This week I’ve got an interview with author Corbie Mitleid. After many years of writing for other universes (graphic novel series Elfquest) and appearing in other books as a psychic medium and channel, Mitleid has plumbed her own life experiences to write Clean Out Your Lifecloset. Her new book turns the idea of self-help gurus on its ear by encouraging the reader to write the book with the author.
When did you decide to become a writer?
It was never a conscious decision. It was just there, an essential part of my life no matter what else took first position at the time – schooling, marriage, earning a living. I often joke that “words are my drug of choice.”
My father, a brilliant and compassionate physician, felt that words and good writing were the keys to the world and to oneself. My love affair with words and writing came from him, and I was entranced by books and stories by the time I was three.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Stories started at four or five, given as gifts to the family or filling my own journals. I have a children’s fantasy and a World War One historical romance in various stages somewhere in my files. Actually published? I did work-for-hire for many years with Warp Graphics’ fantasy series ELFQUEST. If graphic novels count, then I would say I started in the early 1990s. I’ve also been a contributing writer in some inspirational volumes.
But CLEAN OUT YOUR LIFECLOSET is the first book to hit the shelves that is solely mine, because creating useful and lifechanging nonfiction is far more compelling to me than writing fiction. That intensity and desire carried the book through to completion.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
Two things were paramount: I wanted to be an actress. And I wanted to be able to wield magic in some form.
I did a double major in theatre and history at Brown University, and actually went to New York City to see if I could make a career of it in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I still do voiceovers often, but found that acting was massively hard work if you were moderately talented, as I was, but not a standout.
What that experience taught me was that I had no true desire to speak someone else’s words… just my own.
I got my wish to wield magic through my intuitive and metaphysical work. And there’s definite magic when you can change a life with the written word.
Which writers inspire you?
It depends on the genre. In fiction, I especially like Diane Duane, and her YA (Young Adult) series Young Wizards. Many YA books today are full of dystopian angst. Duane gives hope without treacle, and her characterizations of young adults are spot on, even through the trappings of magic and wizardry.
In the self-growth/nonfiction arena, it’s Wayne Dyer, Barry Neil Kaufman, and Geri Larkin. These three speak from the heart, with information that is useful and non-didactic. They have the clear understanding that jargon and buzzwords can numb the reader; more meaningful are examples from life that one can identify with without thinking “God, I’ll never get where they are.”
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I love my career, which is where my writing came from! I’m an internationally known psychic medium and inspirational speaker. I’m still working six days a week, twelve hours a day with that, and probably will until I’m two weeks dead. It’s my dream job.
The little bit of time off I have usually involves the husband, the house, and our two Maine Coons (two enormously large bunches of fur-and-purr. If you’ve never seen a Maine Coon Cat, imagine a little dog in a cat suit).
What is the hardest thing about writing for you?
Writing to self-imposed deadlines. To write Lifecloset, I held to the deadline of one 1,500-2,000 word blog a week on Facebook. It was a huge amount of pressure with everything else I do – plus major surgery and health challenges this year. But I stuck with it.
All creative people go through creative blocks from time to time. How do you deal with this?
Because I live in a very rural area, it’s a solitary existence; it’s not like I can just go hang out at the local watering hole or visit with the neighbors. So “other people” are never the distraction.
Instead, I simply step away from the computer. Our bungalow is in the middle of a twelve-acre hayfield surrounded by high hills (or tiny mountains, depending on your point of view). Going outside and just being with the environment helps. I do housework. Or I cook. I listen to ambient music, or I pull some Tarot cards to see where (and why) the blockage is.
I actually wrote a blog inspired by this particular challenge, called “Punt Is Not A Dirty Word”.
Impressive book covers are often cited as the one of the most important things in helping book sales. What’s been your experience with book cover designers?
I learned a great deal about good cover design from Richard Pini, co-founder of Warp Graphics, when I worked there as an Associate Editor and Administrative Director. I pick apart the designs of friends’ books and other self-published material to identify what draws me.
When I was looking for my cover, I knew that I wanted something that definitely did not look self-published, but instead could conceivably be found on the shelves of HayHouse, Ten Speed Press or Findhorn Press.
I spoke with about a half-dozen designers, but the clarity, “wow” factor and creativity with your designs made it a no-brainer in terms of hiring you.
How do you weigh up the pros and cons of self-publishing versus traditional publishing?
In the metaphysical/spiritual/self-help field, many of us are finding that if we do at least one self-published volume, the larger publishing houses will be more likely to pick it up if it’s as good as we think it is!
Christine Alexandria’s wonderful book Askfirmations was self published for some time before Findhorn Press found it, but they then snapped it up, and it is on its way to having an international audience.
How do you market your book and do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?
As this is my first book, I’m learning! But it is vital to have a full pre-launch program. I highly recommend working with Berni Xiong, who is a superb editor and understands how to use all social media platforms to get the word out.
How do you deal with bad reviews?
Everyone has them. That’s number one. The second one is to say to them in your mind, “Thank you for sharing. You may think that if you wish.” And move on. To be honest, nobody believes anything that has NO negative press.
If all people hear is positives, then the average reader will think “can’t be true.” So in that sense, the occasional bad review is useful. It will also toughen your hide for books in the future.
Which social network works the best for you?
For me, it’s still Facebook, though Pinterest is extremely useful.
What is your favorite book and why?
The book that has most influenced my life is HAPPINESS IS A CHOICE by Barry Neil Kaufman. It has given me the tools to get through three bouts of breast cancer, two divorces, and the death of three parents. It has informed how I work with my own clients, and keeps me in balance.
The whole premise is that emotional challenges can be worked through by dialoguing, asking questions of yourself in a Socratic method. The simple way to look at the process is this: What are you unhappy about? Why are you unhappy about that? What do you think would happen if you stopped being unhappy about that? That third question is the one we forget to ask ourselves all the time!
Do you have a day job other than being a writer?
Yes, as I said I am a full time psychic medium, channel, Certified Professional Tarot Reader, with a specialty in past life retrieval and analysis. I travel up to 45 weekends a year in the US and Canada, have clients worldwide, and do sessions for over 1,000 people annually. It’s been full time since 2002.
Where can you see yourself in 5 years time?
I would like to be doing less actual intuitive session work, and more teaching through my book series. I’ll also have my three core books completed. THE SELF DEVELOPMENT PROJECT is actually a trilogy: the first, Clean Out Your LifeCloset, is about cleaning out what you don’t want and no longer need on all levels.
The Big Reboot will be about how to choose new things to bring into your life and how to reshape it. Be Your Own Masterpiece will be about how to create the life you’ve chosen. By the end of the trilogy, if the reader is fearless about change, life will look very different – and, I hope, be a lot more fun.
Why did you choose to write in your particular genre?
How many times we have all heard, “Write what you know!”. My life has been very much a roller coaster with no brakes, but I have managed to face both challenges and opportunities.
As a storyteller and a natural comedian, I can take situations and turn them into learning tools that everyone can identify with and understand.
And I think writing about these things from a nonfiction viewpoint – “This happened to me and I’m not special, you can do what I did” – is more useful than hiding them in make-believe characters and situations.