Friday, September 21, 2007

Author Spotlight & Author Interview: Spiritual Romance Author Nick Oliva

We have a very special guest today at Boomer Chick! Nick Oliva, the author of ONLY MOMENTS, is here today to talk about this remarkable book and give us insight into his life in which he based this beautiful and inspirational story.

Hi, Nick, and welcome to Boomer Chick! That’s such an interesting title, ONLY MOMENTS. Why did you decide this name would be a perfect fit for your book?

Actually the original title was based on the Ahwahneechee Native American symbol that translated as the perpetual circle of time. Too many other books had time or circle in their title and the publisher thought that it would get lost among those titles, so I had to come up with another. It was difficult writing a book based on a certain title and theme and then having to change it. "Only Moments" captures the essence of the book and is probably a better title so the exercise was worth the brain cell damage, lol. Our lives are indeed just only moments; we are here only moments; the best times of our lives are only moments, and it does work well with the flashback moments of the book.

Also, as a note, the Ahwahneeche Circle of Time logo that I placed in the book was fabricated based on the original Indian symbol that the Curry Company who runs the concessions in Yosemite National Park refused to allow me to duplicate, even though the symbol was created by the Ahwahannee Native Americans not them. Perhaps if this book becomes popular and there is another run, they will change their mind and let me illustrate the original symbol. I would be happy if that occurred.

I know it’s fictional, but how much of your own life is inside those pages?

I realized that in order to take a stand one must make a stand and to not include my inner thoughts and personal experiences would be to short-change the reader and to play it safe just isn't my style. Some of the real life events never made it to the book because incredibly it just wasn't believable! The fiction is the essence of what occurred but the reality was even crazier. The meeting of Delphina (though a different name) on the beach was real, I still have the bell she gave me. The Hatchet Murders, the Zodiac Killer in the area, the young kids who knew of Charlie Manson, Jimmy's sleeping bag on fire, the Buick flying through the air-all that was true. Much more happened but the focus was on "Chris" and not just this escapade.

Some of the futuristic incidents such as Chris' and Angela's separation was a conglomeration of reality and fiction somewhat based on the breakup of my own first marriage . The New York experiences mirror my time spent there spending time all over the city for many years.

How hard was it to write the setting in 2020?

It took a lot of thinking, but it was fun! I took everyday things and imagined how much more easier I could make them in future and having the license of fiction I could make up an "integrated bio-chemical synthetic DNA enhanced Universal Com" that was the central CPU for his computer. The hardest thing was as the years went by things that I made up actually became a part of today's technology. I had to make them "a matter of fact" instead of incredible breakthroughs to have it all make sense. One of the things I underestimated was the power that the Internet would have on technology, as back in the early 90's it didn't really exist. My writing "the "Universal Com Highway" had to go once Al Gore coined "the information superhighway." I edited out many of the futuristic things as they were not driving the plot, but they were interesting concepts at the time.

I understand you flashback to the seventies. Was it hard to go from one era to the other? I know some writers have a hard time incorporating flashbacks into their books. How hard was that for you to do?

Actually I have a flashback within a flashback in this book. That one was fun to write. It is not that hard but the series of flashbacks that I chose for the main character Chris Vadia, were carefully thought out as I had to show his entire lifetime and I only wanted to use the extreme high or low points of his life-the heart pounding moments (there is a clue for you all).

The book has many hidden meanings and symbols. For example, Chris' name was selected as Christopher Columbus was the discoverer of the New World. There are many references hidden, and some not so hidden, such as the letter he writes to the love of his life on Columbus Day about exploring the "new world," and many other references. That sense of discovery is really re-discovery as there is nothing new in the universe, just our awareness of it. Many of us have forgotten and/or forsaken the core essence of who we were in our youth and our values and dreams and it is that re-discovery that the book focuses on and that commonality of re-evaluation that occurs when one reaches the point of middle age and the passing of the torch.
Other than keeping your years straight, it is difficult to remember that you are writing how the character speaks in the decade and when they are young you have to make them seem that way. As they get older the intellect grows and the voice has to reflect those years of experience. I made a conscious attempt to build the vocabulary of the characters as they progressed in years and experience. Whether it worked, only the readers feedback will tell if I was successful. The story centers around the unconditional devotion of a man and woman that works its way through the decades. The lesson of the book is hope through tragedy, happiness through love of the self.

I gotta tell you, I love California, having grown up there. Why did you choose California to be the setting when you flashbacked to the seventies?

The writing began with my Big Sur and California coastal highway trip at age 16. This juvenile escapade radically changed and redeveloped my core perspectives of life. The turning point of the book that alters time is the “rebroadcast” of the very first 1971 “The Midnite Special” television program from Los Angeles that I indeed did attend as a part of the studio audience, blue fringe jacket and all. That took place on my second trip in the summer of 1971 with a good friend, and a brand new Chevy Vega that blew up four times in Wakeeney, Kansas. I placed it in 1970 to create the alteration of time from the beach deck in Florida to the beachfront in California. There are other slight changes to accommodate a deceased artist (Janis Joplin) that I wanted to use in the finale. A previously written section described the huge outdoor concert called the Atlantic City Pop Festival that precluded Woodstock. I attended this in 1969, but edited that section out to streamline the reading and keep the essential plot moving. California was always "the promised land" in our culture probably due to the gold rush of the 1800's.

This is a story of soul mates; is it not?

First and foremost this a love story that shows unlimited devotion even after one mate dies. The story centers around the unconditional love of a man and woman that works its way through the decades. When we open up the first chapter, we already know Chris' wife is long gone and he has suffered greatly. The depression he allows himself to stay in for so long, changes as he begins to recount the past-though involuntarily. The setting of the future, it's technology and the human nature that rarely changes though the ages is explored during the exposition. The real fun begins when we go back to his youth.

Do you feel there is a “new awakening” of spirituality today?

I wish that there was, but I know that old school thought still prevails mightily in this age and there is no shortage of people willing to die or kill others for antiquated beliefs. To express sensible historic alternatives to the established and entrenched belief "systems" is akin to be called a traitor in this country with the penalty of death for not having faith in one's government. People want to be shown the way and can't be bothered figuring anything out on their own. Give them a light and they will follow it anywhere, and it is that blind faith that I challenge in the book. Great art comes from imperfection and like the ying and yang, there is always danger in beauty be it the cliffs of Big Sur and rocks below, the infatuation of human beauty, or the spiritual dogma entrenched by centuries of malicious emotional manipulation.

"They believed without doubt, without question." That quote comes up three times in the novel. That is quite a lot to write into a romance novel, but it is what life is all about if one wants to take the time to understand it's meaning and one's place in it.
My job here is to try and shed light and not give meaning. I can turn that light on, but I can't make you see. It is my hope that the reader understands that the message is to live life to it's fullest everyday! Don't expect life to treat you kindly and the "road" will be bumpy with potholes and dangerous curves, but it will take you places you have never been as long as you stay on it and that is the important part. Stay on it! Don't give up no matter what. Death is over-rated and the other side is an eternity. I know. I was there. Stay awhile and let time heal and be good to yourself and others and as the love of Chris' life tells him to remember that "Love is all there is. Never lose that gift." To me that is a rule to be guided by.
In your backstory on your website, having a near-death experience. Can you describe what you saw if anything after you had died?

To describe exactly what I "saw" is difficult. One doesn't "see" in the sense of seeing. Einstein's famous equation is E=MC squared, is the theorem that matter cannot be created nor destroyed. The soul is an essence of who we are. Like gravity, it cannot be measured, quantified, or reproduced, however we know it exists. It is the center of our being. We cannot make life. We can synthesize compounds, we can reproduce chemical bonds, but we cannot create life. A seed thousands of years old found from the pyramids planted, can sprout with water. We cannot reproduce that seed. The soul has energy with no specific mass. That energy must leave the body when the body can no longer sustain itself, therefore that energy must transform. This is where the metaphysical or inter-dimensional understandings take over. I can tell you, there was no St. Peter, there was no heaven, no hell, no judgement. It was a beautiful experience until I realized that I was fading into nothingness. At that point I asked for and received, a future vision of what would happen to my wife. That vision was extremely disturbing as I saw her in hysterics, crying and so emotionally distraught that I knew I had to fight to avoid becoming absorbed into the golden river that lay before me. I intend to write this experience in a non-fictional book, it is just very difficult to bring some of those memories up as they still to this day paralyze me mentally and make me very sad. Suffice to say that there were visions of many other things that I won't go into right now. So, I forced my way back once I made the decision or perhaps I should say I was "allowed" to make that decision. One must understand that I just came out of emergency surgery 2 days earlier and I was taken off the morphine/valium drip because my heart was stopping-that left me in extreme pain. I was in critical condition and wired to ICU's monitoring system. The cross-over was painless and took all of my pain away, so it was initially very wonderful. I knew I was going back to extreme pain but chose to do so in order to tell my wife and everyone else that it was okay to die. It wasn't something one should fear. I had to let them know in order that if I should die again while there in the hospital, they would understand and not be so forlorn. My devotion to my wife was the main impetus for me to return even though I knew I might be spending the rest of my life in pain on top of the severe diabetes that I have to deal with each day. Much of what I experienced mirrored my writing years ago, though not exactly, but the scenes were similar. Being such a skeptic that demands empirical evidence, I asked for the charts from ICU and was shown that I indeed had flatlined during the time that I went over at approximately 2 in the morning. That night after coming back I stood next to the bed waiting for them to come in with the defibulators and they did so a few minutes later and stopped in their tracks somewhat in shock looking at me. I told them I was alright, to put them down, as they almost seemed determined to use them on me from what their machines told them. That experience changed my mode of thinking immediately upon returning to the land of the living and despite the whatever attempts I've made to disprove it, it did happen.

And is it true that this is the very thing you had written about in this novel years before it happened?

Here is the story in a nutshell. The first Saturday in October 2003, I woke up and could not move my left leg at all. I had a fever over 102 and had my wife, Joan take me to the Emergency Room. It was there that I was diagnosed with a spinal infection, probably caused by cortisone injections. Dr. Derrick Duke -the man who saved Roy Horn’s life after Montecore, the tiger that had just about severed Mr. Horn’s head from his body accidentally at the Siegfried and Roy Show at the Mirage -was called in and he explained the severity of my situation. Far from routine, I would be fighting for my life.
I underwent a 5-hour emergency operation that and afterwards had Vancomycin intravenously pumped into my arm directly to my heart for the next eight weeks to fight off the spinal infection.
On the second day after the operation, while in critical condition, about 2 AM in the morning, still hooked up to the heart monitors in ICU, my heart stopped for 12 seconds. I experienced an out-of-body phenomena that catapulted me into another world. This happened twice while I was there. My experience was very similar to the fiction I had written in this book many years ago. Much like the character Chris, I came back with a different understanding and as I fought to come back to the living, the transition left me with a totally changed perspective. It was my life imitating my own art. I spent the next five weeks wired-up in the hospital.

In January of 2005, Dr. Duke operated on my neck and screwed a titanium butterfly on my cervical spine and I got the use of my right arm back.

In short, I recovered, although my left leg is still disabled from nerve damage that is more than likely permanent, I moved on with a new determination to get this book published among other things. This non-fictional subject matter will hopefully be the basis for my next book, to share the incredible things I’ve been through with my near death experience and how it showed me that the things I believed in, the core of my beliefs, were really right in line with what I went through. This reinforcement of my life’s search renewed the vigor of discovery within me and regardless of the medical problems that I face daily, I live life knowing what is to come and unafraid of death.

You have such an interesting story to tell, Nick. Your book sounds like one in which will open up a lot of peoples eyes. Can you tell us where we can purchase it?

Amazon.com: Only Moments: Books: Nick Oliva , Barnes and Noble.com, Your Books Cheap, Harvard Booksellers, Spotlight Books, Big Rock Media, The Book Depository or go to http://www.onlymomentsbook.com/ and hit the Links header.

Thank you for coming, Nick, and happy sales to you!

Thank you and I hope people enjoy the book! You can visit Nick’s home on the web at http://www.onlymoments.com/!

If you would like a chance to win a copy of ONLY MOMENTS, leave a comment below. All winners will be announced at http://www.virtualbooktoursforauthors.blogspot.com/ on Sept. 30. Good luck!

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