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Exclusive Interview With Author "Leah Chyten"

Leah Chyten has been a philosopher since youth. Her essay “Life as a Creative Unfoldment” won state recognition as the most original graduation essay in her state. Before attending college, she homesteaded in Maine, where she raised animals, vegetables, and children, and compiled a collection of songs, poetry, short stories and a novel. Her second novel was inspired by the painful complexities of the state of Israel. She is a psychotherapist, workshop leader, and spiritual teacher. She facilitates groups that explore all facets of our human experience. Leah currently lives in Portland Maine, and is continually inspired by the ocean.


How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since my early twenties. At that time and for the next fifteen years, I wrote songs. Following song writing I spent a couple of years writing poetry and short stories. My first novel came through about twenty years ago. I’ve now written three very diverse novels.

 “Soul of the Mountain” is a beautiful title, what does it signify?

The title speaks to many themes woven into the book. First is that our world, our planet, is a soulful, living entity and not simply a source of supplies to fill our needs. Second, the story culminates in rescuing the soul of a mountain sacred to the Sioux nations, desecrated by the onslaught of the gold rush, illegally sanctioned by the US government. Third, it evokes love and reverence for this sacred mountain.


Your book is fiction, but contains some historical accuracy, mainly how the Native Americans land was taken from them. Why did you decide to write the book this way?

Honestly, as many fiction writers will tell you, I was surprised that the story unfolded as it did, Characters would show up, nod to me, and become embraced by the story. The story moves through different time periods and some of the characters convey the history of Native Americans after their land was invaded, stolen from them and genocide attempted. The accounting of the Black Hills, sacred land to the Sioux nations, the illegal rescinding of the treaty so that settlers could mine the gold in the mountain is all true. But the book is about more than the Native American tragedy, it is about the countless tragic abuses of power that have occurred all throughout the history of western civilization. It is also about the hope that we as a people can do better.


Where does the inspiration for your books come from?

I’ve never consciously pursued writing a book. On the contrary, they pursued me! A dream, a vision, a character who begins to converse with me, these are the true sources of my writing. I feel summoned to write, wide open to possibilities. This book came through a vision of a young Native American youth joyfully riding across the prairie. He stopped long enough to wink at me and then went on his way. Soon after synchronicity happened when I met a musician creating an album with Native American musicians in South Dakota. The album was called Paha Sapa, the Black Hills. That auspicious meeting was when the seed idea for the book coalesced.


 What are some of the key takeaways you hope readers take from ‘Soul of the Mountain”?

First of all, humor is important! Some messages are conveyed best through humor and some of the characters are particularly adept at conveying messages through humor.

There is more to this world than meets the eye, or at least the physical eye! One of the characters, Luce, discovers that she can help the dead cross over, there are several characters from the Otherworld, a civilization thrives within the earth, a ‘programmer’ from the Pleiades, all of these stretch both the imagination and the sense of the possible.

Indigenous knowledge is profound and should be deeply respected.

Our country is based on myths of equality, justice and inclusion that are simply not accurate. Willingness to face the truth is the first step toward healing.

Our individualistic culture can err toward self-centeredness, toward owning rather than co-creating with, toward taking for granted rather than an attitude of gratitude and humility. We must learn to bow our heads low and touch the earth.

 You work as a psychotherapist; do you use pieces of your everyday life to help you write creatively?

My work as a psychotherapist opens me to the depth of people, to what happens in their inner worlds and to an appreciation of each person’s unique and complex path. It helps me identify with a diversity of characters. I am honored to hear many touching stories of pain and courage. I’m sure my characters are enriched through interacting in such a real way with so many people.


You are also a spiritual teacher would you say a lot of this comes through in your writing?

Yes, definitely. My own values and spiritual understandings about the nature of reality are implicit and sometimes explicit in the stories. I work with big themes in personal ways. Plus, in this book the fact that I’ve studied shamanism was useful and was directly applicable. But mostly, my spiritual path and teaching invite me to explore all possibilities with nonjudgmental openness and depth.


What can we expect from you next?

I’m working on two different sequels. One is a short sequel to my first book. The second is a sequel to this book, “Soul of the Mountain,” with Roy Rogers and his daughter, Pela, being the lead characters. They should have some interesting adventures to share!

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