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Eckhart Tolle

eckhart_tolle_051 Says…

In This Interview

Is Eckhart Tolle as crazy as his German name( toll=cool or crazy)? Or is he a wise man of our times? You decide. The author who sold millions in interviews below:

Sunday Profile: Eckhart Tolle
Read an Interview With the German Spiritual Teacher to Oprah, Paris, Cher and Meg Ryan
Feb. 15, 2009

He has sold millions of books in many countries throughout the world, and is launching an online channel this spring. Celebrities like Cher and Meg Ryan swear by him, and Paris Hilton even brought his book with her to jail. Oprah Winfrey not only put his book in her book club, but she also hosted an unprecedented 10-part online series with him.
An interview with spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle.

Tolle, who was born in Germany is a rather unassuming “spiritual teacher” and doesn’t like the term “guru.” Tolle doesn’t do “self-help” in the traditional sense. He isn’t teaching people how to lose weight, get a job or have a better sex life.

Instead, he’s teaching people how to shut off the noise in their heads and be happy. His message is that our egos are destroying our lives, and by ego he doesn’t just mean thinking we are special, he means our thinking, period. That voice in our heads, our ego, Tolle believes, has a relentless need to be right, which leads us to make enemies. Tolle granted ABC’s Dan Harris a rare interview.

Eckhart Tolle: To me the ego is the habitual and compulsive thought processes that go through everybody’s mind continuously. External things like possessions or memories or failures or successes or achievements. Your personal history. All these things, a bundle of thoughts, of repetitive thoughts that give you a sense of who you are.

Dan Harris: So our ego, this constant stream of thinking, the voice in our head is making us miserable?

Eckhart Tolle: Yes, that’s right. And it prevents you from being truly alive. So I’m not saying we musn’t think anymore. That would not be possible and it would not be desirable. Thinking is a wonderful tool if it’s applied. Thinking however can not become the master. Thinking is a very bad master. If you’re dominated by thinking then your life becomes very restricted. If you’re able to use your mind instead of being used by your mind, that’s a beautiful thing. To use your mind constructively.

Psychologists found that 98 or 99 percent of our thinking is repetitive. And also a lot of our thinking is very negative. People tend to dwell more on negative things than on good things. So the mind then becomes obsessed with negative things, with judgements, guilt and anxiety produced by thoughts about the future and so on. Many people live habitually as if the present moment were either an obstacle that they need to overcome in order to get to the next moment, and imagine living your whole life like that, where always this moment is never quite right, not good enough because you need to get to the next one, that is continuous stress. Tolle blames most of the ills of the world on our egos: broken homes, wars and our destruction of the planet. But according to Tolle, our ego isn’t the only thing making us unhappy. He says we’re wasting our lives by refusing to live in the present moment. He says he can teach people how to become aware of the voice in their head, and thereby tame it. He calls it “awakening,” a fancy-sounding name for what he says is a very attainable state. Tolle’s personal spiritual awakening came out of his own mental anguish.

Eckhart Tolle: It’s a state of conciousness. The possibility of living in a more peaceful, more vibrantly alive state of conciousness. That’s all. Not some weird belief system that we need to adopt. It’s much more fundamental and much more simple.

Dan Harris: How did you get this way, how did you awaken?

Eckhart Tolle: I was so unhappy that I couldn’t stand it anymore. I had to step out of this identification with the unhappy mind created self.

Dan Harris: So unhappy that you were considering suicide?

Eckhart Tolle: Yes, yes I was several times close to suicide and so one night a shift happened and I realized the unhappy me, the unhappy self, is not really who I am, I could sense underneath it a presence and an aliveness and an intelligence that had nothing to do with the negative thoughts that were continuously going through my head.

After he awakened, he says he quit his job as an academic and eventually sat on a park bench, homeless for several years, living in a state of bliss.

Dan Harris: Don’t you ever get pissed off, annoyed, irritated, sad, anything negative?

Eckhart Tolle: No, I accept what is. And that’s why life has become so simple.

Dan Harris: Well, what if somebody cuts you off in your car?

Eckhart Tolle: It’s fine, it’s like a sudden gust of wind, I don’t personalize a gust of wind, and so it’s simply what is.

Dan Harris: And you’re able to enjoy every moment, even if I start asking you a ton of annoying questions?

Eckhart Tolle: Yes, that would be fine. So it’s really.
Dan Harris: Don’t tempt me [laughing].

Eckhart Tolle: [laughing] It’s finding, becoming friendly just with the is-ness of this moment.

While many fans of Tolle’s say he has changed their lives, some Christians say his teachings are not compatible with the Bible. They accuse Tolle of promoting “The Doctrine of Demons.”

Dan Harris: Do you believe that Jesus is the son of God?

Eckhart Tolle: I believe that Jesus realized his oneness with God and he showed, what he attemped to do was show the way to all of us, how to realize our own onenes with God also, so he’s a precursor.

Dan Harris: But that’s different, I mean Christians, the whole point of Christianity is the divinity of Jesus Christ.

Eckhart Tolle: Yes, but I believe that what Jesus Christ was really teaching was the divinity in everyone.

Dan Harris: But do you believe that Christianity is just as valid as say Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism?

Eckhart Tolle: Yes, all religions at their core, they have a basic truth.

Dan Harris: But, many Christians would vehemently disagree with that. They would say our religion is the one true religion.

Eckhart Tolle: And that is called the ego, it says we are right and you are wrong. Religion for many people has turned into a form of ego, but for others it hasn’t, and for some people religion actually still works.

Tolle seems unperturbed by any controversy that is created about him. In fact, it seemed hard to bother him at all.

Dan Harris: So if we were all to sort of leave the room, right now and just lock you in here and you’d be by yourself. Could you sit happily on the couch here indefinitely?

Eckhart Tolle: Well I don’t know indefinitely because the body has its needs and so on, but I’m quite happy being with myself in a room all alone. I enjoy that. I do that quite a lot. Just sit, in a room, or outside, just enjoying the simplicity and aliveness of the present moment. When I go back to my room after our conversation, I just enjoy being there. The present moment is alive, I am alive. The world around me is alive. It’s deep enjoyment of living.
Dan Harris: And to those who are going to haer this and say… flaky! You say, “fine, you’re losing out?”

Eckhart Tolle: It’s your mind that has some judgments about it because your mind doesn’t understand what I’m talking about. You need to be a little bit of a glimmer of a recognition from a dimension that is deeper than the mind in you… and you say, “Oh he actually has a point.” And from there you can open up and begin to experience what it is to be home with the present moment which is life.

In this Interview…

The new age philosophy of mind over… mind


Eckhart Tolle
Interview at Omega Institute / Fall 2003

I came to know Eckhart Tolle’s work in stages; first via the printed words of his best-selling “The Power Of Now”, then through his new book “Stillness Speaks” on CD, and finally in person at the Omega Institute in upstate New York. Each encounter brought me closer to the man’s stillness and his wisdom, which I gauged by the stillness I felt within myself as I absorbed what he had to say.

Eckhart has a magical, elfin quality about him, and was dressed in a button-down cardigan and corduroy pants. He speaks very softly, but as we got into our conversation, he became quite animated and impassioned. Our hour went by rapidly, and neither one of us moved much from our spots on the sofa as the meeting went on.

JM: I’d like to talk about your transformation at age 29, where you say your personality was erased. Many people spend their lives trying to get something like that to happen, and here it happened to you at a young age. Can you talk a little bit about that?

ET: I was unhappy, depressed and anxious. I was not trying to become enlightened or anything like that. I was looking for some kind of answer to the dilemma of life, but I had been looking to the intellect for the answer; philosophy, religion and intellectual inspiration. The more I was looking on that level, the more unhappy I became. I reached a point where the phrase came into my head—and this is in the book “The Power Of Now”—“I can’t live with myself any longer.” That part of my self—that entity became so heavy and painful.

Suddenly I stepped back from myself, and it seemed to be two of me— The “I”, and this “self” that I cannot live with. Am I one or am I two? And that triggered me like a koan. It happened to me spontaneously. I looked at that sentence—“I can’t live with myself”. I had no intellectual answer. Who am I? Who is this self that I cannot live with? The answer came on a deeper level. I realized who I was.

When I’m speaking about it now, it becomes intellectualized because I’m using words, but that realization was beyond words. What “I” as consciousness had identified with was a very heavy mental and emotional form consisting of thought and accompanied by an energy field. At that moment the identification with that mind structure was withdrawn. It collapsed, and what remained was a spacious, peaceful consciousness. The identification was broken, and because of that, the mental/emotional structure—the psuedo self collapsed. My sense of identity broke down and was replaced by something that is very hard to put into words. Awareness. Consciousness. The words only came a few years later. I couldn’t even talk about it. I had been anxious and depressed for years and suddenly I was deeply at peace.

JM: Do you think your transformation had less to do with achieving peace than letting go of the anxiousness and the worry?

ET: Yes. It wasn’t really the achievement of anything; it was the realization by letting go of the identification. Something suddenly was there that actually had always been there but had been obscured continuously by identification with the heavy mind structure. As I came to work with other people, I realized every human being already has that dimension. No matter how anxious, depressed, disturbed and fearful they may be. That dimension is already in there, in every human being.

And so I came to understand why some masters sometimes say, “You are already enlightened.” That dimension is already in there, it just needs to be discovered. Something needs to be let go of, something needs to be recognized.

JM: You know, when I walked in here, I had no idea who was going to be here. I’d read your books but had never seen you except in photographs. When you opened the door, it was like the sun was in this flat. I couldn’t help but forget any reservations or shyness I may have had, and I almost burst out laughing.

ET: The reason for this is that in that act of meeting you, there were no thoughts about who you are or who I am. There was the openness of consciousness recognizing itself in another human being. And that is extremely joyful. And it’s also joyful for someone who experiences that with someone else, because they feel more themselves in that moment.

JM: It’s rare that you meet such a person. One thing that struck me while listening to your CD (“Stillness Speaks”) on the way to our interview is that you say people make themselves miserable and in turn they make others miserable. It hadn’t occurred to me that a person who habitually finds problems and “disasterizes” things affect everyone, the same as your smile affects me.

ET: Yes. It affects everybody else, it draws everybody else into their drama, and it’s meant to do that. That happens both on a personal level and you also see it in corporations and politics. I sometimes meet people who work for corporations and some of them have said it’s amazing that anything gets done at all considering how much energy is uselessly burned up through inner conflict in the organization. And it makes everyone’s life miserable.

JM: Yes. I work for a lot of big media organizations, and I’m dumfounded at the wars I see when I walk into some of their offices. And these are people who are telling us what’s going on in the world! When you see it on that level, it’s easier to take the news a lot less seriously. It’s just one person’s point of view.

ET: Yes—and sometimes you find the same even in religious organizations. Because religion in many cases is really ideology. I’m not condemning all religions because that would not be correct, but to a large extent people have not freed themselves from their identification with their conditioned thinking. I know that at the core of each religion there is the truth, heavily obscured in some cases, but it’s there. What happens when an organization arises is the amplification of the ego, the ego-ic mind structures.

JM: You say “all religions”—have you investigated religions? Judaism, Christianity, Islam?

ET: Yes, some more than others. Buddhism, Christianity, to some extent Hinduism. At the core, the truth shines through. Sometimes we have to look very deeply, but it’s there.

JM: I was also struck by your interpretation of the cross as a symbol of “thy will be done”.

ET: It’s a strange dualistic symbol. Basically, it’s a torture instrument. To me, Jesus stands for humanity. So this man is nailed to the torture instrument, totally helpless, in deep suffering. At that point comes total surrender to what is. “Not my will, but thy will be done.” At that point, the symbolic significance of the cross is changed from being a torture instrument to a symbol of the divine. So what it points to is that the very thing that seems to stand in the way of realizing who you are. The very suffering that comes with being here in this physical realm—because eventually some form of suffering comes to everybody—can become an opening into that which we call the divine. If you’re lucky, disaster comes before the physical form is lost and the psychological form dissolves. This sometimes happens through extreme suffering, when people lose everything, or they find out they don’t have much more time to live. So they are faced with extreme disaster which cannot be explained away.

Philosophies collapse in the face of extreme disaster. Before, they might have had philosophy or religious beliefs, but when quite a few people face death of a loved one or their child or spouse, suddenly they question their beliefs. “This wasn’t supposed to happen to me, I had a business arrangement with God. I wasn’t supposed to suffer.” The mind, the “me”, collapses. Explanations fade. So you’re faced with disaster you cannot explain that seems to deny the existence of something deeper. The cross seems to stand between you and the transcendental dimension to love. But, strangely, that very cross is the opening also.

Somebody once put it this way: “What stands in the way is the way.” And you realize that when you no longer internally resist the form that this moment takes. I call it the “is-ness” of this moment.

JM: Would that be disaster or the honk of a horn while I’m trying to work?

ET: Yes. A little thing or a big thing, resistance is basically the same kind of mechanism. An internal “no” to what is. And since the now is all there ever is in your life, your entire life unfolds as the present moment. People don’t realize it, but all they ever have is “this”. This moment. Always.

It seems so strange to put it into words. Your life is always this moment. No more, no less. But just “this” is what most people unconsciously trying to run away from. They’re always in some future moment where things are hopefully better, or more fulfilling. Or mentally they project a future moment they see as fearful, that they have to tackle this possible thing that might go wrong in the future and they try to deal with now. Ignoring the aliveness that is actually there concealed in now. It is a collective mental habit to run away, to deny and to resist the is-ness of this moment. Not to aligned with now. And everybody inherits that as a part of their collective mental conditioning. They’re taught to live like that from their parents, from their schools. They probably inherit even the very minds structures that create that kind of consciousness.

But there’s a shift happening in humanity, a shift in consciousness, happening now because it has to happen now. Because if it doesn’t happen now, mankind probably won’t survive. The dysfunction of the human mind and its condition is becoming more and more intolerable to the planet, and to humanity. People can’t live with themselves much longer. The planet cannot live with humans much longer! The dysfunction has become so magnified through technology.

Whereas before, a human could kill a few hundred with a sword—if he was a warrior— now, the same dysfunction is magnified. So we have the weaponry, destruction of the planet, pollution, destruction of forests, countless manifestations of humans using their intelligence in the service of the dysfunction, the madness. It’s a strange juxtaposition. Humans are intelligent, but if you look at history or even watch TV, they’re also incredibly stupid.

JM: Speaking of weapons of mass destruction; what do we do about that? What do we do about countries which wish our country great harm? What’s an alternative if the other side is bent on suicide, as the men of 9-11 were? If you have a vast Army at your disposal, what do you do?

ET: I don’t know what I would do, because I can only know what is right in an actual situation which demands a response. It’s very hard when you look at hypotheticals. What we can do is look at the dysfunction in its collective aspects that we’re witnessing now.

We can see, for example, what’s happening in the middle East with the eternal insane conflict between Israel and Palestine. We can see how each faction is totally convinced that their mental position is the correct one. Each faction sees itself as the victim of the other. There was a writer I read last year who said each side cannot recognize any narrative other than their own; that’s also true. Narrative means the story through which you interpret reality.

People have collective stories which are mental perspectives and mental positions. Of course, when they explain it to you, it sounds absolutely right. Then you go to the other story, and they explain it to you, and that sounds absolutely right. Both are so entrenched in their narrative, their mental positions and their identifications with mental positions that they cannot see anything else. That really symbolizes the very thing that lies at the core of human dysfunction.

There you see it expressed collectively. An inability to hold truth in your consciousness. To rise above polarities, and say, here’s this perspective which is ours, and I can also see the other perspective which is yours. If both could do that—even if one party could do that—there would be an end to the madness. It only gets perpetuated by two. You can see the same in personal relationships, you can see the same in marriages that exist in a state of warfare. Both are entrenched. There is this ongoing need to be right. What that really ultimately means is they are identified with the thinking. They have not stepped out of the structure of thought—their mental position, their thought position. The way out of the madness is to recognize thought as just thought. To see your own stream of thinking, to see that no thought can encapsulate the entire truth in any situation. You have to step out of thought to see that. To become the awareness outside of thought. Some people are driven out of thought out of suffering, others can step out of thought because they see that thought is dysfunctional. So we see then that terrorists that inflict suffering on innocent people, kills thousands, blows himself up—how is it that he cannot see what he is doing?

He cannot see because he has reduced other human beings around him to a mental concept. He puts a mental label on other human beings or groups of humans or whatever he calls them—infidels, evil. Once you have conceptualized another human being, covering up their essential aliveness, you also do it to yourself. You become identified with your own self concepts of who you are, because you are right, you are the believer, you are in possession of the truth. You can then inflict acts of violence on other humans without feeling anymore because you’ve already desensitized yourself, you’ve deadened their aliveness. So violence becomes very easy when you only operate from the level of thought. Thought plus very destructive emotion that accompanies those destructive thought patterns. That’s what drives the terrorist. He truly, as Jesus puts it on the cross, “They know not what they do.”

In spiritual terms, they are completely unconscious. Unconscious means identified totally with thought. You reduce reality to a conceptual reality. A lot of violence arises in that way.

Terrorists are not the only ones who are unconscious. The United States manufactures an enormous amount of totally senseless weaponry. Biological, chemical. They manufacture the most fiendish weapons—if they ever used them it would be hell on earth. Why are they working on this? They are intelligent scientists, thousands of them, the Government sponsors itself sponsors it. What is the purpose in creating such weapons if the use of such weapons would create hell on earth? Haven’t they got enough weapons already? So it applies; “they know not what they do.” You can see human unconsciousness in so many forms. You can see it very clearly in the terrorists. Sometimes it’s easier to see the madness in others—but we also have to see it in ourselves.

JM: How does one do that? How do you do it?

ET: Well, primarily it needs to be done on personal level. For example, for me, to see how identified I am with my own mental position when I’m talking to someone when I’m putting forth and idea or opinion and that opinion is questioned by the other person. They might say, “No, you’re wrong—that’s not how it is.” If I can then observe the violence with which I defend my position, I’m actually becoming more conscious because by observing it, something else is arising that is not conditioned thinking, but awareness.

JM: As opposed to saying, “No, you’re wrong.”

ET: Yes, because when people are engaged in being right, defending their mental position, an enormous amount of defensiveness and violence comes already. Why do two people become so agitated, in some cases even violent, when they’re defending a mental position? Because that’s what they derive their sense of self from. Thought has become invested self. That’s the very essence of dysfunction—that humans derive their sense of self through thought. This is a delusion, because who they are is so much deeper than thought. They can only realize that when they detach from their thinking and observe their thinking.

Who or what is it that is able to observe that you are identified with a mental position? Who or what is it in you that is able to notice the emotional violence that comes as you start to defend your own position? You can then ask, “Wow, what’s going on? What am I defending?” You are defending an illusory sense of self—your sense of self and your mind structure.

That very dysfunction, which looks relatively harmless on a small scale, is the very same dysfunction that drives the terrorist. So it’s only in yourself that you can detect it. And if you see it, you see the root of human dysfunction and madness; identification with thinking. But the moment you see it, you are already one foot out of it. The seeing of it is not part of the dysfunction. So in other words, when you see that you are mad, you are no longer mad.

That’s the arising of something new in humanity. I sometimes call it the unconditioned consciousness. But it is also a field of stillness, where you see the torn roots of the human mind. Once it emerges, it’s a process that cannot be reversed. It emerges more and more fully, and you become less and less identified with the structure of thought. And then thought is no longer dysfunctional. It is actually beautiful. It can be used for helpful purposes. It’s wonderful—you are no longer looking for an identity in the structure of thought because now you know that who you are is deeper. You are the very awareness prior to thought. You are the stillness that is deeper than thought, much vaster than thought. We call it “stillness” but it’s just a word. We’ve reduced it to something. It’s more than that. It’s consciousness itself, unconditioned. Which is the essence of each human being. It’s that when you meet anybody in a state of open, aware attention, without labeling them mentally or judging them, then that you are already operating as a current or conscious awareness between human beings.

That would dramatically change human relationships. When aware presence operates between human beings, they are no longer dominated by mind structures. On a deepest level, that is also love. That is the only dimension from where love can come into this world.

When it was time to say goodbye, Eckhart spontaneously hugged me, after which I turned away, smiling. I headed off onto the dirt path leading down to my car and, after walking about 30 feet, I turned and saw Eckhart had been watching me and smiling himself.

Interview By: Josh Max

Josh Max is a writer and musician in New York City. This interview was conducted October 18, 2003 at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. Josh Max is a journalist whose articles about cars, motorcycles, travel and first-person adventures have appeared frequently in the New York Times, Newsweek, The NY Daily News and other publications. He is also an ordained interfaith minister, performing musician, singer and songwriter.


Danielle Steel Says…

In This Interview…
“I’m going to be a very lonely old lady if I’m not careful”

Lonely heart

The queen of romance writing is still searching for a happy ending to her own troubled story. The very private Danielle Steel grants a rare interview, to Karen Angel.

Romance novelist Danielle Steel wouldn’t seem to have much missing from her life. She recently signed with New Line Cinema, which wants to make straight-to-DVD movies based on her romance novels, and with Elizabeth Arden, which wants to create a new fragrance named after her. She has her own art gallery, dedicated to contemporary art and nurturing emerging artists. And she’s made it through raising nine children, with her youngest set to leave for college later this year.

Oh, and she has sold hundreds of millions of books – more, her agent says, than any other living author.

What could possibly be missing?

True love. Danielle Steel, whose name is synonymous with romance, has no man in her life, and she wishes she did.

It’s not as if she had nothing to do – Steel began writing her books at night, often making do with only four hours of sleep, in order to be there for her children during the day, and she still keeps to the same gruelling schedule, hammering away at the same 1946 Olympia typewriter she has always used. But writing isn’t enough any more.

“I have nothing else to do,” she says, “and because of that schedule I will never have anything else to do. I move between San Francisco and Paris… I have a wonderful beach house in California. I have these wonderful homes, and no one to share them with.”

It’s a theme that recurs throughout a telephone conversation from Steel’s San Francisco home, a few weeks before the February release of her 66th novel, The House, and less than a week after the death of her mother. It’s the author’s first major interview in more than a decade, partly because she calls herself “very painfully shy” but largely because she wanted to protect her children from the tabloids.

“Being famous has made it so much worse,” Steel says. “In the old days I was too busy with children, and I always had a husband to drag me out. Now I have to force myself. It’s difficult to talk to people… I walk into a room and I’m Danielle Steel, and whatever I say is going to be taken apart… People are much more inclined to believe and say bad things about you if you’re famous.

“It’s hard being visible, so I’ve made myself invisible,” she concludes. “I’ve shut myself inside these walls, and I’m going to be a very lonely old lady if I’m not careful.”
Now in her late 50s, Steel has averaged three books a year since 1973, when her first was published. Every one has hit bestseller lists in hardcover and in paperback, and in 1989 she made The Guinness Book of World Records for having a book on The New York Times bestseller list for 381 consecutive weeks – a record she has since broken with more than 390 consecutive weeks.

“I’m astonished by my success,” Steel says. “I wrote because I needed to and wanted to. It never occurred to me that I’d become famous. I did it at night because I loved it. I never did it to make money, as a job. I just did it because I had to.”

Millions of readers have connected with what she had to say, which Steel finds gratifying.

“I try to write about the stuff that torments us all,” she says. “I think I’m very real as a person, and that comes across in my work. I try to give people hope. Even though life is bleak, there’s hope out there.”

Her characters typically move from naive contentment to heartbreak, followed by an epiphany and a bold life change that leads to romance, betrayal, more heartbreak and, eventually, true happiness. Even so, Steel sees her books as “all very different,” and says that they stem from various sources. The House, for example, began in real estate and moved on to family.

“(It was) a friend of mine trying to buy her great-grandmother’s house that sparked this story,” the novelist says. “I like the idea of four very different generations of women… It’s about a mysterious great-grandmother who leaves her husband and family, and about the next generation, the heroine’s grandmother and her mother, a woman in her 60s who’s extra-tough and somewhat bitter, and married to an alcoholic and dealing with all the issues of someone who had a very bad marriage…

“Through the older people, the younger woman realises what she does and doesn’t want to do with her life.”

Sounds like another hit. US publisher Delacorte ran a first print run of about 800,000 copies, an astonishing number for almost any other author but, for Steel, simply business as usual.

In real life Steel has had a life so colourful that, well, it would make a good romance novel. The mother of seven children and stepmother of two has been married and divorced five times, colourful liaisons that have attracted much unwanted publicity, especially involving husband No. 2, who is in a Colorado prison serving a 40-year term for rape. No. 3 was a heroin addict and convicted burglar. But Nos. 1, 4 and 5 – French banker Claude-Eric Lazard, cruise-line chief executive John Traina and venture capitalist Tom Perkins – are more what you’d expect from a Steel hero.

Steel doesn’t like discussing her early marriages, and blames the sleazy revelations about them in a 1994 biography of her for destroying her marriage to Traina. Authors Lorenzo Benet and Vickie L. Bane had obtained records of Traina’s adoption of Steel’s son Nick, whose biological father was No. 3, William Toth. She sued in an effort to keep the records sealed, but lost.

“Nick never wanted the other children to know that he wasn’t John’s child,” Steel says. “The records of adopted children are sealed in California. That seal is considered inviolable… The judge ruled that, because I was famous, he didn’t have the same rights as other kids.

“We could have appealed,” she adds, “but the whole thing was so traumatic for my son that we decided to let it go, so they did print that he was adopted… We told the siblings before the book came out. It probably would have come out in our family eventually anyway.”

So bruising was the episode that Steel briefly decided to stop publishing her books, letting them be printed only after her death. She backed off from that resolution within a year, at her children’s urging, but stuck to another for much longer.

“I decided I would never do interviews again,” she says. “I have stayed below the radar for 15 years… I didn’t want to humiliate them. They were being chased around by tabloids.”

Steel’s own childhood was, by her own account, a lonely one. She was raised in New York by her German father, a minor player in the Lowenbrau beer dynasty.

Her parents divorced when she was seven and her mother, who was Portuguese, moved to Europe. Steel rarely saw her.

The novelist vowed that her children’s lives would be different – she refers to herself as “a mommyaholic” – and structured her life around them. As her youngest daughter prepares to depart, she admits to finding herself at a loss. “Being run over by a train would have less of an impact,” Steel says. “I have spent 35 years of my life being a full-time mother. It’s the best and most fulfilling job.”

It’s not always a happy job, though: In 1997, at age 19, her son Nick committed suicide. Though she calls herself “a super-private person, practically a recluse,” Steel went extremely public with the experience. His Bright Light: The Story of Nick Traina, telling the story of her son’s life, his struggle with manic depression and his death, became a bestseller and remains the most personal of her books.

“I didn’t want him to slip away in silence,” Steel says. “I wanted people to know that he was an amazing kid… and (wanted) what we learned to serve others.”

One thing she learned was that no amount of fame can provide a complete buffer against the blows of life.

“I’ve had my share of tough stuff,” Steel says. “When people look at me outside, they think, ‘She’s so lucky,’ but no one’s exempt from tragedy.”

Steel’s novels have addressed serious themes, treating issues such as cancer, infertility and kidnapping. She has tackled some of history’s darker hours, telling stories set on the Titanic, in Nazi Germany, in a Japanese internment camp and in Vietnam.

Critics generally have been kinder to her weightier efforts, but that’s not why she writes them. In fact, Steel says, she doesn’t read her reviews. Ever.

“My early reviews were so bad that I decided I didn’t want to read them again,” she says. “Either the world likes them or it doesn’t, and fortunately enough people seem to.”

New York Times

In This Interview…

Danielle Steel’s Favorite Book and Favorite Author

The Difference Between a Writer and a Storyteller

How to Get Published

Posted on Monday 26 January 2009 – 06:29

Kingsley Kobo, AfricaNews reporter in Abidjan, Ivory Coast
World renowned novelist Danielle Steel granted audience to AfricaNews over the weekend on wide ranging issues. The author of the over 60 books of 570 million copies worldwide spoke about her career, the ideal woman, the African woman, the global economic crisis and the election of Barack Obama.
Danielle Steel
Steel has climbed the mountains other writers are still clambering. She is a noted genius and history has already penned her. She stayed more than 300 consecutive weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

Born on 14th August, 1947, in New York, to an American father and a Portuguese mother, Steel spent much of her childhood in France, where she started writing poems and short stories as early as nine. She later studied literature, design and fashion after passing out of Lycée Français high school in New York.

Today, she is rich, popular and powerful, but absurdly, she is a shy person and hardly grants interviews. However, she opened up to AfricaNews. Excerpts of her interview below:

AfricaNews (A.N): Are you a writer or a storyteller?

Danielle Steel (D.S): I’m a storyteller.

A.N: Is there any difference?

D.S: Yea! A writer writes, a storyteller tells (laugh).

A.N: But you don’t tell your stories orally to your audience – I mean your readers. You write them down, and so you’re a writer too.

D.S: Look, writing is generic, but storytelling is specific. A storyteller doesn’t write only what she has seen like the writer does. She writes out what’s done in her inside. I mean, a storyteller relates the life in her with passion.

A.N: From where do you get your ideas?

D.S: This is one of the hardest questions for any author to answer. A book begins with an image or a character or a situation that I care about deeply. Over weeks and months – it’s a long process – I take notes and write scenes and become immersed in this world. At a point, ideas begin bubbling up almost of their own accord. The world gradually takes shape, the characters become real, and suddenly, I’m a bystander in the unfolding drama!

A.N: Are your books based on real people and on your own life?

D.S: Never on real people, and virtually never on my own life. I prefer to create fiction, and not be bound by “real” people in my work.

A.N: Your first novel, “Going Home”, was written in 1973 while you were just 19, how did you manage to get it published?

D.S: The usual way – through series of rejections, revising and trying again. Finally, I was fortunate enough to find a good literary agent.

A.N: You used the word “fortunate”. Does a writer compulsorily need luck to get her book published, even if she’s highly talented?

D.S: What a question! Listen; there are always many new writers out there – so talented, so innovative. And therefore, as a newcomer, you just kind of stand in need of some divine grace to meet an agent / a publisher who would throw her faith on the potentiality of your work and give it a chance.

A.N: Throwing faith on your work means belting on your manuscript that it will somehow do well in sales, right?

D.S: Exactly

A.N: Then, can we say writing career is a risky adventure?

D.S: Well, vaguely risky if you abandon every other life’s pursuit for it. But, I’d advise new writers to write out of passion first of all, before the pay.

A.N: How long does it take you to write a book?

D.S.: From the beginning to end, the entire process takes about two and a half years.

A.N: But how come you’re able to produce two to three books per year? For example, in 1978 you published two books; in 1980, three; in 1981, three again; 2008, three; and two are already announced for 2009.

D.S: See, I’ve developed the ability of juggling through five projects at a time. While carrying out research for one book, I’m writing the outline for another. And at same time, I continue writing the one in hand as I edit two others already written.

A.N: With this kind of schedule, how do you manage to have time for your family – your big family?

D.S: (Laugh) It’s a hard one – very hard. I don’t sleep! My kids are more precious to me than anything. So, I’m with them all day, and I write all night.

A.N: We’ve never seen a sequel to any of your books, and why?

D.S: No, I never do sequels. They’re an invitation to unfavourable comparison, and I’ve got too many new stories to tell!

A.N: Who is your favourite author and what is your favourite book?

D.S: Well, I always go back to the classics. I love French literature. Colette is a special favourite of mine. But at the moment, I’m enjoying John Grisham’s books quite a bit.

A.N: What’s your favourite book you’ve written?

D.S: This always changes. It’s often the last book I’ve written, just because I become so involved in it. But right now, MESSAGE FROM NAM, FIVE DAYS IN PARIS and KALEIDOSCOPE stand out.

A.N: I understand you’re a great lover of pets. What kind of pets do you have?

D.S: I’ve got five miniature Brussel Griffon dogs, one rabbit, one parakeet, and a Vietnamese pot-bellied dog named Coco. What a zoo!

A.N: In September 1997, your son, Nick Traina, who was the lead vocal of Link 80, committed suicide. And you immediately converted this loss and pain into a non-fiction book titled, HIS BRIGHT LIGHT. Was it to efface the bad experience or to honour his memory?

D.S: To honour his memory. See, he was suffering from an indisposition called bipolar disorder. All what happened to him wasn’t really his fault.

A.N: Can we say writing is another weapon for suppressing, converting or depleting ugly memories?

D.S: I think it’s a great weapon for that. The process elevates you to another plain that tends to make you stop weeping, and instead, you turn active and lively, creating characters that are passing through same experience. And rather than crying yourself, you assume the role of inventing scenes and situations that comfort your bereaving characters. Good one!

A.N: As a woman who has seen the good and the bad sides of marriage and family, how would you counsel the ideal woman?

D.S: Look, life is an open game; anything can happen. Never be too sure of yourself or anyone. Understand and believe what’s dear to your heart, and strive to protect it. Look, happiness is not perpetual. There’d be rough times, but never let yourself to be swept away.

A.N: I know you’ve never lived in Africa, but I believe you know the African Woman, a piece of advice?

D.S: Yeah! The African woman would be more productive if she had a broader freedom and a stronger independence.

A.N: Are you saying they are not free?

D.S: Not necessarily. But I believe she would dominate more if she’s fully emancipated.

A.N: Who or what would she dominate if she was fully emancipated – her husband or her society?

D.S: Her society.

A.N: How would you interpret the current global economic crisis? Is it another fiction or a painful reality?

D.S: A painful reality. I wish it was only a fiction. There are so many sufferings around the world today – loss of jobs, bankruptcies, etc. I wish we were better off. Well, I’m somehow tempted to be realist about this all. But truly, we have just one choice, and that’s hope. We must remain hopeful. This is not the first time the world is experiencing this. If people had come out of it before, we can still do. As the governments play their role, we individuals need to play ours. Everybody has to do something to solve these problems. Either by cutting personal spending or giving a helping hand to a neighbour, or even giving counsels – lets’ act.

A.N: Barack Obama is the new president and he’s becoming the world’s strongest man. What are your sentiments?

D.S: Wow, it’s a great, great, great event. Everybody seems to be happy. Well, I just hope this would bring about the real change people across the globe are hungry for – change in America, change in Europe, in the Middle East, in Africa, etc.

A.N: In 2002, you were decorated by the French government as a “Chevalier” of the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier de l’order des Arts et des Lettres) for your contribution to world culture. Was it an enough recompense for a 36-year career?

D.S: More than enough.

A.N: In 2006, you launched a perfume called “Danielle by Danielle Steel” with Elizabeth Arden, and then you went further to say it wasn’t a business venture. What is it for then?

D.S: It’s a perfume specially made for my readers. I wanted them to feel what my characters express in my books, which ere engagement, love and emotion.

A.N: How can a perfume do this?

D.S: Danielle perfume is a mixture of mandarin, jasmine, orchid, rose and musk. These fragrances are somehow feminine and masculine. They appeal usually, to the human sensibility and sensuousness.

A.N: And that’s why Danielle is sold only in selected stores?

D.S: Yeah, stores where my readers go to shop.

A.N: How long will you keep writing?

D.S: Until I drop.

KING: She may be the best-selling author ever in the history of the world. She is Danielle Steel, prolific, she has written 82 novels, a score of nonfiction books. Her latest is “Amazing Grace.” There you see its covers.

You don’t do a lot of interviews.

DANIELLE STEEL, AUTHOR, “AMAZING GRACE”: I don’t do any interviews. I do maybe one every 10, 15 years.

KING: Why?

STEEL: I am a very private person. I’m very shy. I have a lot of children and especially when they were young I tried very hard to stay out of the public light and out of the sort of public eye.

And there are a number of causes that are very important to me and so now I’m coming out more and so I have a chance to talk a little more about things I care about.

KING: We’re happy to have you here.

STEEL: Thank you. It’s a great honor to be here.

KING: Did you write as a kid?

STEEL: I did but I didn’t mean to. I was very into the visual arts. I studied design. I wanted to be a designer. But for fun I wrote and my father said that I wrote my first book at 5 with corrugated cardboard covers and I made my own book. And I always wrote for pleasure and I never really thought about writing professionally.

KING: Do you resent being called a woman’s novelist, that you write books for women?

STEEL: I don’t resent it but it’s not accurate. Apparently my readership is 30, 35 percent male. And I have to admit I’m always very proud when a man comes up to me and says, oh, I loved your last book, because I think if I am perceived as a woman’s writer, it takes greater courage for them to read it. And I think men prefer to read nonfiction. Men prefer to read fiction written by men so when a man reads my book, it’s really a victory.

KING: What is — “Amazing Grace” is about an earthquake?

STEEL: It’s about an earthquake. I get ideas out of the air and I suddenly thought it would be very interesting to create an earthquake a hundred years after the last very big one. And what always fascinates me in writing is putting unusual people together under stressful, unusual — or not only unusual, also usual circumstances and then what happens.

And so I — in “Amazing Grace” I brought together four characters: a journalist who has had a very spotty career and is a recovering alcoholic; a nun; and a young teenage super successful rock star; and a young wife whose husband has just committed a crime.

And these people get thrown together during the earthquake and then it’s how it develops and how they affect each other’s lives.

KING: Is there usually some kind of message?

STEEL: I don’t pen them that way, but I do think to some extent and I think the uniting theme in my books is one of hope. They’re about the things that happen to all of us. That none of us are exempt from, difficult things sometimes, illness, loss, challenges in life, and what we do with them. And the message that I think is one of hope and I think it’s, if I wanted to make a message it would be that.

KING: What — when you’re this successful, and you don’t need it for the money, why do you do it?

STEEL: You don’t have any choice. It sort of bubbles up in you. At one point I decided to retire. My kids were young and the tabloids had had sort of a field day and I felt too public. And I thought, OK, that’s it, I’m not doing this any more.

And I decided that what I would do is I would write and put everything in a vault and they could sell it when I died. Eventually a year-and-a-half later I went back to publishing.

But I don’t think you have a choice. You have a story inside and it has to come out of you kind of like a frog with a big bubble coming out of its mouth.

KING: Nine kids?

STEEL: Yes. That is the great joy of my life.

KING: Are you Catholic?

STEEL: Yes. But that’s not why I had them.


KING: You had them because you wanted them.

STEEL: I had them because I wanted them and they are the greatest gift of my life and the greatest joy and what matters most to me.

KING: Do you know where your characters are going?

STEEL: When I start a book? Yes. I spend about…

KING: You lay it out?

STEEL: I spend a week — a week. I spend a year on the outline. And honing it down and changing it and moving pieces around. And then I write the first draft and then I spend about two years editing.

KING: Danielle Steel, the extraordinarily successful, talented Danielle Steel. Her newest is “Amazing Grace”. Back with some more after this.


KING: Her newest is “Amazing Grace,” it’s about an earthquake in San Francisco. Our guest is Danielle Steel. She has already written the one following that, right?

You’ve got another book that’s coming already? Tragedy in your life, you lost a son to suicide.

STEEL: Yes, yes.

KING: Does that affect your writing?

STEEL: I think it affects you as a person. So inevitably it affects your writing. It makes you deeper. I think, unfortunately, there is always the risk that something hard will break you or that it will make you better. And I wanted it to make me more, not less. And I hope it shows in the writing.

KING: Did you write about it?

STEEL: Yes. I wrote a book about him called “His Bright Light.” And he was bipolar all of his life and put up a noble fight. And I wanted to share his life and honor him. And I also wanted to help people struggling with the same thing, both sufferers of the illness and those who love them.

KING: After the occurrence, did you stop writing for a while? STEEL: No. I started writing his — I wrote more, strangely enough. I started the book about him three weeks later. And wonderful things have happened from it. The proceeds go to a foundation that helps fund organizations for the mentally ill and a lot of youthful bipolar suffers and adults.

And families write to me, and I had a letter last week from a young woman who said that I’ve attempted suicide twice and I was planning my third attempt and I’m bipolar and I read the book and I’ve decided to go back on my meds and I won’t commit suicide for now.

And I was so grateful and he has helped so many people after his life, so his life has been a blessing for me and for many people.

KING: Have you ever started and then torn up a book?

STEEL: I’ve started outlines and not proceeded with them. But by the time I start a book, I’m pretty — I know where I’m going. The outlines are about 80 or 100 pages long.

KING: And when you finish, like “Amazing Grace,” are you totally satisfied?

STEEL: No. I’m never totally — well, for about five minutes I think oh, this is my best book. But then I do a lot of editing and then I think it’s my best book ever and then my editor will say, no, no, no, no, no, no. Now you go to work. And then I do two years of rewrites.

KING: Two years. How important is the editor?

STEEL: Super important. Super important. I always say that writing without an editor is like dressing in the dark because you write it the way you feel it and then you need somebody to say no, no, it droops over here and it is too fast over there and you need to pad this out.

KING: Choosing characters. In “Amazing Grace,” why a rock star?

STEEL: They choose me. I wanted to do a very young person who was being controlled by her mother, and to see her take possession of her own life. And the earthquake allows her to do it because it creates an interruption in a career that is being run by a stage mother.

I wanted an opportunity for rebirth for the recovering alcoholic journalist whose career had sort of gone to pot because of his alcoholism before. I loved the idea of writing about the nun and I loved the idea of the young, brilliantly successful couple where it turns out that the husband, who has committed this awful crime, which comes to light because of the earthquake.

KING: Do you write quickly?

STEEL: I do. I do. And then I rewrite very slowly.

KING: Do you use a computer?

STEEL: No. I use a 1946 typewriter.

KING: Hurrah!


KING: A Royal?

STEEL: No, an Olympia named Ollie (ph).

KING: It has got a name.


KING: Is it a manual or electric?

STEEL: Manual. Giant, big, fat manual.

KING: Now it’s slower isn’t it?

STEEL: Well, it has actually I think a very quick keyboard, but if I use an electric, I rest my hands.

KING: Where do you get ribbon?

STEEL: You still can get ribbon and you still can get people to repair them. And it behaves very well and hasn’t let me down very often.

KING: Why have you — you have resisted the computer, why?

STEEL: Yes. I’m not a mechanical person. I now use a computer to do e-mail with my children when they’re in college. But basically I — and it doesn’t, you know, e-mail when you do computers, they crash. They eat your book. Ollie doesn’t eat my book.

KING: Do you ever envision not writing?

STEEL: No. I hope not. I hope that I do this. People are always talking about stopping and retiring. And I always think why would you do that? I would hope that the stories will keep coming. And I hope I do it until I’m 99 the years old and fall into my typewriter.

KING: I hope so too.

STEEL: Thank you.

KING: As Milton Berle said, retire to what?

STEEL: Exactly.


KING: Danielle, what an honor, thank you. STEEL: It’s a great honor for me. Thank you so much.

KING: Danielle Steel, one of the world’s most popular and prolific authors, written scores of best-sellers and her latest is “Amazing Grace”. Danielle Steel. Thank you so much.

STEEL: Thank you very, very much.


Betty Eadie Says…

In this Interview

Author of Embraced by the Light

Life after death

Why suicide is wrong

Our mission here on earth

I found this interview very touching. Her explanation of trials rang true to me. Whether or not you believe that Eadie truly visited heaven, her ideals of unconditional love are inspiring.

An Interview with Betty Eadie

by Veronica M. Hay

Betty Eadie is the author of … Embraced by the Light

The fascinating account of one woman’s journey beyond death and back.

What is it like to die and return to life?
Embraced by the Light has the answer.

At the age of 31, Betty Eadie was recovering in the hospital after surgery. Although she was expected to recover fully, sudden complications arose and she died. The events that followed have been called by experts “the most profound and complete near-death experiences ever.”

Now, after many years and countless prodding’s from friends and family, Betty finally feels comfortable sharing her experience with the public. She does so in the New York Times Best-selling book entitled Embraced By the Light, the incredible account of one woman’s journey into the hereafter. The response to the book has been overwhelming.

Betty’s book stands out from other near-death experience accounts because of it’s amazing detail. Betty was in the next world far longer than most near-death experiences and she came back with an almost photographic view.

Betty Eadie’s message in Embraced by the Light brings hope and understanding to those who have lost a loved one or may be nearing their own death. She instills courage and peace in us all

Veronica: The first thing I wondered when reading your book Embraced by the Light, was, why the long gap between your experience on November 18, 1973 and the publishing of the book. Was it not yet the right time? Betty: That’s exactly what it was. The timing wasn’t right. I knew that I would be told when the time was right for the book and I believe too that I also needed to process and assimilate the information that I had received and perhaps I wasn’t ready to write it.

Veronica: Why do you think you were chosen for this experience? Betty: I have no idea. I guess it is going to go on unanswered forever. I wish I knew. Perhaps it’s my commitment to it. I don’t know. I’ve thought about it. I have no answer for it.

Veronica: What do you mean by your commitment?

Betty: My commitment to the experience, to what I received. I am totally committed and I am the type of person who follows through with her commitments. So, I guess I am just roughly looking for an answer and there is none, except to look into my personality, perhaps to find out. The answer is obviously there somewhere and I’m too close to it to see.

Veronica: You mention the three men in robes that appeared to you just after your death. You refer to them as your monks and ministering angels as opposed to guardian angels. What is the difference?

Betty: Ministering angels are angels that administer to your spiritual needs. Guardian angels are those that are there for more of a protection, keeping you out of harms way.

Veronica: During your experience you said that you wanted to learn the purpose of life on earth. Just why are we here then?

Betty: To learn to love unconditionally, as close as possible. I don’t think we’ll ever achieve that, but I do think we are to learn to love as close as the Christ’s like love as is possible, to learn to love under the most unlikely circumstances and deepest tragedies. To learn to love even those people who are unlovable, to learn to love and accept them unconditionally, and not be judgmental. Love is very healing. I think the one thing that we lack the most here on this earth is that kind of love and yet we can only give what we have received and so we often have a difficult time with that. Perhaps because we haven’t received love during our childhood and we don’t know how to show love or we don’t know how to receive love.

Veronica: Do you think your own capacity for love increased after your experience?

Betty: Oh, there is no doubt.

Veronica: Would you elaborate on the spiritual, physical and universal laws you talk about in your book.

Betty: The spiritual laws are the things that pertain to God, that which is spiritual because of our divine nature. The physical laws pertain to our physical selves, our mortal selves. The universal laws are those that govern the universe and the world. All three are separate yet very much connected.

Veronica: Would you tell us about the humour that you experienced in the spirit world?

Betty: At first they used the same form of communication that we would use here on earth, until I could develop enough of an understanding of what I felt was the more natural way of communication, which is almost heart to heart, not really telepathy, but yet again that is a way to explain it. So, the humour they used was similar to the humour that we use here. In order to communicate with me they often used the same words and phrases. The humour was natural to me. It’s a loving humour. It is very much like the humour that we feel as parents when our little children do something that is so obviously wrong and yet to them it isn’t. So, we would smile at them and humorously guide them in the right direction.

Veronica: How would you explain the difference between heaven and earth?

Betty: As it was explained to me, like comparing a 35 millimeter print to its negative.

Veronica: Would you talk about your experience with the rose? I was particularly moved by that.

Betty: The rose seemed to be very symbolic of something I felt. I don’t know that I completely understand the symbolism. I wasn’t particularly attracted to roses before I experienced my death. But, when I saw this rose, I was in a very unusual way drawn to it. I went to the rose and I entered into the rose. I actually became a part of it, in that I was looking from within it, looking out and seeing through the petals, seeing the light in each little particle and becoming a part of the music, the melody that seemed to flow from it. It was a beautiful experience.

Veronica: And are you more attracted to roses now, because of that experience?

Betty: Not only am I more attracted to roses but I later learned that when I was a child (unknown to me though) one of my school principals had written a little story about me in which he had referred to me as his prairie rose. How ironic really, because my native name is Rose as well. Ever since, I have absolutely been attracted to roses and daisies also. I don’t know the purpose of the rose, except that I enjoyed it and appreciated it and I have a great love for them now.

Veronica: Often when someone has a spiritual experience, the intensity of the feelings diminish over time. Has this been the case with you?

Betty: Not at all. In my deepest times of despair I look back on this experience and it balances me. I can sense and feel it even as I now talk about it. I give hundreds, probably thousands, of presentations of my experience and when I become focussed on the experience, I relive it. I can feel this great desire and longing for where I was taken to and the spiritual beings that surrounded me. I can relive those moments there in the garden. Everything just comes back to life. I don’t know if that’s all a part of it, if that is something that was imprinted before I came back. I don’t understand it. I just know that I have this vivid recall of the entire experience. I taped all of this after I had the experience, but I never had to listen to it. The memory of it never left me. It was always there. And even though I had not written the book in those 19 years, I always used the experience to help other people. So this book wasn’t new to the people that surround me, the people that I worked with, in my volunteer work and my work also as a counselor. I just felt so limited. I felt there were so many people that needed to know about this and I felt that as soon as my spirit knew that it was the right time that I would write the book. And not just the book, I knew there would be a video, I knew there would be a movie. I just knew all of these things.

Veronica: You mention in the book that your mother died of cancer. Did you see her during this experience?

Betty: I didn’t mention seeing her because I believe that that was taken from my memory. I do believe that not only my mother, but my daughter, were a part of the grieving party. After I came back, I went into depression for quite a few years. Looking back on it and trying to understand it, I think that had I remembered them, with vivid recall, having visited with them, I don’t think I would have overcome my depression because I wanted to be back there, not here. I was told that those who we love would be there and so I know that the ones that I love were there, I just couldn’t remember them.

Veronica: Our most severe challenges will one day reveal themselves to be our greatest teachers. Can you give an example of that in your own life? Betty: I think probably one of the greatest challenges that I have connects back to love. I was one of those children that was never really bonded, having been taken away from my parents so young, and I think that bonding has a tremendous amount to do with love, unconditional love, with trust, with feelings of self worth and those have been my greatest challenges. Veronica: Everyone has a mission, no matter what, from becoming president, or being a mother, a teacher or whatever. Many people, I am sure, are wondering what their mission is, or if they really do have one. What would you say to help those people?

Betty: Everyone has a mission. I don’t think that we will necessarily know what our mission is. I believe that we are brought to that mission through the trials that we go through. Again those trials seem to test our strengths and through those trials we become stronger and that’s our greatest challenge. Take for instance, many of the people who have gone into counselling and helping people as a result of a tragedy happening in their lives. I give here the example of a man who recently lost his son. He found out later that his son was murdered and now this man is on television bringing about a tremendous amount of change to the word regarding these child abductions. Because of his pain, many things were done. Unfortunately, we aren’t always compelled to make changes unless we have some tragedy hit us. When those things happen, even this terrible thing that happened in Oklahoma, many changes will come about because of that particular tragedy.

Veronica: Is writing this book part of your mission, the mission that they showed you and the memory that they took away?

Betty: I would say that it is part of it because I was given the information and also allowed to remember it in such vivid detail. I’m absolutely sure that it is part of my mission. I do not believe that it is all of my mission because I am still here and they promised me that I would go back as soon as my mission was completed.
// >
// —Veronica: So, there is obviously more to do?
Betty: Right, there is more to do and I am busy doing it.

Veronica: Was writing this book indeed an adventure for you and did you expect the kind of response that you got?

BettyI didn’t know the physical changes that writing such a book would bring. For example, I didn’t understand the New York Times best seller list, I didn’t understand all of the publicity, all of the interest and the notoriety. But, what I did know was, that the book was going to absolutely blanket the earth. I knew that, I just didn’t know all of the details.

Veronica: During your view of pre-mortal existence you saw that birth is a sleep and a forgetting. Why do you think that is?

Betty: It is necessary to forget it in order for us to live here. It’s difficult knowing what I know, having experienced what I’ve experienced and then having to continue to live here with that knowledge.

Veronica: Because you want to go back?

Betty: Not only do you want to go back, but it is very hard to communicate with others unless you find people on that same level of thought. It’s hard to think of things as being tragic and painful when you know that there are lessons that are being taught, things that are being learned. Something good is going to happen. So, you have a tendency to feel differently about everything.

Veronica: The only thing that we take with us from this life is the good that we have done for others. Our strength will be found in our charity. Everything produces after it’s own kind. So then, what we give out, we get back. What goes around, comes around. Is that right?

Betty: Exactly. We are the creator of everything that we receive.

Veronica: I was particularly moved by the section on prayers. The range of our help for others is immense, you said, and if the faith of our friends is weak, the strength of our spirits can literally hold them up. Would you talk about how that works?

Betty: That’s through prayer. We all have friends or relatives who go through low periods in their lives. And when they are going through these low periods of life, they need the help of our prayers, because they often don’t have the strength within their own prayers to lift them up, or perhaps the faith. And so, we are constantly to be praying for those that are in this need and hopefully we will have that returned when we are the lower and the weaker.

Veronica: Why must we never consider suicide?

Betty: Suicide is breaking a law. We are here to fulfill a purpose. When we take our lives, we have shortchanged ourselves, as well as others. Sometimes depression can be beneficial to many people. Not necessarily for the person going through the depression at that particular moment, but sometimes it is a teacher and a help to other people who are perhaps servicing that person, healing that person. It is easy for us to give, but it’s hard to be a receiver of things. At least it is for me. It is very hard for me to receive something. I’ve always been the giver. I’ve learned that we must balance all things. That you give joy to another by allowing them to give to you. So, when we take our life, we literally are being self-centered, and we are wallowing in our own despair and our own problems. If we take our mind away from ourselves and stop just considering our own comforts, then we lose that tendency, that feeling towards becoming suicidal. Of course, that’s if you are dealing with just the mental. There are people who have a lot of physical problems that could bring them to the point of committing suicide and it is not our place to judge. Some of these people would not do this if they were in their right mind. In fact, I believe that no one would commit suicide were they in their right mind.

Veronica: So, basically when someone is feeling that way or depressed they should think of what they could do for someone else?

Betty: Right. Re-focus. Because at that moment they are still focussed on self. Veronica: The music tape that has been released about your experience, how did that come about? How were you and some of the musical creators able to capture some of the incredible sound that you describe in your book?

Betty: It was done through inspiration. I met Stan Zenk who is one of the composers. I heard some of the music that he was playing and it just absolutely brought me to tears. It just hit me at the soul level. So, I asked him if he would create the music for that experience. He worked with Bryce Neubert and they came up with some beautiful music. Music is so healing to the soul. We need more of it, more good music in the world.

Veronica: What is ahead for you now, Betty? I understand that you are about to write another book. Would you tell us about it.

Betty: The next book is the questions and answers to Embrace by the Light. I received thousands and thousands of questions, as you can imagine, and I had to keep Embraced by the Light very short and very simple. I thought that if I went into it too deeply, the message would be lost, the message about love. And so, this other book is almost an absolute have to, one that is more difficult, in that I don’t have all the answers, but the mere fact that I don’t have them, I think, needs to be told as well. So, this is the book I’m working on right now. It is a continued journey, I guess of Embraced by the Light, where I have been and where I am going with Embraced by the Light. And during the telling of that, I hope to answer as many questions as I possibly can.

I am also working on the movie. This is something that I think will be very beneficial to those who don’t like to read. You know, we have all these different senses, some people are more intrigued with a book, others more intrigued with movement, with eyes, the visual and others like to just hear. So, I am trying to touch all senses and hoping that every bit of this will bring people closer to the God like quality within them and that is love.

Veronica: Thank you, Betty.

Interview with Betty J. Eadie
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
Coast to Coast AM, with George Noory

Transcribed from

GEORGE: Top of the hour, my guest, Betty Eadie. She died once, and that happened following routine surgery, and she came back with a message. We’ll find out what that message is right here…


GEORGE: After a near-death experience — we call them NDE’s — that followed routine surgery, Betty Eadie survived, returned with a message. That message we will discuss in a moment.


Betty Eadie was born in rural Nebraska, and spent her early childhood on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota. In 1973, November, at the age of 31, Betty died following routine surgery. After undergoing what has been called the most profound and detailed near-death experience ever recorded, she returned with a life-changing message. Enlightened by her experience, Betty studied psychology and the human response to death. She also participated in a near-death study with a local university. She then entered one of the largest schools of hypnosis, graduating at the top of her class, and opened a clinic to continue her examination of the subconscious mind and its connection, if any, to the near-death experience. Today, after more than twenty-five years of NDE studies, Betty J. Eadie continues her quest by collecting and evaluating thousands of near-death accounts. Welcome to Coast to Coast.

Hello, Betty. How are you?

BETTY: Well thank you, George. I am… I am wonderful. Thank you.

GEORGE: My pleasure. Tell me a little bit about the 1973 surgery. What — if you can, if I’m not getting too personal — what did you go in for, and then just, what happened?

BETTY: I went in for a partial hysterectomy, which is not… well, it isn’t the type of surgery you would expect to die from…

GEORGE: No, not at all.

BETTY: But I was 31 years old, in good health, and everything looked pretty good, so my husband and I decided that I would go ahead and have the surgery. During the surgery I hemorrhaged… they were able to repair that, but later that evening, I hemorrhaged again. And it was around 9:30, because I recall looking at the clock and… I was very frightened about having the surgery because I was a mother… of course, I had seven children at that time, but never had I ever had surgery. But I was frightened of death because of the fear that was instilled in me from childhood…

GEORGE: Oh sure. Yeah.

BETTY: …in that I thought that if I died I would go straight to hell. So this experience was nothing that I had ever read about or heard about, and in 1973, nothing… well, near-death experiences… that phrase had not yet been coined. So, when I felt my body — I had napped, and I woke up at 9:30, and I felt my body shutting down, literally dying — I was very frightened. And I tried to ring for the nurse, which I couldn’t do, because I was in such a weakened condition…

GEORGE: Right. Were you still hemorrhaging at that time too?

BETTY: Apparently that’s when the hemorrhage had begun again, because it was during surgery, and they repaired it and then it started again. And I didn’t have the energy to call for the nurse. I felt my legs, my arms, dying, and then suddenly there was this… I heard a pop, a sound, and I was out of my body — up at the ceiling. And I turned and looked down and I could see myself lying there, which startled me tremendously, because there wasn’t one moment of lost consciousness. Ever. I was just suddenly there out of my body. There was no pain, I didn’t feel anything physical after that point, and I looked at my body… I had worked in hospitals before, studying to be an RN, so I came down to look at the body, and I could see that I had died.

GEORGE: You had that… Were your eyes open or closed, do you know?

BETTY: My eyes were actually closed…

GEORGE: They were. Okay.

BETTY: And I observed myself for a little bit, and then my spirit left the hospital to go home for a little bit to see my family… I thought about my family, and I was worried about my children… My youngest was five, and the oldest was fifteen. My husband was home caring for them while I was in the hospital, and I thought it was kind of amusing because I knew I was dead, but I looked around to see how I would exit…

GEORGE: And were you alone there in the hospital?

BETTY: I was alone in the room, uh-huh. And I went through the window, and traveled from the hospital to my home, and I could see my husband sitting in the chair — he was reading the newspaper — and the children were running all over the place. It was a quarter to ten, and he had not put them to bed as he had promised, and I was just a little bit annoyed at that. And I was concerned for them, but I could look at each one and see into their lives, how their lives would ultimately work out, and I knew that they were fine without me.

GEORGE: And you were sure at that point that you had died? This wasn’t just in your mind… you were thinking it was a dream or anything like that?

BETTY: No, not at all. I don’t how to explain this reality; it’s… you know, I’m right on the phone here talking with you on the radio, and this seems real to us, but the experience I had was even clearer than what I’m experiencing right now with you. It is a heightened awareness, and not for one minute did I doubt that I was dead, that what I was experiencing was real. I knew I wasn’t hallucinating… I had actually hallucinated after one of my pregnancies, and I know what that feels like, and of course I dream all the time, so I know what that is…

GEORGE: Now was this the kind of death you had imagined when you were a human being and you were fully alive?

BETTY: Not at all. No, not at all. Nothing like this at all. I was raised up as a Catholic in my youth, and my belief system had Catholic/Protestant… I went to various churches… pretty much at this age, 31, I believed that when you died you were buried and you stayed there until resurrection day, that the mind would be blank: you’re dead.

GEORGE: Well you didn’t believe in the soul, in the hereafter?

BETTY: Only after the resurrection.

GEORGE: Ah! So you didn’t think there was a separation immediately after death.

BETTY: Not at all, no, not all. So it was a shock to me just to see that not for one second did I lose consciousness, but I was aware at all times. And even greater awareness than what we experience here.

GEORGE: How long were you medically dead?

BETTY: I was aware of being dead from… again, I was in my house at a quarter to ten… so possibly just before that until about 2:30 a.m. in the morning. So it would be about… close to four hours.

GEORGE: Four hours. Now, without any brain function at all? I mean, my thought was, here you are… your physical body without oxygen just after a few minutes the brain starts to die…

BETTY: Yeah, well your spirit doesn’t need a brain…

GEORGE: Yeah, but your physical body does… And here you are talking to me now after four hours of being clinically dead. Nothing happened to you?

BETTY: To the body? You know, God can restore your body any way he wants to. I really have no answer for that except for that, during the twenty-five years of research, many, many people have experienced death, and for much longer periods than the four hours that I experienced, so it’s kind of embarrassing to even talk about that…

GEORGE: Well, I’m wondering… because this is fascinating… I’m wondering, Betty, if possibly, even though you may have separated from your physical body, if for some reason the brain, physical brain, is functioning, albeit even at a low vibration, where it’s still being kept alive, so to speak. So maybe you’re dead by all clinical purposes, but there’s something biological going on that still keeps that brain going.

BETTY: You know, anything like that is possible. One thing I’ve learned, and that is that there are no absolutes, and for me to so that, no, that isn’t a possibility, that would be absolutely crazy, wouldn’t it?

GEORGE: Okay. So, here you are, you’re looking at your home, your children are running around, you’re dead… at this point, does it seem to bother you that you’ve died?

BETTY: Yes, I was bothered — at that moment I was concerned about my children.

GEORGE: But not YOU!

BETTY: No. No, not me at all. Not at that point. I was very puzzled, and curious about what was happening to me, but it seemed the longer I was out of my body, the more accepting I was of what I was experiencing; in fact, I wanted to continue to experience the feeling of, well… it just felt…

GEORGE: Was it euphoric?

BETTY: It was euphoric. It was a… I had a sense of release from something that had been terribly burdensome to me before. It was just a wonderful a being out of the body.

GEORGE: Like being on a great vacation, you just don’t want to go back home yet.

BETTY: (laugh) Absolutely. That’s what I felt like. It was just awesome. I wanted to go on. In fact, I felt compelled to. And I went back to the hospital, and I heard this sound of chimes and music… it was very compelling. It drew me into what then appeared to be a tunnel, that was very comfortable. I was traveling for some time and then came to this dark space — it was pitch black, blacker than anything I have ever experienced. I love to camp, and sometimes out in wooded areas in the deep forest, it will get like that during the late night. And it was like that in this experience. I felt that there were many other spirits who were… like me, they were in this space. In fact, animals were there as well.

GEORGE: You could sense that, or see that?

BETTY: Oh, I could sense it; I couldn’t see them. But I could sense them. And I felt a tremendous amount of love. Love that I never felt, ever, before.

GEORGE: And you felt no evil at this point.

BETTY: No evil. Nothing but peace. I felt as though I was being bathed in comforting warmth, in love, being cleansed, purified… I don’t know… it was very healing, and if I had not traveled beyond this point, I would say that I would want to stay in this place, this space, wherever it was or is, I would want to stay there forever. That’s how wonderful it was.

GEORGE: Was there a recollection of sound, sound that we know it, at least on this planet, this plane?

BETTY: There were melodies and tones that I wouldn’t recognize here on earth. I mean, the tones are pure, and sweet, and healing. They are not like the tones we have here.

GEORGE: Almost like vibrations?

BETTY: Very much vibrations. Because they penetrate the spirit.

GEORGE: When you were in this… I’ll call it a dimension, right now… when you were in this dimension, do you recollect going through darker dimensions to get to it, or did you just seem to appear in this one?

BETTY: No, I went straight there.


BETTY: Then I saw a pinpoint of light, and this light just pierced this blackness. And it looked at first as if it came toward me, but on reflection I may have begun to travel toward it. I knew that I could move to it, because of some connection I had with it. And I traveled very quickly, and this was even at a more rapid pace than I had traveled before. And it seemed to take some time. And as I approached the light — it wasn’t like a beam of light that would flow out to me, or like a light bulb — it was actually a being of light that I came to. And when I got close to this light, I recognized the being of light. And when I saw who it was — and this is the part that probably shocked me more than any other part of the experience, in that I was so frightened of God, I was frightened of anything religious, because I’m part Native American, and during the early times of my life, I was raised in Catholic boarding schools and taught that not only as a Native American… of course, being a Native American they said I was a heathen, and I was also a sinner, and that I would never get to heaven, just for that reason alone. And of course any sin that I would commit would keep me even further from that.

GEORGE: Recorded in the Big Book up there, right?

BETTY: (laughing) It was recorded in my Big Mind — it was just there. And so when I saw him, what stunned me was that I recognized him. I knew him before I came to earth.

GEORGE: What did he look like?

BETTY: He was tall; he was magnificent in appearance…

GEORGE: Human looking?

BETTY: Human looking. Although many of the features were not distinguishable because of the light. I recognized him perhaps more through his essence, what I had experienced with him before. Although there were some physical features that made him human. And at some point I began to run to him, running like you would run to someone that you’ve loved forever.

GEORGE: Now running in terms of this spiritual body you were in?

BETTY: Yes, uh-huh. Yes. And he opened his arms, and I ran into his arms, and I said, “I’m home. I’m home. I’m finally home. And I never, ever, want to leave you again.” And I said that in a way in which I… I’m embarrassed in a way, but I have tell it as I experienced it… and I felt as though I was chastising him in some way. And he laughed. And I… (tearfully) I just loved him so much. I’m sorry. When I talk about this, I cannot… I cannot recall it without in some way re-experiencing the experience again.

GEORGE: It’s pretty emotional for you, huh.

BETTY: Yes, it was beautiful. Because of the great love, and unconditional love.

GEORGE: How do you know this wasn’t an angelic experience here, as opposed to a godly, even though it’s probably very close to one and the same?

BETTY: Because I knew who he was. And I knew that I had always known him. And I’ll be honest with you, having been raised in a dysfunctional environment, who would love the God that I was raised to worship? I didn’t. I didn’t want to believe what was taught me, I mean, I was raised in that environment from the age of four, and so there was tremendous amount of fear. I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t want to. I wouldn’t want to be in the presence of anyone who would do harm to another soul on this earth.

GEORGE: Now were there other spirits all around you, Betty, at this time, at this point?

BETTY: Not at that time. Just me and him. And I knew that he was Jesus. And I called him Jesus.

GEORGE: Alright, well, I want to find out at this point, when we come right back, how you got back into your physical body. I mean, if you were indeed dead for four hours, what got you back into your physical body? Why did that happen? Why didn’t you stay dead?


GEORGE: And my guest tonight, Betty Eadie. She died, she came back. A little bit later on in the program tonight, we’ll open up the phone lines not only to chat with her, but perhaps you had one of your near-death experience stories you might want to share with us as well.


GEORGE: And welcome back to Coast to Coast. I’m George Noory with Betty Eadie. Betty, at this point, how long does it take for you then to come back into your physical body? What happens? You’re dead, and all of sudden does somebody send you back?

BETTY: I was… while I was there with him, he wanted me to see what exists there for us after we leave this earth. And this is where my experience actually expands and goes on to… I went on to learn that each one of us came to earth by choice, of our own choosing, that we actually chose our parents, and our life situations that we would experience. And we did this so that we would have the spiritual growth that was necessary for us as individuals.

GEORGE: Do you believe in reincarnation?

BETTY: Uh, yes, I believe in reincarnation, but not as we have come to know it here on earth. And, I always believed in reincarnation because that was the only thing that made sense to me before the experience. But during the experience, I actually asked about reincarnation, and I was told that reincarnation upon this earth — going through life’s repeated lives — would not be necessary for the majority of the people, that there are other worlds that God created, and that our continued education would be best served in those places instead of here.

GEORGE: Interesting. So you do believe, also, then in extraterrestrial life?

BETTY: Yes I do.

GEORGE: Okay. We’ll get into that throughout tonight. Okay, so it sounds like there was a method for you, there was reasoning why they wanted you… why he wanted you… to be there. At this point, did you think you were coming back to your physical body at all?

BETTY: Oh, not at all! No. I was “in heaven”, so to speak, literally, and it was wonderful, and they showed me around, and I was able to travel from world to world even. And I know that sounds incredible, but I did it nonetheless, and was able to witness life in other worlds.

GEORGE: Now you’re talking about witnessing physical life, or spiritual life elsewhere?

BETTY: Well, they seemed to be both. And I knew that our earth, the world that we live in now, right here, that it is just one level of growth, but there are many levels, many universes, many… well, for instance, here just recently, I saw in the news that a new galaxy was formed, and I was taken to many galaxies, that were old, and some new, and some that were yet to be created. It was mind-boggling.

GEORGE: I mean, what are some of the things you experienced? I mean, tell me about… I guess what I’m really excited about, too, is… tell me about the advanced civilizations that they showed you.

BETTY: Well, there are… many of the worlds I was taken to, of course, most of that was taken from my memory. They said it was just too much for me to recall, and to bring back, and so I really cannot describe too much of that to you. Except for that, one exciting point when I was traveling from one universe to another, I heard a tone in the universe… the tone was actually a big B-flat that I identified… and here recently it has been identified… that that tone does exist out there. But unfortunate for our world, the tone in which governs our world is not a very healthy tone. Tones send out vibrations of energy — often the tone is healing energy, sometimes it is not — and the tone now that we are experiencing is not one of health.

GEORGE: Does it change?

BETTY: It does change, yes, by the vibration… from the vibration of the earth, and as the people here change, so do the tones.

GEORGE: Okay, so you don’t have any recollection of what some of these other places look like.

BETTY: No. No, I don’t. I wish I did.

GEORGE: How about how advanced they… I mean, how many years are we talking about ahead of us or behind us? Millions of years in either direction?

BETTY: Yes, I would guess that, yes, absolutely, that would be the case.

GEORGE: So some of them must be way advanced.

BETTY: Some of them are very advanced, some of them are not. It just depends upon, again, the level that people have grown, to apply their spirituality, not just what they’ve learned… nothing here that we’re actually learning here on earth is new, so you can learn everything that you want, or can, about technology, but once you’re out of this physical, you realize that everything we have here has been received through inspiration, and has already been created and developed in the spirit world.

GEORGE: Did you come away from this experience, Betty, feeling there’s more life in THIS universe, or we’re the only ones here, and of course there are other universes?

BETTY: No, I came away knowing that we are just one grain of sand on the beach, and that’s about it.

GEORGE: And it’s everywhere.

BETTY: And it’s everywhere. And that to think outside the box is where we all want to be, because there is… to say there absolutely is not this or that or the other, it’s just amazing when you are not here attached to this realm and you experience so much more. Coming back here is a nightmare, as a matter of fact. It was a horrible experience. I did not want to come back.

GEORGE: What made you come back, and why did they send you back, after this experience, they showed you all these things. And did you ever get the message on how this was created? I mean, that’s an answer I’ve been looking for all my life, how it began, how this spiritual world started.

BETTY: The greater picture, no, I didn’t, at least I don’t ever recall if it was ever told to me. But I actually did witness the creation of the earth. It was shown to me, in that they can take you back in time, pre-earth time, when we were all in this other realm, before the earth was created, and that we volunteered, those of us who are here now, and those before us and those after us, all volunteered to be participants in this particular world. And the creation of the earth was… we all took part in that as well. Many of the people there, the spirit people in the spirit world there, actually helped in the development of all of the animals, the insects, the plant life, everything that exists here was created by spiritual beings.

GEORGE: So you’re convinced the spiritual world was way ahead of, and existed before the physical.

BETTY: Oh, it is way ahead.

GEORGE: Okay. Do you believe that the spiritual world — that’s what I’ll call it — was around before the so-called Big Bang of the universe?

BETTY: Yes. Yes I do. And that is mind-blowing too, because, again, it’s so difficult to explain. But yes, all of that existed, and we were all a part of that. See, life is eternal; our lives have always been, and will always be; it’s just a continuation of growth and expansion. And the Betty you’re speaking to right now is not the Betty I am in the spirit world, although I am who I am. I was shocked to see, (laughing) too, that I… it’s like taking a portion of who I am there and cramming it into who I am here. It’s very difficult to express. And yet, when you leave this earth, you go back to what you have always been, which is expanded into a greatness that is just not conceivable here.

GEORGE: We’re stardust, aren’t we?


GEORGE: When… when you were learning some of these things — and again, you’re still medically dead — did you ever get the feeling that there’s a hell?

BETTY: No. No I didn’t.

GEORGE: Do you believe there is one now?

BETTY: No. No I don’t.

GEORGE: So you think that… I mean, what about the devil? Does he exist? Or it?

BETTY: You know, God is our creator, and he created Satan as a source of negativity, something for us to rub up against. It’s like an airplane, when an airplane tries to get up off the ground, it needs four energies: lift, thrust, drag, and gravity. We need that same type of energy to grow spiritually. And so the Satan is, of course, all the negativity… it’s a matter of perception.

GEORGE: Is it real, though?

BETTY: Oh yes. Very much. Yes, it is real.

GEORGE: See, I’m looking at it in a dimensional way, and I think it’s got to be somewhere.

BETTY: Yes. Oh, you mean, is there a hell somewhere?


BETTY: Well, I believe hell is right here on earth. Hell is what we experience. Hell is a cause and effect of negative energy, negative experiences, what we put out there.

GEORGE: Did you ever get the feeling, or the rationale, for why we have a physical world, when this spiritual world appeared to be, at least for you, so enlightening?

BETTY: Yes, I did. Because we can take that which is spiritual and bring it here to expand upon it by experiencing it in a physical way. We only really… It’s like going to a university and learning, well, picking up a tremendous amount of knowledge. It’s only when you use that knowledge, you internalize it. And so here on this earth, we can experience — and we all have our own separate education — and so this is another reason why we are to be very careful not to judge one another as we experience life. Not all people are meant to come here, and become wealthy, or to be healthy, or to be whole, or whatever. I mean, we come with our own particular and perfect form, not only in the flesh, the body that we live in, but also the right frame of mind, the, well… we’re perfect for the experience that we need, and when we leave this earth, go back with the education, everything that we came to acquire, then you’ll know that you actually succeeded, whereas most people will be looked at through mortal eyes as failures.

GEORGE: What was the message that you got when you were dead?

BETTY: There are many messages that I received there. One message is that, yes, there is a God, and he loves us unconditionally. Another message was, yes, there was a Christ, but Christ is a messenger of love. And yes, there are many religions, but there is no one, perfect religion. That there are many paths to get back to God — many religions will help people — but there’s really only one path, and that path is through love. And many people misinterpret what Christ’s mission was. It wasn’t going back to God through him, per se, as it was the message that he brought to us, which is: the pathway is love. We return back to God through love. And I actually had the opportunity to ask about the fears I had, such as going to hell. And I was told that, as a parent — and I’m a mother of seven — as a parent, he said, would you abandon any one of your children?

GEORGE: And I’m sure your answer would have been, “No.”

BETTY: Absolutely not. And if they made a mistake, or failed in some way, would I curse them, damn them, and send them into outer darkness? And I said, “Absolutely not!” And he said, “Then how much greater am I than you?” And I said, “Pretty great.”

GEORGE: And he said, “Absolutely not!”

BETTY: (laughing) He said, “Absolutely not!”

GEORGE: No, I didn’t die with you, Betty.

BETTY: No, you didn’t die with me, but you got the plan.

GEORGE: Knock on wood, right? But somehow I don’t think you’re afraid to die anymore, are you?

BETTY: I’m not afraid to die at all, because life really truly does begin after this life, although you would not want to commit suicide. I warn people, do not take your life. This life is so worth living. What I came back with was a tremendous meaning for living. I came back knowing that…

GEORGE: Well, tell me about this. I mean, nobody would want to recommend suicide, and, as Catholics, we were always taught that if you commit suicide, you go to hell. You, of course, have just said there is no hell. What happens to that person who decides to end their own life?

BETTY: I actually asked about that, and… God judges according to the heart. He explained to me that people who commit suicide, or any other act that is horrid, are people who are dysfunctional; they have mutated — their souls mutated somewhere along the line, perhaps even at birth, perhaps genetic problems. You know, we are not to judge, only He can judge. But that to condemn someone to hell is the greater sin, which is something we should never, ever do.

GEORGE: Is life… Did you come away, though, feeling that life, Betty, was precious?

BETTY: Very precious. Life is precious. Every breath you take is a gift from God. Every breath. And anything that you can do to help one other soul is worth millions and millions and millions of dollars if you had to put it in our human… you know… rewards. And that could be one simple act of kindness. Just even a smile. I was shocked, because I hadn’t really done too much on earth to, well, to help people. I grew up very dysfunctional, angry, bitter — I was kind; I hadn’t committed too many sins — but those things were not what God was interested in. My mortal sins were not interesting to him at all. What he was interested in was actually my spiritual growth. What did I do of kindness, of good? How much love did I have for my family, for those who were not family, who didn’t do good things for me?

GEORGE: Would you consider yourself, before you died, Betty, a good person?

BETTY: Umm.. [only] okay. I don’t know that I was, well…

GEORGE: Nothing to write home about, huh?

BETTY: (laughing) Nothing to write home about is right. Yes. In fact, I saw my light… you know, I was traveling toward the brighter light, I could see that my spirit body had a dim glow about it, and it was later, years later, just a few years ago, not too many years, maybe seven or so, I came home off a tour, I was exhausted, laying in bed, and I saw a little night-light that I had plugged into the wall. And I thought, “Oh my God, that is how dim my light was when I came to the light in heaven.” I crawled out of bed, unplugged it, crawled into the bathroom, turned on the greater light to look at it — it was seven watts of light. I hope and pray that, after my return here to earth, that I have increased my love to a greater wattage than seven lousy watts of light.

GEORGE: (laughing) We’ll be back in a moment with Betty Eadie, my guest. Gotta find out, Betty, how you came back into your physical body, and what it was like.


GEORGE: Indeed, with my guest Betty Eadie. She died. Let me tell you a little bit about a couple of her books, her website: “Embraced by the Light”, “The Awakening Heart”. Her website, of course, is, which is linked up with It’s there right now, if you want to go ahead and take a look at some of things she has done, when she died. She’s participated, by the way, in a lot of near-death studies. We’ll talk with her about that as well. Plus, the most important thing: I want to find out how she was sent back to the physical plane


GEORGE: And welcome back. I’m George Noory. Betty Eadie, my guest. Betty, so at this point, are they sending you back to your body yet?

BETTY: (laughing) No, and I’m so grateful that they didn’t. I know you’re anxious to learn how I came back.

GEORGE: (laughing) I want to know what it was like to come back into your body!

BETTY: Well…

GEORGE: But we’ll get to that.

BETTY: Yeah. I didn’t want to come back, and I really, truly was allowed to see so much and experience a lot, but those who are interested, I’m sure they can go to my website and learn of it there, or a library to get the book, or purchase the book, or whatever. They can learn more. But, no, I didn’t want to come back. I was… my experience took place in 1973, and the age of thirty-one, I was bordering, I suppose, on being a feminist, and the attitude back then was Helen Reddy’s attitude, and that is simply that women ruled the world, or at least want to, and I felt that way there. So when I was taken before a council of men, my first thought was not a very pious one — I wasn’t too humble there. But I was told that there’s an order, there is reason for the male and the female, and how that serves God and the purpose that we are here to experience on earth. Having that explained to me, I felt very comfortable with being a female, and also standing there before the council.

GEORGE: So there’s a sex difference in the spirit world…

BETTY: Yes, uh-huh. I was female there, just as I was female here. Although, to be honest with you, I do believe that, depending upon the experience that you need, after this life, when you go into another experience, perhaps even into another world, that you would take the sex that you would… that best serves you. But I didn’t feel threatened by being male or female…

GEORGE: So I’d come back as an amoeba or something like that…

BETTY: Well, you may, or maybe not! (laughing) That would be up to whatever it is you haven’t pick up yet for your course of study, and something you needed to complete.

But as I stood there before the council of men, they wanted me to review my life, and this to me is where hell came in. I had to review my life from conception — and I’m emphasizing conception because that’s very important. During the time of conception, the spirit can enter the body, or not. It can wait until the moment of birth before it actually takes human form, or it can go into the mother’s womb at any time that it chooses.

GEORGE: So how would one know? I guess we wouldn’t, those who are alive, right?

BETTY: Well, this is where my hypnosis later came in. I know that, under hypnosis, you can access the spirit, and the spirit knows whether it entered the womb at conception or at birth. But I started at conception, my review. And I… during the time the mother is pregnant, the baby is very aware and tuned with everything that is taking place — conversations are heard between mother and father, people around — and it begins to develop self-worth during that early stage.

GEORGE: Based on, I guess, the sounds it hears?

BETTY: Based on the communication, because the spirit is aware of the language.

GEORGE: So it knows… alright, so it knows the words!

BETTY: Yes. When we baby-talk to babies, they really are laughing at us, because we don’t need to.

GEORGE: Goo-goo goo-goo, and they say, “What are you doing?”

BETTY: (laughing) Well how would you like someone to get in your face and do that, huh?

GEORGE: Yeah, that’s true.

BETTY: Right. And so they laugh because we’re funny to them. They actually are already aware of the English… well, of whatever language they are to speak. And they understand it well, far better than actually we do at…

GEORGE: Is it because the spirit understand it, or does the physical baby eventually…

BETTY: The spirit has already been educated to the language.

GEORGE: Fascinating.

BETTY: Yes. It already knows what language it is to speak, and is aware of all of that. It has already been educated to the parents and the possibilities of being born even into dysfunctional homes, which most homes are, and what those problems might be, and what the DNA –the cellular memory — of that particular family might bring you.

GEORGE: So it knows if there’s a violent family, it knows if there’s a loving family, it picks up on all that.


GEORGE: Now does that effect the fetus in the womb, in terms of the quality of the family?

BETTY: Yes, it does. And the fetus… the spirit is actually on a mission, perhaps even to that family, something that they have been given by God to bring to that family, to make a change. It’s like a tweak in the matrix of life. When one little tweak is done, it changes rapidly as it spreads out, and widens, and eventually, of course, it includes changing something in the world. And so, say for instance there is a very dysfunctional family and a child is born — and I talk to many women who have been sexually abused by their fathers — and as a spirit, you might — not “might”, you will — have the strength and the power to come into that family knowing that that is a possibility for you, and maybe even experiencing it, but knowing that you can make a difference in that family’s life, by changing that.

GEORGE: How so?

BETTY: Well because you change the energy, the cellular memory, the DNA, all of that is tweaked by the change that you make.

GEORGE: They change it when the baby’s born?

BETTY: The change that you make as an adult to your memory. In other words, if you do not pass that along through your experience, you actually tweak the matrix of change. You can forgive in a way that perhaps that person… most abusers have been abused.

GEORGE: I believe that. Yeah, that’s true.

BETTY: Yes. And through your forgiveness, you actually begin a healing process in that person’s life. It’s very… you’re very much like a sacrificial lamb, but only at the spiritual level would you have chosen to do that, because, of course, what mortal being in their right mind would choose such a thing? They wouldn’t. But as I said earlier, as a divine being, which we all are, when we go back to what we were instead of what we are right now, we will all be very surprised at how much more we are developed and how much more we can endure.

GEORGE: So, at least what you’re learning when you were in this state is that the spirit picks and chooses, comes in when it wants to, conception or at the moment of birth — and I assume at that point it’s when they breathe their first breath…

BETTY: Yes. And even the children who are born handicapped, these spirits never needed a life experience here. They come to gift that family with their presence.

GEORGE: Do we ever run out of souls or spirits to put into human bodies?

BETTY: No. No, we don’t.

And so, going through my life review beginning back at conception and coming forward to the age of thirty-one now, I experienced every moment of existence. I saw everything about my parents, family friends, the ripple effect of all things in my life. The way that I was mistreated, the way that I mistreated. And when I hurt someone, I had to experience their ripple. For instance, I never murdered anyone, but I know people are going to say, “What about murderers?” If you take someone’s life in some violent way, in your life review, you are going to have to experience the exact murder, the exact same deed that you performed on someone else.

GEORGE: What, you experience that in the physical… in the spiritual world?

BETTY: Yes. As though you were IN the physical. And then you experience every person who loved that person; every ounce of pain that they suffered, you will experience it. It’s the most horrible thing.

GEORGE: That’s your own hell, isn’t it?

BETTY: That is to be in hell. And so when people say, well, what you’re saying is you’re getting away from hell, no you don’t get away from hell. You get into experience. You have internalize what you have done so that you can go beyond your present existence into a higher realm, otherwise you could not go there. You have to know what you did to hurt another being.

GEORGE: Well why were they giving you a life reading, when they knew you were going back?

BETTY: I think of it as a gift, because, after coming back, I’m very careful what I do to other people. I don’t want to experience one negative thing in my life review again. I try to remember to do those small acts of kindness, because I know that those acts of kindness come back as a big splash.

GEORGE: You couldn’t have been that bad before you died, though, Betty.

BETTY: I did some things, but I’m not going to make it public. You know, it’s…

GEORGE: Were you… were you bad?

BETTY: Yeah. Kind of.

GEORGE: I can’t believe that, just talking to you!

BETTY: (laughing) Well, you know, aren’t we all?

GEORGE: Well, there are levels of what people have done in their lives. I can’t anticipate, or even expect, that you would have done anything horrendous.

BETTY: Well nothing horrendous. But, I was raised on an Indian reservation, I was raised in… Someone just emailed me about putting down Catholics… I’m sorry, but I have to tell the truth about this. They wanted to know what Catholic school I attended. The schools I attended were on Indian reservations. This is back when they wanted to educate the Indian people, and as a child, this is simply the way that they did it. And again, I have to be honest about that. So, having been raised…

GEORGE: Well that’s the way they did it… that’s they way they did it for you.

BETTY: That’s the way they did it for me. And many others, unfortunately. Most of the children I grew up with are no longer on this planet. I mean, they left years back through drugs, alcohol, murder, and being murdered, and it was a terrible time.

GEORGE: Sounds like you were in a bad group of people.

BETTY: Well, that’s how I was raised. And so, you can only be what you’ve experienced. I mean, that is what you give out to the world, is what you know to give. I mean, I’m not that big — I’m five-foot-three — but I was a fighter; I was in many fights, hurt many people. I wasn’t a heavy drinker or anything like that; I thank God I did not become an alcoholic. But I could have; it was there in my lifestyle to become one. I’m not happy with everything that I did back then. But since the experience, I have, I hope, more than made up for it, because I know that the greatest gift we can have now is to understand people, to love them, to forgive them. And I’m able to do that because it was shown to me in the heavenly realm I was in that we’re all here for a purpose. Each one of us came here, we promised God that we would fulfill a mission for him, a plan laid out for us. Nothing is by happenstance, by mistake, or any other mysterious thing.

GEORGE: Maybe you were supposed to die.

BETTY: Well, I was. I didn’t know that until years later, after I returned, that… well, to get back to… God told me to come back. That I had promised him I would complete a mission for him.

GEORGE: What was that mission, Betty?

BETTY: I think that part of the mission was writing “Embraced by the Light”. I say “I think” because I was told to write the book. But I was also told that the moment my mission was complete that I could return. I made them promise me that, to tell you quite honestly. I said I do not want to come back. I pleaded with them. I begged with them. And finally they said yes, the minute my mission was complete that they would come for me. And that’s been thirty years ago. This November, I celebrated my thirtieth anniversary of my death. And I’m still here. Which means one of two things to me. I either have another mission to fulfill — which I think I do, and I think I know what it is — and/or I am so ignorant, I didn’t get it right, (laughing) and I’m going to have to continue to live until I do!

GEORGE: What do you think that other mission might be, if you think you’re right?

BETTY: I was told about “Embraced by the Light”, the book, which I did. I was shown the front cover of it, I was shown the back of it, all of which was done according to what they told me. I was told that “Embraced by the Light” would be made into a film, a movie. That hasn’t happened yet. I’m now working on that project. I’m beginning to write the screenplay, but it’s been very difficult because of its context, not unlike Mel Gibson’s movie, I’m sure…

GEORGE: “Passion”. Sure.

BETTY: Yes. There are many people who, well, especially in Hollywood, who have a problem with Jesus, much less God. I mean, you know, God’s a problem, too, but Jesus particularly. But, you know, it’s going to get done, because I was told that it would be done. Now whether or not that included me as part of it or not, I’m not exactly sure.

GEORGE: Well you’ve got the hard thing done, and you’ve got the book finished.

BETTY: (laughing) I thought, all I’m trying to do is live my life through, and complete my mission, and return back where I know that I belong. But in the meantime, I have acquired sixteen grandchildren…

GEORGE: Did you? Good for you!

BETTY: Yes I did. And so it’s been wonderful, awesome, and Joe and I have celebrated our fortieth anniversary, which is tremendous, so…

GEORGE: Well aren’t you glad you came back, then?

BETTY: You know, I am. But not one day of the thirty years since I’ve returned have I not done something towards the experience. In other words, I’ve spent my… I’m compelled… in the back of my books, “The Awakening Heart” and “The Ripple Effect”, I say I won’t quit. Finally, in “The Ripple Effect” I wrote: I can’t quit. I’m compelled to continue to share this message until I’m taken home.

GEORGE: Alright, when we come back… Are we at a point where they’re going to send you back to your physical body?

BETTY: Yes we are.

GEORGE: Alright, we’ll do that when we come back, because I want to know how this happened, I want to know if nurses came running around, I want to know exactly what happened to you, Betty, medically, because I am… really wondered… you were dead for four hours, you said, and obviously no brain damage; you sound okay to me…


GEORGE: And with my guest tonight, Betty Eadie, who died. She’s back. At the top of the hour, we’ll open up the phone lines, give you a chance to chat with Betty, and also, if you’ve had a near-death experience, please, check in with us, let me know what that story is.



GEORGE: And welcome back. Betty Eadie my guest. Okay, Betty, pick it up from how you end up back in your body.

BETTY: Well, coming back into the body was… was the most horrible experience I have ever had in my life, but I was told I had to return to fulfill that purpose, and I wouldn’t come back until they would tell me what that purpose was. They promised me that they would show me, and they did, but that it would be removed from my memory, because it had to be in order for it to be fulfilled in the way that was necessary. That if I knew what the mission was, I would try to do it out of its timing, and obviously not perform that mission very well. That each one of us has a perfect time for everything that we do, even the selection of the time we will leave this earth, through death –. any type of death. Even thought that sounds absolutely incredible that people would select to die a horrible death, or through accident or through disease. This is all known to us before we come to earth. So, I was able to view what my experience, or the continuation of my mission was to be, but I really can’t tell you what that was.

GEORGE: Well when they sent you back to your body, did you, or do you remember the way that spirit came back in, that astral body came back into the body, or did you just wake up in the physical body?

BETTY: No, the body returned very quickly, reversing the travel through the tunnel, and into the hospital room. I hovered over my body for just a little bit, and I didn’t want to re-enter it.

GEORGE: Were there others in the room by that time, trying to revive you, trying to do something, or were you still alone in there?

BETTY: At the time I entered the hospital room itself, I was alone…

GEORGE: Still.

BETTY: …the body was alone.

GEORGE: So I would assume no medical technicians at that moment knew you were dead yet.

BETTY: They had already been in there and, I believe, came back shortly after I came back into the body. It’s what I’m guessing. I wasn’t there to know…

GEORGE: Were you covered up? Do you remember?

BETTY: No, no. I don’t even recall what they…

GEORGE: They would have covered you, I think, if they had realized you had died. I don’t think they would have left you there for four hours. You know what I mean.

BETTY: Right. No, I don’t think they did. I think at the time… if I had to give a good guess, because at this point I would be guessing, when I re-entered the body, I really don’t recall there being people there, or whether the body was covered again; I just know that I didn’t want to re-enter the body. But when I did enter the body, I felt a tremendous amount of energy — jolt. Now whether this was through the resucitation, I don’t know, or whether it was just the spirit re-entering the body and the body coming back to life, I really couldn’t say. I know that the doctors were there, the nurses were there, I know they were doing things to me after that point. But, what they were doing exactly, I don’t know. My spirit continued to leave the body, and I was actually taken out of the body from time to time, and I would continue to experience things. They wanted me to see the conditions of the world, and what was likely to happen to it, and so they would take me out of the body so I could experience that…

GEORGE: Would these be astral projections as opposed to dying again?

BETTY: Yes. Yes. They would be what they call… I think people call them OBE’s, or something like that…

GEORGE: Yeah. Out-of-body experiences. Sure.

BETTY: Right. And, yes, I would say that’s what I continued to do for many hours. Doctors were there; they talked with me. But they were very hesitant to share anything with me, and I was very hesitant to share anything with them.

GEORGE: I mean, were they aware that you had died, or did they think maybe you were unconscious?

BETTY: Yes. They were aware that I had died, but they didn’t tell me.

GEORGE: Alright, how… when you said you died for four hours, how do you know it wasn’t three minutes?

BETTY: Well, you know, I don’t know. It could have been three minutes. I was aware of the time at 9:30, and then a quarter to 10:00 when I was in my home, and then when I returned back to the body and looked at the clock, it was 2:30. What happened in between, I wouldn’t know, at all. I just don’t have a clue to it at all. Five years later, I went to the doctor and talked with him about my experience in the hospital, and he told me then that they knew that I had died.

GEORGE: Okay, now. At this point, were the recollections of the after-death experience… were they there, or did they come later on?

BETTY: They were there from the moment I returned to the body, well not just returned to the body, they were there always, because of the experience. I knew of them, and with perfect clarity. As I mentioned earlier, when I begin to talk about the experience, and really dig into it, put my soul into it, I re-experience it. It’s amazing. It’s been thirty years, and yet this is more real to me than any other experience I have experienced on this planet.

GEORGE: Seems like yesterday, doesn’t it?

BETTY: Yes. Absolutely.

GEORGE: When you started to get involved in near-death studies… tell me a little bit about that, with the local university.

BETTY: Yes. I saw an ad in the paper, and of course this is a couple of years after the experience. Raymond Moody had come out with his book, “Life After Life” — that was in ’95 — and so it was some time about that time, and one of the universities was studying near-death, and wanted to know if there was anyone that might have thought they experienced such a thing. I contacted them, and of course interviewed with them, and began this study. It was Raymond’s book, actually, where I’d learned about near-death experiences, because I always referred to it as my “death experience”, but it was wonderful. It was so enlightening to know that other people had experienced what I experienced. There was also a near-death studies chapter, it’s a group of people who had begun to meet here in Seattle. I went to their group and listened to experiences. Many people like myself were sharing for the first time, and I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a revival meeting…

GEORGE: No, I’ve never been to one of those!

BETTY: (laughing) Well I’ll tell you what, I have, and as a child I went to one and watched the people there, and the experience, the “high” that they get from sharing…

GEORGE: Well it’s an energy!

BETTY: It’s an energy, yes. And I felt that when I shared my experience in front of these few people there — there weren’t very many there, but to be able to tell someone that knew or understood at some level what I experienced, without criticism, without doubt, without anything but just an open ear, was the most incredible experience to me, because, who else could you tell this experience to?

GEORGE: Well how versed were you, or how versed were they? I mean, did you teach them too?

BETTY: At that time, in sharing my experience, my experience was the most in-depth experience at that time. Raymond Moody had also said that, you know, he had not heard one quite so deep, until later on when people began coming out with their experiences. It became… you know, they were braver then… in numbers, you feel so comforted. But, yes, we all began to learn from each other and share our experience. So then began my study. I began looking for people who had near-death experiences. I went to… I’m in Seattle area; we have a hospital here… deals in death and dying, and did volunteer work there just so I could be around people preparing to leave this earth. I wanted to talk with them, as they made their transition, because I learned so much about the process of dying and what happens the moment you leave this earth, and who awaits you on the other side.

GEORGE: Did you try telling them that?

BETTY: Oh yes! I did.

GEORGE: You must have comforted a lot of people.

BETTY: Oh, I did. And that gave me a tremendous amount of joy, because I knew that, well, I knew what most people didn’t know, and I felt that I had to share my experience with those who also brought me a little closer to the realm that I just left, because I was so incredibly homesick, and longed for that place. I became agoraphobic and had anxiety attacks, and went into deep depression for about six years after the initial experience. Sharing my experience with others helped me to overcome that.

GEORGE: What’s it like to stare into the eyes of someone who’s about ready to die?

BETTY: When they are frightened, it is very, very painful. But when they understand, or when they are experiencing something like I experienced — and they can, if they are aware of it; fear will block experience — and so this is why I wanted to share with them what I experienced, so at the moment of their death, they would be open to the visitors in the room with them, and their greeting party.

GEORGE: Can you share with us, Betty, if you remember, maybe the one individual, the one story of someone who died, and then passed over, and before they died, you know, maybe what your conversation with them might have been? I’m just curious to see how they adapted to this.

BETTY: The one that sticks out in my mind at this moment is actually a man that was on death row a couple of years ago. And a few years before that I received a letter from him, he told he was going to be put to death, and he asked me to be his spiritual advisor. I did because I had had a dream about this man a couple of years before I heard from him, and I knew that I would be helping a man go to the other side, while he was put to death. I went to Texas — this is where this man was incarcerated — and met with him on several occasions. A half hour before he was put to death, I was allowed in his cell, and to talk with him as his spiritual advisor. Over the course of a few months, of course, I had shared my experience with him, and we sat and we talked — he had a couple of children, teenagers he was leaving behind — and we talked about them. And this man wasn’t a really violent man, but he was prepared to go down violently, as most people on death row are. In fact they make a pact that they will not be put to death without a least trying to take the warden with them, or doing some other act of violence.

GEORGE: You mean, so, they had to cuff them, or something like that?

BETTY: Yes, they make a pact. Well, I was able to bring this man to some peace, that he wouldn’t want to perform another act of violence, that his greater comfort and experience on the other side would be for him to show love. But he needed to forgive the warden and the man who would be there to execute the, well, the…

GEORGE: Well why should he forgive them? He’s the one who killed somebody.

BETTY: Because they were putting him to death, and the guilt that they would feel in doing that. So we talked about it. I really didn’t know whether this man would have faith enough in God, faith enough in me, to carry this out at the moment of his death. A half hour later, I was taken to the room to view him being put to death, the most horrible experience in my life.

GEORGE: Lethal injection, or…?

BETTY: Yes, lethal injection. And he was laying there, looking into my eyes. And he said he would, and he would remember everything I told him about the moment of his death and who would greet him. The man was perfect in death. I was just astonished. He forgave everyone.

GEORGE: Well did he have any remorse for what HE did?

BETTY: Oh yes, and he had already taken care of that months previous to that. It was just incredible. The… I don’t know, there are no words to describe it. It took me, actually, about a year and a half to overcome the trauma that I experienced. He experienced, of course, the trauma of death, of the physical death, I’m sure, but spiritually he did not. He was spiritually prepared and ready to meet God on the other side.

GEORGE: Now, now let me ask you this, because you don’t believe in hell, and I am not a believer that a murderer like that will be floating around heaven with people who are spiritual and kind during their life. What do you think happened to this guy’s soul?

BETTY: What I think happened to him… In the first place, you have to back up to what mutated. What happened, what was his change? When he was seven years old, he was sexually abused by his father until he was nine. His father was put into jail because of the abuse. His mother remarried. His stepfather began the abuse again, beating on the mother. When he was ten, he hit the stepfather with a bottle to keep him away from his mother, wounding him enough to where he was placed into a reformatory. From the reformatory, he was abused again sexually and spiritually, and in every way. He had a tremendous amount of anger. He was on drugs; he had a $400 drug habit per day when he committed murder to get more money for more drugs. I would say that God, taking this all in consideration, this man was a wounded being. He didn’t do any of this in his right mind — he didn’t have a right mind.

GEORGE: He was put behind the eight ball since the get-go, wasn’t he?

BETTY: He was doomed from the very beginning. I would like imagine that when he left his body that he was met and held in the arms of Christ. And that he would spend an eternity at least in a healing process.

GEORGE: I wonder… I wonder, Betty, if he was met by the soul of the person he killed?

BETTY: He actually had an experience with that man. One of these days I’m going to write about it and put it on my website; the story is incredible.

GEORGE: Alright, well we’re going to come right back. Maybe we’ll chat a little about that, and we’ll definitely open up the phone lines, Betty, when we come back. If you want to chat with Betty Eadie, or also give us your near-death experience, we would love to hear that. I’m George Noory, and this is Coast to Coast Worldwide AM.


GEORGE: Indeed, with my guest Betty Eadie. We’ll be back with her now, and your phone calls, and if you have had any near-death experience stories, we’ll let you relate them, too.



GEORGE: Betty, before we take the JAMMED phone calls here for you, can you relate a little bit of that story of the person on death row, and the person that he killed? You said that there was some kind of meeting of the minds, so to speak?

BETTY: He was actually visited by the man that he killed, and the man forgave him. It took a couple of years; he was visited three times, and on the third visit the man forgave him, which I thought was incredible. And the story is really too detailed to tell, and would be hard for me to try to break it down without, well, I would probably butcher the story.

GEORGE: I understand. Could you forgive someone who murdered you?

BETTY: Yes. I could. Because I…

GEORGE: What about someone who murdered, maybe, one of your seven children?

BETTY: Yes, I could.

GEORGE: I couldn’t do it.

BETTY: And I know that I wouldn’t have been able to do that had I not had the experience. It doesn’t mean you put up with it or that you would allow it — you would prevent it if you could — but nothing passes by God without his approval. Absolutely nothing. It’s very difficult for people to understand that our lives are not controlled so much, but they are in perfect harmony with God for our experience here.

GEORGE: Well I guess I’m not at that level of perfection yet, where I’d be able to forgive and forget. I couldn’t do it.

BETTY: I think that you… Well, obviously you are here to learn to love, and so you will eventually get there. But, you would have to know that the person committing the murder had had a very tragic experience themselves.

GEORGE: Oh no doubt. No doubt. There aren’t a lot… other than a diehard killer…

BETTY: Yeah, you hate the crime, but you cannot hate the individual. You must forgive them. And when you do that, then you’ll understand with more perfect love.

GEORGE: But if you don’t, if you don’t forgive that person that killed, let’s say, your child, that doesn’t mean that you are a bad person.

BETTY: No, it doesn’t. What it does do, though, is it… I was shown the physical effects of that lack of forgiveness. It was shown to me in the aura of an individual — it’s hate, it’s like hatred — and when you have that hatred, you can visualize it like a black hole, or a space, in your aura, in your energy field. And that black space is like a magnet that attracts like energy to it, and over time that like energy becomes disease. It causes the body and the mind to become ill. So when you see the effect of holding on to that type of energy, you wouldn’t want it.

GEORGE: Alright, let’s go to the phones. You ready, Betty?


GEORGE: First-time caller line, welcome to Coast-to-Coast, you’re on the air with Betty Eadie. Hi there.

CALLER: Hi there, George. Hi Betty.

BETTY/GEORGE: Hello. Welcome.

CALLER: This is Ray from Lake Arrowhead, California.

GEORGE: Mm-hmm. Go ahead, Ray.

CALLER: Betty, I’ve read your book “Embraced”, and I’ve had two near-death experiences, one when I was ten, and one when I was sixteen. And I’ve been troubled ever since because I can’t explain it to anybody. Nobody understands. Even my wife of twenty-eight years seems to… it’s almost trivial to her. Did you experience any of that?

BETTY: Oh absolutely. For years, even though my husband believes me because he knows that I do not lie, that I would rather face anything else. I know that truth just makes you feel so good, and why lie about it, what’s there to gain? And he knew that about me, but he couldn’t quite, he just can’t grasp the experience, and it was very difficult, very frustrating for me. I had a man who was ninety-four years old call me, when my telephone number was still in the telephone book; he had not told anyone about an experience he had when he was twenty-one with death, and he lived a lifetime in agony, just as you are feeling, having this experience that you want someone to understand. It’s very frustrating, isn’t it?

CALLER: And I was sent back, as you, with this huge purpose, and I’ve been trying to find it ever since, and it seems to get [?] further and further. How is it you managed to find your purpose?

BETTY: But I haven’t.

CALLER: You haven’t yet.

BETTY: No! Oh no! I know that I have done some of the things I was told to do, but this continuation of my mission still goes on. I mean it’s thirty years since I had the experience, and I was told that not one of us leave this earth until we fulfilled our mission. And I’m still here, and I expected to be gone within months of the experience.

GEORGE: How did you happen to have two near-death experiences at such a young age? What happened to you?

CALLER: Well, George, the first one was an accident, it happened on a school yard. There was a… I was rough-housing with a friend, and I got slammed into the pavement pretty hard. And the second one was a drug overdose at sixteen. And… I don’t like talking about that one very much.

GEORGE: Ah. I understand, I understand. Well, I’m glad you’re still with us.

BETTY: Was that a negative experience, the drug overdose?

CALLER: No. It was…

BETTY: Was it a positive one?


BETTY: Some people have a negative experience; in other words, some people will actually experience hell. And I was told that God uses what is, and oftimes he will use hell as a part of a near-death experience to show us how painful it would be if we continued on in a certain lifestyle.

GEORGE: Betty, because you are now so sensitive, do you sometimes experience spirits and ghosts? Do you see them running around houses and things like that?

BETTY: I do. I don’t talk about it very often for obvious reasons, but yes, I still have retained some sensitivity to that. What I am more sensitive to, and that is connecting with people’s thoughts, connecting with their energy fields. I can sense when they are about to face something or what they feel. That is more challenging to live with than actual ghosts or spirits, you know, disincarnate spirits.

GEORGE: Why don’t they just go away?

BETTY: Well, because they have interests here as well.

GEORGE: Probably financial interests. (They both laugh.) You never know. Wildcard line, welcome to Coast to Coast. You’re on the air with us. Hi there.

CALLER: Yeah, hi.

GEORGE: Yeah, go ahead.

CALLER: I’ve got a couple of philosophical questions, I guess, for Betty, right?

GEORGE: Sure. She is listening and ready to go.

CALLER: Okay. Alright, you believe in hell on earth, and the illusion of hell, like the fear of hell…

BETTY: I believe… (caller interrupts, then she proceeds) I guess I do believe life can be hell here on earth, but I also believe in the life review, which is a form of hell to me. I do not believe that God casts us into any fiery furnace or lake or whatever. No, I simply cannot even conceive of that. But I do know that he has wisdom, and he wants us to grow to the wisdom he has, and we can do that by experiencing everything that we have created, everything that we have done. We internalize that knowledge, and we grow from that. And so, when you do wrong, if you don’t know what wrong you’ve done, how can you grow beyond that? You cannot. And so he allows us to experience that for our own benefit.

CALLER: Right. Kind of like showing your children a belt, but not actually spanking them.

BETTY: Well, maybe a little bit more than that. Sometimes, you know, the native people never remove their children when their children are near fire, they always allow their children –. they protect them, and not allow them to get painfully hurt — but they allow them to be a little bit burnt, right? And that child might be almost a year old, will never go near fire again, not in that way. They’re more cautious, but they will continue to explore. And that’s what God wants from us. In fact, he told me that we make mistakes here, that’s what we’re here to do. It is through our mistakes that we have the greatest growth.

GEORGE: As long as we learn from those, right?

BETTY: Yes. But you will continue to make the same mistakes until you learn, don’t we? We do this all the time.

CALLER: What’s your belief, like, soul-less people, people without conscience or anything, with no guilt trip whatsoever…

BETTY: Many of these people are actually placed on this planet for our experience. It’s very difficult to judge which way that is. I, for instance… In “Embraced by the Light”, you’ll read where I wrote about, and I received — boy, I tell you what, I get slammed a lot — in this particular vision that they showed me is one of those that people haven’t like to read about. And I was a very judgmental person before I had my death experience, and the heavens scrolled back and they told me to look down and explain to them what I saw. And what I saw was a drunken man on the street. He had been that way most of his life. And I said in a very judgmental fashion, “Why, a drunken old bum.” And they said, “We’re going to take him out of his body so that you can see what this man’s spirit is truly like.” And they took him out of his body, and I saw his spirit — his spirit outshone mine by… a bazillion watts. He was a tremendous spirit. They said he was here as a teacher only, that he didn’t need an experience on earth, but that he was here to help us here, to teach one man, one soul actually. It was an attorney who would make eye contact with him, and through that eye contact, a remembrance of their commitment to each other before they came here would be transmitted, and that attorney would do wonderful work for many, many people because of this one man. And so we cannot judge one person’s mission here, not one single soul.

GEORGE: The possibilities of guardian angels… Did that ever come up?

BETTY: Oh, we all have them. I had eight before I returned to the earth…

GEORGE: Eight!!

BETTY: Eight, uh-huh.

GEORGE: Give me a few, would you?

BETTY: Well, you may already have more! I mean, you know, you don’t believe in a lot of things, you probably do have more.

GEORGE: (laughing) What do you… Thanks a lot, Betty! What do you need so many for?

BETTY: Well, there are those… We’re constantly receiving inspiration. When you live in the fast lane, which many of us chose to do… When we came here, life is like a river, and when we came, we chose the fast rapid waters, some chose to go ebb and tide along the bank, they wanted something a little more mellow, maybe their spirit, that’s where their spirit level was. Many of us just dove right in, and I’m sure that that’s what I did because I tend to live in the fast lane of things. I would need more guardian angels for that. I would think that you would too.

GEORGE: (laughing) Thanks. East of the Rockies, welcome to Coast to Coast. Hi there.

CALLER: Yes, good morning, George. Good morning, Betty.

BETTY/GEORGE: Good morning.

CALLER: Very interesting program. This is Francis calling from Brooklyn, and what you said, Betty, seems to make a lot of sense after sort of exploring the Western metaphysical traditions of the last century, about a compassionate creator for all of humankind. But I have a question. We’ve been going through so many very divisive things in the last two years, especially the war in Iraq. It’s not only tearing the people of Iraq apart, but it’s tearing Americans apart. And I’m wondering, have you come across what is a purpose for war, you know, what can we do to sort of prevent it or learn from it, or, you know, I guess maybe that’s the question that’s been on the top of my mind.

BETTY: Yeah. Well in life, our experience on this particular earth is to learn to love unconditionally. And we are challenged with war, we are challenged with many things that will bring us eventually to that, if we will let it. Now, of course, I don’t know who believes this besides me, but this is a religious war we are going through. It will become known as a religious war. It’s religious, and yet again it tends to point to certain attributes that we are to overcome, such as greed. And power, the need for control and power, all of that. And this is what’s happening right now. We have many precious souls giving up their lives so that we might learn. From the heavenly realm, this war is actually going to benefit us; we can benefit from it. And we should do that, and quickly learn, so that we can get past this.

GEORGE: Betty, I hear all kinds of stories where someone says he’s driving on the freeway, he falls asleep, he’s ready to pull into an oncoming car on the other side, and all of sudden a hand reaches in and steers him back to safety, and there’s nobody else in the car with him. What is happening with people like that?

BETTY: This is part of their guardianship. I could tell you a bazillion stories that are just incredible. And one story actually happened to my daughter. She rolled over in her car. She didn’t have her seatbelt on. And as the car skidded and flipped in the ditch, the tire catching in the ditch, arms wrapped around her, like from behind her, and held her in place. Many people… and you could say, okay, then why… perhaps someone else who had a family member killed in a car, why didn’t their loved one survive? I can tell you beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was their time to go. And yet that sounds so incredible, I mean it’s just… How can that be? And yet, I know and believe with all my heart that that is so.

GEORGE: Yeah, I tell you what, there is something there that is deeper than most can imagine.

Most people who have a near-death experience don’t have a life review like you did. How come?

BETTY: They just don’t recall it. I think most people who have near-death experiences really do have an experience that is in greater depth than they recall. Because much of what I experienced was actually taken from me. And I’m kind of glad, because if I had to share it all… I mean, there are some things I haven’t talked about, because what I wrote about in “Embraced by the Light” was almost too incredible. I had to keep some things that people just simply wouldn’t understand. Even in the writing of “Embraced”, it’s carefully crafted to share it in the most perfect form, but when I read it, it doesn’t tell it exact. I don’t know that there is a way to tell it perfectly.

GEORGE: Sometimes you just have to experience it. We’ll all have to eventually, Betty. Stay with us. More of your phone calls, on Coast to Coast AM, America’s most listened-to late night talk show, because you made it that way. I’m George Noory, back in a moment.



GEORGE: Betty Eadie my guest. I’m George Noory, of course. Betty has had a near-death experience, happened at the age of thirty-one, thirty years ago. Betty, what about somebody who is a non-believer, just doesn’t believe, doesn’t have the faith, and has one of these experiences. What happens to them?

BETTY: They are brought to understand. In fact, a woman I am helping write a book about the experience her husband had — he was actually an atheist; he was a professor at the Berkley University, this man was a paleontologist, grew up in science, and didn’t believe in God, an atheist. Spent many years on radio, etc., sharing his belief in nothing, no one, and just science. When he died, back in 19… I think it was ’76, the hospital ended up calling him The Man Who Wouldn’t Die, because he actually had about four near-death experiences in a row.


BETTY: Yes. This is the truth. I mean, he died, they took him down to the room that they take the people who die, only to retrieve him and bring him back up and then he died again, they took him back down again… This went on, four times. Finally he did pass.

GEORGE: In my earlier days in radio, I had many near-death experiences while I was on the air! (both laugh)

BETTY: Well this man died and met with God. And he apologized for having lived his entire life — he was in his late seventies when he died — apologized for living his entire life and never believing in God. And God said, “It wasn’t for you to believe in me. But your life served its purpose. It served to help those who did believe in me.”

GEORGE: That’s interesting.

BETTY: Oh, it’s awesome. It’s an awesome, awesome story.

GEORGE: More phone calls. You ready for some more?

BETTY: Mm-hmm!

GEORGE: Wildcard line, welcome to Coast to Coast. You’re on with Betty Eadie! Hi there.


GEORGE: Yeah, go ahead.

CALLER: Hi, this is Lori. I’m from [?] New York.

GEORGE: Hi Lori.

CALLER: About… I was twenty-six, which is about ten years ago, I O.D.ed, and died. It was really a different experience from what she was talking about. I had a niece who had died a couple of months before that — she was only two — and I had a brother who had died in ’82, and he was only four. And I had met with them during this experience. And even though they were at that age when I saw them — and this was in a beautiful little field, and they were playing and stuff like that — they talked as if they were an adult. And they told me I had to go home, that there was something I had to do.

GEORGE: And you didn’t want to go, did you? You didn’t want to come back.

CALLER: No, I did not. No. I have a long history at that point of suicide attempts, depression, the whole works.

GEORGE: Oh my. You’re… How’re you doing now? You okay?

CALLER: I’m doing really well! Right now I’m… I got out of an abusive relationship, I just got my bachelor’s degree in teaching…

GEORGE: Good for you!

CALLER: …and I start working on my Master’s in February.

GEORGE: See, they helped you… So they send you back, you didn’t want to go, but they did… Did they have to bring you back to your body kicking and screaming?

CALLER: Well they gave me a choice. (laughing) They showed me hell, and told me I could go there, or I could go back to my body.

GEORGE: Was it a difficult choice for you?

CALLER: No. (laughing)

GEORGE: You came back.

CALLER: No, no. It was an awful sight. And I know I’ve read about people who have seen hell with a near-death…

BETTY: Yes, there’s a… Barbara Rommer, and I can’t remember the title of her book. [Blessing in Disguise: Another Side of the Near-Death Experience] But if people are interested in what you just stated, if they would look for her book, she wrote the perfect book about people who have had near-death experiences and experienced hell. I think that that will explain it. With the short time that I’m here on the radio, and the difficulty in trying to explain it, I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone. I do not believe in hell; I still don’t believe in hell, although I encourage people who have had hell experiences to share them, because there is a great understanding that you receive from the hell experience. And so if you’ll remember her name — write that down and look for her book — you can get it in the library — Barbara Rommer — and it’s filled with experiences of people who have had experience with hell and not heaven.

GEORGE: How does she spell her last name?

BETTY: I believe it’s R-O-M-M-E-R.

GEORGE: Okay. Thanks. You’re doing alright.

CALLER: Yeah, it was a life-changing…

GEORGE: Good for you. Good for you. Well, you know, you’re going to get your Ph.D. eventually the way you’re going!

CALLER: Well, yeah. (laughing) Actually I have a job, I’m going to be directing my own school when I finish my Master’s.

GEORGE: Good for you. Keep listening.

CALLER: I do every night now.

GEORGE: Appreciate your call.

CALLER: Yep. Thank you.

GEORGE: First-time caller line. You are on… No, let’s go East of the Rockies. That’s been blinking for awhile. You’re on Coast to Coast. Hi there.

CALLER: Hi! Can you hear me?

GEORGE: I sure can, loud and clear.

CALLER: Good! This is Jane from Sioux Falls. Do you know where that’s at, Betty?

BETTY: Yes I do.

CALLER: Well sure! Well anyway, it’s just great and wonderful to hear a comforting, warm voice like yours explaining to us on earth here what love is all about, that brilliant immaculate love that’s waiting for us. And I just think you have such a glorious mission being sent back to earth here to help us understand that.

BETTY: Well thank you.

CALLER: And I wanted to ask you: How would we go about, and is it important for us — how would we go about choosing death rather than succumbing to performing an act of hatred?

BETTY: I think that our greatest gift to God is to live our life through; I mean, he blessed us to have it. We all, each one, have a purpose here on this earth, something that we promised him that we would do. I’m a promise-keeper, and I think that, well, my prayer last night was “God, please help me through the day, and the next few days,” because I want so much to keep my promise to him. I would not want to die and go back and see him and know that I did not complete that. So I would live this life over ANYTHING that I had to endure, no matter what it is, come hell or high water. This is his gift to me, and so continuing in doing that, and I encourage everyone out there: Life wasn’t meant to be easy. It’s meant to be filled with challenges. And not only that, but I saw firsthand that not one of us will endure one thing that we cannot stand, that we are gifted with the ability to see it through.

CALLER: Sure, that sounds great to me. (laughing)

BETTY: Yes it does. And God bless you, hang in there, like everyone else. And I wouldn’t want anyone to be confused, you know, I’ve been kind of glancing at my email here and some people are talking about Jesus and their misunderstanding that my belief in him… it’s all a matter of words. This person said, “He’s your Lord and Savior…”, etc., etc. — I never said he wasn’t, but they, not understanding the Bible — Lord and Savior means someone came and rescued you, and Jesus did that in that he brought the truth back to the earth, that we can get to God, the Father, through love. And it’s through that gateway, which is narrow, that we can return back to God. And that’s what this earth life is all about, is learning how to love, so we can go back to our Father in heaven who IS love. And so no matter how great the challenge, stick with love, and just say to yourself: You know what? I’m going to get through this! I have to learn to love myself and love every other mortal being on this earth, and I can do that.

GEORGE: In addition to your books, Betty, the book you just recommended by Barbara Rommer is “Blessing in Disguise”.

BETTY: Oh, thank you!

GEORGE: Okay? There you go. Let’s go back to the calls. West of the Rockies, welcome to Coast to Coast, you are on the air. Hi there.

CALLER: Hi, is this me?

GEORGE: Yes it is, sir, go ahead.

CALLER: Oh. Well, my question, my predicament here is: I’ve had an enlightenment experience which I see very much the same as a near-death experience or life-after-death experience, and I’m having some difficulties and I was wondering if Betty would be able to help me out. It’s kind of a little bit of a background thing to get up…

GEORGE: Well I tell you what, why don’t we do this. Betty, do you take personal emails, do you help people that way?

BETTY: I would hate to say yes because I receive thousands of emails. I do read them but I really have not been able to get back to too many. However, if you were to email me tonight, I…

CALLER: I don’t have a computer right now…

GEORGE: How do we do this? Because I don’t have that kind of time right now to probably get the rest of his story, and I don’t want to cut him off in midstream.

BETTY: Maybe he could write me?

GEORGE: Alright, how about it. Do you have a pencil there, sir?

CALLER: Yes I do.

GEORGE: Okay. How about an address, Betty…

BETTY: Yes. It’s a P.O. box. It’s betty@… I was about to give you my email address… It’s P.O. Box 25480, Seattle, WA, 98125.

GEORGE: We’ll give that one more time for you, sir. (repeats address) And then… I tell you what, because I don’t want you to get inundated with letters as well, if you put a self-addressed stamped envelope back to yourself… Betty, write him a little letter and send it back to him, would you do that for us?

BETTY: Yes, I will.

GEORGE: Okay, I appreciate that. Let’s move on. Let’s go to our first-time caller line. You’re on Coast to Coast with us. Hello!

CALLER: Hi there!


CALLER: This is Maureen calling from the heart of the Rockies in Frisco, Colorado.

GEORGE: Hello Maureen!

CALLER: I have to tell you I am so thrilled with your program that I actually sponsor it on our late-night radio programming.

GEORGE: Oh do you!

CALLER: I do! High Country radio out of Dillon, Granby, and Kremlin.

GEORGE: Well thank you! I appreciate that!

CALLER: My pleasure! I have a question for Betty, and it has to do with the comments regarding suicide and how that is like the ultimately bad thing to do, or that you should not make that choice. And I’m challenged by that in the saying that when your time is up, your time is up, and nothing happens without God’s consent. And so, I have a friend who has committed suicide, and I know a number of people who have as well, and so how is it possible that they pass if it’s not their time, even if it is by their own hand?

BETTY: Because everything that passes the Father is allowed. He allows it, because he allows us free will to work within our lives. And, people who take their lives are wounded souls. Would you agree with that?

CALLER: Absolutely.

BETTY: They are not in their right minds, and anyone who would say that they are just simply don’t know. God would not cast them out. I know that firsthand. I know that’s very difficult to a world that has grown traditionally to believe that if you took your lives you would cast into hell. Not to say that during your experience through a life review that you might not have to experience a time of, I guess, renewal, a time of education. That would be devastating to the soul when you knew that you threw back God’s gift of life in his face practically. And so you wouldn’t want to do this. But I just am a firm believer that ANYONE who takes their life is not in their right mind.

CALLER: Mm-hmm. And so, is it your belief that there’s something that takes place in the interim before they come back again for the next life, or the next…

BETTY: Yes, they’d have to go through a healing. And people who take their own life would have to go through the healing. And this is part of the space that I think that… I went to this dark space at first. I was a wounded soul in many ways, and I believe that the healing, the black void, the space where I received God’s love, in spite of the upbringing I had, and where I was, my perception and understanding, he loved me regardless. But I had to go through a cleansing in order to be received by him.

CALLER: Is there anything we can do from the earth plane to help our loved ones who have committed suicide?

BETTY: Yes. Prayer. Prayer. It’s the most incredible weapon, it’s the most incredible gift.

CALLER: And should that take any particular form?

BETTY: No. No form at all, except for your prayer to God, and you talk to him just like I’m talking to you right now. All you have to say is — I refer to him as Father because he’s the Father-creator of all things — and I just say: Father, you know how things are today. Bless this person, whatever, whatever, whatever, just as you would to a father. And he hears all prayers. Your prayer, because it is unselfish, would be one that would be received to him like a tremendous beam of light, and not the little pinpoints of light which are usually very selfish prayers. I was shone prayers and how they go up to heaven, and they’re like… they go up like energy, waves of energy. The broader the beam, the less selfish, the purer form of prayer. And those prayers, angels rush out to answer those prayers immediately, they are orchestrated by God to do so.

GEORGE: Betty, I want to thank you for an enlightening program. The clock is ticking. Your books: “Embraced by the Light”, “The Awakening Heart”… Your website, of course, will direct a lot of people to your books… I assume also sells them?

BETTY: Yes they do, and they can find them in the library. My work is not about money as people would imagine it is, it’s about the message of God’s unconditional love.

GEORGE: You’re one of the first authors that’s ever said “Go to the library.”

BETTY: I prefer them to go to the library, because then (laughing) they won’t look at me and say, “She’s after the money.” I really don’t care how they get this message, I just want them to GET THE MESSAGE.

GEORGE: Well let me congratulate you on enlightening a lot of people. It’s kind of refreshing to do that every once in a while.

BETTY: Thank you very much, and thank you SO much for having me on your show.

GEORGE: Okay, Betty. You take care. You have a great night, okay?

BETTY: Yes I will.


An Interview with Bestselling Author
Betty J. Eadie

By Jim Perkins

Betty Eadie’s publisher, Gold Leaf Press, was calling her book “Embraced By The Light”, a publishing phenomenon after it had been on the New York Times Bestseller list a scant six months. That was in August. In less than a year it has sold more than one million copies. It is the first book Eadie has ever written and that Gold Leaf Press has ever published – it is still going strong.

Gold Leaf Press was formed for the express purpose of publishing Eadie’s book. She spoke about her near-death experience several times in the year and a half before her book was published, so people were already familiar with it. The first six months it was on the market it sold primarily by word of mouth. It was called a phenomenon becaue people would read it, then buy 10 or 15 more copies for family and friends.
Eadie is the mother of eight children and grandmother of eight. Her husband Joe, retired from the Air Force, is now employed by a “major aerospace corporation” in Seattle.
As the daughter of a Sioux-Indian mother, Eadie was raised in rural Nebraska and on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. After leaving school at the age of 15 to care for a younger sister, she returned to complete high school and is nearing a college degree. She owns a successful business as a registered counselor and works as a volunteer for a major cancer research center.
Embraced By The Light is Eadie’s account of a near-death experience she had at the age of 31. It begins with her checking into the hospital for a hysterectomy. Then something went wrong. She died when she wasn’t supposed to. She as restored to life a changed woman, believing she had a message of love to share with other people. The message came from Jesus. She has some startling things to say about him.
TT: Betty, you say in you book that Jesus is a separate being from God, with his own divine purpose. Doesn’t this go somewhat against the teaching of most Protestant churches?
Eadie: “My Protestant teaching ws that God the Father and Jesus were one being. When I had my experience I learned that Jesus is the son of God, he shares Godhood, but he himself is not God. The Trinity is still valid if I understand it correctly, though. It’s like saying your parents are one: they’re not the same person, but they are one in their shared union. As I checked the Scripture out, this made a lot of sense – united as one, but not the same person.”
TT: How do you answer people who say you’re wrong?
Eadie: “I don’t worry about people who say I’m wrong. All I’m doing is sharing my experience. I’m not trying to convince anyone.”
TT: How do you answer accusations that you are a New Age believer?
Eadie: “Some Christians along the Bible belt have said my book sounds New Age, but the New Agers say it sounds Christian. Book store owners don’t know whether to place my book in the Christian section of the New Age section but it’s God-inspired, so it can sit in a section by itself.”
“I receive many letters from people who say they can tell I’m Muslim or Buddhist or Catholic. But I believe all faiths have a common thread. Most church goers don’t truly know what other religions believe, yet they are very quick to criticize other religions.”
TT: In you book you say, quote: “All healing takes place within.” Would you elaborate on that a little bit?
Eadie: “I think it’s a fairly common belief now that our spirits heal our bodies. I’ve worked with many physicians and they know that medicine alone does not heal. You can give the same medicine to two people, one will heal, the other won’t. If a person is not receptive to the medicince, he or she will no heal.
“It’s not what you consume, but what you absorb. If you absorb belief, you absorb the medicine. We can choose to reject sickness. Sometimes, of course, you get sick for a reason. When you get a cold or the flu it’s for a good reason; it’s to slow you down, give your body rest.”
TT: One of the more intriguing aspects of your book is the idea that people, as spirits in heaven, or wherever, choose to come to earth as mentally or physically handicapped children to help themselves and their parents acheive spritual growth.
Eadie: “That’s one of the most well-received sections of the book. Many people with handicapped children have come to recognize those children as being special. These kids are so full of love.
“I had a letter once from a person who had been abused as a child. This person said she knew she had to select her parents to helpt them change their memory patterns. Child abuse is not only passed down, but it’s contained in our cell’s memories. We can’t always guess what our purpose in life is, but it is possible that a child’s parents might not learn abuse is wrong, but that child will choose not to pass that abuse along. I receive many letters where the writer says, ‘I would not have chosen my parents because they were abusive or alcoholic or something else and I choose not to be that way. But these letters just prove my point.
“It’s like going to college. You don’t take only easy classes. Some classes are harder than others and they’re constructed that way to help you learn. Many of us, having a pure knowledge God, selected the situation in which we could grow.”
TT: What is pure knowledge? How do you define pure knowledge?
Eadie: “Pure knowledge is pure understanding of anything you want to understand. For instance, I hear you typing on a computer keyboard. If you wanted a pure understanding of your computer, the knowledge of who the manufacturer is, who inspired production, who packaged it, how it ended up on your desk and so one, it would flow through you.”
TT: Can we gain knowledge of people in the same way?
Eadie: “In my life review, which was part of my near-death experience, I suddenly understood my entire life, from birth on I understood my parents, my teachers, everyone who contributed to who I am today.”
TT: That sounds like something out of psychology. Don’t psychologists and psychiatrists try to take you back to your childhood to help you understand who you are today?
Eadie: “Yes and in fact, I became a hypnotherapist because I learned you have to go back to your core, to what made you, what created your emotions (ultimately that’s God), what you learned from your environments, your parents and so on.”
TT: Hypnotherapy is somewhat controversial these days in that a lot of people believe hypnotherapists are putting false memories of childhood abuse into their patient’s head.
Eadie: “You believe many things because someone tells you to believe. You receive subconscious suggestions everyday from the television, from newspapers, etc. Hypnotherapy is certainly no more dangerous than television.”
TT: When did you have your near-death experience?
Eadie: “Twenty years ago last November. People have asked me why I didn’t write the book then. I certainly could have used the money because I needed money more when my kids were younger. But I waited to write the book because there’s a part of it that’s about my adopted daughter, now 14, and I felt she had to reach this age to be abe to understand it.”
“The timing is right, now. I feel like people need the book now. But I’ve been talking to others about my experience all along, particularly when I’ve counseled someone one-on-one.”
TT: What’s your life like now that “Embraced By The Light” is so successful? Are you writing another book?
Eadie: “I was on Oprah Jan 3. I’m getting ready for a European tour. I have movie and video offers pending. And yes, I am working on another book. It should come out in the middle of the year. It will answer some questions raised by my first book; it’s a sequel.
TT: Are you going to become the new Shirley MacLaine?
Eadie: “No, I’m not going to become the new Shirley MacLaine. What motivates me is seeing first hand how my book is changing lives. I was in Toronto yesterday and a woman who once contemplated suicide, called me and said after reading my book, she decided not to take her life, but to work toward putting her marriage back together. That’s what inspires me. I believe I was restored to life because I have a mission in to complete.”
TT: Do you think everybody has a mission in life?
Eadie: “Yes I do and I think that mission is always there. Each morning when you wake up, you know you have something to do. You don’t always achieve your mission, but your spirit is constantly guiding you in the right direction. It all goes back to the old saying ‘Follow your heart and you won’t be wrong.'”


Pearl S Buck Says…

In this Interview…


On America’s obsession with sex

Women’s role in today’s society

On death and if she’s afraid of it

Guest: Pearl Buck


WALLACE: Good evening. Tonight we’ll talk about men and women in the United States, at home, at work and in love. Our guest will be one of the most successful women in the world, the Pulitzer and Nobel Prize Winning Novelist, Pearl Buck, a writer who is also a wife and mother.

WALLACE: If you’re curious to know what Pearl Buck thinks of American women and their husbands, why she says “Most women make their homes their graves” and why she attacks our devotion to “sex appeal” and “romance”, we’ll go after those stories in just a moment. My name is Mike Wallace, the cigarette is Parliament, another fine product of the Philip Morris Company.


WALLACE: And now to our story…..Ever since she began writing as a young woman in China where she was raised by her missionary parents, Pearl Buck has been intrigued by the “battle between the sexes”. This contest has become a major social problem in the United States as women find themselves torn between career and marriage, between independence and security, between emancipation and conventional morality. As a wife and mother and author of “Good Earth” and about forty other works, Pearl Buck has apparently had the best of both possible worlds. Miss Buck, in view of your remarkable career, first of all, let me ask you this. Earlier this week you told our reporter this. You said: “Most women are making their homes their graves”. What did you mean by that?

BUCK: Well I suppose I meant that they bury themselves there when they don’t need to. Of course I believe in home you know.

WALLACE: Well of course you believe in home, but when you say they bury themselves there, would you be more specific with so that we could understand it a little…..

BUCK: Well I think I — what I meant by that was that they can fulfill all the obligations and the joys of home and at the same time be citizens of their nation and of the world.

WALLACE: And you feel that women insufficiently do that, is that the point?

BUCK: Well, to an extent I think so.

WALLACE: You said, if I may, you said that you had said, you have women who can think only how to flatter their men and who cater to their stomachs and their every whim, that’s an insult for any woman.

BUCK: Well, I think that’s an insult for a man and I think many men feel it so. It’s not a fact, I don’t know that many women actually just keep their men that way. I don’t like in general for the sake of men to have it said that the approach is through the stomach nor even solely through the heart.

WALLACE: Well the approach can very well be fully fulfilling just through the home. A woman doesn’t — Do you feel that a woman has to be has to go down town or necessarily has to work in government or in something of the sort in order to be a complete woman, really?

BUCK: I’m very glad you asked that question because certainly I don’t. In fact she can fulfill everything in the nature of being a citizen by being a woman at home and she certainly must be at home while her children are small.

WALLACE: Well then, I Then I find it difficult to understand how you can say that most women make their homes their graves.

BUCK: Well I think because they stop reading, or reading books that would enlarge their minds, the minds of their family, for example

WALLACE: Approximately one third of all the jobs in this country are held by women, uh Miss Buck. Half of these women are married, we have wives who belong to clubs, work for charities, play cards, true?

BUCK: Quite true.

WALLACE: Is it not even a fact that possibly uh the fact that women have to split themselves so, their job being tougher than that of men, is partially responsible for the weakening of family ties and the degeneration of the family?

BUCK: I quite agree.

WALLACE: Well we can have no argument there at all.

BUCK: None.

WALLACE: Then how then how would you suggest then then then let us go to the root of the problem which is to try to understand how a woman can successfully enter both worlds.

BUCK: Well I think she has the same problem that men do really because actually if we’re going to go to the root of the problem, I think it isn’t so much the isolation – uh from one another, men from women and women from men as the fact that you know it it’s very difficult to be an American, did you realize that?


BUCK: We’re actually, ah, we’re in a sense, we’re committed to loneliness. When you have these great ideals of independence, and of freedom, many of the old bulwarks that the older civilizations had are thrown away and it’s a great adventure so to speak.

WALLACE: I’m not sure that I’m not sure that I understand.

BUCK: Not understand? Well, if you’ve lived in an old country such as China or Japan or even the old countries of Europe, you have so much tradition of family, church, the same church, perhaps, at least not such a variety of religions as we have, so much less choice as an individual. You are, you have supports that we don’t have in our civilization.

BUCK: I think it’s our strength that we don’t have them, but I think that often times what we think of as the loneliness of women or the loneliness of men is really a sort of human loneliness which our freedom and independence commit us to…..


BUCK: …..and so often we think we’re lonely because we’re women or we’re lonely because we’re men but we’re really lonely because we are living in a country with no boundaries so to speak and no pattern, and of immense ideals which are difficult for us to follow…..

WALLACE: To live up to.

BUCK: …..and yet which give us an enormous responsibility in the eyes of the world’s people.

WALLACE: Let’s come back just to women and look at what some people say is happening in America, apparently because of feminism of which I believe you are a champion.

BUCK: No, you’re quite wrong.


BUCK: Yes, I’m not a feminist.

WALLACE: I was under the impression now, I’m I’m I’m happy to be corrected, I was under the impression that you are rather militant in your desire that a woman find herself as an independent free spirit and that you feel that she cannot find herself or is not finding herself as an independ – independent free spirit currently in the home.

BUCK: No I think of — of the fact — I think that what I feel is that women have to find themselves as human beings just as men do, and that they will find themselves as these free spirits that you speak of when they are really fulfilling themselves as human beings…..

WALLACE: Well, can’t…..

BUCK: … a cooperative fashion.

WALLACE: Well can a career woman for instance, you think successfully have her career and have her home

BUCK: Well certainly she can. She can’t always have them both at the same time and because there are all the years you know when you must devote yourself to your children. I’m lucky because I’ve done my work at home…


BUCK: …..but there are years when a woman certainly cannot go out to offices or so on and take care of the children at the same time. She may employ other people to do it.

WALLACE: Well then, you would suggest that the average woman who has young children not make any effort to go after a career at one and the same time.

BUCK: Well, if she wants a career, it will come and she will have it. She may have to postpone it for a few years but those years need not be what I might call “grave years”, I mean bury herself…..

WALLACE: Well, let’s be let’s be perfectly sensible, an awful lot of families need the extra money that or think that they need the extra money that the woman can bring in. The husband by himself cannot bring enough for the labor saving gadgets, they cannot lay enough money aside in these days of high taxes and so forth, for future education, for vacations and for some of the pleasantnesses of life therefore, they go down town.

BUCK: Oh well, that’s an individual thing. If they have to have more money, of course sometimes they do have to have it and I think women will have to work out some means of taking care of each other’s children or some such thing as that. I think ideally, these things can be worked out.

WALLACE: I think that you’re regarding this in perhaps a rather “Olympian” fashion. You say you think perhaps this can be worked out. Is it as easy as that? For instance, in a Life Magazine article just a couple of years ago, Robert Kaufmann said…”Here in New York City the career woman can be seen in fullest bloom and it is not irrelevant that New York City also has the greatest concentration of psychiatrists.

WALLACE: She dislikes housework, he says, she has never learned how to cook, she turned the children over to nurses as soon as she could, she never gives much of herself to her husband, and he wishes that she would do more of the things that women are supposed to do. He wishes she were more of a woman.

BUCK: Well, of course that is rather a large statement too, and I think of course we women hear a great many things that men say about us, and I suppose many of these things are true, but the fact remains nevertheless, if I have a criticism of American women and I must tell you that I think American women are remarkable, and I’m not going to run them down, because I think they’re really a wonderful

BUCK: and the extraordinary thing is that European women and women of Asian countries, are more or less taking a — American women as models and they’re enlarging their own lives, seeing American women. If I did make a comparison, however, between the American woman and the Asian woman, I would perhaps say, that the Asian woman has learned long since, not to measure her men and her children in

BUCK: …terms of whether they make successes according to the accepted idea of success, in our American world.

WALLACE: Of money

BUCK: Of money.

WALLACE: …Of possessions.

BUCK: …and position and so on, and she is more inclined to enjoy them as they are and interested in them as individuals, rather than as instruments, toward general success. Now when I happened to say that to an American man he said, “Well, I’m not sure that that’s a good idea, because the American man needs this stimulus, and look how much further along we are as a nation, than the Chinese are, as in science, for example.”


BUCK: So there are things to be said on both sides.

WALLACE: Well, what is it that you admire, then, so much about American women that you said that you as you have just said that you —

BUCK: What I don’t admire is the fact that they tend to allow themselves to slump mentally, because they’re housewives.

WALLACE: But, it’s so difficult. Perhaps you don’t have to perhaps you truly, undoubtedly are not an average American woman and they — they have so many problems, the kids to take care of, and no help to help them to take care of them and a husband to console, the infinite number of chores during the course of the day and you at the same time say, keep your mind alert and keep abreast of current affairs, read books, where in the world do people get the time and the energy to do all these things, Miss Buck?

BUCK: By organization of time. I have to organize my life very highly too, because I have a large family, and I have a full-time job and I do other things, but it means you eliminate the things that are not essential and concentrate on the few essentials. It can be done, if one wishes to enough, and if one feels an obligation, you know, and an interest in being a human being and a sister as well as a mother.

WALLACE: Miss Buck, also you told our reporter, “It’s a terrible shock to hear women when they get alone and talk about men.” Now pardon my simple curiosity, but I’d like to know what do they say?

BUCK: Don’t think that I’m going to tell you what they say, because I’m not.

WALLACE: Why not?

BUCK: Well, I don’t think that would be cricket, but nevertheless, I think that I’m sometimes rather appalled I quite confess by the fact that while our women adore their men, and wouldn’t be without them, they don’t sufficiently respect them shall we say.

WALLACE: Why don’t they respect them?

BUCK: You would have to tell me that.

WALLACE: Oh, now come…

BUCK: Yes.

WALLACE: You certainly know yourself, why I don’t know whether you’re reflecting your own point of view or the point of view of women around you with whom you’ve talked and so forth. They don’t respect their men why? Why don’t they respect…

BUCK: Well, I don’t know, I can’t imagine.

WALLACE: Is it because women themselves try to emasculate men, and therefore build–I’m-I’m quite serious about this and for that reason, I don’t mean to go over-psychological here, but they want to usurp the the place of men.

BUCK: No I don’t think any women really want to usurp the place of men. I think we do have a peculiar circumstance in our country, in that we have we educate our boys and girls exactly the same, and so that the fields of success are the same, and I think that women have the obligation and the right to do anything that they wish, but to do it as women and not as men, but having exactly the same education sometimes they don’t know how to do it as women…they don’t know what their contribution is. By the way I’ve just the reason I’m interested in this particular subject is I’ve just written a play on this very subject.


BUCK: Of what a woman is and how and what are her functions and what is she as a human being. Yes it is, it’s been lots of fun writing it, it’s called The White Bird.

WALLACE: And it’s going to be produced in the fall?

BUCK: Yes.

WALLACE: Good. Can you capsulize what a woman is for us? Or would you rather not.

BUCK: No – she’s a human being…a….a woman human being that’s all.

WALLACE: Hmmmm……..

BUCK: Our common denominator is human being……..

WALLACE: Well, aside from biology, what are the important differences between men and women Miss Buck?

BUCK: Heavens! You ask me that in this little while?

WALLACE: Well, we have uh… fifteen minutes if you’d care to discourse.

BUCK: Well, I think that women… if I must discourse…WALLACE: You…

BUCK: What…

WALLACE: Whatever you… whatever you want…

BUCK: …whatever I’d like to say? I think women do have a particular point of view, uh, it isn’t competitive with men at all, uh, I think they’re less romantic then men, less emotional, much more practical, uh, much more independent then men are…….

WALLACE: You’re talking about American women?

BUCK: Uh, women anywhere in the world this is common woman state,

WALLACE: Uh huhmmmmm….

BUCK: Uh, they tend toward, ….they, they…. they’re interested in life, not in death, I think oftentimes men have…. if we are to generalize, and I’m doing what I hate – to generalize…..

WALLACE: I know, I know……

BUCK: Because we can’t say that these things are true of all individuals,….

WALLACE: Of course…..

BUCK: But I think that women believe in life, it’s natural that they should – they create – they’re creative people because they create children, and I know it’s commonly said that they don’t create…they haven’t created great works of art, but there are reasons I think for that- I think the time will come when they will, but nevertheless it’s um….a life interest, a life urge, – – and I think that the men in general don’t have that.

WALLACE: Miss Buck, if I may say this, I asked you before what women think about men – what they say about men when they get together, and I gather we have gotten a rather elevated version of what they say about men. I… I would gather from what you have told me now for the past minute or two, that you don’t respect men very much.

BUCK: Well, I think I respect individual men very much. I don’t say… I would never say I don’t respect men…

WALLACE: Well, I know, you can’t generalize…. but…

BUCK: But uh…..

WALLACE: But look at all of the things that you’ve said over the past minute or two. I think that you think that men are infinitely superior really……oh not infinitely, but considerably superior to men.

BUCK: Women are superior to men?

WALLACE: As human beings, yes.

BUCK: You mean women, you said men.

WALLACE: Oh, I…thank you….

BUCK: Yes….

WALLACE: No, that..that women are superior to men, yes.

BUCK: No, I don’t think so. I think they’re complimentary. They do compliment each other. I am not going to be uh, inveigled into saying ……

WALLACE: No, no, don’t be inveigled into saying anything…..

BUCK: Ha, ha, ha. I…..

WALLACE: I understand…..I understand that as a writer you are constantly approached by publishers to write about young love, and we do have in our society an emphasis on romance, and external sex appeal, make-up, revealing clothes, erotic advertising… how do you account for that?

BUCK: Well, I think we’re interested in youth in our country we’re very young, and uh we haven’t really lived long enough to … to understand the joys of being old, or mature let’s say.

WALLACE: Let’s talk about……

BUCK: And we also love that…the….we…we… perhaps don’t realize that that ecstasy of first love is uh, is not the only form of love, nor even the most interesting.

WALLACE: Well, let’s talk a minute about a mature relationship between a husband and wife….

BUCK: Yes…..

WALLACE: The French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir, wrote this: She said, “Man and wife reach a compromise. They live side by side, without too much mutual torment, too much lying to each other, but there is one curse they very rarely escape, it is boredom. The thousand evenings of vague small talk, blank silences, yawning over the newspaper and retiring at bed time. ” How can that be avoided in modern marriage?

BUCK: Well, I don’t understand that passage at all, except that it is very French, perhaps the French are easy to bore.

WALLACE: You don’t think that this is a national.. .uh…… .

BUCK: I don’t think so…

WALLACE: …occupation, or marital hazard?….

BUCK: Not in this sense, I don’t think so……

WALLACE: Boredom is not?

BUCK: In fact, I am quite interested in the fact that women and men do do a considerable number of things together. Do you think we are bored with each other?

WALLACE: I… I… do I think?

BUCK: Hmmmmm…


BUCK: Would you agree with that?

WALLACE: I ask only the questions.

BUCK: Oh,….excuse me …. ha,ha, ha,…….

WALLACE: Only the questions… I’m here to listen to you. Tell me this, if a, if a man and a wife or perhaps there’s no point in going on with this, uh…….you uh , you said a little while ago, I, I can’t reconstruct it, let me ask it this way,…. you told our reporter again earlier this week – you said :”I’m beginning to think of my own death with excitement, and zest.” Now, in just a moment I would like to hear why. And we’ll get Miss Buck’s answer to that question in just 60 seconds.


WALLACE: Now then, Miss Buck. Earlier this week you said: “I’m beginning to think of my own death with excitement and -zest. ”

BUCK: That sounds rather contradictory – doesn’t it?…..


BUCK: Yes. Well that’s uh, taken out of context as a matter of fact, it’s so interesting to have these things brought back to you in sort of pills,…

WALLACE: Yes, I know.

BUCK: …bits of what you had said..

WALLACE: It’s a little difficult.

BUCK: ….what I said really, was that in relation to this idea of romantic love, editors do want you to write stories so often of romantic love, not seeming to realize that each age has its compensations. And its companionships, and its mature relationships, and I use as an example the fact that young people especially I won’t say special women in this case perhaps, but the children young people are very frightened of death.

WALLACE: Uh huh.

BUCK: …and yet as you grow older that fear naturally passes away, until as you get to be really interested in the next phase of whatever it is to be you find this fear of death is gone, and you begin to have a certain excitement to what comes after. Now I’ve often said that I hoped that when I die I won’t say that I’ve often said it, but I hope that when I die that I won’t be unconscious.

BUCK: I want to be sure that I know what is going on so I understand every step of life because death is a part of life… at some end or other.

WALLACE: Your parents were Presbyterian missionaries in China, were they not?

BUCK: Yes.

WALLACE: Does formal religion give you any consolation or any better understanding of death?

BUCK: I don’t think I have a feel any particular need of consolation I’ve had an extraordinary happy and good life and expect to have considerable more of it, and of course having lived in China so long I had tutors and other religions too, and to me these religions are all approaches to the same end.

WALLACE: There’s so little time left Miss Buck, but with your experience in China I would feel remiss if I didn’t ask you this, on a totally different subject. Do you feel the United States can do anything to lessen the menace that Red China would seem to be to the West at this time.

BUCK: Certainly. Of course I always have to speak in human terms, you know, being a writer and artist and not interested well, I won’t say I’m not interested in politics, but I’m not a politician, but any human approach, helps toward this end.Small or large, I do my own small approach, through Welcome House, which is an adoption agency, for mixed-blood children, mixed Asian and American children.

BUCK: I think that helps in its own small way. I should like to see for example all sorts of contacts, human contacts begin between ourselves, and China or any country why not?

WALLACE: And of course you believe that Red China should be recognized, I say, of course, because you’ve said that publicly.

BUCK: What I said was that I believed that the United Nations should be made up of all nations and peoples and that would include whatever nations there are in the world.

WALLACE: What do you understand to be our reluctance, when I say our the United States reluctance to deal with Red China?

BUCK: I really am not competent to say. Not thinking in those terms I suppose we are committed to various other persons that we have military bases and so on, but I’m not that you see none of that keeps us from human contacts… if we really set ourselves to it —

WALLACE: Contacts perhaps similar to those which have been recently been arranged between our State Department and Russia..

BUCK: With Russia certainly.

WALLACE: Do you think the Chinese people as a whole on the main land want Chiang Kai-shek to drive the Communists out and head their Government again.

BUCK: I don’t know, I have no contact with that main land at all today, I’m as cut off from it as though I’ve never been there. It’s an amazing thing.

WALLACE: Are you I imagine a little wistful about it?



BUCK: It’s inevitable.

WALLACE: And you are not wistful about what is inevitable?

BUCK: No, I learned better.

WALLACE: Final question, to come back to our original subject. Simone De Beauvoir, talks about the second sex. Do you feel that women in America are the second sex?

BUCK: Does that mean inferior?

WALLACE: Regarded as inferior, not in fact now.

BUCK: I don’t think so. I think women really here are on their way they’re in transition, they have all sorts of problems of course, but I think that as fast as they want to grow, men want them to grow. Don’t you think so?

WALLACE: I’m not sure, but I thank you for spending this time, Miss Buck. When I say I’m not sure what I mean of course is that — I’m not sure that the vast majority of men want them to grow that fast that there will come out of — out of the home and —

BUCK: Don’t say leave the home you know I don’t mean leave the home.

WALLACE: No. You suggest that they fracture themselves and leave half there and bring the other half downtown, you think it can be done. Despite vast strides in recent years, women in America are still considered by some if not by Pearl Buck, the second sex, and faced with double standards too. Pearl Buck is obviously an exception, she thinks, speaks and acts for herself, and somehow in the process, she would seem to have become not less, but more of a woman.

WALLACE: In a moment we’ll be back with a rundown on next week’s guest. A tough fearless critic of our life and times.


WALLACE: Next week in a special live telecast from Hollywood, we’ll go after the story of a social rebel whose targets have included politics, religion, sex and Hollywood itself. Our guest, you see him behind me, will be Ben Hecht who has been a prominent playwright, novelist, screen writer and a belligerent critic of our life and times.

WALLACE: If you’re curious to know why Ben Hecht charges that thinking about politics is fatal to the brain why he calls television a baby sitting industry cooing at the crowds and why he regards religion as incomprehensible voodoo we’ll go after those stories from Hollywood next week. Till then for Parliament, Mike Wallace goodnight.

Digitization credits


Jacqueline Susann Says…

In this Interview…


Why women have affairs with older men

What her mother thought of her books

On living a rich existence

On homosexuality and love

Interview with Jacqueline Susann

I think every girl falls in love with daddy. After all, he’s the first man she knows. It’s a funny thing that happens… a father isn’t turned on by a newborn baby daughter, but when she’s about two, then she becomes a girl child, and he comes in one day and kisses her ahead of his wife. “That’s when the mother goes into unconscious rivalry. When the father says she’s the most beautiful girl in the world, the mother says, ‘Don’t tell her that. She’s not’. The mother tells herself she does this so the child won’t be vain, but what she’s doing, she’s telling her husband, ‘I made this child. We both did, but I’m the original, I’m more beautiful’.

My father treated me like a date from the time I was seven. That’s when he began spending Saturdays with me. At first he took me to matinees. Then one day he said ‘Instead of going to a matinee, how would you like to make some money? I want to play cards but we mustn’t tell mother, because she wouldn’t want you around where there’s smoking. I’ll give you ten percent of my action.’

So every Saturday I sat in a smoke filled room, behind a poker game. He made a pal of me, I was his sweetheart, because we were cheating on my mother. I had something special going. He’d give me ten dollars whether he won or not, but later on when I got to know the game and knew he’d lost, I wouldn’t take the money. ‘But when I was about eleven, he won six hundred dollars and then I demanded my sixty.

Incidentally, poker served me well, because when I started in show business I played with the stage hands and made more money at poker than I did from my salary.

Anyway, when I was sixteen I dated my first boy. He was very handsome and I like him a lot, but when I compared him to with my father he fell flat on his face.

Later when I met Irving, he was so unlike my father. I mean, the complete opposite. He intrigued me. My father hated him at first because he recognized competition and realized I hadn’t been looking for someone like him. In the en, there was great admiration between the two. After daddy died, Irving got interested in art and was sick about the things my father could have told him, the stories they could have swapped.

Our parents are all dead now, all but my mother. She’s a very timid soul, and she’s terrified about what her friends will say when one of my books comes out. With the first one, Every Night, Josephine, the reviews were poetry and the only four letter word was love. My mother used to sit in Rittenhouse Plaza where friends would visit and say, ‘In this day and age, your daughter’s been in show biz and everything, yet she’s written this sweet book.’ My mother would answer, ‘Well that’s the way we raised her!’ I laughed. Then out came Valley of the Dolls and this poor lady was absolutely out of her mind. She went to Atlantic City for three weeks, she couldn’t face talking to anyone. By the time she came back, the book was a smash. She went to the Friday night concert at the Academy of Music. Everyone said, ‘Oh isn’t it wonderful about Jackie and her novel?’ …It’s naughty but…’ As mother said, if it hadn’t been a hit they’d have said her daughter wrote a dirty book.

Afterwards, she’d always ask if I was going to use ‘that word’ in whatever I was writing. I never knew which word she was talking about, until one day this woman who had never sworn in her life, who taught me not to say darn because it meant dame, finally told me that the word that was bothering her was ‘fuck’. I said to her, Do you know where that word came from?. I explained how in olden times, when people were arrested for stealing, for sodomy, for having an affair with someone else’s wife, they were put in irons and placed in stocks. And a sign would be hung over their head saying, ‘For Thievery,’ or for whatever they had done wrong. And they’d hang, “For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ that’s where that word cam from.

But my mother hasn’t gone to the movies in five years, she doesn’t know what’s going on, she’s shocked at hearing the word damn on the air. When you think Bergman couldn’t return to this country because she’s had a baby out of wedlock, and now they’re all doing it. The change is only the last three year….

That’s what I attempted to convey through my character January in Once is Not Enough. In 1967, when I have her have her accident, people were still walking around in Pucci dresses. You couldn’t get into a restaurant wearing slacks. I remember at the Dorchester,’ Madame is wearing pants.’ By the 1970’s slacks were accepted anywhere…boys walked with arms around boys….girls were embracing girls…the shaved head Christian group appeared…all these girls without bras, even if they had knee thumpers down to here….girls with hair under their arms…the Indian headbands. I wanted January to be like Rip Van Winkle. She’s away from the real world for three years, then comes into this new one. How could a girl face it? Could she overcome it?

Many girls who have difficult fathers go the other route. They pick a man nobody else wants. They need a man who’ll love them, who’ll come home every night. They pick ugly men, even lame men, because they don’t want to be like their mothers and sit and cry. They don’t want competition. Take Gloria Vanderbilt. She’s seen her mother have problems. So first she married a young handsome guy, and after that who did she marry? Leopold Stokowski, who treated her like the father she never had.

But girls who have marvelous father…look at Grace Kelly. Her father and mine were great friends in Philadelphia. My father looked like Valentino and hers like a red haired Clark Gable. She had to marry a prince. Diana Barrymore drank herself to death trying to be like John. Errol Flynn’s daughter is a stunt girl. Eugene O’Neil’s daughter had to marry Charlie Chaplin.

There are things I thought about before writing Once Is Not Enough. There’ve been lots of things on the Oedipus complex but very few on the Electra. I thought of Susan Zanuck talking about Darryl as if he were a god. These Hollywood girls don’t see their father being picked on by their mom, or sitting drinking beer in front of the TV. They only see them in the glamorous thing.

In Hollywood it’s extreme, but the same pattern exists everywhere. When I helped judge the Miss USA contest, all the girls in the pageant named daddy as their hero. He came first. The Nixon, Bob Hope and Billy Graham. Kennedy, you see, was a movie actor. Eisenhower a grandfather image, that’s my thinking anyway. But Nixon can seem the father. He’s also the loser of all time, and all girls have seen their fathers go through defeat. Hope, he’s the mischievous father figure, the guy with the leer who’s entertaining servicemen and most girls from small towns have brothers in the service. They also have a great church life, so here’s Billy Graham, a handsome man, not a musty old creature. He as sex appeal, and they identify with him.

All these girls have their daddies wrapped around their little fingers. If they get married and the marriage goes bad, Daddy says it’s the husbands how’s wronged his darling. “I knew from the start he wasn’t the man for you.”
This affects them all their lives, you see. Lots of women are married to handsome young men and have affairs on the side with father types. That happens a lot. Also when a woman hits forty five she goes for a young man, in sort of a last gasp attempt. She has her face done and body sculpture. She does things her daughters wouldn’t do. I’ve a friend, forty six and he’s twenty eight and she almost died keeping up with him. She had a coronary occlusion playing tennis.

Another problem this leads to is that many people are willing to have an affair but find it impossible to live with the other person. There’s a certain intimacy that has to be hurdled. “Sharing a bathroom is horrifying because they’ve never done that with mother or daddy. I know a girl who won’t spend the night with a man, she goes home, terrified of giving up her privacy. ‘Suppose I snore?’ had asked me. ‘Or suppose he snores? I want to go home and take off my makeup and dream of him as beautiful’

Men are that way, too. They don’t want to know about women when they have the curse, to see her with the KY jelly, the diaphragm, the stockings and girdle hanging in the bathroom. They takes it all away from them. They don’t want to see her when her eyelashes come off. In my day, life was simple–no false eyelashes. I know girls who’ve had affairs, lost their eyelashes and found them stuck on the guy’s fanny.

And the men too, now. They say, ‘Don’t touch my hair, it’s just been teased.’ I know girls who’ve gone to bed with men who put on hairnets.

Many women remain single because they cannot find a man who stacks up to daddy. And men, too, homosexuals looking for mother.

Don’t think I’m against homosexuality. I’m all for it. I think it’s highly civilized. In Greece it was, ‘women for babies, men for love.’ Where is the law that says men must marry women if they don’t want to? Where is it written? It’s only law of nature that says we must have man-woman love to create children. But with the population explosion….

And they’re not hurting anyone. I’m for all kinds of love, whatever kinds there are. A person’s love for animals. A nun’s love for Jesus.

Except nuns have changed, too. I was talking with one in slacks and asked her if she’d ever had an affair. She said ‘With a man or with a woman?” I broke up!! Then she hastened to clear up what might become another misapprehension. Having a single homosexual experience doesn’t make you a homosexual, you know. I tried to show that in my new book. People think my character of Karla is a lesbian, but she isn’t, not really. Karla basically cares more for men, but she simply feels safer with women. She was raped in Poland by all those ‘Russians, and the first bit of beauty in her life was the nun who’s been a ballerina.

The other books took me a year and a half to write. This one took me two and a half because of my smoking problem. I had a three pack a day habit. I tried for five years to stop. I went to a smoke shrink. I went to a hypnotist, I drank tons of water, I climbed the walls. During the brief periods when I’d quit I dreams tat if I had terminal cancer I could at least smoke a cigarette. Then Irving got a polyp, and I made a deal with God. I promised that if Irving’s polyp wasn’t malignant, I’d stop. It wasn’t and I did. Irving says I use God like the William Morris office.

Each book has taken five years off my life. When you’ve written all day and think you have a great scene, maybe twenty, thirty pages, then at three in the morning you sit up straight and know it’s all wrong. You go in the living room and watch the sun come up. You tear up what you’ve written. You have to be an architect, a master jigsaw puzzler, a psychiatrist. Part of my talent comes from my achieving background. I act the part out, I feel it. Even Linda in this book. “She’s a born loser, but I understand it when she takes a different man every night just to prove she’s a woman. There are so many lesbians in this world. You see all these girls in their twenties who have IQ’s of 150 and handle their work so well, but in personal life they’re like eight year olds. Then you meet a girls who’s klutzy in her job, but she can hold a man.

So many women don’t understand practical things. Reporters ask me now how much money I have. I can never tell because of the royalties constantly coming in. I just got a check from France for seventy eight thousand dollars for Love Machine. People keep buying them, other countries bring them out, there are reissues. Turkey used to steal my books, not they’ve come out and bought this one. I don’t know how much money I have. It is nice to walk into a store and know I can afford something I like that costs tow hundred dollars,but it was more fun when I was 18 and there was a dress at Saks that cost fifty dollars. I thought about that one for a month before I bought it.

I never thought of myself as a poor little girl. Father always lived as though we were rich, whether there were three $5000 commissions in one month or whether there were three whole months without a job at all. I never knew money was a problem. That’s the way daddy wanted it…”

I don’t believe in life after death, and yet I do. I have a wonder head sculpted of daddy, life-size. On my bad nights when I can’t sleep, I talk to him. We have this circular living room that overlooks Central Park, and I get daddy out and put him on the breakfront. I go off to fix a drink, and I say to him, “Don’t go away.” I talk to him in heaven, too. When someone I love died last year, I told him, “Daddy, Carol’s up there. Introduce her around.”

Taken from the Playgirl October 1973 Interview


Jonathan Kellerman Says…
In This Interview

Jonathan Kellerman’s most influential books

What it takes to succeed as a writer

And the jobs before he made it big

Fact File
Photo by Jonathan Exley

Jonathan Kellerman

Current Home:
Beverly Hills, California

Place of Birth:
New York, New York

B.A. in psychology, University of California-Los Angeles; Ph.D., University of Southern California, 1974

Edgar Award, Anthony Award for When the Bough Breaks, 1986


“I like to say that as a psychologist I was concerned with the rules of human behavior,” Jonathan Kellerman has said. “As a novelist, I’m concerned with the exceptions.” Both roles are evident in Kellerman’s string of bestselling psychological thrillers, in which he probes the hidden corners of the human psyche with a clinician’s expertise and a novelist’s dark imagination.

Kellerman worked for years as a child psychologist, but his first love was writing, which he started doing at the age of nine. After reading Ross MacDonald’s Lew Archer novels, however, Kellerman found his voice as a writer — and his calling as a suspense novelist. His first published novel, When the Bough Breaks, featured a child psychologist, Dr. Alex Delaware, who helps solve a murder case in which the only apparent witness is a traumatized seven-year-old girl. The book was an instant hit; as New York’s Newsday raved, “[T]his knockout of an entertainment is the kind of book which establishes a career in one stroke.”

Kellerman has since written a slew more Alex Delaware thrillers; not surprisingly, the series hero shares much of Kellerman’s own background. The books often center on problems of family psychopathology—something Kellerman had ample chance to observe in his day job. The Delaware novels have also chronicled the shifting social and cultural landscape of Los Angeles, where Kellerman lives with his wife (who is also a health care practitioner-turned-novelist) and their four children.

A prolific author who averages one book a year, Kellerman dislikes the suggestion that he simply cranks them out. He has a disciplined work schedule, and sits down to write in his office five days a week, whether he feels “inspired” or not. “I sit down and start typing. I think it’s important to deromanticize the process and not to get puffed up about one’s abilities,” he said in a 1998 chat on Barnes & “Writing fiction’s the greatest job in the world, but it’s still a job. All the successful novelists I know share two qualities: talent and a good work ethic.”

And he does plenty of research, drawing on medical databases and current journals as well as his own experience as a practicing psychologist. Then there are the field trips: before writing Monster, Kellerman spent time at a state hospital for the criminally insane.

Kellerman has taken periodic breaks from his Alex Delaware series to produce highly successful stand-alone novels that he claims have helped him to gain some needed distance from the series characters. It’s a testament to Kellerman’s storytelling powers that the series books and the stand-alones have both gone over well with readers; clearly, Kellerman’s appeal lies more in his dexterity than in his reliance on a formula. “Often mystery writers can either plot like devils or create believable characters,” wrote one USA Today reviewer. “Kellerman stands out because he can do both. Masterfully.”
Good to Know

Some outtakes from our interview with Jonathan Kellerman:
“I am the proud husband of a brilliant novelist, Faye Kellerman. I am the proud father of a brilliant novelist, Jesse Kellerman. And three lovely, gifted daughters, one of whom, Aliza, may turn out to be one of the greatest novelists/poets of this century. ”

“My first job was selling newspapers on a corner, age 12. Then I delivered liquor, age 16 — the most engaging part of that gig was schlepping cartons of bottles up stairways in building without elevators. Adding insult to injury, tips generally ranged from a dime to a quarter. And, I was too young to sample the wares. Subsequent jobs included guitar teacher, freelance musician, newspaper cartoonist, Sunday School teacher, youth leader, research/teaching assistant. All of that simplified when I was 24 and earned a Ph.D. in psychology. Another great job. Then novelist? Oh, my, an embarrassment of riches. Thank you, thank you, thank you, kind readers. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.

“I paint, I play the guitar, I like to hang out with intelligent people whose thought processes aren’t by stereotype, punditry, political correctness, etc. But enough about me. The important thing is The Book.”

More fun facts:
After Kellerman called his literary agent to say that his wife, Faye, had written a novel, the agent reluctantly agreed to take a look (“Later, he told me his eyes rolled all the way back in his head,” Kellerman said in an online chat). Two weeks later, a publisher snapped up Faye Kellerman’s first book, The Ritual Bath. Faye Kellerman has since written many more mysteries featuring L.A. cop Peter Decker and his wife Rina Lazarus, including the bestsellers Justice and Jupiter’s Bones.

When Kellerman wrote When the Bough Breaks in 1981, crime novels featuring gay characters were nearly nonexistent, so Alex Delaware’s gay detective friend, Milo Sturgis, was a rarity. Kellerman admits it can be difficult for a straight writer to portray a gay character, but says the feedback he’s gotten from readers — gay and straight — has been mostly positive.

In his spare time, Kellerman is a musician who collects vintage guitars. He once placed the winning online auction bid for a guitar signed by Don Henley and his bandmates from the Eagles; proceeds from the sale were donated to the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas.

In addition to his novels, Kellerman has written two children’s books and three nonfiction books, including Savage Spawn, about the backgrounds and behaviors of child psychopaths.

But for a 1986 television adaptation of When the Bough Breaks, none of Kellerman’s work has yet made it to screen. “I wish I could say that Hollywood’s beating a path to my door,” he said in a Barnes & chat in 1998, “but the powers-that-be at the studios don’t seem to feel that my books lend themselves to film adaptation. The most frequent problem cited is too much complexity.”
Feature Interview
In the winter of 2008, Jonathan Kellerman took time out to talk with our editors:

What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer — and why?
The Babylonian Talmud taught me to think critically. The Count of Monte Cristo taught me the value of strong characterization in concert with a robust plot.

What are your ten favorite books, and what makes them special to you?
I couldn’t hope to limit the list to ten!

What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?
To me, Fargo is the perfect movie – mordant, fast-moving, richly characterized, well-structured.

What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you’re writing?
I’ve been playing guitar for 50 years and am currently concentrating on classical. However, I love anything well-done – from Baroque to Rap.

What are your favorite kinds of books to give — and get — as gifts?
Well-done novels, visually beautiful art books, biographies. Really, once again, anything reductionistic misses the mark.

Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you’re writing?
I treat writing as a job — the greatest job in the world, but a job. One needs to be professional — e.g., get up, exercise, get some nutrition, shower, shave, get dressed … and prepare to open up a psychic vein for a few hours. No rituals, just intense concentration and a desire to write a novel that will entertain and, hopefully, enrich.

Many writers are hardly “overnight success” stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
I won a literary prize in 1971 and published my first novel in 1985. Despite two previous publications of nonfiction books, I regarded myself during that 14-year period as a failed writer with a really good day job (clinical psychologist/medical school professor). The only inspiration I can offer is that sometimes an obsessive-compulsive personality pays off.

What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
Forget “discovery,” “being a writer,” “fame,” — all nonsense and most destructive, all distractions from the core: writing. If you are driven to write and have talent, hard work and drive are likely to help. Experience life to the fullest, be intensely curious. Most important, write. And rewrite. And rewrite. And don’t take yourself too seriously. The guy who fixes your sink is doing something as important — perhaps more important — than you are. Says…
In This Interview

What Kellerman does for fun
On working with his wife
On his books made into movies

Jonathan Kellerman

Posted by Michelle on February 14, 2008

Jonathan Kellerman’s first novel was published in 1985, and he has since written many more. He is author of a series of crime books featuring Alex Delaware, plus other ’stand alone’ books.

Q. You have written a lot of books. Do you still remember writing your first one, ‘When the Bough Breaks’, and how did you feel when it was published?

A. I remember every book I’ve written. When I got published I felt vindicated. No longer a self-deluded rejection sponge.

Q. How did it feel to see that book made into a movie? Did the images on the screen match those that had been in your head whilst writing?

A. Great fun. They did a pretty good job. But, of course, there’s nothing like the book itself.

Q. To someone who has never read your books, how would you describe them? What do you think makes them different to other crime books?

A. I’d like to think that my background as a psychologist imbues the novels with a unique approach to human behavior and crime. But I’m not the judge; the reader is.

Q. Do you have a preference over writing books about the same person, such as Alex Delaware, or the ‘stand-alone’ novels?

A. I enjoy both, but Alex has certainly been good to me.

Q. Is it best to read the Delaware books in order, and do you have a favourite?

A. I write the series so that either is possible. Some people like to read in order. I find that with writers I admire, sequence doesn’t seem very important.

Q. You’ve written a couple of books with your wife – how did that compare with writing alone? And how does it feel to see your son become successful too?

A. Faye and I worked beautifully as a team. I’m incredibly proud of Jesse. But I was proud of him before he got published because he’s a really good guy.

Q. There has been some discussion on the forum about authors who employ writers to help with their books. As a regularly published author, is this something you’ve ever considered?


Q. Do you get a chance to read for your own pleasure? If so, who are your favourite authors?

A. I read very little fiction while I’m writing. Currently I’m reading David McCullough’s biography of John Adams. And I just finished Bob Dylan’s autbio, which was brilliant.

Q. What else do you like to do to relax and unwind?

A. Play guitar, paint, hike, be with my wife and kids. And my grand-daughter.

Q. Can you tell us what you’re working on next? Do you think you’ll ever write a different genre?

A. My next Delaware novel, COMPULSION, will be published this Spring. I’m working on the book to follow and may also write a stand-alone. For the time being, I’m more than content writing crime novels.


Patricia Cornwell says…

In this interview

On marrying her wife

On taking her books in a new direction

On the influence of her childhood

Patricia Cornwell: ‘Finally, I feel rooted somewhere’

Last Updated: 1:18PM GMT 05 Dec 2007
Patricia Cornwell: “I had been taught that homosexuals would go to hell”

In her first British interview since ‘marrying’ her female partner, Patricia Cornwell explains why she kept quiet about her sexuality for years – and how her new life is transforming her forensically gory novels. Cassandra Jardine reports

Patricia Cornwell is cloaked in security to an extraordinary extent, even by American standards. She may need it at book signings in the States, where weirdos with guns and knives have turned up to meet the crime writer whose graphic descriptions of gouged flesh have made her the best-selling female writer in the world after JK Rowling, but it’s strange to encounter this level of caution in a London hotel.

In the lift, I’m accompanied by a spookily silent man in a suit – what’s that bulge under his jacket? – and on either side of the door to her suite, two further stooges stand sentry. When admitted to the inner sanctum, I find a small woman with spiky hair, who tells me she employs undercover security, too, presumably wandering around the lobby.

“It’s not about fear,” she says in a voice that combines briskness with the drawl of her Southern childhood.

“I won’t put myself in a position where I’m vulnerable.”

It takes me a while to discover what she means by that, because it’s tempting to assume that Cornwell is as hard-boiled as the characters in her Kay Scarpetta books, the 15th of which has just been published.

Dr Scarpetta is a forensic pathologist who investigates the most grisly of murders. Fearless and detached, some reviewers have called her a “tough broad” – but that makes her creator angry.

“Scarpetta is an elegant intellectual with great depths of feeling which you don’t always see,” she says.

Since Cornwell admits to being very like Scarpetta – with touches of the character’s switched-on young niece Lucy thrown in – it suggests hidden depths to a writer who can also appear steel-plated.

She started her career as a crime reporter, before moving on to work in the medical examiner’s office in Richmond, Virginia, and is as familiar with morgues as others are with supermarkets.

She flies helicopters, rides motorbikes and is terrier-like with her causes. Several years ago she set out to prove that the British Impressionist painter Walter Sickert was Jack the Ripper, and she is still on the case.

“The Sickert Trust had better watch out,” she warns tantalisingly, “when copyright expires on his letters in 2012.”

As for the cyber-stalker whom she recently successfully sued, she hisses: “I haven’t finished with him yet.”

Perhaps she has needed to act fierce. She’s so tiny that her high-heeled patent biker boots scarcely reach the ground from the hotel sofa. As a young tennis player, she tells me, “I had to play with the boys as there was no girls’ team, and they kept hitting balls right at me.”

When she started writing in 1990, she admits that she felt insecure.

“I had a lot to prove and probably a lot of anger and fear from my childhood. But I’m 51 now and not the same person.”

She’s warmer and friendlier than I expected – but perhaps this is a new development, just as it is in Kay Scarpetta’s fictional life. This latest book has taken two years instead of the usual one to produce, partly because of a leaky roof at Cornwell’s home in Boston, but largely because she wanted to change direction.

“An old college friend told my ex-husband Charlie – who’s my editor – that he wasn’t sure he liked my main characters. I thought, ‘You know what? I don’t either.’ I realised that the later books lacked the warm element of character interaction.”

It is too much of a coincidence that, in the past two years, she has developed a domestic life herself.

Her latest Scarpetta novel, Book of the Dead, is dedicated to “Dr Staci Gruber, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and Associate Director of the Cognitive Neuroimaging Laboratory, McLean Hospital”.

Dr Gruber’s professional expertise is evident in the book’s scientific detail, but the relationship is more than professional. In February 2005, the two women were joined in a same-sex marriage, newly permitted in the state of Massachusetts.

Until now, Cornwell has refused to speak up for gay women. When I ask her to confirm the marriage, she replies only: “Yep.” But when I ask what difference it has made to her, she pauses for a moment, then opens up about her personal life in a way she never has before.

“It has made a difference in two ways,” she says.

“Like Scarpetta, I finally feel rooted somewhere. I feel a sense of responsibility and stability that I didn’t have before. I hadn’t been in a long-term relationship since I got divorced in 1988 and it’s hard to live that way. Being with someone who is smart and gives good advice adds tremendously wonderful elements to your life.

“What happened was that I went to Harvard to research neuroscience and was directed to meet with Dr Gruber because she’s so eminently respected. It was one of those things: you meet someone when you’re not looking. I’ve never been a soapbox person for gay rights, but now I’m in a same-sex marriage I tend to be more open, because I am outraged that it should be illegal in other states.”

“If we were outside of Massachusetts and Staci were in a horrible car wreck, a hospital could forbid me from seeing her. The federal government does not honour same-sex marriage, so couples can’t file joint tax returns and, in terms of death benefits, people have to go to extraordinary lengths with lawyers to try to make sure that their partner isn’t evicted from the home.”

There is a movement, she says, to change the American constitution to ban same-sex unions. Its supporters say that if marriage is allowed between homosexuals, unions between people and animals will be next.

“Marry your dog – what kind of insanity is that? I don’t do things that are illegal. I pay my taxes, I give millions to charity, so why am I less than other people? This comes from the far-Right, conservative Christians who spew forth all these rigid ‘thou shalt nots’.”

Cornwell understands those people because she was brought up among them. When she was five, her father, a lawyer, walked out on Christmas Day in 1961, ignoring her attempts to cling to his leg.

“When I was in second grade, my mother moved from Miami to this evangelical conservative environment in western North Carolina, two miles down the road from Billy Graham and his wife, Ruth. I was the only child of divorced parents in my entire school. We were made to feel like sinners coming from a broken home. I felt isolated.”

Matters got worse when her mother succumbed to depression and the young Patsy Daniels, as Cornwell was then known, was fostered by an unkind woman who wouldn’t let her keep her beloved dog with her.

In those days, she didn’t realise that she had homosexual proclivities because she had never even heard that women could be gay.

“I knew something wasn’t right in high school because boys would ask me out and I didn’t feel the same way about them as other girls. But it was only at college that I saw women who were gay.”

While studying English at Davidson College in North Carolina, and just as she started analysing her own feelings, she “honestly fell in love” with her male professor, Charlie Cornwell, who was 17 years her senior.

After 10 years together, Cornwell divorced him. In 1990, she published her first mystery novel, Postmortem.

“It was only afterwards that I had my first gay encounter, which was completely accidental: I became close friends with someone and it progressed. Then I realised ‘Uh-oh…’, but I kept on dating men, hoping that I just hadn’t met the right one, because I didn’t want it to be true.”

“It flew in the face of my upbringing: I had been taught that homosexuals would go to hell because they were perverts. And I didn’t want people talking about me and calling me names. It’s no fun to worry about holding hands in a public place and that some redneck is going to follow you in a pick-up truck and show you what it’s like to be with a man.”

She kept her lesbian relationships secret for some years, until outed by two people who she believes were jealous of her success.

“My mother, God bless her, said ‘You’ve disgraced our family’, though now she’s fine about it.”

Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth, who had encouraged Cornwell to write, was far more understanding.

“I flew to see her, saying there would be things in the news. She just said, ‘So, honey, what else have you been doing?’?”

Most sensational of the “things in the news” were the reports of the trial in 1997 of Eugene Bennett, a former FBI agent who attempted to murder his wife after her affair with Cornwell. After all that, you’d think the writer would be relieved to be openly married. Not entirely.

“I live in a society where, when I’m invited as guest of honour, I’m not asked if I want to bring my partner. At dinner parties, you feel half the people round the table hate gays. Wherever you go, you know people are talking about you – it would be so different if I were to turn up with a big, strapping husband. But I figure that, if I’m honest about it, perhaps society will change.”

In America at present, she doesn’t see much prospect of that, so she keeps her security tight and tries to concentrate on the forensic science, intricate plots and sassy characters that have sold millions of books. Kay Scarpetta is in many ways how she would like to be: more “intelligent” and less “volatile”.

No doubt it is therapeutic for Cornwell to assume the tougher skin of her leading lady, but writing the books is emotionally gruelling. Recently, in a morgue, she saw the corpse of a child who had been starved.

“I started crying. I thought, ‘How can anyone do that? Especially when his sister was well-fed.'” During the writing of the book, a bird flew into her window pane – and she cried for two days over its injuries.

Such softer feelings are seeping into her books.

“In the next one, Kay will have a stable relationship,” she reveals. “It’s time for her to have a home, a garden and feelings.”

After that, who knows? Soon, she could be baking apple pie.

Patricia Cornwell’s extraordinary life

The imaginative roots of Patricia Cornwell’s bestselling thrillers lie in her own gothic life. With The Times serialising her new novel, The Front, over the next two weeks, she talks to Janice Turner about looking on the dark side

Patricia Cornwall

Patricia Cornwall

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After finishing Patricia Cornwell’s novel Postmortem, about a serial killer who stalks and slashes lone women, I wander down to the basement gym of my New York hotel. Usually I’d be pleased to find it empty, but instead I prickle with unease: I imagine some masked psycho bursting in, dumbbells and skipping ropes plied as weapons, my toe tagged, my innards pored over by Cornwell’s pathologist heroine, Dr Kay Scarpetta. Freaked out, I scurry back to my room.

When I tell Cornwell this she is delighted. “That’s good!” she exclaims. “If ever you don’t feel comfortable, you should trust your gut. There have been great studies of victims who survive and they all say the same thing, ‘I got a funny feeling and I didn’t listen.’” What I don’t say is that I’ve used that gym alone before, untroubled; it was Cornwell’s unblinking brand of rape-homicide fiction – a woman is almost decapitated in Body of Evidence, peeled in From Potter’s Field, “water-boarded” in Book of the Dead – which got me, well, a bit paranoid.

But you wouldn’t use the P-word with Patricia Cornwell. Perhaps when you have attended hundreds of postmortems and crime scenes, spent the past 20 years immersed in the spatter, reek and gore of forensic science, and turned it into 20 bestselling novels and an estimated $100 million fortune, you evaluate risk differently. The imagination that made her the most successful crime writer in the world forbids her to take chances. Today, her bodyguard, an ex-Marine called Jimmy, waits outside in a black Porsche Cayenne. Even when walking her dogs with a friend, she takes one of her several handguns: “What if a bunch of drunk guys stopped their car?” Her public appearances are policed by hard-bodied men whispering into their cuffs, and her home, near Cambridge, Massachusetts, has elaborate camera systems and a permanent security detail: “There are a lot of wacky people out there and it only takes one…”

Cornwell’s friends call her Mrs Worst-Case Scenario, but she insists: “What I worry about is legitimate.” So if, say, she is renting a house by the ocean and has the balcony door open she’ll barricade it with a chair: “I’m convinced that lots of people who were supposed to have committed suicide off a balcony were really accidents.”

In person, she shows the strain of living on perpetual high alert. She is watchful and intense, seldom smiling, but then suddenly gives a magnificently frank and generous answer she must pore over regretfully later, given the fusillade of e-mails I receive from her agent’s office and then Cornwell herself, fretful of misinterpretation. She gives the impression of barely containing many powerful, competing emotions within a very thin skin.

The interview had been set for New York, but within an hour of arriving I got a call saying that she had a fever of 102F, and wouldn’t be chartering a Learjet down from Boston after all. Usually with American big shots, this means a doomed trip or at least a thumb-twiddling week until the star rallies. But Cornwell, being both tough and kind, agrees to dose herself on flu meds and meet me nearer her home, at the Harvard Faculty Club, a grand and sumptuous building filled with antiques, burnished silver, trompe l’oeil and dark, polished wood; the place where vast wealth and academia meet.

We are only allowed here at all because her partner, Dr Staci Gruber, whom she married three years ago (and to whom Book of the Dead is dedicated), is assistant professor of psychiatry. Indeed the faculty club, with its rigid exclusivity, is a leitmotiv in her new book, The Front. It is where her new hero, the lowly but virtuous, second-hand-suited state investigator Win Garano, is summoned to take orders from his manipulative district attorney boss, Monique Lamont. “Win doesn’t belong here,” Cornwell says. “He has a learning disability and he could never have gotten into Harvard, yet he’s smart enough he could have gone anywhere.” Likewise, for all her success and wealth, and the fact that two blocks away is the multi-million-dollar collection of Walter Sickert artworks she donated to Harvard’s Fogg Art Museum, Cornwell is also an outsider, a status she seems both to resent and relish. “I tried to get into grad school here and they turned me down,” she says. “I came from a little town in the mountains of North Carolina and I’d never heard of anyone who went to Harvard. I’m around people who are doctors and lawyers and scientists and forensic pathologists. I feel insecure about my education. It doesn’t make any difference in what I write, but it probably keeps me from being a snob. I have so many things wrong with me, and it’s probably a good thing or I’d be an asshole.”

Cornwell is the most image-aware of authors. Few interviews fail to mention her Armani suit and professional grooming. But today, straight from her sick bed, she has the kick-ass look of an off-duty FBI agent: navy combat pants, biker boots and a red body-warmer, which, like a chunky ring on her right hand, bears the Scarpetta insignia. “Oh, I’m a slob today. You get a rare experience.” She is lean, sinewy and toned, but her face has been tightened and evened by surgery, Botox and collagen until, without make-up at 51, she looks like a slightly freeze-dried Meg Ryan. “Listen, honey,” she says in her Carolina drawl, “my goal is to make sure before I die I won’t decompose. Sure I’ve had work on my face. I’ll get anything done I can! I don’t want to look old. Does anyone?”

This is the breezy pragmatism of the utterly self-made: she transformed her destiny, why stop at her face? Indeed, all Cornwell’s tough talk and her obsessive self-protection are products of a gothic childhood in which she learnt to take care of herself because no one else would. When she was five, her father, a lawyer, left her family for good, Cornwell clinging pitifully to his legs. Her mother tumbled into despair and then mental illness. Cornwell seems unforgiving, even disgusted by this weakness. She recalls as a young child being molested by a private security guard near her home. “And the next thing I know is there is a police officer at my house and I’m at some kind of hearing at the court house and strangers are passing my little red shorts around, the ones he’d put his hands inside. I feel fear and that what I did was bad. My mother’s only way to deal with it is to take me to a toy store afterwards. And never to talk about what happened except to tell me I can’t ever buy a pair of red shorts because it will give [me] bad memories. Why not just say nothing?”

When Cornwell’s mother needed to be hospitalised she drove Cornwell and her two brothers to the nearby home of preacher Billy Graham. His wife, Ruth, welcomed them in and found foster care, even though the family were strangers. Ruth Graham remained Cornwell’s beloved mentor until her death last June, sending her cheques at college, guiding her through adolescent anorexia and, above all, encouraging her to write. But Cornwell’s foster mother, a missionary, terrified Cornwell, forbade her to leave the house, tormented her, fed her food she found disgusting. “I probably kill this lady every time I write a book,” she says grimly. “I find some way or form. She’s dead now and she deserves it.”

Cornwell never read a single murder mystery while growing up, but she was drawn to the macabre: her first poem, an ode to Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, lingered on his wounds. She believes it is her own fear of loss that underpins her work. Her interest in crime was only ignited after college when she found a reporting job on The Charlotte Observer and was assigned the police beat. “I was seeing car accidents and murders. That is what infected me with crime. I was so horrified I tried to figure it out.”

So she took a job as a data programmer at a morgue. Forensics, the science of reconstructing for court a whole life from a fibre, a fleck of paint, a nick on bone, echoed her childhood passion for archaeology. The morgue was run by a woman medical examiner, whom Cornwell begged to let her attend an autopsy. She even became a volunteer policewoman every weekend for three years to win permission. “I viewed it as a clinical scientific experience,” she says. “I tried not to focus on the gore or the dead body part of it.”

Her first published novel, Postmortem, created a new genre, the forensic detective thriller, which begat the television shows CSI, Silent Witness and Waking the Dead. She defends her gruesome work, saying that she is giving voice to victims of a forgotten war. “We are at war with crime,” she says. “Every day someone is murdered or attacked. These are acts of terrorism but against our own people. Is it not an act of terrorism when someone goes to shoot 30 students at a school?”

And yet, considering most real-life murder victims are young males, it is striking that all of Cornwell’s are female (a few are children) and that the murders invariably involve a sexual motive. Is she avenging real crimes against women or is she a titillator? There is no doubt her descriptions of brutalised female corpses and the bizarre, fetishistic things her villains do to them – tattoo them with handprints, remove eyeballs and fill them with sand – can read like some outré type of pornography. She focuses on sexual violence because “it is the worst. It is the absolute degradation of a human being. It is very rare, unless it is a domestic situation, for a woman to be murdered without also being sexually assaulted.”

But does she not worry that she will excite where she is trying to disgust? “Men can easily get off on this stuff in the newspapers. I try to write about crime not to celebrate it and make it sexy, but to condemn it. But I’m going to show it to you. Because it’s not pretty. It’s ugly and nasty and painful and frightening.”

To her, there is power in knowledge; she would rather “know what goes on than merrily go on my way, thinking it’s never going to happen to me”. So she still attends a few autopsies each year – “Because if I don’t go visit the dead, then they’re not gonna talk to me any more” – and has experienced most things she writes about, spending days at the “Body Farm”, a forensic college at the University of Tennessee where scientists observe decomposing corpses, which gave the title to her fifth Scarpetta novel. With Book of the Dead, however, she stopped short of cooking human flesh on a grill so she could describe its smell. “Although,” she says, “I could have got someone at the Body Farm to let me try it.” For all her professed seriousness, you can’t help thinking she relishes the gore.

It is often assumed that the sharp-dressed, meticulous Scarpetta is Cornwell herself, but rather she is her own idealised mother. “Scarpetta is a fantasy of what I wanted around me when I was a kid,” she says. “When I was held hostage in that foster home, if Scarpetta had walked in that house, she’d have said, ‘You’re out of here!’ She would have saved me. That patrol man would never have done that to me. Or if he had, she’d have cleaned his clock in court. Unlike my mother, she’d have known what to do.”

Cornwell can be seen in Lucy, Scarpetta’s niece, who evolves over the series from a neglected, angry, geeky child into a lesbian action figure, flying choppers, shooting guns from the back of her motorbike, joining the FBI and hostage-negotiating teams. Like Lucy, Cornwell owns an oversized Breitling pilot’s watch, a Harley and a Ferrari, and has learnt to fly a helicopter. And, although once married to a man – her college professor, 17 years her senior – Cornwell has been out, or rather outed, since 1992, when she had an affair with Marguerite Bennett, an FBI agent, and was exposed by Bennett’s jealous husband and fellow agent, Eugene. A shoot-out ensued between the Bennetts in a church and Eugene was jailed in 1997. But the case refuses to go away, with an account of the affair, Twisted Triangle, published this month; Cornwell views it as a last-ditch money-making venture.

The outing was painful, but it expelled the poison of secrets. These days Cornwell can barely utter a sentence without mentioning her partner, Gruber, whom she met while researching Book of the Dead. “The first time I saw her it was just like the air shifted in the room,” she says. She tells me how Gruber, 40, a vegetarian, has kicked her, a passionate cook, out of the kitchen to concoct delicious tofu dishes. She recites Gruber’s sheaf of Ivy League degrees, which she finds mighty classy. It helps also that Gruber, a neuropsychologist, is an expert in bipolar disorder, for which Cornwell has taken medication for years, and therefore understands her volatile highs and lows.

The couple were married in 2005 in Massachusetts, the only US state that permits gay marriage. It was a private ceremony because, Cornwell says, with sadness, “I wouldn’t invite my family. They know about it, but we don’t talk about it.” Her mother and Ruth and Billy Graham all accepted Gruber. “The people at the centre of the evangelical universe are kind and non-judgmental. It is the rings around Saturn you have to watch out for.”

Her marriage has radicalised her politics. A long-time Republican donor who was close to George Bush senior, she will vote Democrat in the presidential elections – for Hillary Clinton, she hopes. What she calls her “pilot light of anger” has flared up against the religious right. “I didn’t used to be political. I used to keep my mouth shut. We have politicians who want to overturn the constitution [to invalidate gay marriage] and elected officials who say homosexuals are more dangerous than terrorists. I don’t feel good about the far right at all, so much of their creed is discriminatory. I don’t care how they worship. Why should they care about how I live my life? Jesus would have been happy to carry a rainbow flag.”

When Cornwell was growing up her mother once declared that the worst thing in life was to turn out a homosexual alcoholic: “And I grew up to be gay with a DUI [Driving Under the Influence conviction],” she laughs grimly. Cornwell totalled her car after a drunken night in Los Angeles, just after her success had rocketed her from a salary at the morgue of $27,000 to a $1 million advance. Living in Malibu, she hung out with Demi Moore, Bruce Willis and Woody Harrelson. She calls this her Elvis period, a folie de grandeur in which she scooped up properties – she owned five at one time – and went on epic shopping sprees in which she bought expensive clothes, cars and jewels. It was insecurity, she says. “I was scared to death! I didn’t know how to behave around superstars. I didn’t know how to handle the money. I had no boundaries. I didn’t even know how much I had.” During that period of her life, she was hot, with movie studios desperate to make a Scarpetta film. Of all the blockbuster authors, she is the only one whose work has never been filmed. Stars dropped out: Jodie Foster (Cornwell’s first choice) declined, Demi Moore’s interest faded. There is talk that Cornwell was too controlling of her vision, but she says the scripts were never good enough. And now, with a glut of forensic dramas on television, one suspects that Scarpetta’s big-screen moment may have passed.

Cornwell has pared down her life and no longer feels the need for an office of eight people to carry out her ideas. But she still has that limitless American thinking and epic philanthropy, which means that she chucks $1 million donations at police crime scene academies and scoops up the college and medical bills of deserving cases who cross her path. She understands, and enjoys wielding, the magical power of money. It is also therapeutic, she says, this giving. I ask if she regrets never having children and she says: “I want to be my own mother and take care of myself. And my own father. He never paid a penny, never did anything for me.” Providing for nieces and nephews, paying their way through college, being the strong parent she herself lacked, has healed her inner, neglected little girl.

After our interview, we are both making use of the extravagant rest rooms of the Harvard Faculty Club when Cornwell calls to me from an adjacent stall. “You know one of the worst things about visiting a crime scene? You can’t use the bathrooms because it destroys evidence. You can be busting to go for hours.” She clearly loves all that police procedure, relishing her place behind the yellow tape. And she is a little in love, too, with her own image and mystique. Giving me a lift in her Porsche 4×4, she remarks that it has a gun turret. She’s joking, but I have to ask to make sure. And as we say goodbye, she gives me her bodyguard’s number in case I need help while in town. “Or if you want someone killing,” she adds drily. I like her a lot: I just wouldn’t want her for an enemy.

In this interview the writer noticed several of the same things I did about the book that came out in 2005, Predator:

I’m not weird, I’m just wired differently

An abusive father, a lesbian affair that ended in a shoot-out, bi-polar disorder — Patricia Cornwell’s life is as convoluted and disturbing as one of her plots

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Patricia Cornwell, who writes grisly crime novels but counts herself on the side of the angels — avenging angels, naturally — prides herself on her kindness. She rescues dogs from neglectful pet shops, helps young writers and gives millions of dollars to charity. She even does me a favour by saving me the trouble of having to describe her. Scanning her last novel, Trace, in preparation for talking to her about her latest, the already bestselling Predator, I come across this: “She is an attractive woman in a powerful way, not a big woman but strong-looking, in a midnight-blue pantsuit and midnight-blue blouse that sharpen her handsome features and set off her short blond hair. Her hands are strong and graceful . . .”This goddess is actually her habitual heroine, the forensic pathologist Dr Kay Scarpetta, but the moment Cornwell enters her suite in the Dorchester I recognise her, even though she is wearing not midnight blue but a grey Armani trouser suit and even though, at 49, she is some years Kay’s senior.

Like Scarpetta, too, she is careful about keeping this well-toned body of hers from harm. I would, for instance, be astounded if the big guy who greets me at the door is, as he is described, her publicist and not, in fact, her bodyguard.

Cornwell, who owns a small arsenal of handguns back in America, has been stalked by fans, some of whom have brought knives and firearms to book signings.

She says that, like many wealthy writers, she attracts “predators”. Does she think she has weird readers? “Definitely. Not only do I have ‘fans’ who get obsessed with me, I have ‘fans’ who get obsessed with my characters, as if they’re real. They get involved in strange activities on the internet.” That is weird, though other, less fanatical, readers of her oeuvres might feel that she is the weirdo.

When in 1990 she published her first Scarpetta novel, Postmortem, Richmond, Virginia, had a high enough murder rate. Since then she has populated it with serial killers with such names as Mr Nobody, Wolfman and, in Predator, Hog, aka Hand of God. Here is one of Predator’s corpses: “The victim has raggedly cut, short black hair that is damp and still gory with bits of brain tissue. There is almost nothing left of her face. It looks as if a small bomb blew up inside her head, which is rather much what happened.”

“Yes,” she says, “I’m graphic about violence. I make it painful. But I do not cross a certain line. In Predator, when you have the hostage situation, I had a difficult time dealing with those scenes because they’re pretty awful, but I could have made them a whole lot worse.”

To illustrate her sensitivity, she tells me how she walked out of a “death investigation school” when a forensic scientist played the class videotapes of a torture. “To witness that pain and horror, the fear, is beyond words. I’ll never, never forget that. I could never do that to my readers.”

The point of her work, she says, is to speak up for the victims of crime. She writes, she suggests, in the tradition of her distant relative Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of the anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

But her empathies lie most obviously with Scarpetta, like Cornwell Miami-born, like her divorced and like her a labourer in the forensic vineyard, although Cornwell’s six years at the medical examiner’s office in Richmond, after a youth as crime reporter on the Charlotte Observer, were spent in its IT department. Scarpetta and Cornwell also have “issues” with their late fathers, though at this point the plot thickens. While Scarpetta says in Body of Evidence that her career in pathology can be traced back to “the terrible crime of my father’s death” (leukaemia, actually), Cornwell traces her own motivations to the psychological abuse she suffered from her father, Sam Daniels, a lawyer who walked out on the family one Christmas Day 44 years ago. “He was very analytical and had a pristine, sharp mind, but his problem was that emotionally he was unable to connect with people, and could be very cruel.” A sociopath? “I don’t know what his diagnosis would be, but he didn’t seem to feel much remorse when he did very harmful things. He wasn’t even nice to me on his deathbed. We knew it was the last time we’d see each other; he grabbed my brother’s hand and mouthed ‘I love you’, but he never touched me. All he did was write on a legal pad ‘How’s work?’ ”

It was, all in all, a lousy childhood. At the age of 5 she appeared before the grand jury in her home town to give evidence against a neighbourhood security guard who “was getting started on some activity that would not have been very good if my brother hadn’t ridden up on his bicycle and scared him away”.

After her father left, her mother moved the family to Montreat, North Carolina, but, unable to cope, was treated in hospital for depression. The foster parents Patricia was sent to turned out to be as cruel as her father; her dog died of neglect. By her late teens she was anorexic. How on earth, from this wreckage, does such a successful adult emerge? She offers two explanations. The first is the Graham family, as in the evangelist Billy and his wife Ruth, who befriended her in Montreat and encouraged her to write. And the second? “The things that happened to me propelled me in a direction of realising that I must be able to take care of myself because nobody else was going to. I didn’t want to feel powerless again. Whether it’s being molested at 5 or being in foster homes, you have no control.”Is it because she fears ceding control that, since the end of her marriage to Charles Cornwell, a college professor 17 year her senior, she has not been prepared to share her life? “No, I am prepared to do it. Actually I’m in a stable long-term relationship that I won’t go into detail about, if nothing else to protect the identity of the other person.”

She is known to have had at least one lesbian affair. I ask if her lover is a woman. “Yes. So to all these people who think that I’m all screwed up about relationships: I’m in one.” For how long? “I feel for ever, that’s as much as I’ll say. But if you’re in a healthy relationship, it’s not about power. You shouldn’t be with somebody who is trying to take away your power. It should be about empowerment.”

And so we return to those disempowered by the misfortune of being murdered. My reservation about her work is not that her thrillers are exactly heartless, or that their hardboiled prose sometimes reads facetiously, but that the plots are too incredible to have much relationship with real life. Mind you, her own life has been has been pretty far-fetched: her late twenties were particularly eventful. After the success of Postmortem she bought five houses and who knows how many cars in a year. Then, after an evening out with Demi Moore, who was down to play Scarpetta in a film, she crashed her Mercedes, was convicted of drink-driving and sentenced to 28 days in a treatment centre. Even more spectacular was an affair she conducted between 1991 and 1992 with an FBI forensics instructor, a married woman, Margo Bennett. A few years later Margo’s now estranged but still jealous husband, also a former FBI agent, lured Margo to a church and threatened to kill its minister. Margo arrived to find the pastor with a sack over his head and Gene Bennett brandishing a gun. Margo fired her own gun and Gene was jailed for 23 years. “I wish he’d stay there for the rest of his life. He’s very dangerous,” Cornwell says. And, no, she does not talk to Margo any more, because there are toxic people in one’s life whom one needs to cut out.

It is to her credit that she is back on good terms with Charles, her ex, and that she has healed a rift with Ruth Graham, who took against the biography Cornwell wrote about her but, really, Cornwell is one of the least sentimental American females I have met. She talks big about her powers of sympathy but her gift, in conversation, is for polemic. She sounds off on issues big (her increasingly bigoted country) and small (Tom Cruise, for condemning psychiatric drugs).

Then there is Jack the Ripper. Three years ago she wrote a nonfiction work, Portrait of a Killer, unveiling him as the painter Walter Sickert. It was subtitled Jack the Ripper: Case Closed. Alas, art historians and Ripperolgists were as one in deciding that the case remained wide open. This summer Cornwell, who has spent a fortune buying Sickertalia and subjecting it to chemical analysis, took out full-page ads in the British press defending herself. Yet having read the book, all I am convinced of is that Sickert was an unpleasant man unhealthily interested in the Ripper case, as was much of London. I tell her that by using Sickert’s name interchangeably with the Ripper’s, the book denies the artist the presumption of innocence.

“Well, maybe I should have stated that more objectively. But I’ve no doubt that Sickert was the Ripper,” she says. The problem is that much of Sickert’s work is still in copyright and she can’t reproduce it. An example is a series of drawings of a woman. The last one had been stabbed through 17 or 18 times with a pencil. “There is no explanation except that he looked at her and looked at her and then for some reason turned her around in his mind, took his pencil and went bam, bam.”

And yet, she says, she has mellowed toward Jack the Sickert. “I am no longer in favour of the death penalty. That’s been completely reversed in my thinking from doing the research I have into the science of psychiatry with Predator.”

Having decided with Predator to push forensic science towards the “unexplored frontier” of the criminal brain, she has concluded that the mind is formed by nature and nurture acting upon each other. This does not mean that a person is chemically doomed to become a psychopathic murderer, only that some people “are wired differently”.

“I’ve had my own difficulties. My wiring’s not perfect and there are ways that you can stabilise that. I have certain things that run in my own ancestry. It’s not unusual for great artistic people to have bipolar disorder, for example.”

Is she bipolar? “The diagnosis goes back and forth but I’m pretty sure that I am.” Does she take Lithium? “No, I take a mood stabiliser.” And if she came off it? “I’d turn into Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.” What? “Just kidding. No, I wouldn’t feel as good. Maybe one minute you feel kind of low, another sort of hyper.”

So is Cornwell weird? Actually, she’s rather fun, but “differently wired”. Let’s just admire the sparks that fly off her circuitry into her books. With her life, most of us would have fused yonks ago.


Greg Mortenson

In This Interview…

Greg Mortenson

“You can drop bombs, hand out condoms, build roads or put in electricity, but unless the girls are educated, a society won’t change”

“If you want to fight terrorism, it’s based in fear. If you want to promote peace, it’s based in hope.”

Greg on His Best Selling Book with Borders

Greg Mortenson

Greg Mortenson speaking about 'Three Cups of Tea'

Greg Mortenson was born December 27, 1957. He is a mountain climber, former United States Army medic, and humanitarian from Bozeman, Montana. From 1958 to 1973, Mortenson grew up on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, where his parents were Lutheran missionaries. His father was the founder and development director of the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center, Tanzania’s first teaching hospital. His mother Dr. Jerene founded the International School Moshi.

Mortenson attended Ramsey High School in Roseville, Minnesota from 1973 to 1975 and served in the U.S. Army in Germany. He attended Concordia College from 1977 to 1979, and later graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1983 with an Associate Degree in Nursing and a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry.

In a CNN article by John Blake, he said “Mortenson was a big brother, protector and friend. He took his sister Christa to the Indy 500, the Kentucky Derby and Disneyland. But one of her favorite pastimes was watching the movie, Field of Dreams. Their mother promised to take Christa to the field where it was filmed for her 23rd birthday in July 1992, but she died from a massive seizure in her sleep on the morning of the trip. Mortenson decided to honor Christa by climbing K2.”

In 1993, Mortenson went to climb K2, the world’s second highest mountain, in northern Pakistan. “I felt as if there was an angel holding my hand, trying to take me to the top,” he said. “When I lost that hand, I decided I better go down.” Two local Balti porters took Mortenson to the nearest city, but he took a wrong turn along the way and ended up in Korphe, a small village, where he recovered.

What Mortenson found on his descent would test his will as much as K2. He would stagger into a remote Pakistani village, have his heart “torn out” by an unexpected encounter, and meet a girl who altered his life with one question: “Can you help me build a school?”  After a frustrating time trying to raise money, Mortenson convinced Jean Hoerni, a Silicon Valley pioneer, to found the Central Asia Institute. A non-profit organization, CAI’s mission is to promote education and literacy, especially for girls, in remote mountain regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Since 1996, Mortenson has helped build 63 schools for children in Pakistan and Afghanistan through the nonprofit group, the Central Asia Institute.

Mortenson told the girl that he would build a school. Fifteen years later, he has helped build 62 more schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are his ‘Field of Dreams’. “I didn’t know it would change my life forever.” He has said “Once you educate the boys, they tend to leave the villages and go search for work in cities. But the girls stay home, become leaders in the community and pass on what they’ve learned. If you really want to change a culture, to empower women, improve basic hygiene and health care, and fight high rates of infant mortality, the answer is to educate girls.” Even though he didn’t place Christa’s necklace on the top of K2, Mortenson said he left a better tribute for her: a school for girls who are just as brave as she was. “That’s a much better honor to Christa than climbing a mountain. I think she would be happy.”Greg Mortenson

In the process of building schools, Mortenson has survived an 8-day armed 1996 kidnapping in the tribal areas of Waziristan in Pakistan, escaped a 2003 firefight between Afghan opium warlords, and received hate mail and threats from fellow Americans for helping educate Muslim children.

Mortenson believes that education and literacy for girls globally is the most important investment all countries can make, and the best way to ‘fight’ terrorism is to build schools free of the Taliban’s oversight. Because of this, several of the school’s Mortenson’s group built were destroyed by the Taliban, but the communities rebuilt them.

Mortenson and David Oliver Relin are co-authors of the New York Times best selling book Three Cups of Tea. On BBC Radio in 2008, the BBC reported that Greg Mortenson had set up over sixty schools and as a result over 25,000 children had been educated. Pennies for Peace is a program Mortenson launched to involve American school-children in fund-raising efforts for the schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Greg MortensonMortenson has received the following awards: the 1975 US Army Commendation medal, 1998 American Alpine Club David Brower Conservation Award, and the 2003 Climbing Magazine ‘Golden Piton Award’ for humanitarian effort.  In 2003, he received the Vincent Lombardi Champion Award for humanitarian service, the “Peacemaker of the Year” from Benedictine Monks in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Outdoor Person of the Year in Outdoor Magazine and Salzburg Seminar fellowship. In 2004, Mortenson won the Freedom Forum ‘Free Spirit Award’ from the National Press Club and the Jeanette Rankin Peace Award, Institute for Peace.

In 2005 he won the Men’s Journal ‘Anti-Terror’ Award by Senator John McCain and the Red Cross “Humanitarian of The Year” in Montana; in 2006 there was the Golden Fleur-de-lis Award from Italy. In 2007 Mortenson received the Rotary International Paul Harris Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. As of 2008, Mortenson has received the National Award for Citizen Diplomacy from the Citizen Center for Diplomacy, the Courage of Conscience Award, and the 2008 National Award for Citizen Diplomacy from the Citizen Center for Diplomacy.

Mortenson has accepted honorary Doctorate degrees, from Concordia College in Minnesota, the University of South Dakota, Montana State University, Villanova University in Pennsylvania, San Francisco University, University of Washington, Lewis & Clark College in Washington, and Seattle University. He is married to Dr. Tara Bishop, a clinical psychologist, with whom he has two children.

Three Cups of Tea has won the Kiriyama Prize Nonfiction Award, Time Magazine Asia Book of The Year, the Nonfiction Award from Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association, the Montana Honor Book Award, a runner up for the Dayton Literary Prize Nonfiction Award, in People Magazine Critics Choice and was featured in Publisher’s Weekly as a starred review.

“The real enemy is ignorance and ignorance breeds hatred. You can drop bombs, you can build roads, but if you don’t educate girls, the society is not going to change.”

Transcript: Greg Mortenson on Building Schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan
March 2, 2007

HINOJOSA: Welcome to our podcast. This week we’re talking to Greg Mortenson, co-author of the New York Times best-selling book, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time (PH). The book is about Greg’s incredible efforts to educate young people in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Welcome to Now on the News.

MORTENSON: Good morning, Maria.

HINOJOSA: It’s great to have you on the show, Greg. You know you have so many fans across the country, across the world, who think that your notion of building one school at a time in countries that are not necessarily welcoming to Americans—many people read your book and think it’s life-changing. Did you ever think that you would have that kind of an impact on Americans?

MORTENSON: No, I—I just started out—I was a (UNINTEL) climber on K2 and stumbled into a village in ’93. And I made a rash promise that I would help build a school. And this kinda led from there. And I—I think part of it has to do with what I call, thinking from your heart or your intuition. But I never could envision this. And I—I never realized that—(LAUGHTER) where we’d get to.

HINOJOSA: And I’m sure you never thought you would end up building more than one school over there. I wanna start Greg, by asking you the question that is—is really on the news—your response to this report that Pakistan has arrested a Taliban chief, Mullah Obi Ai Dullah (PH). He is considered a—a—a very high level of the Taliban to be arrested. When you see this kind of news about an important member of the Taliban being arrested, what goes on for you?

MORTENSON: Well Maria, I think it’s great. And you know, given all the resources and money and everything we—we spend into capturing or killing terrorists or al-Qaeda or the Taliban, that—you know it’s—you know, it shows that there’s some progress. Unfortunately, against the—the backdrop of that is the fact that the international community, the Pakistan Afghan government, and—and the U.S., we’ve really failed to—to go to the—I—I’d say the next level, and that is to provide education and—and help for the children—with—with formal or secular education and give them opportunities. And—and it’s—Taliban use large swaths of rural society to recruit—foot soldiers.

For example, after 9/11 the Taliban were about 20,000 strong. And then they had about 80,000 you’d say, semi-adherents, who a lot of them deserted right after 9/11. They had trouble getting soldiers to fight the eminent intervention by the U.S. and coalition. So they went in at gunpoint to many areas, and—and they had trouble actually getting recruits from areas where there was more education, wh—as women were refusing to allow their sons to join the Taliban.

And what—what is not really known about in the West very much is the fact that under Islam, when a young man goes on jihad—you know, we think of jihad as holy war, but it—it can also be a noble quest like—going on with your education or spiritual endeavor, or it could mean also joining—joining the Taliban. So a young man has to get permission and blessings from his mother. And if he doesn’t do that, it’s very shameful or disgraceful.

And also under we say, real Islam, suicide is—is perhaps the ultimate sin or—or atrocity a person can commit in the killing of civilians. So if a young—young man doesn’t get that permission and—and he—he becomes a shahid (PH) or martyr, it’s very disgraceful or—or he—he’s not gonna go to heaven as he may—might think he does. But I’ve been criticized for saying that. But—even if you look at the 9/11 hijackers, certainly they were educated. Some of them even had university degrees. But—nobody really went and checked their mothers, who are nearly all illiterate.

And now that’s a very strong deterrent—that we had the same thing you know, here—we do in the inner cities, where you have single mothers you know, who are impoverished and less education. Their son wants to get into drugs or gangs or violence, but if she has an education, she more likely—not—you know, condone her son to go into violence. And she’ll encourage him to get a job or go on with his school.

HINOJOSA: And I wanna talk to you a little bit more about how strongly you feel about educating girls and women. But before that, I’m sure that many of our listeners kind of approach this and think, “You know, my sense,” they might say to themselves, “is that if we go to Pakistan, if we go to Afghanistan, any American is considered an infidel, an outsider, someone who is hated and despised.” Are we wrong when we have these images? Because you go out there, and you’ve done this—these projects of building schools solo.

MORTENSON: Maria, I started in ’93. So I’m—I’m going on 14 years. Now I have very close relationships with many people over there. And I find that by—you know, in the great majority of communities—and I’m talking about rural and impoverished communities—they definitely support education. And it’s the few extremists or radicals (UNINTEL) hijacked their religion and—their faith, and are trying to you know, propagate a very violent—ideology.

And it is—it is kind of frightening—the fact that 1980, there were about 300 extremist madrasahs (PH) in Pakistan and Afghanistan. By—by—2000—there were approximately 25,000 of these madrasahs with the (UNINTEL PHRASE) of four million children. And a madras, it’s—it’s also important to clarify—there’s a madras, which is a—a place where children learn about Islam and the Koran in every single hamlet and village in the Islamic world.

And you know, 99 percent of madrasahs are very similar to confirmation or catechism or the bar mitzvah. But there are these other extremist madrasahs, mostly funded by Wahhabi (PH) adherents. And Wahhabi is one of the—the most extreme of the four Sunni sub-sects that propagate very violent type of ideology.

And these have flourished. They take the brightest young boys from the madrasahs. They send them to Yemen and Saudi Arabia for about a decade, indoctrinate ’em into the very you know, violent, militant type of Islam, send ’em back to the village, make him the richest man. And he has—he’s—required to have four wives and have a lotta children.

So if you look at that—the Wahhabi plan or—or the extremist plan, it is to—it’s over about 100 year plan. And we’re trying to tackle this with billions of dollars and bipartisan bickering. And we—really—really need to look at education, I think, as an alternative. Even if we could invest one percent of the money that we put to the war on terror in education, it could have profound implications.

HINOJOSA: But you know, Greg, some people might say—especially when they hear your—your—the answer that you just gave, where you now have students who are being educated in this you know, k—as you say, violent form of—of Islam, what can one school here and there actually do against a hundred year plan to confront the infidels of the West?

MORTENSON: The way I approach this—you know, I’m actually an optimist, and you know it’s easy to get pessimistic or—or—what I say is you know, if you fight terror, terrorism, it’s based in fear. But if you wanna promote peace, it’s based in hope. And—and what we’re trying to do is look at the most extreme areas—either physical isolation, areas of conflict and war, or the third is—religious extremism. And we’re able to, over several years, put flourishing, thriving communities-based schools, including for the girls, in those areas.

We have 58 schools, which doesn’t sound like a lot. But—if you look at where those schools are, I think it’s a tremendous credit to the communities that they value education. Including in—in Taliban strongholds, we have schools that—have girls coming to school.

HINOJOSA: Which is something that’s really wonderful in the beginning of your book. When you have failed to—to scale the second highest peak in—in—in the world, and you’re really devastated, and you get saved essentially and brought back to life by these people in this small village up in the mountains. And—and you realize that these kids have no school. And you write about their fierceness to learn. That’s not necessarily how a lot of people may perceive these young kids, that there’s a fierceness to be educated.

MORTENSON: Yeah, on fierceness, they don’t have the distractions—no Nintendo, T.V. So these kids, they have to work quite a bit. They do manual labor in the fields and—and the household. But education for them is—is kind of like their greatest—joy in life. And—and you find there’s a incredible learning curve.

They’re riveted to their lessons. They take ’em home. They—they work with their parents, so we get these great results. And it’s not all—Maria, it’s not all perfect. Last year, two of our female teachers in Wolander Village (PH) and Charsea Valley (PH), which is the home of Hickmanteur (PH), who’s also one of the most wanted Taliban. And—and he formally was a mujahideen (PH) and freedom fighter again the Soviet Union. And now he’s become a—the U.S.’s most sought-out person.

Anyhow, in his—his village, two of our teachers resigned last fall. They’re female. So I went to their houses. I talked to them. They said, “We’ll only go back if the Commandant Doud (PH),” who you might say is the warlord of the local co—commander, “will order us back.” So we went to his compound. He has daughters in school. He—he became furious. And now he’s posted six of his militia at the school and said that if anybody even looks you know, cross-eyed at those two teachers, or—or says anything to them, that—that their orders are to shoot them. So that’s not n—normally how we operate. But—(LAUGHTER)

HINOJOSA: But you know, the interesting thing, Greg, is that you talk so much about a sense of hope and positivity (PH) and trying to find these human connections. The reality is that many of these people call you an infidel. You’ve had fatwas (PH) put out against you. It’s not as if there is a sense of open arms to what you’re doing.

MORTENSON: What the fatwa was and the—the hate is coming from a few of the despot mullahs. And these are in rural illiterate society. And they control that society with their l—they’re often the only literate person. Or they have some education. And they do not want education in their areas because it’ll empower the people.

And furthermore, they’re even more antagonistic towards girls going to school because they do know that if—if the girls have an education, when they become a mother, then they’ve pretty much lost their—(UNINTEL) of their power. And often it’s about—more about money (UNINTEL) Islam. In many areas, for each young boy that goes to a madras, the local mullah gets say, $50 to $80 per year, which—which is a lotta money. It’s probably you know, like $5000 here in the States.

And when you put in a school, often many of the kids—including the boys and girls—will go to the school. And an example, that is in Pakistan in January 2004, there were eight girls’ schools bombed in Tangir Valley (PH), which is a very tribal, isolated area. And it was in response to Musharraf (PH) putting in several new schools in the Valley the year before.

But what really happened was the fact that the madras enrollment dropped from about 500 down to about 80 students in one year. Most of the boys started going to school. And so the mullahs paid some Taliban to go and—and destroy those schools.

HINOJOSA: So you have clearly faced resistance, even violence, in the projects that you’re doing in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But after 9/11, you also received death threats from your fellow Americans who said, “How dare you go and try to educate Muslim children?”

MORTENSON: I was in Pakistan and Afghanistan from August until October 2001. And I decided to stay. The U.S.—other than journalists and—and some—a few humanitarian aides—most of the people left the country. And everywhere I went—you know like a—widow named Hawah (PH) brought me five eggs to bring to widows in New York. And I was really touched by what I saw.

And when I came back to States, it was Halloween—Day, 2001. Went to my—my little office in the basement. I start opening up my mail. And I start getting hate mail. And subsequently I start getting death threats. And even now with the book out, I’ve—we’ve been getting—very threatening e-mails and some phone calls.

HINOJOSA: What is the greatest misconception that we Americans have gotten because of the reporting? What is the reporting missing that we need to know?

MORTENSON: The good facts. In Afghanistan today—and I’ve been in about 60 cities, Maria, in the last year, talking to—you know, thousands of people. And I ask the same question. “How many of you know that in Afghanistan today there are 4.2 million children going to school, and during the Taliban time there were 800,000 kids going to school?” And—and so far, you know I’m probably talking maybe 30,000 people, not one hand has come up.

You know, that America’s not aware of that. And you know, that may be what you say is a counter to those four million children in madrasahs. And—and obviously, it—it’s only a drop in a bucket. But that is, to me, very positive news. And it’s probably the most hopeful news that I could try to convey to the American public.

HINOJOSA: Greg, are you hopeful at this point? Do you see a light at the end of the tunnel?

MORTENSON: I do. And it’s—but it’s a tunnel. And Maria, it’s—I—I unfortunately think it’s gonna get worse before it gets better. But I do think that you know, those four million children now in Afghanistan and—and in Pakistan, and that’s where the real hope is. And—and that’s another decade or two down the road. And I’m hopeful, because you know, I have two children. And when I look into the eyes of my children, I see the children of Afghanistan and Pakistan. And—and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to you know, live—leave them a legacy of peace. And—

HINOJOSA: Thank you so much for joining us on Now on the News.

MORTENSON: Thank you, Maria.

HINOJOSA: Greg Mortenson is co-author of the New York Times best-seller, Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time. For more information about Greg’s work, you can visit our website at Thanks again for speaking with us, Greg.

MORTENSON: Thanks, Maria.

HINOJOSA: I’m Maria Hinojosa. We’ll talk to you again next week.

NPR Interview

February 7, 2002

Fresh Air
with host, Terry Gross

This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. My guest, Greg Mortenson, first went to Pakistan to climb K2, the second-highest mountain in the world. He didn’t make it to the top, but he fell in love with the region. He returned in 1993 with a different goal: to start schools in Pakistan, with an emphasis on educating girls. He founded the Central Asia Institute, which has built 22 schools and created 11 schools without buildings. Some of his schools are in Afghan refugee camps. The institute has also created two dozen potable water projects and five women’s vocational training programs. To set up these programs, Mortenson has worked closely with religious and tribal leaders. He now divides his time between Pakistan and his home in Montana.

He started building schools for girls one year before the Taliban began its insurgence. In 1996, the Taliban took over Afghanistan and made it illegal for girls to go to school. Mortenson says that even before the Taliban, educational options were shutting down in the region. He blames that largely on cuts in aid from the US.

Mr. GREG MORTENSON (Central Asia Institute): In 1989, after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, the aid to Afghanistan dropped from $850 million down to about $170 million in one year.

There also was the Larry Pressler amendment in ’89 which banned the sale of 20F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. With that, the US was worried that the F-16s could carry nuclear bombs that Pakistan had been working on. With that, there were a lot of tag-alongs, or add-ons, to the sanctions in the amendment that was tied to debt repayment and loans that Pakistan had defaulted on.

The World Bank funding dropped with more sanctions. Hundreds of schools closed down in the tribal belts in western Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. There were tens of thousands of boys who had aspired to improve their lives through education, and they ended up joining religious madrassahs or the Islamic schools, which predominantly are funded by Saudi Arabian Wahhabi. Wahhabi is the most strict sect of Sunni Muslims. And so just as the sanctions and schools were getting closed down, there was the opportunity of more and more madrassahs opening up, and students began to go to school at madrassahs, which became fertile recruiting grounds for the Taliban.

Over 80,000 boys who have gone through madrassahs joined the Taliban at one time or another. Ironically, it was the terrorist groups who recognized the value of, i.e., education, more than the development agencies, and what we were working–and we started back then is to provide education, community-based education, which is a deterrent to this stagnant–boys who have nothing to do, and also a long-term solution as far as giving them hope and opportunity.

GROSS: Do you see it as paradoxical that American sanctions that withheld certain aid money helped close down the schools, which helped build the power of the madrassahs, the religious schools?

Mr. MORTENSON: Right. If you draw that out on a chart, it’s very interesting. It almost happened at the same time, and one thing evolved into another. And even today–I met some Taliban when I was in Pakistan in October last year, and without exception–this is about 10 different Taliban–they said they would never join the Taliban if they had a job. When somebody signs up for the Taliban, they got a $300 bonus. They went to three weeks of training, then they got an assignment for six months. When they got done, they would get a $200 bonus.

If they had had education or if they had had economic–some type of incentive or a job, all the ones I talked to, at least, said they would never join the Taliban.

GROSS: What made you think of starting schools for girls, as opposed to schools for boys?

Mr. MORTENSON: I met a very old professor in New Delhi. His name is Pritpal Singh. He was one of the senior statisticians with the United Nations, and he basically drew out a chart to show me that fifth-grade level girls’ education is the single most important thing you can do to literally improve the quality of a society in that part of the world. And the chart really got me motivated to work on girls’ education.

GROSS: What’s the theory behind that? Why does girls’ education improve the society?

Mr. MORTENSON: Well, basically, by having literacy and educating girls to that level, they have a greater awareness about hygiene and sanitation, and they can read different charts and diagrams, and they also have a better understanding about family planning and hygiene that seems to be more instilled. And also, there’s the old saying as these societies are changing, most of the boys and men leave the villages, especially the educated ones, but the women stay behind, and they’re the essence of the community, so when you educate a girl in the village, that will remain in the village and that value of education will go to the next generation.

GROSS: The Taliban banned education for girls. So I imagine that over the years that you’ve been building schools in Pakistan, that you’ve had Islamic leaders tell you that girls really shouldn’t receive an education. Has that happened much where you were told that?

Mr. MORTENSON: Initially my third year there I’d completed the first school, and I was looking at other options in some remote areas. But I met resistance from the village mullahs or the sharifs or the religious head leaders in each village. And most of all it was about that they were the only literate person in the village and they could issue edicts or it gave them a lot of power. So I contacted Said Abas Resvi(ph), who’s the head Islamic leader in northern Pakistan. He’s a Shiite Muslim under the auspices of the Iranian ayatollahs. We wrote a letter to Kholm, Iran, to the council of ayatollahs. And about nine months later, we got a letter back.

I was called into the middle of a mosque in a kind of inner sanctum. Eight mullahs were there, very imposing. And they brought me this red, velvet box. I thought this was it. I’m going to get kicked out of the country. Instead, Said Abas opened the box and inside was a letter in the ornate Persian Farsi script which basically said that they have reviewed my request. In the holy Koran, there’s nothing that prohibits education. In fact, it encourages education for both our, quote, “brothers and sisters,” and, furthermore, that me as an infidel had not only their approval but their blessings; the work that I was doing was in the highest principles of Islam.

And after we got that letter, basically within a few weeks, we’ve got dozens of proposals and now we can’t keep up with the demand. We have requests for over a hundred girl schools in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

GROSS: Where were you on September 11th?

Mr. MORTENSON: I was in Zutcon Village(ph) in Charposen Valley(ph). It’s on the Afghan-Pakistan border in the extreme north of Pakistan. It took about eight hours for the word of the incident to get to me via jeep, porter, donkey, mule. These are illiterate people. They told me that a village had been bombed in New York and 50,000 people had been killed. These are people who hadn’t seen a skyscraper or an airplane. And immediately I noticed there was an outpouring of sympathy. I met with Islamic leaders in prayer sessions and they, without exception, told me that this was not in accordance with Islam and that these were terrorists. Village army commanders, village chiefs, children, women–they embraced me. Little old ladies brought me eggs in sympathy to bring back to New York to give to the widows who had died in the World Trade Center. And what I saw and felt over the next two months certainly didn’t reflect what I saw in the press when I came back here to the States.

GROSS: Well, when you were told that a village in New York was bombed and 50,000 people died, what did you think and how did you find out what had actually happened?

Mr. MORTENSON: At first it was hard to believe, and there was also a great–they told me that the US would begin a massive retaliation and also the Taliban would begin attacking villagers. So there was some panic and fear. I wasn’t able to talk to–this was a place without electricity, telephone, fax or radio, TV. So I sent a message to go get my satellite telephone. It took a couple days to reach me, and there I got to talk to my wife and get more kind of accurate information. But what I immediately saw was just a really outpouring of sympathy.

GROSS: My guest is Greg Mortenson, founder of the Central Asia Institute which builds schools for girls in Pakistan and in Afghan refugee camps. We’ll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Greg Mortenson, founder of the Central Asia Institute, which builds schools for girls in Pakistan, including in Afghan refugee camps. What you’ve described on a whole is a very positive reaction to your work, but I know in 1996, you were kidnapped while you were working in Pakistan. What happened?

Mr. MORTENSON: I was visiting a water project in the tribal areas which is near Khowst in Afghanistan where the US bombed in 1998 in August. And I got actually involved in a tribal dispute. And 2 AM eight men armed came into my room. They blindfolded me, took me out. They were all armed. And they brought me–and walked down a hill in a pickup. We went to another place two hours away, and I was held in confinement for eight days. They treated me well. However, I didn’t know if I was going to get killed. I didn’t know what had happened, if I was being held for ransom. And I noticed on the third day I got really depressed. So I thought I have to survive this. I had just gotten married and my wife was six months pregnant. The first thing I did is ask them for a Koran. And they brought me a Koran. And then, of course, I asked for somebody to translate or read it for me. And the second thing I did on the fifth day was to tell them that I had a firstborn son coming very soon, although I knew I had a daughter coming. And in that society, the birth of a firstborn is a very important event.

On the eighth day, they again wrapped up my head with a turban, took me down the path. We went in a pickup and down to a clearing about 5 AM. And just as the sun’s coming up, I was in this place with about 200 armed warriors. And they had been fighting for over eight days. And they had used me kind of as a bargaining chip and their dispute was over and they released me to a barrage of gunfire in the air and they were all hugging each other. It was a very strange event, but I learned from that time on to really acknowledge the traditions, their ancient tribal codes.

The Pashto, who dominate that area, have three things in their code of conduct. One is nanawati, which is the rite of refuge or hospitality. If you ask them for permission to come in their society, they will give you their hospitality, refuge. The second is kerat, is that all the community will be involved in decisions, and the third, puksto(ph), which means hospitality, and they’ll give you incredible hospitality. I had gone there without being invited, and had I perhaps first sought the permission of the tribal chief, I doubt the kidnapping would have happened.

GROSS: How did you feel about lying and and saying that you were expecting a son when you knew you were having a daughter?

Mr. MORTENSON: Well, I knew the difference, and at that point, all I wanted to do was survive and get home, so I felt it was OK to lie a little bit, but in the end, I’ve gone back and talked to the people there, and they somewhat knew that I might not be telling the truth, but that I was trying to kind of understand their code and what’s important to them, to see across the cross-cultural barriers.

GROSS: So you went back to say, among other things, it wasn’t really a son, it was a daughter?

Mr. MORTENSON: Yeah, and I brought pictures, and they invited me back, ironically, and now they’re asking for help in the area since the Taliban have left the area.

GROSS: Why did you go back?

Mr. MORTENSON: I wanted some closure and also, I think they taught me a very important lesson. Most of the foreigners who get into trouble, it’s not seeing across the culture barrier, and I wanted to show them that I had learned and accepted their way, and also I basically–they invited me back, so I wanted to go there and get some closure on it.

GROSS: I imagine there’s things that you didn’t necessarily want to accept. I mean, I can see there must be a lot of dilemmas, working in Pakistan and working with Afghan refugees, because on the one hand, you want to respect and understand and often accept the culture. On the other hand, there are aspects of the culture that you don’t accept. For instance, you don’t accept those within the culture who think that girls shouldn’t be educated.

Mr. MORTENSON: Right. And it’s taken me several years. There’s a saying that you can rent an Afghan, but you can’t buy one, and basically, you need to win their hearts. Recently, with the military and a lot of the bigger news agencies, they’ve been handing out dollar bills like candy, and they’ve been able to glean support for our activities over there. But to win the hearts of the people, it really takes three cups of tea. The first cup of tea, in the first sitting, you’re a stranger. The second cup, you become a guest and the third cup, you become a family. The process takes several years. It’s kind of like the two-minute football drill or the 30-minute power lunch, American power lunch, really doesn’t work over there.

And so I’m here in DC. I was talking to some congressional committees about working over there. It’s an entirely different mind-set, and what they do is very significant to how long-term solutions will be. Another thing that I talked about was about the Afghan civilian deaths and casualties in the bombing campaign. Rumsfeld talked about that the American people wanted to know what had happened and the truth, and there have been probably around 4 to 5,000 Afghan civilian casualties.

If we could, as a country, acknowledge the casualties rather than discreetly disavow them or sweep them under the carpet, go to those people, maybe perhaps apologize, give them some compensation, maybe $100 or $200 per casualty. That would elevate the people who died in the campaign to a high status, to shahid(ph), where they would basically go straight to heaven, and if by doing that we would not only win their support but win their approval that they’ve been part of a campaign for the freedom of Afghanistan.

But by disavowing or denying the casualties, what’s happened has caused a schism and put up a wall instead of a bridge between us and the people there.

GROSS: I’m sure a lot of people have wondered, well, what are this guy’s motives? Is he really a spy, and the stuff about setting up schools is just a cover so he can infiltrate us? Why are you doing this?

Mr. MORTENSON: Well, one thing is, my sister, Krista(ph), she had severe epilepsy and she passed away in ’92. Originally I went to Pakistan to climb K2, the world’s second-highest mountain, a year later to honor my sister’s memory. And I didn’t quite get to the top. I felt very disappointed and incomplete that I hadn’t summited. And when I went back into the villages and saw the children, I first realized that this was really a way that I could acknowledge Krista’s memory. And this sounds almost–How do I say this? And what about Krista that was really special was that she had a lot of determination and resilience, and despite her handicaps she inspired at least me, and many people she met. And I see that in the children that I work with.

Krista had always wanted to go to see the Field of Dreams in Dyersville, Iowa. On July 30th my mother was going to take her there. And she had packed her bags the previous night. My mother went down to get her at 6 in the morning, and she found Krista dead in her bed. So in many ways, I see the Field of Dreams that Krista was wanting to go to in the schools that I built. So I guess that’s what really motivates me.

GROSS: What’s the connection between your sister and schools?

Mr. MORTENSON: She had difficulty learning how to read and write, and everything was a challenge for her. And I see that over there with many children, just the obstacles that they overcome to get to education. The kids, some of them, walk five or 10 miles, 15 miles, to get to school. Many of them are hungry, but some of them have lost their parents, but they still really are dedicated to try and get their education, and they’ll do anything. And they’re very similar to what I knew in Krista.

GROSS: How well did you get to know people in that region when you were climbing K2?

Mr. MORTENSON: I first went in and I was very focused on the mountain, but coming out, there were some people that nursed me back to health, and I spent three weeks in the village. And I’ve gotten to know them very well. I know the names of probably at least half the students. I speak the languages, different ethnic languages there. And more than that, I’ve gotten to know different women in the villages over the years. I’ve found out that they’re up against great adversity.

GROSS: You said that after you’d climbed K2 that the villagers in that region of Pakistan nursed you back to health. Why did you need the nursing? What happened?

Mr. MORTENSON: Well, when you climb a high mountain–K2 is over 28,000 feet high–your body starts to deteriorate. I lost about 30 pounds. I was emotionally exhausted. It took a supreme effort to try and get to the top of the mountain, and I could barely make it back down the mountain, let alone carry my load of about 80 pounds, seven days back to the road where the jeep was and the nearest village. So the villagers, they carried my loads, they fed me their local payucha(ph), which is salt tea, and korba, their unleavened bread. And when I got–I could barely make it back to the village, and in that village was where they put blankets around me and gave me their local food, and just kind of incredible hospitality and I think, more than that, just cheered me up, because I was a little bit despondent at the time, mainly because I hadn’t made it to the top of the mountain.

GROSS: Greg Mortenson is the founder of the Central Asia Institute, which builds schools for girls in Pakistan, including in Afghan refugee camps. He’ll be back in the second half of the show.

I’m Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, we call Zimbabwe and talk with journalist Andrew Meldrum. A new law makes it illegal to criticize the president, Robert Mugabe, and thegovernment is cracking down on the press. The minister of information recently accused Meldrum of being a liar and traitor. Also, we continue our conversation with Greg Mortenson.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross, back with Greg Mortenson. In 1993, he founded the Central Asia Institute, which has created schools in Pakistan with an emphasis on educating girls. He works closely with tribal and religious leaders in the region. He divides his time between Pakistan and his home in Montana.

Now you grew up in Tanzania, near Mt. Kilimanjaro, which is the highest mountain in Africa. Your father founded the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center. Was your father a missionary?

Mr. MORTENSON: They went over as teachers for four years. After that, my father decided to build a hospital there in northern Tanzania. He set up the Good Samaritan Foundation. I would say they were perhaps missionaries, but more than that, they were involved in just helping with education and health care in East Africa.

GROSS: What was it like for you to be the white kid of American descent growing up in Africa?

Mr. MORTENSON: It was actually a marvelous time we had. I learned the local language, Swahili. We could run around in the coffee plantations. It was when the game parks were just getting set up. So it was just post-colonial and new democracies. People were excited. It was a wonderful time. And perhaps my main challenge was coming back here and trying to fit into this culture. And I’ve always felt, kind of, going back between different cultures and not knowing really where is home, but I feel it’s been a very unique privilege.

Ironically, after September 11th, not once in Afghanistan or Pakistan was I either harmed or threatened or even really pushed in any rhetoric. Ironically, when I came back to the States in early November, I received a pile of hate mail and some threats. And that was–really threw me for a loop, because I wasn’t expecting that when I came back here to the States.

GROSS: Who was threatening you?

Mr. MORTENSON: They were Americans, and they called me a traitor. Other people were saying that I was worse than the enemy because I was an American, quote, “helping the enemy.” And I’m gone several months a year, so with my family here in the States it caused me some concern. I think most of it’s based out of ignorance and the hatred. People don’t really know who the enemy is, so they want to lash out with somebody that’s physically viable. However, I think in many ways, the enemy is our own ignorance and also that we need to accept we’re part of a global society. Some solutions I feel would also be important are bilingual education and being able to have cross-cultural exchanges between business groups or educators so that we can see ourselves in those other countries.

GROSS: You first went to Pakistan to climb K2. When you were growing up near Mt. Kilimanjaro, did you climb that mountain?

Mr. MORTENSON: Yeah, I climbed it when I was age 11. I barely made it up to the top. I was gagging and puking all the way to the top. And I went back there last year in January 2000, 28 years later, and again I climbed up to the top. I wanted to get up to the true summit. And it was about the same thing, I was–barely made it up to the top. But it was a good–it felt–it was a closure for me. Also, my father, when he came back to the States—this was in ’73–he passed away just a couple years later. And we often wonder if he wasn’t very happy here. And so I feel I’m much–my reward also is being able to live in different countries and work with different groups of people.

GROSS: Just curious. When you were a kid, if you gagged and puked your way up the mountain, why would you want to do it again?

Mr. MORTENSON: Well, I thought–it was something–I hadn’t quite reached the summit the first time around, and I really thought I wanted to get up to the summit. And it’s rather strange because I haven’t climbed very much recently, and my work and my family is what I spend my time with. But I wanted to go back. I noticed things hadn’t changed much. I got to see my father’s hospital. I got to the top of the mountain. And it was just–I guess to climb a mountain is something–it’s hard to explain, but getting up to the top is not the main thing but it’s the experience, the people and just the joy of being up there and the high slopes and looking over and seeing the land below it. It’s a very rewarding experience.

GROSS: When are you going back?

Mr. MORTENSON: March the 8th, I’ll be going…

GROSS: Are you looking forward to it, or are you a little worried about it?

Mr. MORTENSON: Actually, I’m very excited. This is a very dynamic time. This is a beginning. There’s new hope. People are very determined. The refugees will be coming back from the camps to their homes. Some of them have been gone for 10 or 20 years. There’s excitement in the air. There’s also restlessness and there’s some uncertainty about the future. But for me, it’s a very exciting time.

GROSS: Well, I wish you good luck. And I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. MORTENSON: Thanks, Terry. I really appreciate it.

GROSS:Greg Mortenson is the founder of the Central Asia Institute.

President Bill Clinton says:
He (Greg Mortenson) is the ultimate social entrepreneur … a guy with a good idea, prepared to start small and stay with it as long as it takes to have a big impact and commit a lifetime to it. … he is effective in an area where Americans are not popular, because he relates to people as human beings.

FaithHopeandFiction: As I read your book, I was amazed by your vision and your
tenacity; that you would go from having no money and basically living in your car at one
point to establishing an institute to build schools where none exist. I understand that you
promised to build a school out of gratitude to the villagers who took care of you, but how
did your desire to serve others develop?
Greg Mortenson: I went to Tanzania as a very young child in 1958. My parents were
Midwesterners—Minnesota Lutherans. When they heard that they needed teachers for a
girls’ school in Africa, they picked up and went to Africa. My father started a hospital on
the slope of Kilimanjaro, the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center. He had to raise $6.2
million in the 1960s. It took him the first nine years to raise $1 million, and then he raised
the next $5 million the next year. My mother started the Moshi International School in
Tanzania, so I grew up with this.
When I went to school, there were kids from about two dozen countries. I was around
Muslims, Jews, Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus, so to me that was normal. I went to a local
African school where I was the only white child. I didn’t know what racism was; I had no
concept of prejudice or bias. My first week back in the States, in high school in St. Paul,
Minn., I got beaten up because they said I wasn’t one of them. It was a rude awakening.
My parents and childhood experiences taught me the importance of cross-cultural
awareness and compassion, and to put words into action. I never planned to follow in my
parents’ footsteps, but here I am. I believe in the inherent goodness of humankind. (When
I said that in a magazine interview, the interviewer laughed and told me nobody believed
that today.) But I do think there is great courage and compassion in people. I have two
children now, and when I look in my children’s eyes, I see the kids in Afghanistan and
Pakistan. We owe it to our children to leave them a legacy of peace.
FHF: You share in the book that the subtitle changed, not only in wording but in spirit,
that puts the emphasis on peace. Tell us why the word “peace” was so important to you in
the title.
GM: When the original Viking hardcover was released in 2006, I objected to the
subtitle, “fighting terrorism…one school at a time” and wanted it to be “promoting
peace…one school at a time.” However the publisher insisted that I “fight terror.” So we
struck a deal with our editor at Viking Penguin. The hardcover came out with the first
subtitle: One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations…One School at a
Time.” But if it did well, then when it
came out in paperback, we would change
the subtitle. The hardcover did pretty
well; it sold about 70,000 copies. Then
the paperback came out in March of this
year with the subtitle, “One Man’s
Mission to Promote Peace…One School
at a Time.” Since we’ve changed the
subtitle sales of the paperback are over
The American public yearns for peace;
we want hope. It’s ignorance that breeds
hatred. When we eliminate ignorance
with knowledge we will have peace.
Jafarabad schoolgirls with Greg Mortenson in the Shegar Valley, Karakoram
Mountains, Pakistan. These are the first girls to attend school in the region. Photo:
Teru Kuwayama
FHF: Your main title, Three Cups of Tea, refers to a custom for doing business in
Pakistan and Afghanistan, of drinking three cups of tea: the first as a stranger, the second
a friend, and the third as part of the family. I’m struck by this image of being a stranger,
then a friend, and then part of the family as you do business in a culture and a religious
context that are completely different from your own. And then, when you come back to
the States, you get the word out about the work of CAI through so many different groups.
GM: I’ve been in about 90 cities in the past 15 months talking to 30,000 people. I’ve
been to the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. I’ve spoken to feminist women’s groups in the
Bay Area and I’ve been to prayer breakfasts with conservative Christians in Alabama.
There is a group of synagogues in Philadelphia where members are reading the book, and
the Muslim community in Chicago is ecstatic about it. What this shows me is that
although we’ve become polarized in America, the way to solve conflict is to find the
points of common interest. That place is education. I see from very conservative
Republicans to very liberal Democrats a very great interest in supporting education. We
want to solve our differences, and the one thing we can rally behind is education.
FHF: The book tells of your difficulties raising money, of needing to find a sponsor (and
finally finding that in Dr. Jean Hoerni, a Swiss born physicist who provided the first
$12,000 to build a school in Korphe, with a note that read “Don’t screw up.”). Amid all
the difficulties, the seemingly impossible task of raising money, upheaval in your
personal life, and knowing that you’ve made what must have seemed like an impossible
promise, how did you keep going?
GM: I’m blessed to have the greatest job on the planet. I love what I do. I have a saying
on my bathroom mirror: “When you heart speaks, take good notes.” I’m not an
academician or a trained aide worker, but I feel this is my calling. I can’t walk away from
the thousands of kids who can’t go to school due to their gender or race, or because of
poverty or religious extremism. I feel called to help them get to school. That’s my thing
to do on this planet.
FHF: You began your quest to raise funds to build the first school in Pakistan eight years
before September 11th. Eventually your drive to bring schools to communities that had
none put you in “harm’s way,” shall we say. As the book describes, you went up against
the Taliban and extremist mullahs (including two who issued a “fatwa,” which amounts
to a death threat backed by a local religious leader). Back in the States, after 9/11, you
faced criticism, hate mail, and death threats from people who felt you were aiding the
enemy somehow by building schools.
GM: I had two fatwas issued against me by more extreme mullahs for educating girls,
which were both rescinded. The first one was rescinded by the Supreme Council of
Ayatollahs in Iran, the highest authority for the Shiite clergy and the second by Pakistan’s
Shariat (Islamic) court. In that case, I didn’t appeal the challenge. I just told the
community, “You tell me what is right.”…To me the most difficult time was after 9/11
when I started getting hate mail and death threats from Americans. It was my wife who
encouraged me to get out in public and talk about what I was doing. And it turned
everything around. I realized that Americans are good and compassionate people.
FHF: In the book you relate how when you finally arrived in Korphe with the materials
and the means to build the school, the community told you that what they really needed
was a bridge to replace the only conveyance they had—a rickety basket that swayed on a
rope over the valley. Without the bridge, there would be no way to bring in the building
supplies for the school. Yet, you had promised Jean Hoerni that his $12,000 was going to
build a school—not a bridge. (In the end, he pledged the additional money you needed
for the school after the bridge was built.) What did that feel like to you?
GM: It was very disheartening. I had sold my car and my climbing gear. I had the money
from Dr. Hoerni and I was feeling triumphant and proud because I had all the school
supplies. I had fulfilled my part of the promise. Then when I got to the village—and they
didn’t know I was coming back, and were very surprised to see me again—they said,
“We’re grateful but you didn’t think this out. Before you build a school, you’re going to
have to build a bridge.”
FHF: But in the end, the communities had to have a say.
GM: We hadn’t had our “three cups of tea” yet. We needed to build bridges and
relationships. In my mind I was saying, “What am I going to tell the donors?” instead of,
“What does the community want?” What I have learned to do is listen. When I ask the
women of these villages what they want, they don’t tell me they want a rich husband or to
be affluent. No, what they tell me is, “We don’t want our babies to die.” How do you
respond to that? Really it’s with education.
FHF: Tell us some of stories of the children and what has happened as they were able to
go to school.
GM: In Chunda, Pakistan, we were able to send the first girl to school. It took us eight
years. Now, in Chunda there are more than 300 girls going to school. Another story is
about Aziza who comes from the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. She was the first girl to go
to school in the Charpurson Valley. When she started school, the boys threw stones at her
in the first and second grades. And then in the third and fourth grades, the teachers
refused to teach her. When she got to high school, the boys who used to throw pebbles at
her stole her notebooks. She did graduate in 1998 and wanted to become a maternal
healthcare worker because there was no doctor or medical worker in her valley of 3,000
people. Before she started, five to 20 women died every year in childbirth. After she got
her training, which took 18 months and cost $800 (which Central Asia Institute paid), she
came back to the valley as a maternal healthcare worker. Since that time not one woman
has died in childbirth.
FHF: So what is next for you?
GM: Ideally I want to work myself out of a job. I want to be an education advocate, raise
public consciousness about Islam to Americans, help eliminate the ignorance that causes
hatred, and to raise funds. We’re working to make our schools all sustainable by the local
community. We’re about 60 percent of the way there. When we set up a school, we set a
goal that within five years it’s sustainable. About half of them will be sustainable and the
other half will need some sort of help. These are all in areas where there were never any
schools or education before, and the attrition rate is about 30 percent.
FHF: Achieving global literacy is such a huge task, and yet there you are, doing the
GM: It costs $1 per month—not even per day—to educate these children. That’s not that
much money at all. It’s my mission to promote peace through education.
K2, at 8,611 meters in the Karakoram Mountains, Pakistan, is the world’s second
tallest mountain. Mortenson’s 1993 west ridge climb on K2 went up the left side on
the China/Pakistan border.


Agatha Christie

In this Interview…

Agatha Christie

Said to be the third-bestselling author of all time (after God and Shakespeare)

The Queen of Crime and the Duchess of Death

*How she figured out plots

*”There’s nothing like _____ to make you write”

Which she prefers: plays or books

Why are the British the best authors? Does anyone know why their style is just so fantastic? Perhaps its that their notorious sense of humor is best captured on the written page.

History features

Agatha Christie – in her own words

Agatha Christie in 1937Agatha Christie pictured in 1937

Agatha Christie – in her own words

In 1955, Torquay’s Queen of Crime, Dame Agatha Christie, was interviewed about her career on a BBC radio programme. The interview gave a unique insight into how the world’s best known crime-writer went about her work.

More than 50 years ago, Dame Agatha Christie took part in a BBC radio programme which ‘investigated’ how her story ideas evolved into best-selling whodunnits.

In the interview, the Torquay-born crime-writer – who was then just Agatha Christie without the Dame title – revealed the secrets behind her success. You can listen to five short clips from the programme, using the audio links on this page.

Even today, more than three decades after her death in 1976 – Dame Agatha remains one of the most widely read writers in the world. She was dubbed The Queen of Crime, and one critic also labeled her The Duchess of Death.

Queen of Crime - Agatha ChristieQueen of Crime – Agatha Christie

She created two of the most famous literary characters of all time – Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot, and her works include The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans, Witness for the Prosecution, Death on the Nile, Murder on the Orient Express, and The Mousetrap.

Agatha would spend evenings in the company of friends or family, and would sit and knit, with her mind seeming to be elsewhere. And it was – she was thinking about her next storyline, mapping out the plot from start to finish.

By the time she sat down to write the book, it would all be done and dusted inside her head.

Snippets from the interview with Agatha provide an insight into how she went about her work.

Agatha was self-taught, which meant she spent much of her childhood at home – and that’s when she began writing.

In the interview, she said: “I found myself making up stories and acting the different parts. There’s nothing like boredom to make you write.

Some of Dame Agatha's books in the librarySome of Dame Agatha’s books at Greenway

“So by the time I was 16 or 17, I’d written quite a number of short stories and one long, dreary novel. By the time I was 21, I had finished the first book of mine ever to be published, the Mysterious Affair at Styles.

“I’d sent it to one or two publishers who didn’t want it and eventually it went to John Lane. About a year later, I heard it had been accepted. Well, that’s how it began.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Agatha Christie – whose family home at Greenway, Galmpton, has been gifted to the National Trust – became one of the most prolific writers ever.

In another clip from the interview, she gave us further insight into how her stories were transferred from her head onto the page.

“What is your method, they (my friends) want to know. The disappointing truth is I haven’t much method. I type my own drafts on an ancient faithful machine I’ve owned for years.

A commemorative bust in TorquayA commemorative bust in Torquay

“No, I think the real work is done in thinking out the development of your story and worrying about it until it comes right. That may take quite a while. Then, when you’ve got all your material together, all that remains is to find time to write the thing.”

Dame Agatha churned out books in rapid fashion, as she explained: “Three months seems to me quite a reasonable time to complete a book, if one can get right down to it.

“On the other hand, plays I think are better written quickly. Writing plays is much more fun than writing books. You haven’t got to bother about long descriptions of places and people or deciding how to space out your material.

“You must write pretty fast, keep in the mood and to keep the talk flowing naturally. I prefer to write a play as a play, that is rather than to adapt a book.

“The only reason I ever did that was because I didn’t care very much for what happened when other people tried to turn my books into plays. So in the end I had to do it myself.”

Joan Hickson interview on Agatha Christie’s 100th Birthday


R. L. Stein

In This Interview…

R.L. Stein

Learn his favorite horror story, what he dreams about, and more

Photo By Giliola Chiste

R.L. Stine

An interview with the world’s best-selling children’s author, R.L. Stine…

Q. From what we have heard, everyone who reads and/or writes horror has one — THE book — the one that introduced them to the genre and made them seek out everything they could in the field. What was your first introduction to horror literature?
A. Believe it or not, my introduction to scary literature was Pinocchio. My mother read it to me every day before naptime when I was three or four. The original Pinocchio is terrifying. First he smashes Jiminy Cricket to death with a wooden mallet. Then he goes to sleep with his feet up on the stove and burns his feet off! I never forgot it!

Q. It’s easy to scare other people; jumping out from behind a door, a black rubber spider in a running shoe, the list goes on and on. You have made a living by scaring people who encounter you on a page of print. Do you ever come up with anything so wild that you scare yourself, that leaves you wondering where that came from?
A. I always wonder where every idea comes from. It’s such a mysterious process. They seem to appear from out of nowhere (thank goodness!). I’ve made myself laugh from some ideas — but I’ve never scared myself.

Q. Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite horror book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of the horror genre?
A. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury. I grew up in the Midwest, and the story of a Midwestern boy who sneaks out of his house late at night and encounters an evil carnival really gave me chills. Besides Ray Bradbury, my favorite author — and I know this is bad for my scary image — is P.G. Wodehouse.

Q. Do you look to your own phobias to find subject matter? Are your stories the products of nightmares, childhood experiences, fantasies, or do they come straight from the headlines of contemporary events or other experiences?
A. I’ve never dreamed of a story idea. I have such boring dreams. One night I dreamed I was making a bologna sandwich. That was a really exciting dream for me. I was a very fearful child, and when I write I try to remember that feeling of panic. I try to remember what it was like being a kid afraid of the dark, afraid something is lurking in the basement, etc . When I write my Nightmare room books.

Q. How will the genre be affected, if at all, by the events of Sept. 11? With the nation struggling with terror, do you feel horror novels may be in more — or less — demand?
A. I feel that good fantasy will always be in demand. I think children especially need literature that helps them escape from the real world, which is very scary to them right now.

Q. What draws people to horror novels? Why do we, as readers, like to be scared?
A. Everyone enjoys a good scare — if he or she is safe at the same time. Reading horror novels is like riding a rollercoaster. It’s thrilling and frightening — but you know you’re okay the whole while.

Q. Where do you as an author draw the line on gory descriptions?
A. Since I write for kids, I have to be very careful. I have to make sure that my stories are pure fantasy — nothing real. I have to give the kids shivers — but not nightmares.

Q. Do you feel any competitive pressure from horror films? If so, does the increasingly graphic nature of horror in films make your job more difficult? If not, why not?
A. Most of my audience can’t be admitted to R-rated films. I don’t really see them as competition for my audience. My stories, The Nightmare Room books and TV show are so much gentler than most movies.

Q. Many of the situations and scenarios in horror novels are so, well, horrible, it seems impossible they could all be products of pure imagination. Do you ever research real events to get ideas? Does the Internet ever come in handy?
A. I have to admit I do almost no research. Almost everything comes from my twisted imagination.

Q. The perception of the horror writer is that he/she is maybe just a little bit odder than most. Do you find yourself — and other horror writers — to be more idiosyncratic than the average person? What one stereotype about horror writers is absolutely wrong? What one stereotype is dead on?
A. I’ve met a few horror writers and movie directors, and they seem to be shy, quiet, normal people. I think the one thing they have in common is a good sense of humor — because there’s a very close tie between humor and horror.

In this interview…

What he was like in school

His only rule for a book

How Goosebumps became popular

Tales to Drive You Batty

I don’t know why I began writing. I started when I was nine years old. I was a weird kid. I would just stay in my room, typing. I found this old typewriter up in the attic. I dragged it down to my room and started typing little, funny magazines, like Tales to Drive You Insane and Tales to Drive You Batty – just funny magazines, and short stories. My mother would be outside my room, saying, “Go outside and play. What’s the matter with you?”

I’m in there, typing. “I can’t. I’m writing a novel.”

I’m nine years old. I don’t know why I thought it was so interesting…

So, I’d do these little magazines, and I was a very shy kid – very shy – and not social at all. Maybe this is one reason I just stayed in my room, writing this stuff. I would bring it in to school and try to get attention from the other kids. I’d bring these little magazines, and I would pass them around to my friends. The teachers would always grab them and say, “Bob, please. Please stop.”

When I speak at schools now, kids always ask me, “Did your teachers encourage you to write when you were a kid?”

If I’m being honest, I just say they tried to get me to stop.

Fearful himself

Well, I was. I was afraid of lots of things – all the basic kinds of fears – afraid of the dark, afraid of going down to the basement. I had this one fear. I’d have to park my bike in the garage after dark, and I always thought something would be lurking in the garage. I used to take my bike and just throw it in so I wouldn’t have to go in there.

That’s a painful way to go through childhood, I think, having all these fears and being very shy. That was hard. But in a way, it’s kind of lucky. It helped me out later, because now, when I write these scary books for kids, I can think back to that feeling of panic. I can remember what it felt like, and then I can bring that feeling to my books.

On the safe side of scary

I have one rule, and I’ve been doing this a long time, so I pretty much know what’s too scary – and what’s not scary enough. My editors usually are asking me to make things scarier. I’m pretty conservative, because you don’t really want to terrify kids. You want to creep them out a little bit, but you don’t really want to terrify them. I try to make sure that the kids know that these books are fantasies. I keep the real world out. So, I don’t do real serious subjects. I don’t even have divorced parents. I wouldn’t do child abuse, or drugs. I wouldn’t do anything in the real world. They have to know that these are just fantasies and that they’re not really happening. Once you’ve established that, you can get pretty scary.

Jovial Bob

Yes, I was a funny guy for a long time. When I started out, I just wanted to write humor. I wrote humor for kids. My very first book was called How to be Funny. It was about how to get big laughs at the dinner table and how to get laughs in school. Parents hated this book. I wrote joke books, like A Hundred and One Monster Jokes, and other joke books for years. I did maybe a hundred of them. I had a great time, and I did this humor magazine called Bananas for ten years. It was sort of Mad Magazine, but it was all in color, and it was great. That was all I ever wanted to do. I couldn’t believe it.

When that ended, I figured I would just coast for the rest of my career. That was it. I’d already done what I wanted to do. I had no idea what was coming up.

Giving kids the Goosebumps

I wrote 87 Goosebumps books. That’s a lot of books for a human, isn’t it? None of us expected what happened with Goosebumps. We started it in 1992, and by 1994, I was turning out a Goosebumps a month, and it was doing okay for a while. And then it just took off like nothing we’d ever seen. It took off all over the world – not through advertising, hype, or promotions – but just kids telling kids. There’s some kind of secret kids network out there. Just kids telling kids about it, and this thing grew everywhere. It was in 28 languages. At one point, after a couple years, we were selling 4 million Goosebumps books a month.

As scary as an optometrist

Well, I think kids maybe are a little disappointed when I come visit their school and they’re expecting some scary guy wearing a cape. Then I walk in. I try to look a little scary, but I’m not too scary. I went back to my hometown, Columbus, Ohio, and did some appearances. The local newspaper wrote, “In person, R.L. Stine is about as scary as an optometrist.” That’s bad – right? I’m not too scary.

It’s just my dog

Mostly Ghostly has all these funny elements, with poor Max and these ghosts who are always embarrassing him. There’s a lot of funny stuff, but then there are some really terrifying moments. There is a ghost named Fears, who really wants to capture the two ghosts that Max is protecting and will do anything to Max. In the very first book, he’s going to show Max what he can do. Max is out walking his dog; and Fears, in a really disgusting scene, turns Max’s dog inside out. The dog is just there with his organs out. He’s just inside out. That’s kind of creepy. So, it has a lot of stuff like that. Mostly Ghostly is pretty scary. A neighbor drives by and sees Max there, and she says, “Max, did you drop your garbage? Can I help you pick up your garbage?”

He says, “No. It’s just my dog.”

Rotten School

Well, Rotten School is just zany; it’s just crazy. You just try to come up with really funny characters and put them in horrible situations and see what happens. I have this kid Bernie Bridges, who’s this conman who’s always out to win; and he has an arch–enemy in the school – this spoiled, rich kid, Sherman Oaks. Bernie and his buddies live in a dorm called Rotten House, and they pick the third floor because it’s good for dropping things out of the window on people.

Sherman lives across the lawn on this campus in Nice House. I don’t know who would want to live in Nice House. But Sherman Oaks and his pals live in Nice House, so it’s a constant battle between the two groups. Sherman is always showing off his new things. In one of the early books, Sherman’s parents have bought him a new digital watch that has 42 different functions. It has a keyboard on it and a CD player and a movie thing, and it’s got a small George Foreman grill – all on his watch.

Bernie sees this watch, and says, “Oh! I have to have it. I have to have that watch.” And the book is about how Bernie goes about taking that watch away from Sherman Oaks.

R. L. Stein’s Explanation of His Success