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Creativity As A Kind Of Spirituality

Karen Michalson Author Interview

The Maenad’s God follows an FBI agent who, in the course of a drug bust, spirals into a complex conspiracy making him question what is real or not. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

Probably a combination of too much rock music, coffee, and solitude. Which is a fine way to start questioning whether reality has limits. 

Pete likes to help people and plays by his own rules. What were some driving ideals behind your character’s development?

Pete is primarily driven by his longing for something beautiful and honorable in the cesspool of a world he inhabits. As an FBI agent, he only gets to experience the cesspool. So Pete’s in this horrible job, he’s living a life of utter disillusionment, to the point where when he nearly gets killed through another agent’s hijinks and his boss’s incompetence, he’s really not that angry about it. Then he meets Jade, a mysterious bass player who offers him a private world of fantasy and poetry and music and everything he wants and needs to feel joy and recover his true self again. Until everything goes horribly wrong. 

Toxic cultures thrive by making that kind of inner life cruelly inaccessible. You see and know yourself one way, and society slaps you down hard into becoming something else – maybe a kind of twisted stunted version of yourself, maybe something worse.

So the strongest ideal that emerged from that was the healing power of art, or creativity as a kind of spirituality, maybe even as a forbidden form of love put out in the universe. 

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

Art as a healing force, reality v. fantasy and the degree to which they inform each other, creating a private world as a subversive act against a toxic culture, the nature of divinity, creativity as way into some kind of higher reality, imagination as a sacred space. 

Also envy. Pete is a super sleuth who draws envy from his colleagues; Jade is a brilliant musician who draws envy from his equally brilliant bandmates. Envy is endemic in toxic cultures – and it’s something nobody likes to discuss because it’s associated with a sense of shame. But envy is always fueled by the battering of your true self. Like all pain, it’s an internal barometer that indicates something is wrong and needs to be paid attention to. And in the book it’s a handy weapon the toxic culture uses to divide people from themselves and from each other.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m working on the early stages of two potential next books. One is set in the ancient world; one isn’t. But I don’t want to divulge too many details yet because it’s so early in the process that a lot is liable to change.

Author Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Maenad’s God

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The Maenad’s God is the latest book by Karen Michalson. It is a mind-bending journey of self-discovery which expertly blurs the lines between reality, fantasy, and sanity. The story is set in the 1990s and follows the life of special agent Peter Morrow. Morrow is considered a rogue entity within the FBI, playing by his own rules. While he’s had some big wins during his career, he has no patience for the day-to-day bureaucracy or behind-the-scenes politics. Peter may seem like a jaded know-it-all, though he genuinely wants to help those who need his help.

Peter’s world is thrown upside down when he gets involved in what appears to be a standard drug bust, though it becomes complicated. He quickly spirals into a conspiracy that leaves him questioning everything he thought he knew about the world and himself. At first glance, Peter’s situation may seem predictable, though as you read further, his entire world, and understanding of existence, begins to unravel.

I enjoyed Peter’s character, who is instantly likable, with endearing dry wit. As the story grows more intense and strange, Peter is never short on repartee, providing much-needed comic relief throughout his darker experiences. His over-confident character is part of the fun, as he soon learns he knows nothing. The author tackles several heavy themes masterfully. It’s a tale that will keep you on your toes, guessing what’s real and imaginary and what to expect next. Michalson takes the reader in one direction when the expectation is the opposite, making it a thrilling read.

The author artfully deals with Peter’s evolving sexuality brilliantly and in a way that is both challenging and not too explicit. She also delves into politics and corruption in a thought-provoking way without being divisive or offensive. I cannot praise The Maenad’s God by Karen Michalson highly enough. It is a mind-bending masterpiece. It’s an intense, layered story that takes a specific commitment to finish, though it is well worth the effort.

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