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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Author Interview: Seth Mullins: Trust in the Unseen: An In-Depth Talk On His Books And Its Characters

This interview with Seth Mullins is second in the row and hence is more focused and covering in-depth about the philosophy behind his writing and the thought process that goes into writing a book and characterization of the story. This first interview can be read here, and review to his book What Casts The Shadow can be visited here.

Welcome Seth! It is an honor to have you again for more introspective talk. 

Why title as Trust In The Unseen? What other titles came into your mind while thinking about it?
Each title in The Edge of the Known series is also reflective of the title of the record that this fictitious band is working on/releasing during the course of that particular volume. In this instance you have a band that has faced all kinds of hardships as they’ve pursued their musical dream. At the same time, though, they realize that there  have been many serendipitous moments, miraculous ‘coincidences’ that served to open doors for them so that this dream draws closer and closer to fruition. That’s what they’re discussing during the particular rehearsal that inspires their album title. They bounce around ideas such as “The Essence” and “The Undying Light” before finally settling upon “Trust in the Unseen”.
I personally believe that our culture has arrived at place where our reasoning minds alone can’t hope to grapple with all the movements and changes that are occurring. We’re challenged to embrace a wider conception of ourselves and learn to trust the other (oftentimes wiser and more far-seeing) voices within us in order to find our way.

Who is the lead character in your book  Trust In The Unseen and how is it different from the your earlier book What Casts The Shadow?
The entire Edge of the Known trilogy is narrated by Brandon Chane. The reason why he chooses to relate the tale of his (and his band’s) journey is finally revealed in the third volume. In my mind, the three books – “What Casts the Shadow?” “Trust in the Unseen” and “Humanity’s Way Forward” – are all one story. But there were natural breaks that provided ideal points at which to begin and end the installments – each of which, incidentally, also represent growth rungs for Brandon and the other major characters.   

Any resemblance between the author Seth Mullins and Brandon Chane of What Casts The Shadow?
There were a couple aspects of my own personal experience that lent themselves to Brandon’s character. The first was my tenure as a songwriter and performing musician – particularly, the way that I learned to translate my inner experience into words and music. The other was my long acquaintance with the kind of frustration that often accompanies the creative life and one’s efforts to (1) Realize a vision, and (2) Attain recognition – reach people with that vision.
That’s a broad kind of experience that could be applied to any art form. I could have written about a struggling painter or actor. But in this case, I also wanted to explore music as a social phenomenon, as something that can expose the forces at work within culture and serve as a catalyst for upheaval and change. I decided to do this through a character whose personality is very different from mine but who I could still strongly relate to because of my own tribulations as an artist.

When was the idea of writing What Casts The Shadow conceived in your mind and what was drove you to this story?
It began as I was just thinking about various artistic luminaries throughout our history, and how often they either destroyed themselves or else burned out in such a way that they were never able to recapture their earlier heights of inspiration. I questioned whether this was necessary. Could I find a way to craft a believable story about a temperamental artistic genius who eventually learns to live with his vision rather than let himself be destroyed by it? 

Is Saul Mason of What Casts The Shadow another side of Seth Mullins?
I guess the simplest answer I can give is that I try to reach readers in a way that’s similar to how Saul tries to reach his clients.
Saul could be seen, perhaps, as my Self unfolding along different lines in an alternate reality. If, instead of channeling my particular insights into story form – as I choose to do now – I decided instead to be a therapist and apply those same insights in that arena then I would work like Saul does. I would try to help people to understand that their reality is their own creation – that, because they’ve made their experience what it is in the first place, they therefore have the power to change it if they want to. It’s strange to me that therapists and spiritual gurus don’t typically do this. But I suppose you wouldn’t have many ‘followers’ if you encouraged everyone to trust their own inner guidance, right?

If you had to rewrite What Casts The Shadow, would it be the same, or different?
There were times when I thought about re-writing certain passages that seemed a bit dense or unclear. But then I realized that these segments actually reveal much about Brandon’s state of mind, and that to make everything more straightforward would have done his character a disservice. Some people dislike his ambivalence, his conflicted nature. But this is just where he is at the onset. So, if I had to rewrite the book I would hopefully resist the temptation to “clean it up.” I think the rough edges are necessary; that they actually add to the resonance of the story as a whole.

How do you switch-over from different modes of Seth Mullins as a songwriter, performing musician and a writer?
The common thread throughout my whole creative life has always been writing. Even as a musician this was my focus. I never could have found satisfaction getting up onstage night after night and just playing lead guitar. For many people, that is their artistry. But I was personally much more aware that I had something to say; and from there, the question was always “What medium will provide me with the best means of saying it?” And I discovered that I need a certain amount of space in which to explore my themes; that I can realize my vision much more fully through, say, a 200-page novel rather than a 3-minute song.

Fear leads to taking risk that further leads to achievement and then success? Do you agree? Is it a true that there is a strong relationship between failure, fear, risk, accomplishment and success?
Well, fear can inspire people to take risks and expand their lives; but it can just as easily make people shut down, withdraw, isolate and/or blindly react to circumstances rather than feel empowered in those situations. How we respond to the challenge of fear is the crucial thing. I can’t describe this in great detail without giving away plot details, but in this trilogy there are two characters (one of them being Brandon’s mother) who face a very similar trial involving their core fears. They make vastly different choices in the face of it, though. One succumbs. The other uses fear as a springboard into new life and creativity. If we feel fear and then move forward anyway, not letting it deter us, then our very conception of ourselves can change. From that place, we can see that the fear was just the result of limiting beliefs that we held – beliefs that we no longer need, and can shed.   

There are always two sides of a human being – seen and unseen, known and unknown, touched and untouched. Would you throw some light on this?
We’re embarked upon a never-ending journey of self-exploration and discovery. This means that there is always more for us to seek. Any journey implies things unknown and unseen; you don’t step outside the ‘safe arms’ of the status quo unless you feel that something is lacking, that you long for something more. The nature of the human being is in a state of constant becoming. Thus, there must always be aspects of reality that we have not yet glimpsed, not yet touched.

What is the real purpose of your life and how do you plan to achieve it?
 I think that I’m here to communicate, and that I’ve found the ideal medium through which to do so. I’m really grateful to have found it.

Is Trust In The Unseen a sequel of What Casts The Shadow? A synopsis of Trust In The Unseen?
Yes, Trust in the Unseen is a sequel, and the middle act of a three-part drama. I would say that this is the portion of the overall story where the characters’ artistic and personal visions are most thoroughly tested. Even Saul, who often seemed all-knowing in the first book (at least in Brandon’s eyes) reveals his human frailty and moments of doubt. At the same time, everyone learns a lot about themselves and their potentials as a result of these challenges. Brandon, for example, ends up discovering his own voice to an extent that was only hinted at in the first book.  

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