt I could have written Dark Gold.  They taught me how to tell a story, which a lot of would-be fiction writers never learn to do.

I started out wanting to direct movies; now all I want is to write another novel. Which brings me back to that velvet painting: You can’t be sure what mountain you’re climbing until you reach the top. And then all you see are other peaks to climb!

3.   We know from publisher supplied information that you attended Grinnell College in Iowa and American University in Rome and Paris. What course of study did you pursue at these places? Where did you graduate high school from? What type of degree(s) do you hold, and from where?

I graduated from Hinsdale Central High School, just as Jack Duran did in the novel. Only Jack, I think, was smarter than me.  At these various other places - Rome, Paris - even Iowa - I was not pursuing a course of study, I was pursuing girls. Ever been to Paris in the springtime? I was only twenty years old. I hitchhiked from one end of Spain to the other, and trekked through Italy and Germany and Austria. I wound up my academic career back at the University of Illinois, in Champaign-Urbana - a terrific school. I was very happy there. My interests were highly eclectic. I remember a film course on Ingmar Bergman, another course on the Chinese oracle, I Ching, and an excellent course on statistics that I aced. I ended up with a degree in - of all things, advertising - but by then I was head-over-heels with the movies and spent all my time shooting films.

4.   We know that you were born in Chicago. Can you give us a few more stats about yourself? Age? Do you have siblings? What was your parents’/siblings’ response when you expressed a desire to be a writer? Are you married? Do you have children?

My parents were German-Irish Catholics from the south side of Chicago. My grandfather was a bootlegging teetotaler who owned a tavern/"soda fountain" at 36th and Damen - still there, last I checked. My parents were practical, down-to-earth people, steeped in common sense. You don’t grow up just south of the old stockyards and have your head in the clouds.  The suburbs are a different story. I had an ideal childhood. As a kid I spent all my time exploring the woods or up in my room with a book. I developed an "active imagination" - in other words, I daydreamed. As I got older I sought out a creative life, but it’s always been in conflict with that inherited practicality. This explains, I suppose, the degree in advertising. It also might help to explain my writing. There’s an airy, philosophical bent to it, along with a hard-nosed skepticism.

I’m happily married to a clinical psychologist - highly advantageous to a writer. We have two grown kids from my wife’s first marriage, and lots of nieces and nephews from my two older brothers in Illinois and California, and my beautiful younger sister in South Carolina.

Age?  I work in Hollywood.

5.   As with most of us, you probably held various other jobs along the way to where you are today. What is the best and worst job you’ve ever held and what life lessons did you take away from these jobs?

This kind of question gives me a headache. A job doing anything other than pursuing what you love is a job and nothing more. I haven’t always succeeded, but I’ve always tried to do what I thought was fun.

6.   What type of organization is Atchity Entertainment International and what are your responsibilities as a story analyst and editor? How long have you held that position?

AEI is a literary management and film production company. They’re currently producing the Paramount movie "Ripley's Believe It Or Not!" starring Jim Carrey and Gong Li.  I’ve been working there for ten years, helping writers shape their stories into something that can be published or produced. That can mean re-working the basic concept, developing new characters or conflicts, helping to lay out the story points, all the way through to editing the final work. It’s the perfect job for me, in that it combines my creative and practical sides, as I was explaining earlier. And I learn a lot in the process, which hopefully has helped to improve my own writing.

7.   We have been told that you also write and direct? Can you give us examples of some things you have written or directed that you’re most proud of?

I wrote and directed a half-hour screen adaptation of Bernard Malamud’s Notes From a Lady at a Dinner Party, which was one of six shorts selected for competition at Cannes (I lost out to a film by John Sayles). I also did a number of travel films which won awards - one on New England, one on San Francisco, and my favorite, a film on New Orleans (pre-Katrina), called Big Easy.  I was involved in the writing and producing of a couple children’s animations, one based on a book by Chris Van Allsburg, and another by New Yorker cartoonist James Stevenson. Beyond that, I’ve written, produced and directed countless business, medical, and documentary films.

8.   How does writing for the screen differ from writing a novel? Do you think writing a novel is harder or easier? Explain why.

All good writing is difficult, but writing a screenplay is hardest of all. I’ve been writing them for years, have gotten fairly good at it, but still I find the process arduous and unpleasant. It’s not because of the screenplay’s dependence on the visual - I have a strong visual imagination; and it’s not because of problems with dialogue - that’s more often to do with character and story. The difficulty is with the inherent restrictions of the form:  the act breaks, the page count, the terseness, the speed. It’s highly, highly concentrated - more like poetry than prose. There’s little room for abstraction, subtlety, ideas, aesthetics. It’s a blueprint. It’s all about structure, and construction of emotion. Most screenplays fall far short. Look at all the terrible movies out there. Writing a great one is hard!

Writing a novel is no piece of cake either, but I find more pleasure and satisfaction in the process. There’s a tiny reward that comes with each sentence, with the crafting a complete and lucid thought. Another reward comes with the completion of a paragraph, and another at the end of a satisfying chapter. There’s also the continual thrill of discovery. With Dark Gold, I never knew where the story was going, except in a very general way. Surprises for the writer become surprises for the reader. That’s largely absent from screenwriting, where the plot is usually outlined in advance and then carefully executed. And in a novel, of course, your "camera" is your mind’s eye: It can go anywhere, express anything. A film director’s dream. You are in complete control. I found it incredibly liberating.

9.   Without giving away too much, can you tell us about your sea creature from Dark Gold?

This question goes back to that element of surprise. If I had my druthers, there would be no jacket copy, no cover art, no mention of a creature at all. I didn’t know what the thing was myself until the moment it finally appeared. I just knew there was something down there. It’s part of why - my first time out - I chose this kind of story. The monster story is probably the oldest mythic tale in the world. In fact, the oldest recorded story - carved on cuneiform tablets - is the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh. It’s the tale of a man obsessed with death, who slays a monster, and reaches the bottom of the ocean to find the secret to eternal life. It begins with the words: He who saw the deep. You find similar monsters in Homer’s Odyssey, and later in the Bible. What was the "great fish" that swallowed Jonah?  Shark?  Whale? An 18th-century Swedish naturalist thought it was a giant grouper. What was the "leviathan" in the Book of Job? Whale again?  It has scales, and fire coming out of its mouth. Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear. For most of human history, man himself was prey. The monsters in these stories embody something primal, the deepest memories of our species. We see them again and again, in stories told and retold over many thousands of years, from Tiamat to Beowulf to Moby Dick to Jaws.

10. While the publisher info refers to Dark Gold as "the perfect beach read for guys" and "a male adventure book," do you see it also as a book women would enjoy?

This isn’t the story of a square-jawed action hero battling clichéd villains while spouting Tom Clancy techno-talk. The "hero" of Dark Gold is its narrator, Jack Duran, a bright, thoughtful English major headed for graduate school. He falls in love with Eva, the daughter of a Brazilian navy admiral, multilingual, highly educated, extremely articulate, a skilled sailor and an expert in nautical history, with an Olympian physique, a powerful sexual presence, and absolutely stunning eyes. Their romance is at the center of the novel. They have incredible sex. Don’t women enjoy reading about powerful women having incredible sex with young, virile, intelligent men? I’m guessing they do. (In fact, I think for men and women readers alike, you take an extra interest when a love scene is written by an author of the opposite sex: you want to know what their fantasies are.)

Dark Gold is a genre novel, I suppose, but I’d be hard-pressed to tell you which genre exactly.  Leviathan fiction? Treasure hunt tale? Mystery? Although my book is more of a thriller, Yann Martel’s LIFE OF PI would make a happy partner - it’s a similarly harrowing fable, what I like to call a "mythic thriller."

A large segment of readers, and probably more women than men, will never pick up a genre novel, of any kind. For the most part I don’t blame them, but I also have to admit I’m bored with a lot of "literary fiction." Unless the author is a brilliant stylist (e.g., Nabokov), or writes incredibly lucid and insightful prose (e.g., Ian McKeown, Atonement), I can’t get through another day-in-the-life gripe about problems with relationships or the supposed horrors of American life. As a writer and a reader, I want a strong story, with high stakes, vivid characters, and a sense of danger. I also want a perceptive sensibility, an emotional connection, and a full engagement of the mind.

Dark Gold isn’t high-brow lit, but it’s not pulp fiction, either. Dasheill Hammett said he was trying to apply a literate sensibility to the cheap detective novel. I’m trying to do a similar thing with this modern take on the monster tale. I’ll leave it to readers to decide if I succeeded.

EAST MEETS WEST - HEROES AND MYSTICS
An interview with the author of THE ASSASSIN LOTUS

What do heroes and yogis have in common?

The 10-volume Rig Veda of ancient India is the world’s oldest religious scripture still in use today. The earliest volume is dedicated to praising a plant from which a psychoactive drink called soma was derived. Soma was said to bring cosmic bliss to those who drank it and was used by warriors to instill courage before battle. Although there have been many theories, the true identity of this legendary plant has been lost to the mists of time.

A new adventure thriller, The Assassin Lotus, imagines the rediscovery of soma in Asia, and the feverish hunt this triggers to find the lost plant’s hidden source. A review from the website Bookgasm calls it "a genuine suspenseful page-turner steeped in the esoteric history and traditions of both Hinduism and Buddhism." Kirkus Reviews said "The book is rife with nail-biting tension... The action rarely stops. [...] Angsten hits all the genre highlights—action, suspense, mystery—in this worthwhile thriller."

Meg Jordan, Professor of Medical Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies, interviewed the book’s author, David Angsten, in a wide-ranging discussion of soma, yoga, the elusiveness of enlightenment, the principle of ahimsa (non-violence), and the dangers of ignoring the dark side of human nature.


MJ: You worked as a filmmaker in Chicago, and I understand you wrote screenplays when you moved to LA in the 90s. Is that how you got into writing thrillers?

DA: The thriller has always been my favorite genre. I grew up on Hitchcock movies. Fantastically entertaining, I love them, but the thing is, an hour later, you’ve forgotten what all the fuss was about. With books I can give the reader something more to chew on. I call them “mythic thrillers.” It sounds grandiose, but it’s really very basic. The stories look at how different cultures organize their consciousness, their thinking and beliefs. How they frame and perceive reality.

MJ: Why do you seem to have such an interest in drug research and ancient elixirs in your novels?

DA: It’s not the drugs that interest me, it’s human consciousness. We are bio-chemical beings enmeshed in a material world. How does consciousness arise out of that? And what do we mean when we talk about transcendence? Many ethnobotanists and anthropologists believe it was plant-derived “drug” experiences that gave early man his first inkling of the spiritual world, a world beyond immediate perception. Researchers call these substances “entheogens”—“generating the divine within.” They may have been the catalysts of the world’s ancient religions, and in fact that’s what the stories of my last two books are about. Night of the Furies is about a quest for kykeon, the secret entheogen used in the Eleusinian Mysteries, the central religious rite of ancient Greece and Rome that lasted over a thousand years. The Assassin Lotus continues with the search for soma, the entheogen much praised in the ancient Rig Veda, which gave rise ultimately to Hinduism and Buddhism.

MJ: Do you do drugs yourself?

DA: Not anymore. I completed my drug education in high school. I don’t recommend it—especially when you’re that young. But taken under the right circumstances, psychoactive drugs make you aware—like nothing else—of the phenomenon of consciousness, its fundamental role in our experience of the world. Anyone who’s had a bad night’s sleep will acknowledge that, of course. But until your state of consciousness is fundamentally altered, you’re like the fish that’s never been out of the water—you’re Keanu Reeves in the Matrix.

MJ: I think that was a lot of people’s experience in the 1960s. A sudden opening up.

DA: Exactly. The influx of LSD and other drugs are what started the whole New Age movement. People were suddenly open and turned on to Eastern religion, to yoga and meditation and new kinds of music. The trick was to move beyond the drugs before they became a habit and damaged your brain. I lost the desire for them my junior year when I started practicing TM. Yoga, meditation, spiritual practice—and I would include traditional religious practice and prayer—are healthier and more enduring ways to bring greater awareness into your life.

MJ: So you’ve been doing Transcendental Meditation since high school?

DA: Forty-five years. TM and the Siddhi techniques.

MJ: That’s a lot of years.

DA: Yeah, and I’m still not cosmic! Imagine, four decades and still no enlightenment. Where do I go to complain?

MJ: Ha! Your teacher?

DA: He’s got to be a very old man by now. Probably living in a Himalayan cave.

MJ: Have you ever considered living in a cave?

DA: I wouldn’t last ten minutes. But I have to say, that’s probably what it takes.

MJ: That kind of commitment, you mean.

DA: Yes. I think it takes a particular sort of person. The saints, the monks, the mystics—Christian, Hindu, Sufi—they’re a special breed. Single-minded barely gets at it. They’re infatuated.

MJ: With meditation?

DA: With God. With getting closer to God. That’s what yoga means after all. “Union” with the divine.

MJ: Buddhists might call it something else.

DA: The Buddha was very down-to-earth. He sidestepped the whole question of divinity. He’d talk about the spiritual experience, not the spiritual Being. Instead of Atman/Brahman, he used the term nibbana—nirvana. The irony is, a lot of later Buddhists ended up making him divine.

MJ: Where do you come down on the question?

DA: Generally, I’m with the Buddha. I really can’t say. But as I’ve gotten older my sense of it has changed. There’s a kind of intuition that has deepened in me. It’s not intellectual, or even emotional. It’s some other kind of knowing. I assume it’s from the daily experience of transcendence—which really does feel divine.

MJ: Blissful, you mean?

DA: Yes, but... It’s actually more than that. This is a criticism you sometimes hear from traditional Christians—that what meditation offers is nothing more than a feeling. But it’s more than just a feeling. It’s an awareness, a stillness, a sort of direct experience of infinity, or timelessness. Of being outside of time. I sometimes imagine it might be similar to the actual experience of death—of the spirit leaving the body. Maybe what the notion of heaven is all about. Blissful and unbounded and eternal. But the experience in and of itself is not what is important. What matters is its effect on your life. With a regular, daily routine of meditation, that sense of timelessness becomes a part of who you are, part of your day-to-day consciousness.

MJ: Being in this world but not of it.

DA: That’s the ideal. But like I said, I’m closer maybe, but I’m not there. Too often it all goes right out the window. The world of time swallows you up.

MJ: That’s why those monks live in caves.

DA: Theoretically, you shouldn’t have to. The Bhagavad Gita talks about the three paths: duty, knowledge, devotion. The “right way of living” requires taking them all together: do your duty maintaining the material world—dharma—while simultaneously obtaining liberation from the world—moksha. In other words, you can’t live in this world without a functioning ego, and you can’t transcend without losing it. You have to find a way to embrace that paradox.

MJ: Think someday you’ll pull it off?

DA: I don’t know. I have my moments. There’s that famous maxim from the Gita—“Established in Yoga, perform action.” Great advice, but it’s like that line about how to get rich. “First, make a million dollars.” Most of us are neither enlightened nor rich. As the Bible says, we see through a glass darkly. We have to take action from whatever place we’re at.

MJ: Most of us who love yoga believe in the concept of ahimsa, the Hindu and Buddhist philosophy of nonviolence, of revering all life and refraining from harm. We want to focus inward, deepen our awareness, purify ourselves, and outwardly express peace and loving-kindness. Why should we take up a book in which violence plays such a central role?

DA: Any civilized, sensible person is naturally repelled by killing and violence. But it’s also true that we strangely find ourselves drawn to scenes of violence. I don’t mean just in our entertainment. How many of us, when we pass a car accident, can resist slowing down just a little for a peek? It’s the major cause of traffic jams! What is it we’re looking for? What are we trying to see?

We’re trying to see reality. We want to see the truth. Behind the veil of civilization, what is nature really like?

MJ: Isn’t ahimsa an effort to overcome that brutal nature? Why should we indulge it, vicariously or otherwise?

DA: Not indulge it, but acknowledge it. Deal with it. You could ask the same question of the Bhagavad Gita. That book is set on the brink of a slaughter. The reluctant Arjuna is urged by Lord Krishna to man up and lead his army into battle. Yogis have revered this tale for 2500 years. Why? One reason is because it confronts a difficult truth. That we live in a world of conflict. That we have to find a way to live in that world even as we seek to transcend it.

MJ: Are you comparing your novel to the Bhagavad Gita?

DA: I’m the first to admit I have a big ego. But no, it’s not quite that big.

MJ: In the Afterword of your book, you wrote that the Gita was your inspiration.

DA: Yes. Both Jack Duran in my story and Arjuna in the Gita are confronted with a similar choice. Neither man wants to see killing and violence. Both are repelled by the prospect they face. They wonder if they shouldn’t just turn and walk away.

MJ: Why don’t they?

DA: According to Lord Krishna, the answer for Arjuna is that fighting is his dharma. Dharma in the sense of “what is right”—his duty as a warrior, a protector of his people. The challenge from Krishna is to act without attachment. Meaning not with fear or desire, but with absolute devotion to the action or work itself. In a way, to become the action. It is a sacrifice of the self, a letting go of the ego.

MJ: What about Jack? Does he believe in dharma?

DA: He’s trying to come to terms with it. To “take responsibility” as we say. This gets to another religious criticism I pretty much agree with—that we in the West have taken the more passive and pleasant parts of Eastern religion, like yoga and meditation, and left out the hard parts—virtue, morality, self-sacrifice, service. These are essential elements of all the major spiritual traditions. It seems to me the Hindu notion of dharma, as duty, conduct, virtue—“the right way of living”—is as important as anything you practice on a yoga mat.

MJ: And this virtue includes killing other human beings?

DA: When necessary, yes. The warrior is virtuous. He stands guard at civilization’s boundary. It is his earthly duty. He allows the rest of us to practice loving-kindness.

MJ: My understanding of the Gita has always been that the battle is a metaphor. Not advocating taking up arms against your enemies, rather symbolizing the need to master the self.

DA: Yes, it can certainly be—and has been—interpreted that way. It brings in a whole other level of meaning. But nearly every story can be taken as a metaphor. You could say the same about The Assassin Lotus. In fact, in Lotus that metaphor is made explicit. Conquering the self is dramatized in the climax. But while the Bhagavad Gita can be interpreted as allegory, most Hindu scholars and gurus also acknowledge it for what it is—a part of the Mahabharata, a mythological epic likely based in actual history. Like the siege of Troy depicted in The Iliad. It is partly an examination of courage and heroism.

The great Sri Aurobindo rejects the idea that the Gita is only an inner allegory. In his Essays on the Gita he wrote:


“That is a view which the general character and the actual language of the epic does not justify and, if pressed, would turn the straightforward philosophical language of the Gita into a constant, laborious and somewhat puerile mystification...[T]he Gita is written in plain terms and professes to solve the great ethical and spiritual difficulties which the life of man raises, and it will not do to go behind this plain language and thought and wrest them to the service of our fancy.”

MJ: I wouldn’t call Mahatma Gandhi fanciful. Yet he saw the Gita as an allegory. And it was his policy of nonviolent resistance that gained his country’s independence from Britain. Avoiding what could have been a very bloody revolution.

DA: Gandhi also advocated the same method as the way to resist the Nazis. But here’s the thing about non-violent resistance. It only works if the people you’re resisting value compassion and empathy. Britain had long been a Christian democracy in which those values had been deeply imbued. British colonial rulers could be brutally oppressive, but slaughtering passive, innocent civilians was repellent to the British people. They would not tolerate it for long.

Dictatorships are different; the people have no say. Hitler and the Nazis slaughtered millions. So did Mao and Stalin. Today Middle-Eastern religious fanatics are doing the very same thing.

Don’t get me wrong. Mastering the self is the essence of Buddhism. But as a human being, and as an American, I value freedom and individual rights as much as I value my life. So even if I master the demons of my inner world, the demons of the outer world cannot be ignored. Ask the South Koreans. Even their enormous population of Buddhists agree to be conscripted.

MJ: Unlike the Tibetans.

DA: Sadly, they’ve lost their country. The idea that they’ll somehow get it back is a fantasy. And now, after 9/11 and ISIS, even the Dalai Lama has conceded that violence might be needed in the fight against terrorism.

MJ: Is this why you’ve written a book about finding courage?

DA: We could all do with more courage. I was curious about the relationship between courage and transcendence. How the self-sacrificing mindset of the hero is akin to the selfless state of yogis and mystics. This idea seems to lie at the heart of the martial arts. In fact, with Lotus, the “nasty” trick Jack uses in the climax was taken from a budō master.

MJ: I know you were raised Catholic. Do you still go to church?

DA: I no longer practice, but I still love and respect the faith. We inherited freedom and rationality from the Greeks, and Judaism and Christianity formed the foundation of our morality. If those religions fade away, it seems to me quite possible our civilization goes with it.

MJ: Would you put yourself in the category “spiritual, not religious?”

DA: I’d say I’m “spiritual, not ridiculous.” So much of what used to be called the New Age movement has become a kind of feel-good, bliss-ninny mysticism that has no grounding in the everyday world. At the core of it is a blindness to the dark side of human nature. As if by ignoring it, it will simply go away. But evil cannot—and should not—be ignored.

MJ: You seem to be saying the same thing in The Assassin Lotus.

DA: Yes. Jack is forced to confront the evil of Islamic fanaticism—another kind of blindness. The problem is, Jack is not a hero. He’s not trained to be violent, or to be immune to killing. He’s a regular guy. But he’s forced into that situation and has to make a choice. And we’re forced, as readers, to ask ourselves what we would do. Would I have the courage, or would I turn away? This is the essence of what literature is about. Imagination, empathy. To put yourself in another man’s sandals.

MJ: Or woman’s. I like what you did with Jack’s love interest, Phoebe. She warmed my feminist heart.

DA: Phoebe came to exemplify a fundamental theme in the novel—the balancing of Eastern yin with Western yang. She has the receptive and compassionate heart of the Buddhist, and at the same time she’s willful and strong.

MJ: I guess you’d call her well-rounded. Can you tell us what you’re working on next?

DA: It’s a serial-murder thriller called The Medievalist, set right here in Hollywood. This one explores Catholic mythology, in particular the concept of hell and the devil. And another quaint notion fading from our culture—sin.

MJ: Hollywood—our Sodom and Gomorrah. Sounds intriguing. Thank you so much for talking with me.

DA: My pleasure, Meg. Namaste. Or maybe I should say, Go in Peace.