The author of eight published books, Barbara Chepaitis’ works include The Fear Principle and The Fear of God featuring Jaguar Addams (Wildside Press), as well as the critically acclaimed mainstream novels Feeding Christine and These Dreams. Ms. Chepaitis’ first nonfiction book, Feathers of Hope, is about Berkshire Bird Paradise and the human connection with birds. Ms. Chepaitis is at work writing a sequel to Feathers of Hope, which tells the story of helping our US Troops in Afghanistan rescue Eagle Mitch.
Barbara Chepaitis is also the founder of the storytelling trio The Snickering Witches, as well as faculty coordinator for the fiction component of Western Colorado’s MFA program in creative writing.
Please tell us a bit about your book: The Fear of God – characters, plot, etc.
On Prison Planetoid Three, Jaguar Addams enters the minds of criminals, chasing the shadow of their fears into the light. Her current case is Cult Leader Sardis Malocco, who used the children of her sect as living bombs. The testers say her fear is God, and she must face it in a Virtual Reality Heaven. Alex assigns Jaguar to the case because he suspects that Sardis has real plans to bring on the Apocalypse, and only Jaguar can stop her. But Jaguar is enraged when Sardis critically wounds her best friend Rachel, and the interference of a holodemon on the VR site make the job almost impossible. As the clock ticks toward the End of Days, Jaguar must utilize a Death Walk – one of the most dangerous empathic tricks in the book – to reveal the truth in this place of illusions.
If you could meet, in person, any of your characters, who would it be and why?
I’d like to meet both Jaguar Addams and Alex Dzarny. Jaguar, because we have similar tastes in shoes and I’d like to find out where she gets some of hers. I wouldn’t mind having her teach me some of her psi capacities, and a few new curse words. She’s exceptionally skilled at both. Alex, because he’s handsome, courteous, and has a few psi capacities that are also worth studying.
If you could fictionalize yourself and put yourself in any situation, how would it play out? Could you give us a scene/scenario of such an occurrence?
I have to say this is the first interview question I find I can’t actually answer. Or, at least, I can’t answer it in this short form. To do so would take an entire novel. My best recommendation is that when I get my fantasy novel, Children of the Land, published, you can read that. The answer lies therein!
Do you have any particular habits that you do while writing? Places you write the best, foods, drinks, etc that help set your “writing mood”?
I use music to help me write, creating a kind of soundtrack for each novel to set a musical mood. I’m convinced that actually has a neurological component which helps my brain do the work.
What are you reading right now?
Later today I’ll be reading my book, Learning Fear, third in the Jaguar series, because I have to proof the text.
Who are some of your favorite authors and/or books?
I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m my own favorite author, and the books I write are the ones I like most to spend time with. Before I began writing seriously I read voraciously, but now most of my print time goes into my own work. And I don’t mind that at all.
If you could meet any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I’d want to meet the various writers of the Bible, to find out how the stories went together for them, and what context they grew out of.
Okay, here are a few “get to know you better” questions:
Please share with us a favorite memory.
One of my favorite memories is actually the moment I first ‘met’ Jaguar Addams. I was driving somewhere, listening to the Eurythmics song “No Fear, No Pain, No Broken Hearts,” thinking seriously about what I would do next in my life when suddenly this character made herself known inside me. She was sitting in her living room, and she made it clear that I was going to write her next. It’s a favorite memory because it was such a powerful moment, the kind all writers hope for, telling you that you’re on to something lasting. Thirteen years later I’m still writing Jaguar, and she still gives me just as powerful a punch to write.
Please describe a perfect meal – including menu and those present.
Foie gras with truffles, followed by one whole lobster, with fresh fava beans sautéed with sage and onion in good olive oil. Then a delicate salad of mache and arugla in balsamic dressing. Chocolate mousse for desert. Yum!
What are some of your favorite ways to relax?
I relax by dancing, gardening, walking in the woods with my dogs, or singing. These are physical activities which take me out of the verbal, giving my too wordy brain a true rest.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Some time ago I fell in love with New Mexico, in particular the area around Chaco Canyon. Where I’m living right now, not too far from the Heldeberg escarpment, reminds me of that place emotionally and, in some ways, physically. It’s a land of enchantment, where the dance of the fireflies is punctuated by howling coyotes and the night is dark enough to see the Milky Way. I’m up on a mesa-like hill, surrounded by creatures of the forest, in a place where it feels like I can touch the sky. I like it here just fine.
If you could only read books by one author, who would it be? *I know, this is an inconceivable thought, lol.
Me. A short answer, but an honest one. But truly, I think it’s important for an author to be in love with their own work. Otherwise, why do it?
Share with us a few of your dreams. Also whether they have been fulfilled or are still a work in progress.
I have personal dreams, about personal rewards – an Oscar, a Pulitzer, seeing Jaguar become a series of films and so on. But in larger terms, my greatest ambition is to add to the store of possibilities in the human imagination. Ultimately, I write in the same way I teach, to both entertain and to shift consciousness, touch the soul, and give readers a chance to become better human beings.
What are some of your guilty pleasures?
Fortunately, I’m at a point in my life where I no longer feel guilty about my pleasures. A good place to be!
If you could leave the world with one piece of advice, what would it be?
I’d say what Jaguar says – See who you are. Be what you see.