Interview with the Mistress of the Paranormal: Rosemary Ellen Guiley
Sharon Buchbinder’s blog, February 25, 2011
It is my great pleasure to have Rosemary Ellen Guiley here with us today to chat about her work and great range of nonfiction writing in the realm of the paranormal. One of the leading experts on the paranormal with more than 45 published books on a wide range of paranormal, spiritual and mystical topics, including nine single-volume encyclopedias, Rosemary’s work has been translated into 14 languages and has approximately one million copies in print. She has worked full-time in the paranormal since 1983, researching, investigating, writing and presenting at conferences and seminars. Her work focuses on history, psychical research, folklore, metaphysics and anecdotal experiences of interdimensional entity contact.
In addition to her books, she is the consulting editor for Mysteries, Legends and Unexplained Phenomena, a line of nonfiction books for the young adult market (Chelsea House/Facts On File), and is a consulting editor of FATE Magazine. Formerly, she wrote a column for TAPS Paramagazine and was a blogger for the Arts & Entertainment website Paranormal Insider. She makes numerous media appearances, and has been featured on the History, A&E, SyFy, Discovery and Travel channels. She is a frequent guest with George Noory on Coast to Coast AM, and makes regular appearances on a wide variety of paranormal and metaphysical radio shows. She is featured in documentaries and docu-dramas, and is a popular college and university campus speaker.
Rosemary also is a board director of the Paranormal Source, Inc., a nonprofit educational organization, and is a past board of director of International Association for the Study of Dreams, and a past member of the board of trustees of the Academy of Religion and Psychical Research (now the Academy of Spirituality and Paranormal Studies). She consults for numerous paranormal organizations. Her website is www.visionaryliving.com.
Rosemary, what made you want to be an author?
I was literally born that way – I like to joke that I started writing as soon as I could pick up a crayon! I was an avid reader as a kid and wrote about everything. In fact, I was so prolific that in the third grade my teacher asked me to stop turning in so many reports and papers – on topics she had never assigned.
However, as a kid I took writing for granted because everybody had to write in school. I wanted to be an astronomer. I had to give that up by age 12, when I realized that math was not one of my good subjects.
I was 15 when an English teacher opened my eyes to the fact that I had an exceptional ability to write. We were assigned to write an essay on something that was significant to us in life. I wrote – completely off the top of my head — “the perfect essay,” which he photocopied and distributed to the class (much to my embarrassment). It was perfectly constructed, something I had done without realizing it. To this day, I am pretty much a first draft writer. “Stuff” falls into my head as soon as I wake up, whole and entire. I rarely revise except to polish, and I rarely have writer’s block (knock on wood).
I studied journalism in college, and it was great for teaching me more about structure, as well as research, interviewing, and writing the story right the first time under intense time pressure. I spent several years as a reporter, but I always wanted to be my own boss. Being an author is the perfect choice for me.
People often ask me how I write, and my answer is, I don’t know and I don’t want to know. An artist should never question the Muse.
What do you like best about being a writer? What do you like the least?
The best: I am in a constant flow of words and ideas. I love research and the act of writing itself. I am lucky to be able to write just on topics that interest me, as opposed to having to write about boring things to make money (which I did in the past when I was getting my career going). I live an incredibly rich and interesting life, and my time is my own. I appreciate that my work has an enthusiastic audience, and that I am contributing to our current knowledge about the paranormal and related subjects.
The least: I have often been ahead of the curve on ideas and have not been able to sell them to publishers, who seldom have vision, but react to market trends that have already manifested. Thankfully, delivery systems have changed, making it possible for authors to get their own work out in a more timely fashion. I see a balance of self-publishing and traditional publishing for me in the near future.
When did you decide to write about the paranormal from a non-fiction perspective and how many books have you published?
My interest in the paranormal goes back to childhood and my voracious reading.
I launched my author career in 1983 and envisioned that I would become a novelist in the horror, occult and fantasy genres. I wrote fiction and nonfiction and did “survival writing,” projects that generated income but did little else. In 1987 one of my nonfiction editors asked me to write an encyclopedia on witchcraft. I had never entertained the idea of doing a book like that, and when I said I did not know how to write an encyclopedia, she said, “Don’t worry, you’ll pick it up!” In 1989 my Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft was published by Facts On File. I discovered that I had an aptitude for composing encyclopedias. Since then, I have written seven more, plus an atlas, and some of the encyclopedias have been revised into multiple editions.
That launched my paranormal nonfiction career. At the same time, the New Age market exploded, and mainstream publishers – who had turned up their noses at “occult” books in the past – could not get books out fast enough. My life-long interest in the occult blossomed into one book after another. At the time, I thought I was taking a brief detour from my fiction ambitions. But here I am, decades later, and I have stayed with the nonfiction. I cannot rule out fiction again, of course, but it seems my purpose as a writer is being served in nonfiction. I think I have done at least 45 paranormal books to date, and well over 50 if I count everything.
Encyclopedias are incredibly complex, averaging about 200,000 words in length, and when I have one in progress, I keep most of the organization and structure in my head. They do take a toll on me more than “regular” books, because I have to absorb and assimilate vast amounts of information for them. Very brain taxing at times.
I know you travel a lot for your work. How do you manage to be so prolific and go to so many conferences? What’s your favorite time management tip?
I confess I am usually behind in my deadlines, but I seem to pull them off. I take my laptop everywhere. The writing I do on the road has to be stuff that I can get in and out of quickly. Anything that requires prolonged periods of intense concentration has to be done at home.
Time management: I have no routine for writing, and depending on deadlines and travel, I may spend days or even weeks at the keyboard and days or even weeks barely on it. Generally, I like to write in the morning (the stuff that has fallen into my head), then do errands, miscellaneous things and the gym, and pick writing back up again in the evening. I frequently write with the TV on in the background. I go to bed usually between midnight and 2 AM, and get up anywhere from 5:30-7:30 AM. I am quite comfortable spending long periods alone, but I don’t need to be alone to write. One good thing about journalism, it teaches you to concentrate and write in the midst of a hubbub, and to take interruptions and then refocus.
Your work takes you up close and personal to a topic that gives most people goosebumps–or simply scares the daylights out of them. Have you ever been frightened when you’ve been working–either doing the research or writing your books? If yes, can you tell us about that–and how you dealt with it?
I do more field investigations of haunted places and mysterious phenomena than most “paranormal investigators.” I have never run screaming, but there have been times when I have been confronted by presences emphatically negative and hostile, and I have decided to make what I call a “prudent exit.” I seem to have a very high tolerance for exposure to the paranormal, and things that freak out many people sometimes barely give me a ripple. I am doing the work I came into this life to do, and so I think I naturally have a better than average buffer, because the paranormal can be incredibly destabilizing. Also, early in life, I began a practice of meditation and spiritual study, which is like acquiring an armor for this work.
That being said, I do not consider myself invulnerable, and I have a great deal of respect for what is “out there.” Some of it is truly unsettling. Evil things exist, and they do interfere with people.
There are topics and entities I do not write about or think about late at night, because what you focus on might come around, and the late night hours seem to be more permeable. Demons, shadow people, Djinn, and ETs fall on my short list in this regard.
I should say a word about psychic ability. It runs in my family and I use it in my field research. I have never considered my ability to be exceptional, but it is probably better than that of most people. I took a variety of training methods to enhance it. In the paranormal, much of what you are dealing with requires the subtle senses. Everyone has psychic ability to some degree, and if you work in the paranormal long enough, your ability will sharpen.
Have you ever felt like you were being dictated to while your wrote a book–as if the words came of their own accord? If yes, which book did that happen with?
Perhaps because I am so prolific, people sometimes ask me if I channel. I say yes – I channel myself! It’s a facetious answer, but I am amazed at the people who think writers just sit down at their keyboards and some entity does all the work for them. I put an enormous amount of study and research into my work, and I have spent many years refining my natural ability to write.
However, I also believe there are spiritual forces participating as well, and the creative process is probably beyond understanding. I am seeded with inspiration and ideas, guided to put in legwork in certain ways, guided to say things in certain ways, and blessed with the opening doors and the meeting of people who become important to each and every project. All of these things are a natural part of the process for me, not things that seem to be imposed on me.
My study of alchemy taught me to allow the process of unfoldment (sometimes I do it better than others, LOL!). There are writers and artists who personify the spiritual forces guiding them, but that has rarely happened for me. Yet I know they are present, whoever and whatever they are, whether we label them angels or ascended beings or ETs or the Higher Self.
Words flow out of me with ease, so it’s hard for me to separate anything that doesn’t come out of the center of my own being. However, in the flow of writing, there are definitely different “vibes,” and some books write more easily – or differently — than others. One of my books that truly puzzles me is Ask the Angels, which is still in print. It is a spiritual study guide to working with angels. I wrote it on a very tight deadline. When I read the finished product, it seemed to have come from “somewhere else.” Perhaps it was because of the deadline stress. But I still feel that way every time I pick up the book.
Books are living entities, and they carry a spiritual vibration that readers sense, even unconsciously.
If you had one take away piece of advice for people about the paranormal, what would it be?
I would advocate being open-minded about the paranormal. We live in a multi-dimensional reality that has intersected with other dimensions since the dawn of our history. Our paranormal and spiritual experiences are real, and are important to our spiritual advancement. They do not conform to science and they cannot be controlled by religion. The paranormal is but one facet of the mystical and part of the path to Truth.
Rosemary, thank you so much for being with us here today. I know my readers will enjoy your work and your interview.