My Death: A Personal Guidebook. He's here to talk about his new book and will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have about his experiences. Welcome Jeremy!
Can you tell us what your book is about?
Life and death. My life and death. I had what is called a near-death experience and this is the retelling of that experience. I was totally unprepared for it. I’d never heard of a NDE, and up to then was little concerned with the idea of my own dying. This book, set in the context of my own personal story, is meant to be a launching pad for the readers’ reflection on their own lives and inevitable deaths. This book is about learning to live with death, learning to appreciate the miracle of living, and hopefully be a preparatory document for the journey that we all are taking.
Why did you write your book?
I started writing the day after I had my near-death experience, but it has taken 20 years to find an effective way to tell this story. I knew I had a profound encounter to share. It shifted my perception of life and death and I wanted to communicate this as I thought then and now that it can be of value to others confronting our mortalities. I wrote and rewrote. The same story but different styles, including one version that was like a third person novel. And then I started to do some sketches of what happened, and this led to the idea of illustrating the book as a personal memoir and the recent drawing software for the iPad gave me powerful tools over the last years to express the tale visually, and the features of an ebook allowed the colored paintings to be included without the significant expense incurred in a hard cover version.
What kind of message is your book trying to tell your readers?
There are a number of ideas that I want to communicate with this document: I want the reader to know that consciousness does not end with the end of your body. That hell is an illusion. That love for everyone and everything is a possibility and a truly blissful experience. And that we need to "lighten up." Meaning not take things so seriously, opening up our hearts, removing the heaviness that can drag us down, becoming a light for others, being passionate yet not attached, letting go of constraints that limit our possibilities.
Is it hard to publish a nonfiction book?
I went through a journey to get to publishing. At first I thought this would be a hard cover book. After my third re-write I sent it off to some agents and publishers. I was looking for the kind that was into books about para-normal, metaphysical and philosophical subjects. I went through the waiting game and received some complimentary rejections. Enough to tell me in my own mind that the book wasn’t ready. I re-wrote some more. I even tried it as a novel rather than non-fiction and then I put it aside. But I knew I wanted and needed to get its message out. So a couple of years ago, I investigated self-publishing. And I read up on e-publishing as well and this seemed intriguing but I didn’t know which service to use. Should I do this entirely on my own? Then I began illustrating the book and one of my students turned me on to Balboa Press of Hays House which specializes in publishing this kind of material. I contacted them on line and on the phone and went through their vetting process and then paid them to help prepare the book so it could be distributed in a variety of ways including Amazon. They were very assiduous in the process and receptive to all the changes I asked for. Once it was done came the next phase that I am in now which is how to get the word out about the ebook. I created a website www.theneardeathandlifeofJeremyKagan.com and spent some money getting people to activate a Facebook site and Twittering and am into getting professional publicity to make more in roads to having the book seen and read. I purposely priced it as inexpensively as possible to make it available to as many as possible.
What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?
Probably sleep an extra hour, or maybe have sex. Or take the time to actually draw and paint. As you'll see if you decide to spend the three dollars to download my ebook there are 150 drawings that I did for it.
Which holiday is your favorite and why?
I think my favorite holiday is actually a Jewish holiday called Pesach. Like with any good holidays the family comes together, and in my case some even cross the country to be with us, but it also is as if the past were here as well, for the ritual in part is about imagining you are living in the past when my ancestors were slaves. It brings time together – past, present and future. We all gather around the table, and share what it means to suffer and what it means to be free. And this celebration is about recognizing the connection we have with everyone, not just with our tribe, the Jews, in my case, but with anyone who's been enslaved, with anyone who is disenfranchised, in fact part of the ceremony is literally saying we are here to welcome in the stranger. It is a holiday about giving, connecting and transforming.
If we were to meet for lunch to talk books, where would we go?
How about a nice bistro in Paris? And if that doesn't work I have a favorite Italian joint in Culver City right near where I live. It’s very open and all generations are wandering around. Or actually just come over to my place and I'll ask my partner Anneke to provide us with some of her delicious foods and will relax in the backyard amidst the vegetables and herbs and appreciate the great writer, The Creator.
What do you like to do for fun?
Sex is fun. Playing music is fun. I am a semiprofessional clarinet player, and I am lucky enough to be with a couple of groups in town that play together once a week. The thing about music or playing music for me is that I am totally in the moment and enjoying the harmonies of others, that's fun. Recently I have started taking bike rides, but it isn't just the ride, because what I do is I listen to books on tape as I'm cycling by the ocean. In particular I like to hear the wisdom of Ram Dass and Eckhart Tolle.
Can you tell us about your family?
I like to look up at a family tree amidst all the artwork that crowds my walls in my back office. This tree goes back to the 1500s. So I think of my family at least genetically, as going back hundreds if not thousands of years. And I realize their commitment to their beliefs allowed for my very birth. My immediate family is small, and not so immediate as relatives live across the country. At home is my wife Anneke, who is a published writer and poet and screenwriter and on her way to at PhD,, my daughter Eve and now her daughter Milena living in Munich for a while as her husband does post doc work, my brother, an ophthalmologist in New York, and his daughters, my x-wife who is a close friend. Lots of women. Both my parents are no longer on this planet. My father was a Reform rabbi and a psychotherapist and my mother was his major support as he wrote and led, and before that she was a teacher. My family was very encouraging of education. And this wasn't just going to school or getting into good schools but it included learning music and learning art. At our dinner table on Friday nights, there were often political and artistic luminaries who would speak at my father's synagogue and they all became models of what both my brother and I could potentially be. There were intellectual conversations and there was lots of laughter. An overall there was this ideal that you should do what you can do to lead a life of value and there were no limits and few secrets.
What do you like the most about being an author?
I think I like the part in the rewriting were I actually feel that I am choosing the right words to express what I want to express. And I liked the part when I felt it was done. Although one of my much more talented writer friends once said, "you never finish a work, you abandon it."
What kind of advice would you give other non-fiction authors?
Persevere. And enjoy the struggle. What is true is that we are on our ride, and there are moments where we're at the peak and can see all around us, and there other times when we were in the trough and in the darkness but in both cases we will continually be on the move. And tell the truth as you know it. I also like what Beckett said: Try, fail; try again, fail better.
You can visit Jeremy Kagan’s website at www.theneardeathandlifeofjeremykagan.com.
About the Book:
This is a powerful memoir of a near-death experience. After a Native American sweat lodge, the author loses control of his body and then his life. He begins a passage that leads to a personal hell. He discovers a way to escape and emerges into an amazing exploration of the soul’s journey. In this intense adventure, there are insights into stages of consciousness and encounters of blissful perfection. This spiritual, inspirational book is meant to be an aid to removing the universal fear of the final journey we are all taking.
Buy the Book at Amazon