Sunday, 17 June 2018

Etienne de L'Amour: Meet the author, Part 1

Escape From the Shadowlands.
Q: What inspired you to write this first novel in the Shadowlands series?

A: I think the ideas have been stewing for several decades now. It all started perhaps in my childhood, growing up in a pretty poor, struggling and hard-working family in the North of England with a brother older than me by ten years and who was very successful even in those early years. Unable to compete, I had to find a quiet niche for myself. So many life experiences, really. Discovering the alternative possibilities of Shangri-La in Frank Capra's 1937 film, Lost Horizon which was adapted from James Hilton's novel of the same name; a book that I went on to study much, much later in a course on the writers' craft.

Fast forward a few years to a misspent youth as a hippie freak, foolishly experimenting with illicit – albeit mind-broadening – substances, and reading dozens of books along the lines of practical astral travel, Lobsang Rampa's The Third Eye, and Helena Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled. I read a few books by folk who turned out to be fakes, but they nudged me in a certain direction, down a wonderful, winding road much less travelled. Reading With Magic and Magicians in Tibet by Alexandra David-NĂ©el represented a notable turning point, and I was also fortunate to stumble across a thin pamphlet by the then-embryonic Buddhist Society in the UK. I remember reading several of their publications and writing to the Secretary of the society inquiring whether it was better to become a Bodhisattva (especially a Bodhisattva of the Household who worked in the everyday marketplace of life, one who has achieved nirvana and returned to help others) or an Arhat (whom I envisioned sitting on some distant Himalayan mountaintop in quiet and solitary meditation). Needless to say, the Secretary sent a reply, suggesting that I was perhaps putting the cart before the horse. Well, even I could see now that there was no “perhaps” about it, really. I was all over the place in those days.

Again, fast forward to around 1985 or 1986, at which point I underwent a major nervous breakdown and my life took a rather abrupt and necessary mid-course correction, making such a narrow escape from hitting the rocks. It was at this point that I stumbled upon, or was meant to come across, Idries Shah's work, namely The Way of the Sufi, tucked away almost out of sight on a shelf in a bookshop that I happened to visit. This was, perhaps, the first time that I had come across books of such an authentic nature, and which were not so much read – something I'd been doing for decades, to little avail – so much as being psychoactive, if you like, and life changing, though it would be several years before I was to discover this facet of the work. Boy, did I ever need to change for the better, which has been a source of deep and constant regret ever since, and I'm eternally grateful to Shah, and others, for helping to straighten me out.

Then fast forward a few more years, until around 1999 when I first discovered life on-line and met so many wonderful friends from all around the globe. And forward to around 2005 when I embarked upon a fledgling career in writing (after several abortive starts, and before the huge explosion in self-publishing). I was seeking to better understand myself, I guess, and also hoping to escape the rat race. Around this time and after, I was inspired by numerous films and books: The Silent Flute (aka Circle of Iron) co-written by Bruce Lee and starring David Carradine; Logan's RunThe Matrix; Equilibrium; Virtual Nightmare; The Adjustment Bureau; The Thirteenth Floor; City of Ember; Doris Lessing's Canopus in Argos series and the help she gave me; and not least the unofficial biography Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story which, I must admit, brought a tear or two to my eyes, as I could really relate to her story, both as a person and as an author. Throughout these later years, Idries Shah's works, and especially the Sufi teaching stories which, like onions, have several layers of meaning, have had a profound influence on me, as has his son Tahir's own, effervescent writing and travels, and his approachability, which has greatly inspired my own efforts.

So here I am, still feeling something of a round peg in a square hole, yet trying my best to fit in. Thank you!

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