Midnight Pages Mystical Inspiration and Writing Prompts for Writers, Insomniacs, and Night Owls by Diane Riis - Nonfiction, Self Help, Writing, Journal, Workbook
An Interview with Diane Riis
Welcome to JB’s Bookworms with Brandy Mulder. Tell us about your newest book.
Thank you! First let me say thank you so much for having me! It’s exciting --- my first book tour!
My newest book is Midnight Pages: A Mystical Workbook for Writers, Insomniacs and Night Owls and it’s for people who either love the night or struggle with sleep – or like me: both.
It’s a workbook so it has writing prompts and a practice called Midnight Pages which is creative free-writing with a twist. I wanted it to be hefty so it has content too: about the shadow, dreams, the symbols of the night, the Moon and Goddesses that populate myths and imagination.
Writing isn’t easy. What was the most difficult thing you dealt with when writing Midnight Pages: A Mystical Workbook for Writers, Insomniacs and Night Owls?
Well, since this was meant to be a workbook and I didn’t want it to be “content light” I had to figure out the balance between writing prompts and blank pages for writing Midnight Pages (which is my take on Morning Pages). I opted for 25k words – all well curated! But I wanted there to be something to read on nights when the writing just doesn’t come.
The other thing I struggled with was that this book really is my answer to the whole idea of a writer needing “discipline”. Discipline meaning tying yourself to your chair and doing the thing that you don’t feel at all like doing. So, in this case I struggled with getting up early enough to write morning pages before the household woke up or I had to go to work. Well, as an insomniac-night owl I was up half the night! The idea of getting up at 5:00am (when you’re already short of sleep) seems punishing.
The thing was: I respect Julia Cameron in her creation of morning pages and I didn’t want to be critical or come across as snarky. Though I do see Midnight Pages as the antidote. If your nature is nocturnal, you’re not lazy if you don’t like early morning. You’re not lazy if you need a nap. You are you, different in your ebbs and flows. Discipline, I decided is following what you love. If you love it, it’s not hard work. Like following a guru, the disciple might go through some difficult things but they do it out of devotion and desire.
Tell us a little bit about your writing career.
I have always written, starting with poetry at seven years old. My first full book was a PhD dissertation. Then lots of things like sermons and newsletters and meditations. Then I started ghostwriting for people which morphed into editing and it woke up my desire to write for myself, my own stuff. Why was I spending myself learning someone else’s voice and writing for too little money? I can write my own books and aspire to more.
I write on inspiration and I know some say you can’t rely on it, but I do. I rely on inspiration for everything. It may take longer to get something done (but time is a construct)… For example, the inspiration to market my book took a long time to show up, but I just let it sniff around. When I get to feeling curious; when it starts to feel possible, then I do it. It’s not how the motivational crowd does it but I call it living according to joy and it works for me.
They say Hind-sight is 20/20. If you could give advice to the writer you were the first time you sat down to write, what would it be?
Oh boy, not to force it. Not to judge myself. Not to compare. Someone said comparison is the thief of joy. That’s for sure.
What was your most difficult scene to write?
Since this isn’t fiction I don’t have a particular scene but I will say, finishing is always challenging. It’s tempting, because you’re tired of the project to tie it off without thinking of the reader and their experience. But, you have to think about them and take that extra energy ending in a satisfying way.
Are themes a big part of your stories, or not so much?
Yes: themes of shadow, witchcraft, earth, night, magic, intuition. My fictional character (Jilly) as well as all my nonfiction really focuses on developing our intuition and activating our own magical powers. In this book I want people to see how writing is a technology of magic. It’s a tool of exploration as well as self expression.
What are you working on now?
I am finishing the second in my Belly Witch cozy mystery series. This book is in response to a friend from South Africa who was freaking out about COVID and dealing with depression and I guess we got into what she was doing to feel better and she said something like, “Reading some silly little books that make me feel like I am home and among friends.” My heart was breaking for her sadness so that really hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt called to write that kind of book for women who are feeling lonely and lost. If they can escape into a place where magic is possible, mysteries are solved, relationships are tried and true and the world is a safe, friendly place, then I’ve actually served by writing silly little books that make someone feel at home.
Does that sound crazy? It motivated me to write the first (short) volume in that series in about two weeks.
The other thing about this series is that it walks alongside a woman who is learning to listen to her magical guidance system (intuition.) So, if a reader can identify with that and explore her magical abilities, all the better!
Is there a release date planned?
I should have the second one released by June. I hope that’s more than wishful thinking! Book three is further along than book two, so it might be they come out together.
Who is your favorite character from your own stories, and why?
I identify with the lead character, Jilly Atherton, a British witch living in coastal New England and working at Morning Glory organic farm where all sorts of mayhem ensues. She is just learning about her magical heritage and practicing her spell-working skills. She’s called by a voice (we all have it) and it guides her to solving murders in addition to tending the soil on the farm and learning about her connection to the earth. I have a small flower farm so she resonates at that level and my witchiness is earth-based for sure.
Most writers were readers as children. What was your favorite book in grade school?
What are your plans for future projects?
I have two things nearly done: one is a for women who are attracted to witchcraft or Wicca-curious who are coming out of mainstream religion, “recovering Christians” and wanting to break free of the constraints of patriarchy. Not that there’s anything wrong with any religion as long we keep it all in perspective. All of them come out of society and history, none directly from God/Goddess.
The other is called Self-Love for Writers and it’s about getting un-blocked as writers. I can say more but that would be a whole interview in and of itself!
Is there anything you would like to add before we finish?
I’d like to say thank you again for having me and it’s been so great to contribute. I appreciate your time.
It was our pleasure. Good luck with Midnight Pages: A Mystical Workbook for Writers, Insomniacs and Night Owls, and thank you for being with us today.
WRITING PROMPT From Midnight Pages:
Close your eyes. What do you hear, smell, taste? What do you sense at an energetic or intuitive level? Spend some real time. Find at least twenty-five things. When it gets hard to add to the list is when it gets interesting…”
Vigilantia: lying awake, sleepless, vigilance. The silence and stillness of midnight might feel suffocating, dense, and thick—heavy with foreboding. It might have you lying in bed, heart pounding, afraid of the dark.
Under the cloak of night, your hearing is heightened. Sounds startle you awake as you drowse. Your mind can ramp up: haunting memories, recriminations, regrets, and stuck thoughts keep you from your rest. Some “insights come up as well and sensations: the surge of adrenaline, pricklings on your neck. You might feel the weight of the dark bearing down on you or you notice movement in the shadows. Maybe you have the sense you’re being watched. Something lurks in the dark that’s imperceptible during the day. You might feel like you are not alone, and that subtle presence over your shoulder seems familiar. You wonder if it’s been there before, maybe even always. During the day, with music blaring and people talking, you just don’t perceive it. Ask what message all this has in store for you. Don’t reject what you hear. Don’t dismiss. Allow.
Night belongs to the spirits. –Proverb