Wisdom: An Exchange with Debora Geary

Wisdom: An Exchange with Debora Geary

**This post originally appeared at herbiary.com as part of the Modern Herban Wisdom blog series.**

Wisdom is what happens after you walk and live and soak in the lessons. –Debora Geary

(This week’s guest post is by Meg Smith)

Sparked by Maia’s wish to jog me out of some work and winter doldrums, I recently had the honor of interviewing author Debora Geary, whose books I (and a few others on the Herbiary team) have indulged in for years. We covered a fair amount of territory, so I’ll simply encourage you to read on for a glimpse of her lovely (and, dare I say, magical) spirit.

deboraWell, seeing as this is an interview for “Herbiary,” I might as well start off with the requisite, “What’s your favorite herbal reference as you develop the healers in your stories?”

I think my favorite source is about to become the women of Herbiary ☺. I find that research tends to break up my flow when I’m writing, so I often end up with sentences like “Moira made herself a nice cup of xxx and xxx.” And then I use Google and fill in with whatever fits my fancy. I like resources that mix science and story, and I borrow from whatever happens to catch my eye that day.

And then…

You’ve touched a lot of hearts over the past several years by envisioning a widespread nurturing community that challenges its members to find strength and growth through the gifts at their cores. What have you discovered about yourself (and your gifts) in this process?

I’ve been asked a lot of interview questions in the last three years. I’m reading this one in astonished and slightly embarrassed wonder. No one ever asks what the writing has done to me. Hmm. I think, if I back up a moment and take a good look, the most important thing I’ve discovered is that I am a woman in transition. On a journey.

Three years ago, it was shortly after my fortieth birthday, I had two kids who needed a lot from me, a satisfying marriage, and a self-employed career as a data analyst. I had a pretty good sense of the road I was on. And then I decided I wanted to write a book, and a whole bunch of things turned on their heads. I am learning about entirely new levels and layers of Debora Geary, just like many of my characters. I’m slowly coming out of my introverted shell and seeking more connection – more wise women with cups of tea and more laughing children and more friends who see deeply. There is a wise old Irish witch in my books, and it astonishes me how often she says exactly what I need to hear. Words for the road.

Your stories are infused with a particular energy – an unabashed call to love that inevitably fills the cups of your readers. How do you keep your own cup full? (I can only assume that writing and reading your own work serves a different purpose for you than it does for your readers!)

My writing is my way of trying to call that kind of love into existence; to paint a picture of possibilities, so that more of us meet-up with that kind of community in our lives, outside of the pages of cookie-infused books.

Keeping my own cup full is a deep challenge, and one I’m just beginning to wrap my head around. I’m still a baby writer. But I’m learning. Reading my inbox is treasure – to know you touch people’s lives is pure magic. I’ve re-discovered singing this year – something I do with passion and joy and very mediocre talent, but it’s wonderful. I’m trying to read more – that got turned off for awhile. And I’m trying to sit gently with the knowledge that I’m still emptying more than I fill. Waiting for the words of the wise old Irish witch to kick me in the pants, maybe…

It seems that more and more people are feeling the tug back towards the rhythms and cycles of mother earth. Have you always had the connection that you reflect in your writing, or was it prompted by something in your life? And, how intimately is that connection intertwined with your day-to-day?

I’m someone who experiences the world very intuitively, not through my senses (my readers will know it’s very rare that I actually describe how someone looks, for example). I live in my rich inner landscape. But we all need grounding and anchors outside ourselves — things to stabilize what lives within — and I think part of my journey now is seeking more of mine. Cycles and rhythms are soothing to my inner data analyst – she loves pattern. I’ll be very curious to see how my answer to this question changes in the coming years!

You cover a significant array of human strengths, differences, and weaknesses through your characters. Is this inspired by your personal journey, people in your life, or simply research and imagination?

There are few values I hold more dear than that we are each wonderful, unique, and worthy of love. And when we as a community can’t manage that, it weakens all of us. I grew up in a small town and felt very different. Other. And then I went to an international school in Italy for two years and found deep connection with people who shared nothing of my culture, language, or upbringing. It was transformative, and it shaped a very important part of who I am (including the deeply ingrained belief that a shared meal makes everything better ☺).

I’ve spent much of my life since reaching across divides of one sort or another – to delinquent teens, senior executives, cancer patients. Learning how much of me lives in each of them. But nothing drove this message home more than the chance to be mother to my son. Griffin is severely autistic – he doesn’t speak, and he understands only a very little of what we say to him. And some days, being his mama is the most deeply frustrating experience of my life. But mostly, it has stripped my sense of what love is back to the very essentials. When he curls up against my chest, full of giggles or sleepy snuggles, it is so obvious that we are, in all the most important ways, so very much alike. Everything else is just trappings. My books are my plea to the world to see his heart. To see every heart.

And now you’ve got me in tears. So, yes. Personal journey.

As your readership has grown, how has this fueled (or hindered) your work?

I’m an introvert. I like dealing with the world one person at a time. My Facebook page has 5,000 residents. It’s entirely overwhelming, but in the way that I imagine riding a magic carpet through the Milky Way would be overwhelming.

I have to turn it off sometimes. When I’m fighting with a misbehaving chapter 14 (and for some reason, chapter 14 always misbehaves), it’s important not to think about how many people are eagerly awaiting their next dose of laughter and tears. And I have an assistant now, which was a really difficult choice – reader emails are wondrous things, and I would love to be the person answering each and every one of them. But I can’t. And I’ve been blessed with readers who have been deeply supportive of my bumbling efforts to figure out how to navigate my sudden ride through the Milky Way.

You don’t indicate any signs of closing the door on your stories. Despite their organic evolution, are you at a place to share any of your visions for the future of your characters or yourself?

Ha. No ☺. I’ll know when I’m done. And I know what the last story is. Anything I say beyond that would likely be considered a dare by some of my more opinionated characters. ☺

Finally, you might be amused to know that many of our plethora of passwords here at Herbiary were at one time rooted in bits of your books. Do you have any suggestions to fuel our future security stash? (We strive for giggles!)

I used “Gertrude Geronimo” for a while, but it’s kind of hard to type…


Debora Geary is the beloved author of the “Modern Witch” series. Now writing as Audrey Faye, please have a read and follow her on Facebook if you have not yet done so, and, if you are into a little witchery, join us all at Witch Camp.

Meg Smith wielded the “net magic” for Herbiary and Maia Toll for nearly three years. She is a wife and mama to two spunky and sensitive boys. Now that she’s not wrangling websites, she’ll focus on playing with words, music, and yarn. You can witness her journey and evolution as Letha Thérèse here.

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