INTRODUCING MY NEW NOVEL
Heart of a Warrior Book 1
Himalayan Awakening takes us on a spiritual and emotional journey with our middle-aged protagonist, Ronnie. When we first meet Ronnie, she’s all heart and no self-confidence, feeling powerless to effect change in her life. Her marriage has been over for a long time before her husband delivers the final embarrassing blow in public.
Reluctantly, Ronnie agrees to accompany her daughter on a volunteer experience into the snow-capped mountains of Nepal. A visit to an ancient monastery brings out spiritual and psychic connections that plunge her into an urgent and unexpected adventure. Ronnie is both challenged and affirmed at a level she never thought possible.
MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN SEEKING SELF THROUGH TRAVEL
The main trope of the story, ‘middle-aged woman finds herself through travel’ is one I have always found to be deliciously rewarding. The 1989 film, Shirley Valentine, starring Pauline Collins is a great example of this and I could watch it over and over. We see her slowly emerge as a person, letting herself indulge in a little light romance with the handsome Greek fisherman played by the charming Tom Conti. When my own widowed mother went to the Greek islands on her European tour, I was quick to ask her whether she had had her own experience. Did she also go skinny-dipping with a Greek fisherman? to which she replied, “Have you seen what real Greek fishermen look like?”
EAT, PRAY, LOVE
Another more recent example was the 2006 memoir, Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert. Elizabeth, played well by Julia Roberts in the film version, thought she was happily married until she was hit with a curve ball. Like Ronnie, she found herself suddenly facing the idea of a life on her own.
So many of us arrive at the point of deep unhappiness and discontentment and stay there, stuck and too afraid to allow ourselves to make bold choices. We don’t want to hurt our partner. We don’t want to hurt our children. We don’t want to let our aging parents down, and we don’t want to appear selfish and scandalous in our community. So, we sit, simmering in our own stagnant juices, going nowhere because we put everyone else before ourselves. Sheesh! Who can relate? Why do we wait until the universe provides us with a solution? How long are we prepared to wait? Is it selfish to put ourselves first?
THE SECRETS WE KEEP
How we face our challenges and thus how we ultimately grow as a person is at the centre of what I love to explore. This can be seen at the heart of everything I write, especially the deeply personal, The Secrets We Keep.
What we see in all of these stories is how life invites us to go on a journey that allows us to find our courage and our own identity.
KEEPING IT ALL HIDDEN INSIDE
I know a woman, let’s call her Beth, who finally confessed to herself in her middle years that she was a lesbian. She had been devoted and more or less happily married for over thirty years. She loved her husband, loved her grown children and grandchildren. She loved her whole family too much to speak her truth knowing the hurt it would cause. What did she do? She stayed with her husband, kept that part of herself buried. Eventually he was diagnosed with cancer. She nursed him for months until he passed on. By that time, she was 73.
After a respectable period of time, still in excellent health herself, she came out to her family. Two years later, she fell in love. Now in her late seventies she has remarried, this time to a woman and she is so happy, so vibrant and alive she is a joy to watch.
DID SHE DO “THE RIGHT THING”?
Did she do the right thing? Should she have broken up the family twenty plus years earlier? What is the right thing to do? I don’t know. We might all have an opinion on this, but more than anything, I think we need to respect each individual’s right to choose their own path forward. Whichever road we choose we can be assured there will be ups and downs and we will make mistakes. That’s how we learn and grow.
THE STORY HAS ROMANTIC ELEMENTS BUT IS NOT A ROMANCE
Just like in Shirley Valentine, Himalayan Awakening has a local love interest, Bikram, but it was important to me that the love story not be front and centre. When we fall in love, when all those endorphins are coursing through our brains, we are capable of great change, but not real change. If we are to truly change and grow, we must do it for ourselves, because it is best for us, not to fit in with another person.
Shirley Valentine had a brief romance but realised that was not where her happiness lay. She couldn’t grow and become all she could be by moving from one relationship to another. What does this ultimately mean for Ronnie and Bikram? Does it always have to be that way? I guess they will have to work that one out for themselves.
THE SPIRITUAL SIDE
Tibetan Buddhist philosophy, reincarnation and the spirit world all play a large role in Himalayan Awakening. This comes from my personal belief that we are all spiritual beings. I have long been interested in Buddhist philosophy and particularly the Tibetan branch. In fact, at the end of the 1990’s I helped set up a Tibetan Buddhist Healing Centre here in Australia. I have found that embracing our own spirituality can act as a powerful antidote to our general western malaise.
When it comes to Ronnie’s more psychic experiences, unfortunately I can’t claim to have nearly the connection to the spirit realm that she has. I wish I did.
Ronnie’s journey through Nepal is largely inspired by my personal experiences in the country. I then liberally seasoned the story with my own deep spirituality, my love of all things psychic and with my wild imagination.
Kathmandu comes straight from my own experience. It is a fascinating, vibrant, crumbly, polluted old city and I love it. I have been to Nepal twice, the first time trekking out to a remote village with my daughter, just like Ronnie and Dita. I huffed and puffed my way up and down the mountains, just as she did. You can read about my first trip to Nepal and the surprising connections that developed out of that here.
It wasn’t until my second trip to Nepal that I visited other sites included in the story, the world heritage listed city of Bhaktapur and the jungle of Chitwan. Bhaktapur is the ancient capital of the Newari people, the original inhabitants of the Kathmandu valley. It is breathtaking in its history, ancient stupas and traditional architecture. I had some pretty crazy experiences in Bhaktapur that have not been included in Himalayan Awakening. Maybe they will make it into Book 2, but they certainly add colour to my memories.
The Hotel Jungle Crown Ronnie and Bikram stay at in Himalayan Awakening is the hotel I stayed at in Chitwan. It was, as I have described, a beautiful place with great food and first-class spacious rooms. There really was a woman, just before we arrived who was gored by a wild boar and a jungle safari can be almost as crazy as Ronnie’s adventure. On this second trip to Nepal which you can read more about here, I had my notebook, taking down some details for the story that was forming in my mind.
Human trafficking is a very real problem in Nepal. Even in a remote village, it is nec essary to put bars on the windows of the children’s refuge. Children disappear. According to Not for Profit organisation, Mountain Child (https://mountainchild.org), 23,600 Nepalis are trafficked, missing or victims of an attempted trafficking each year. Most of these are young women and children. Poverty also leads many girls to be tricked by the promise of a better life in India. They willingly go only to find themselves enslaved in the world of prostitution. I would urge you to do your own research and find a way that you can connect and help one of the Non-Government Organisations working in this area.
Thousands of uneducated and largely unskilled Nepalis go abroad each year to work in positions that are too often cruel, degrading and inhumane. These jobs are in factories, in domestic service, in mines, all organised by agencies who take a cut. Once abroad, the workers are often unable to return home for years. But this path is often the only way these people can support their families, and so parents can be separated from their children and from each other for years.
THE WRAP UP
As you can see, I have poured a lot of myself into Himalayan Awakening as I developed and explored our beloved Ronnie. I couldn’t do her story, and her growth justice in one book. I have chosen to write a book that is a deeply satisfying read as a stand-alone story, but with some loose threads to be untangled in the sequel. Ronnie still has a lot of growing to do. How does she reconcile her feelings for Bikram and for Nepal with her life in Australia? What will her new life look like? And where does her best friend, Lacie, fit in?
BOOK 2 IN THE SERIES
I have started writing Book 2, but it’s more a series of scenes and ideas at this point. I do know that as Ronnie emerges from her little apartment, she will not be as safe as she thinks she is. She’ll spend time in a Buddhist nunnery where she will have ample time for spiritual pursuits, whether she likes it or not. And her reunion with Bikram? Who can tell? What’s the release date? Sometime in 2022, maybe midyear. Sorry, that’s as close as I can get.
KEEPING IN TOUCH
I hope you enjoy meeting Ronnie and reading Himalayan Awakening as much as I enjoyed writing it and that you join my mailing list and keep in touch. If you have read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. You can also join my Facebook page, DR Coghlan.Author.
I invite you to have a browse through my website. I am madly writing as I have so much I want to share with you. Soon you will be able to read about my first journey to Nepal, where I trekked into the Himalayas, and about my second trip to Nepal, where I returned to the village. That was when I also visited Bhaktapur and Chitwan. And, best of all, you can meet Rita, my own beautiful strong willed Nepali daughter.