An Interview with Author Evelyn Kohl LaTorre

By: Angie Haddock


Earlier this week, we reviewed “Love in Any Language,” by Evelyn Kohl LaTorre. I read an advanced copy through the Books Forward program, and the lovely folks at Books Forward also shared the following interview with LaTorre.


Q: You detail it in your first book, “Behind Inca Walls,” but can you give a quick summary of how you and your husband met?

A: My future father-in-law, Adolfo Eguiluz, had requested Peace Corps volunteers to work in Abancay, Peru, for several years. My roommate, Marie, and I went there to work on community development projects. Four months into our stay, we met Eguiluz’s stepson, Antonio, and I felt an immediate attraction. He returned to Abancay often.

Q: What were some unexpected challenges or surprises that you noticed at the beginning of your relationship?

A: One was how deeply Antonio cared about my well-being. As well as how volatile our feelings for one another could be, changing from cool to warm to hot and back to cool again. He also wanted me to pursue graduate studies — though he was dissatisfied with his own course of study.

Q: Did your studies in psychology and multiculturalism help you through some of the learning curves of a relationship with someone of a different nationality and ethnicity?

A: Very much. I learned that personal relationships are more important in life than material possessions and bodily comforts. In college, my favorite classes were psychology, anthropology and sociology — how countries and people are similar and different in their values, food, music, manners and priorities.

I had been enamored with the Hispanic culture since college when I volunteered among California’s migrant workers in the Central Valley. Also, the theory of personality types has offered me an explanation for human differences.

Q: What advice can you give about raising bi-cultural children?

A: Listen and learn about your partner’s culture. Then, agree on your priorities and the values you want to impart to your children. There are many ways to live life other than the way you were raised. Learn what science has discovered about children’s emotional needs. You may find a healthier way to raise offspring than how the previous generation did it.

Our children are open to differences between races, income levels and customs because they’ve experienced different cultures with diverse expectations. They tend to be flexible and accepting of others unlike them.

Q: Was it difficult for you while writing the book to disclose personal information and stories? How do you decide what information to include and what topics are off-limits?

A: It was more difficult with the first book because I wrote about an important religious rule that I broke. (Angie’s note: Getting pregnant before she was married.) Initially, I felt afraid of being judged in the same way my mother had judged (me). I knew a memoir writer can be harshly criticized by others who have narrow viewpoints of what is right and wrong. People like to judge others’ decisions when they don’t mirror their own.

I remember the day I presented the chapter about the circumstances of my first pregnancy to my writer’s critique group in front of male members. I was super self-conscious and embarrassed. But I soon discovered that writing about uncomfortable incidents takes away their shame. Being honest about one’s life is a relief.

Q: What were some of the expectations society placed on you as a wife and a mother? What changes have you personally seen regarding gender roles for women in the past 60 years?

A: In the 1970s a husband was expected to be the breadwinner and head of the household as opposed to sharing decisions and duties equitably. Improvement has certainly been slow.

In terms of changes in the workforce, when I was pregnant, pregnancy was seen as a disability that required leaving a job two months before the baby’s birth. Contraceptives had been available for only a few years. And employers today can’t legally discriminate against a pregnant woman and force her to quit. Also during most of my career, women felt they could do little about sexual harassment. The #MeToo movement changed that.

Q: What do you hope readers gain from reading the story of you and your husband’s relationship?

A: The first is that the challenges of a mixed cultural marriage are worth the extra effort it takes. There is the potential to learn new, often better, ways to accomplish life’s tasks in an intimate relationship with someone from another country.

Marriage is like a dance but with both partners taking turns leading. It’s OK for one partner to step up and the other partner to step back as their situation requires it. It’s also sometimes worth “hanging in there” and persisting to make a marriage work.

And finally, there is value for both people in a partnership to use their strengths equally. A man comfortable in his own masculinity won’t fear a strong woman. The most important ingredient in a satisfying relationship is mutual respect and appreciation.

If you haven’t read our review of LaTorre’s new book – which came out this week – check it out here.


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Interview with Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt, Author of “Move On Motherf*cker”

BY: ANGIE HADDOCK

Last week, I let you know about “Move On Motherf*cker,” which comes out next week. If you’re interested in learning more, read on! The interview below is one that the author, Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt, did with her publishing company to tell people about the book.

Eckleberry-Hunt has a Masters Degree in Counseling and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology from Indiana State University, and had a long-running private practice for children 12 and older, adults, couples, and families. She is currently engaged in executive wellness coaching.

Q: How did you discover the MOMF approach?

Jodie Eckleberry-Hunt

I took a risk and took a new job. Shortly after starting, I realized that the environment was extremely toxic. To cope, a colleague and I started having cursing competitions where we used increasing crazy language to describe the insanity around us. We were in a lot of pain, and none of the things I’d taught my patients to use were working for me in sustained ways. One day, I blurted out to my colleague, “Move on Motherfucker!” My point was that we were talking about the same stuff, and it was going nowhere. It was time to move on. We both paused in that moment – sensing a deeper meaning – and laughed heartily. In that moment, we discovered that we were creating our own suffering. The situation was the same, but we were making it worse. In that moment, we chose to be motherfuckers. I learned that talking back to oneself, being mindful, and calling oneself out with profanity as playing the motherfucker (as a friend would do) allowed an emotional release. It allowed me to move on. I tried it with some patients, and others felt the same.

Q: What are people’s reactions when you describe MOMF?

To be honest, I don’t use it with everyone as it isn’t meant for everyone. You have to be open to cursing, and the issue has to be amenable to MOMF. For example, I would never tell someone to use MOMF to manage abuse (past or present), grief or other serious psychological disorders. When used appropriately with the right person, though, MOMF is healing. I think people get the point of holding themselves accountable, and it feels empowering. In any situation, we are all vulnerable to feeling like we’ve lost control, but we can regain control of our reactions with targeted techniques and practice. Humor and profanity helps release the pain that sometimes jams us up. I think people also feel like MOMF is relatable. It makes psychology everyday. 

Q: How does MOMF differ from other self-help methods?

MOMF includes other research-based self-help methods (like CBT and mindfulness) . The difference is the focus on our own accountability in creating and maintaining suffering AND the targeted use of profanity to release emotional pain that may get in the way of the other methods working.

Q: What makes MOMF work so well?

I believe it is using shock value to break through the internal BS our mind is creating and the laughter that can be induced. Personally, I have found immense value in learning to laugh at myself. If we can see and accept ourselves as flawed – sometimes acting a little crazy – it feels healing. What I am talking about is learning to accept ourselves – as is – just as we do for our friends. It is a process, and it is doable.

Q: What do you recommend for people who have trouble cursing?

I typically haven’t recommended MOMF for people who don’t curse. There are other methods out there, but I guess one may be able to use other targeted words to get self-attention. It is just finding a word or words that pack the punch – not everyday words. 

Q: What is one of your favorite journaling or self-awareness exercises from the book?

 Chapter 9 is about moving on from past hurt. This is something that gets a lot of people stuck, and they have no idea how to move forward. I love the work of making a complete written list of hurts to let go. It puts pain into language. It gives words to the complex chaos in our heads. It helps us find our voice and gives validation to the hurt. It is the first step in what I call emptying the shit sack. It all starts with sorting through all of the heavy stuff we’ve been carrying and acknowledging it.

Q: Why is this book and talking about MOMF important to you?

I know there are a lot of people who don’t feel like counseling is for them, don’t have access, or don’t feel ready to share. They may also find traditional techniques too complex. My hope is that MOMF will speak to people in a new way. I want to attract new folks to research-based methods so they see they work. Making it more fun or relatable is a method of doing that. Counseling can be expensive, particularly in a time when insurance is a luxury and deductibles are so high. I wanted to create an affordable and effective tool that people could use on their own for common life stressors and situations. To be clear, though, this book is not designed to replace counseling. Trauma, grief, depression, and other serious psychological disorders. These need professional treatment, and I highly recommend a good therapist. For everyday stress and anxiety – to learn to tame the negative voice in your head – MOMF can be a useful tool.

Q: Are you working on anything else?

Indeed! I have a couple of other things in the works. I am working on a book about recovering from a relationship break up as this is a very common concern of people who consult me. I can never seem to find the right book that helps people navigate the process in a healthy way. I am also working on a book about qualities that make people successful in life – with the goal of helping people harness and maximize these qualities. It is also about having a clear personal definition of success based on values rather than chasing what others tell us is success.

Find “Move On Motherf*cker” in stores on Nov. 3.

Interview with Gregg Maxwell Parker, Author of “The Real Truth”

BY: Angie Haddock


A funny and touching novel about media, memory, compassion, confusion, religion, regret, politics, and purpose.

Goodreads


I found “The Real Truth” through Goodreads, and was excited that the author was open to doing an interview. The book itself was an easy and enjoyable read – it comes in under 300 pages and has a recognizable format.

The main character, Derek Severs, is a conservative radio show host who thrives on getting into arguments on-air. He starts being visited by ghosts – not of people he knows personally, but of well-known figures from history. Unlike this premise’s Dickensian predecessor, these ghosts visit in groups of 3-4, usually, and take Derek to various places he hasn’t been before (including Woodstock), in addition to some places he has been. Eventually, as Derek becomes more accepting that the ghosts are going to continue coming back, they take him to the point in his college days that he currently needs to come to grips with.

Without giving away the resolution, I would say that the book ties things up nicely, but not too unrealistically.

The author, Gregg Maxwell Parker, published this book a few years ago. He has since put out two more novels, the most recent being a middle grade novel. Here’s my unedited interview with Gregg.

Angie: Where are you living/writing from these days?

Gregg: After living in the US most of my adult life, I’ve relocated to Japan. My wife is from here, so that makes things easy. I am very happy to live in an era where I can stream NFL and NBA games from another continent. Otherwise, I might miss LA a lot more.

Angie: Did you always want to be a writer? Or, what inspired you to want to write books?

Gregg: I remember stating that I wanted to be a screenwriter as early as middle school. I loved movies and wanted to write them, though I had no idea how someone actually went about that since I lived in Nebraska and knew no one who had ever worked in movies before. I’d always loved to read, but never considered what went into actually writing a novel; books just sort of existed. Junior year of high school, my AP Lit class (shout-out to Mr. Holechek) read “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner and “A Place Where the Sea Remembers” by Sandra Benitez, and I discovered George Carlin’s books. That was when it first dawned on me that authors weren’t impossible geniuses, and that anyone could sit down and write a story about whatever they wanted. I studied Creative Writing at USC, and that was where I really fell in love with it and decided this was what I wanted to do.

Angie: Considering the topic of this one – have you ever worked in media before? 

Gregg: I’ve had a strange and meandering career path, with stints in many different industries – online media, film & TV, education, health insurance, industrial/agriculture, nonprofits, and plenty of office jobs. I think “The Real Truth” is a little informed by my own experiences, but what I found in writing it is that the book really took shape the more I moved it AWAY from the concrete reality I thought I knew and allowed it to be its own thing, let the character be his own person. Instead of making him as much like the talk show hosts I’d listened to as possible, I focused on how he was different from them, why he wouldn’t like them, and that’s when I was able to see him as a full human being and understand where he was coming from. Now, when I’m preparing to write something, I might do a little research, but as soon as I start developing a list of facts or details that I’m determined to include in a novel or story, I know it’s time to stop researching and start making things up.

Angie: The ghosts who show up seem pretty random – both as individuals, and in how they are grouped together – was that intentional? How did you pick who you wanted to write into the book as ghosts?

Gregg: I remember those sections were some of the first things I outlined when working out the idea. It may not seem obvious, but the choices of who those characters were and how they behaved were extremely calculated. This is a book that is largely about expectations – not just the main character’s, but the reader’s as well. These are, for the most part, people Derek has specific ideas about, just as he has specific ideas about morality and life and death and all sorts of things, and what he finds isn’t what he was hoping for. When he sees Abraham Lincoln, he’s expecting a specific thing, but it turns out this version of Abe isn’t the same as the one from life, and isn’t providing him with what he wanted. Derek is perpetually disappointed in both himself and the world around him, and now he’s finding out that this fantastical afterlife may be just as disappointing.

The same is true for the reader. I have to swim against a current in this story because it fits into a narrative that you’ve heard a thousand times. I know, based on the concept, that you have specific expectations about what will happen to this guy and how the story will end, and I have to subvert those expectations in order to open you up to the possibility of something different. The ghosts do a good job of making sure the reader understands what they’re in for. When Bob Marley shows up, I know how you’re expecting him to speak and act, and it becomes clear quickly that you won’t be getting it. In the same way, I know you’ve seen a hundred TV episodes based on “A Christmas Carol,” and you’re comfortable with that structure, but making you comfortable isn’t my job. It would be easy to write a story where a middle-aged white man is visited by people from his past, or people he admires who order him to change, but that doesn’t reflect the world as I see it. Everything you watch or read is “Man is selfish, writer/deity teaches him a lesson, he changes.” So the question becomes: “How do I do the OPPOSITE of that? What person is the OPPOSITE of who would be useful to Derek in the traditional version of this story?” The only way for me to give you something you’ve never seen before is to take something you’ve seen a million times and blow holes in it until it’s unrecognizable.


Angie: I felt like religion/Christianity was handled pretty fairly here. By that I mean – yes, there are some hypocrites in the bunch, but most of the churchgoers were kind and inviting (well, at least, to someone they thought of as one of their own). Should I assume you grew up going to church? Did you want to include religion in this story for any specific aim, or was it more just a part of the character’s atmosphere?

Gregg: I grew up in a religious environment, and I suppose some of those experiences informed the sections of the book that involve Derek’s church. I was thinking on this today, and I honestly don’t remember when or why those aspects of the novel entered the picture; I think it was just always a part of it, since the story deals so heavily with the afterlife, and with a person who has a definite idea of what that afterlife is and should be, so much so that he doesn’t want to look into it for fear that it’s not going to be what he expects. There is something tragic about people who are afraid to admit they don’t know something, and that’s the part of it that stays with me, looking back. I rarely read my own work once it’s finished, so it’s been a couple years since I opened this book, but I don’t think of the religious characters as being hypocritical or whatever words one might use, since that’s not how they see themselves. They’re convinced they know what is true and what is not, and they’ve made up their minds about this man. He’s thought of himself as part of a large collective of like-minded people, but as the story progresses, his mind is less made up than it once was.


Angie: Tell us a little about what you’re working on now or next. 

Gregg: After finishing a book each of the last three years, I decided I didn’t want to put anything out in 2020, and instead concentrated on learning how to advertise and promote my latest book, “Troublemakers,” which has been my most widely-read title and I think is my favorite thing I’ve worked on (though again, I don’t go back and read my old stuff, so that’s probably recency bias). I wanted to wait to let the next idea present itself to me, and after a few months, I settled on something that will be a real challenge. I’m still in the outlining stage, but this is looking to be the longest and most serious book I’ve ever written, so I honestly don’t know if it’ll come out in 2021 or later than that, but I’m excited to try something different.

Find Gregg’s books at his website or on Amazon.


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