Kyra Coates is a talented artist, clothing designer, and author. Her book comes out soon.
- Tell us about your novel? When does it come out exactly?
My novel is the story of a woman who is dying from a terminal illness. She has four children, and we follow her as she and her family face her impending death. As Maji’s memory begins to fade with her worsening illness, we experience the memories of her life and the spiritual journey she embarked on to understand the meaning of identity and enlightenment. She is driven by the question of what it is that makes a person who they are? And what remains after they die? This is an emotionally moving, deeply philosophical story of family, feminism, and spiritual insight.
The paperback version of the book includes full-color artwork that was created as a series for this book. It will also be available without the artwork on Kindle. The book will be out by mid-December, and is currently available for preorder on my website.
- Creatively how does writing differ from your other creative work?
As a visual artist, I create images using canvas and paints. As a writer, I use words to create images and stories. Though the medium is different, the process is actually not too different. Both are born from creative inspiration, and a deep desire to convey a story and emotion. Both begin with the spark of a partially-formed idea that then grows and changes as they take on a life of their own. My job is to refine them and present in a way that evokes a thought or feeling someone may have not tapped into before. It is the process of creativity itself, and it is absolutely what I was born to do.
- What was your inspiration for your novel?
When I was 39 years old, after battling several mysterious health issues, I was diagnosed with early cognitive decline that would eventually lead to Alzheimer’s Disease. As you could imagine, I was shocked and scared to receive this news at such a young age. I had spent my entire adult life exploring spirituality and “mind training” as it is defined in eastern spiritual traditions. Now I was faced with literally losing my mind. I decided to write this book to not only capture parts of my extremely unusual life, but also explore further what death meant to me and really explore the idea of identity and what the mind actually is. I have had mostly beautiful experiences with death. When my father and grandparents died, it was a touching and deep experience that left me feeling only more love and much less grief than I expected. I wanted to paint that possibility with words for others to understand and see. Death can be a beautiful, complex, and meaningful experience. I spent many years working in hospice helping people die and learned so much about the mind and how our lives shape our death. That coupled with my unusual spiritual path, I felt I had a very important story to tell that could really inspire others. That is why I wrote this book.
- What’s was your favorite character to write in your novel and why?
The youngest character in the book, Star, is the six year old daughter of the main character, Maji. Star is based on my own youngest daughter. She is an incredibly complex person who was born experiencing the world at a much higher level of intensity than most people. For Star, facing the death of her own mother will either send her down a dark path, or drive her to call in her strength and step into something greater. Writing from her perspective, as a six year old child who may potentially be bi-polar, really pushed me to empathize deeply with my own daughter, and see her challenges as a gift. I think that is a perspective we can all take with what is difficult in life, and Star’s character and storyline take us on that journey with her through the most difficult experience of her life. I learned a lot about myself writing Star and am inspired by her journey.
- What was the hardest part of your novel to write and why?
In the novel we join Maji in the afterlife after she passes. This section of the book I wrote based on the teachings found in the ancient Buddhist text The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Over the centuries, many Buddhist enlightened masters have been able to stay conscious through the death process and rebirth into the next life. They brought back with them stories of the “bardo”, or in-between state the afterlife is. Within this state, we face projections of our own minds. Our worst fears and our biggest joys may manifest. Most of us experience this much like we would a dream while we are asleep: completely unaware of what it is that is going on. In this section of the book, I really had to deep dive into my imagination to create what this dream-like experience would be. How would my worst fears show up in a dream? How would I face that if I were Maji? What would happen if I realized I was dreaming? It was a challenging and fun section to write.
- What writing ritual do you have that would surprise us?
I’m not sure if any rituals would surprise anyone from a creative person such as myself. And I wouldn’t call any part of my process a “ritual”. Moreso, I would say that when writing, the telling of a story became a problem I had to solve. It would keep me awake at night until I figured out the magic formula to pull the pieces together. So I have had many sleepless nights writing this book, for no other reason than my mind wouldn’t let me until I did!
- Are you a pantser or a plotter, and have you ever tried to write as the other what happened?
I would definitely call myself both. Much like when I paint, I start with an idea, but then let it evolve into what it needs to become, so it’s a continuous dance between the two. This idea of this book actually started as an idea to write a childrens story about death. But as I began to write, I knew there was so much more I had to tell. Now it has become what my editor called “a sophisticated piece of literature” and definitely not for kids at all. That happened through allowing and planning both
- What’s your secret for overcoming writer’s block?
I never try to overcome it. I just don’t write. I learned a long time ago that trying to force creativity never results in anything good. So I just relax and wait for inspiration. It’s usually in the relaxing itself that the motivation emerges once more.
- Have you ever had imposter syndrome? What did you do?
Is there anyone who hasn’t had imposter syndrome? I think it’s a constant. But having been a creative professional for a couple decades now, I have learned that this constant nagging of “not good enough” can actually be used as a force of good. It motivates me to always be learning and perfecting my craft. I just have to remember to ignore the part of me that wants to belittle myself.
- What amazing adventure have you been on?
So many! That’s why I had to write a book. However, many of my adventures didn’t make it into the book, so the one I will share was my journey to Tibet. I was a student at the time, and my group had travelled there to make a documentary film about the pilgrimage around Mt. Kailash. This mountain is considered the most sacred place on Earth in three different religions and is a very sacred pilgrimage site. Only a few hundred people are allowed by the government to go there each year.
As we were in our third week of hiking, during the highest point of the journey at almost 19,000 feet, we ran into a group of pilgrims from India. They had come to the journey extremely unprepared. They didn’t even have headlamps or warm enough gear. We had already been hiking for twelve hours that day. The sun had set, and where we were on the trail was an extremely dangerous part of the journey. The path itself was only a couple feet wide, which then dropped off as a steep cliff several thousand feet high. This group of twelve people were terrified, and had no way to see in the dark. So the four of us linked arms with them and hiked as a daisy-chain across the trail. We hiked with them like this for a couple of hours until we could deliver them safely to their campsite. We didn’t find our own until well after midnight. It was quite the adventure!
- What is your favorite app on your phone?
Easy! Apple Music. I always have a soundtrack playing.
- What is the strangest place you have ever been?
Probably Lesotho in Southern Africa. It is a small country that is inside of South Africa. They have a beautiful, colorful culture that is so incredibly different than our own. I traveled there when I was 19. When I was leaving the small country, crossing back into the border of South Africa, then border officer asked my boyfriend if he could buy me for eleven cows. I was assured it was a very good price!
- What household chore do you hate the most?
Definitely organizing my art studio and office. I’m not good at organizing. It hurts my brain. Piles and stacks seem to do the trick for me.
- If you could give yourself a nickname, what would you want people to call you?
It’s funny you ask, because I adore giving nicknames to people, but don’t like them for myself. My name, Kyra, is already pretty uncommon and more often than not, mispronounced (it’s K-eye-rah, not K-ear-rah). So most of the time I’ve just been happy if people say my name right and leave it at that!
- What odd talent do you have?
I can cross one eye while I roll the other one in circles. It completely grosses my kids out, so of course I do it all the time.
November Bonus Question
Do you hang your stockings before December 24th?
Hung up four days before Thanksgiving!
Where Can we find you and your book?