Thursday, March 19, 2015

Interview with memoirist Narissa Doumani

I have a special interview with memoirist Narissa Doumani today. She’s talking a bit about A Spacious Life: Memoir of a Meditator, as well as her writing life and other interests.

During her virtual book tour, Narissa will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card (winner’s choice) to a lucky winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too.

Narissa Doumani is an Australian author, meditator, and mindfulness practitioner who previously carved out a career as a commercial model and presenter. Narissa is a graduate of the University of Melbourne (Bachelor of Science) and is now the student of a reclusive Thai Buddhist yogi. She is an avid appreciator of desserts and enjoys making them for friends, adores a good book (of course), and is fascinated by the transformative power of storytelling.

Welcome, Narissa. Please tell us about your current release.
A Spacious Life is a story about searching for happiness. It just so happens to be my personal story. I’ve had many advantages in life, such as educational opportunities and a loving family, however I always felt something lacking. I couldn’t make sense of the purpose of my life, and why things sometimes felt so hard, emotionally that is, even though my life looked wonderful from the outside. So I ended up on a path of learning to work with my own mind and emotions through the practices of meditation and mindfulness. It’s given me a deeper sense of contentment, purpose, and connection to others, which I like to think is a story worth sharing.

What inspired you to write this book?
Finding a sense of inner peace within the chaos of life. Is that too cheesy? Really though, I’ve met a lot of warm-hearted and intelligent people who have struggled with the challenges of life the way I had, and by that I mean illness, anxiety, stress, and heartache. They would tell me how overwhelmed they felt by their struggles and emotions. It doesn’t matter how perfect someone’s life might look from the outside, everyone has their challenges. So I wrote this book hoping to spark some conversation and inner reflection about how we go about using life’s inherent challenges as fuel for a positive transformation.

Excerpt from A Special Life:
(From Chapter 9: The Model Life)

Now and again, I worked with challenging personalities, such as the German photographer who wanted to tape my ears to the sides of my head. She was six foot tall and cut an imposing figure. The prospect of standing in front of her lens was intimidating.

I pulled myself together and walked onto set with the steeliness of a seasoned warrior. My armour was a shoulder-padded polyester blend, my war paint MAC Studio Fix C2. But when the German took a test shot of me and barked, ‘Those ears. They are sticking out too much. Can you all see that?’ her words hit me like a well-timed jab-right cross combo. My confidence, along with my ego, was sent reeling.

I was supposed to look like a corporate worker, so the hair-and-makeup artist had slicked my hair into a low bun, and the tips of my ears were protruding, pixie-like, in a way she obviously found less than perfect.

‘Can’t we do something? Bring some gaffer tape!’ she shouted.

I started shrinking. I couldn’t afford to shrink. The client was counting on me to get a good shot. I also couldn’t retaliate. It never pays to antagonise the creative team whose job it is to make you look good. So I took a silent, mindful moment and came back to my breath. In and out, in and out, it connected me to the present.

I considered my ears, two small, moulded lumps of flesh on the sides of my head. Ears were instruments for hearing. Mine worked very well indeed. Why should I be ashamed of them? They weren’t particularly beautiful, but were any ears truly beautiful?

What exciting story are you working on next?
Oh, I’m still recovering from this one! It took me five years of work, on and off, and although it was totally a labour of love I’d like a little holiday before launching into another book. I’m heading over to Thailand for a family wedding next month, which will give me some R&R time. I’m planning to visit my Buddhist teacher while I’m there (he’s a yogi who’s somewhat reclusive and lives in a remote forest area) – he does make a couple of appearances in my book, and who knows, perhaps he’ll inspire a follow-up story!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always been a writer. I believe that if you sit down and put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) because you have an artistic impulse you feel the need to express, you’re a writer. Let’s not make it into some kind of exclusive ‘in club’. Considering myself an author, however, was another story. It wasn’t until I had a complete polished manuscript that other people saw value in, that I felt bold enough to call myself one.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
This is my debut book, so I definitely wasn’t writing full-time. A gal’s gotta earn a living. It’s the hardest thing to balance, I think, for any creative artist. How do you support yourself and still have the time and energy to create art? I’ve been lucky enough to have worked as a commercial model and presenter, which meant sometimes I’d be booked on a job that earned me several thousand dollars in one hit. But those jobs were sporadic and unreliable, so I needed to do lots of ‘in-between’ jobs too, to keep cash coming in. I’ve done everything from handing out flyers on the street to dressing up as the Tooth Fairy for a kids’ event.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
This might not surprise you, but when I’m stuck I take a break and meditate. I find having a head overcrowded with thoughts often doesn’t leave room for clarity or creative inspiration. By sitting quietly and letting my thoughts settle, insights about my work often dawn on me. Who knows where those insights comes from – the subconscious mind, perhaps? After a meditation practice, I can also come back to my writing with fresh eyes and renewed focus.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
It changed at least once a year. When I was six, I wanted to be a jeweller, because a friend of my family was one and had given me a beautiful charm bracelet as a birthday gift. When I was eight, I wanted to be a makeup artist and would practice on my friends with a kids’ mini makeup kit. It’s funny to think I ended up working as a model and having my makeup done quite often, but by then I found it a bit of a chore. I always enjoyed creative writing, but didn’t grow up thinking about it as a career option, only something to be done for the love of it. Don’t ask me where that idealism came from…

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I don’t believe there’s only one path to happiness. We all need to explore what the path looks like within the context of our own lives, and I wish all your readers much success in doing so. I believe every life is precious and that we all have unique gifts to offer the world. Here’s to moving forward, sharing our gifts with abandon… my feeling is that the world needs them now more than ever.

Social media links:

Thank you, Narissa!

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Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Mai T. said...

What a beautiful cover!

Rita Wray said...

I enjoyed the interview.

Unknown said...

Hi Lisa, thanks for hosting me today, I really enjoyed our interview.

Teresa said...

I love the excerpt. Sounds like a great book

Nikolina said...

You have the best book authors interviews, really enjoy reading each one!